Once again and for the second year in a row, the Omnivore World Tour food festival has just ended its 6-day stint in Montreal. Food demos, Damn Dinners and the Omnivorious party were all met with huge enthusiasm by Montrealers and visitors alike. I attended a few of the festivities and was happy to see a lot of happy people present at these remarkable and unique activities…
Here are my top 4 favourite Omnivore World Tour moments:
Seeing our local food scene through the (amazed) eyes of the guest chefs: It struck me last year and again this year that every chef who took to the stage during the Omnivore demos spoke so highly of our local food scene. They were all in awe of the Jean-Talon Market and its many local producers, in awe of the local products they managed to get their hands on and in awe of how accessible foraged goods as well as cultivated ones were. Guest chef Pierre Sang Boyer spoke of the local radishes he found at the market as if they were rare little nuggets of gold. He gave the audience the impression that such succulent little roots are impossible to find in Paris where his restaurant is located. Listening to these great chef talk about the Quebec terroir as if it was the best one on the planet reminds us Quebecois of how lucky we are to be living in this bountiful province.
The unbridled creativity of pairing guest chefs with local ones: The Omnivore organizers have the incredible talent of pairing up some of the guest chefs with local ones who share the same creative sensibilities and style. Those pairings culminate in the six Omnivore Damn Dinners that take place over the course of six days. I attended two of those dinners this year and they were both phenomenal. The chef teams at Hotel Herman and at FoodLab were all a bit nervous before service started but they managed to dish out such an incredible meal to sold out dining rooms. These dinners are unique in the sense that these chefs will most probably never cook together again and it was a privilege to be a witness to their inventive and innovative talents as well as their newly-developed camaraderie.
Discovering new local products: The Omnivore demos are great occasions to discover some of the lesser-known local products that are cultivated right here in our backyard. Last year I discovered quite an array of herbs that grow wild in Quebec and I was particularly struck when I tasted the huitlacoche fungus, a new product that is being developed by Société Orignal in collaboration with local corn producers. This year during chef Aaron Lanville’s demo I discovered rat tale radishes, an heirloom vegetable that looks like a green bean but tastes like a radish. We also tasted sunflowers (the actual flowers, not the seeds) that are prepared just like you would an artichoke. Both of these products are being developed by Société Orignal as well and are as surprising as they are tasty.
Getting down at the Omnivorious party: The Omnivorious party is loud, crowded and sizzling hot (literally). It’s also the best party in town when this world tour blows through our fair city. It’s a great spot to celebrate some very talented local and guest chefs who are all there to feed the hungry crowd to the beat of a great live DJ. The 15 or so chefs present at this event prepare bites that are representative of their cooking-style. Some of this year’s best bouchées included Hotel Herman’s razor clams with clam emulsion, restaurant Maïs’ arctic char ceviche on tostadas, pâtisserie Rhubarbe’s black current and corn tarts and Belgian chef Nicolas Darnauguilhem’s blow torch mackerel with beets and herbs.
I, for one, cannot wait for the Omnivore World Tour to come back to Montreal next year!