Well, last year, "we" (Montreal, that is) were the darlings of the music world, with highly sensationalistic, attention-grabbing dispatches on the "Montreal music scene" showing up everywhere from Spin, to The New York Times, to CBC television's "The National"*. Is this our year to be the darlings of the culinary world? For only the sixth time in their history, Gourmet has devoted an issue to a single city, and that city, dear readers, is Montreal. While last year's music scene stories, by and large, were ridiculous (riddled with mistakes, misrepresentations, and even bald-faced lies), I'm happy to report that Gourmet's special issue is a well-balanced and thorough, if a bit glowing, portrait of Montreal and its food culture ca. 2006.**
What prompted this issue? Well, as Ruth Reichl explains, while devoting issues to Paris, Rome, San Francisco, New York, and London (the past laureates) was a great experience for all involved (how could it not be?), there was a sense of excitement to exploring Montreal that the staff at Gourmet hadn't felt before, much of which had to do with exploring a city on the move that was peripheral to the Grand Tour. "Everybody knows that those other cities are great places to visit," she writes, "you have a good idea what you'll find there. But Montreal... feels like a discovery. You won't be surprised to learn that each of us returned determined to convince our friends they had to go to Montreal."
What can you expect inside? Among other things, you'll find...
• write-ups on Jewish Montreal, Mile End, Old Montreal, Atwater and Jean-Talon Market, the Plateau, and, yes, even Montreal's music scene.
• an overview of the French-ness that underlies so many of the city's finest restaurants
• a nice story on Elena Faita, of Quincaillerie Dante fame
• and a very well-deserved feature on Martin Picard and his truly exceptional Au Pied de Cochon, for (as we've mentioned here before) no other restaurant captures what's exciting and unique about Montreal's contemporary food culture more effortlessly
Anything we would have done differently? Well, you'll just have to compare Gourmet's account of Montreal with ours and draw your own conclusions...
*True to form, the CBC had the nerve to turn on the unconverted to the dynamism and energy of Montreal's Anglo music-making youthquake at the same time that they were busily slashing support for Montreal-based English-language music programming.
**I'm also happy to report that "...an endless banquet" received a very generous mention.