6 Tips to getting the best from the Montreal Festival of Lights

There are literally dozens of gourmet experience offerings during the 10 days of the Montreal en Lumiere festival – and picking and choosing which meal to enjoy (and spend your hard-earned dollars on) is not a simple job. So many choices – so few evenings, such limited funds.

So – to help you out – here are the Montreal Madame’s quick guide to making great choices:

1) Old age isn’t good for a chef. Don’t pick a meal where the ‘guest’ chef has a huge reputation, and has been doing this a long time. Why not? Because in my experience, these chef’s have little left to prove – and a lot to lose if they take risks. So you can bet the meal will be on the safe side of dreary – with an expensive price tag to boot. Better bets are elsewhere.

2) Up and Coming means Exciting. A young chef who has just gotten a serious award is probably still trying to prove he’s worth it. And those meals can be some of the most fun. Just bring an open mind – molecular cuisine is huge – and not to everyone’s taste.

3) Never pick a meal that goes on for more than 2 days. Why not? Because in my experience, the chef shows up for the first day – trains the team – and then leaves. You end up eating a meal cooked by quickly trained newbies – and pay the celebrity chef price. That’s no fun.

4) More courses – more better. Meals with lots of courses tend to be a better deal. You’ll get smaller portions of course, but the odds that something will be spectacular increases when the chef has to do more work. Logically it seems the opposite should be true – but experience has shown that making the kitchen sweat a bit is the best way to get the best experience.

5) Don’t let price keep you away. Ok – seriously expensive meals may not be in your budget, but don’t toss away meals in the $50 to $80 bracket. They are often the best ‘bargains’ – a great restaurant, a hardworking kitchen team, and a fun approach.

6) Don’t be discouraged by the lack of description. Sometimes the chefs don’t even know what they are going to be doing until they arrive in the city. In fact – if the description mentions a specific course – unless you are seriously interested in trying that course – steer clear of that offering. It means that there’s not going to be a lot of creativity happening – and tried and true, while safe – can be boring.

If you have other ideas – comment away – these are just some of the clues I’ll use when picking where to spend my money – you may well have ideas that are even better.