Saturday, March 17, 2018

Next Stop: Guadeloupe


This week, I'm honored to travel to Guadeloupe and explore the island's extensive black history.  This French Caribbean territory boasts a long culture of resistance and I will be documenting it all, including the battles of Louis Delgres, who fought Napoleon's attempt to return slavery to the French Caribbean, Gwo-Ka music and dancing rituals, and the Memorial ACTe, a global initiative to tell the history of slavery and the institution's effect on the world.  Of course, I'll also be capturing Guadeloupe's unspoiled natural beauty so please stay tuned!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Classic Montreal Eats


Montreal is a foodie paradise. Whatever cuisine or dining experience you desire, you will find an excellent version in Montreal. The restaurant scene bubbles with cafes, chic dining spots and casual eateries on every other corner. But there are a few culinary requirements for every visitor. You must try an authentic Montreal bagel and you must sample poutine.



Bagels are a very serious thing in Montreal. They were brought by Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century and they quickly grew into an essential Montreal food. Now I'm not a huge bagel fan but Montreal bagels differ from the more familiar New York bagel. Montreal bagels are smaller, sweeter and less doughy. They are cooked in a honey water solution and then baked in a wood fire oven. They are not meant to be sliced but are munched warm from the oven and dunked in flavored creme cheese if you like. There's a contentious rivalry between Fairmount and St, Viateur Bagel Shops and locals pledge their allegiance the way Chicagoans represent either the White Sox or that other baseball team. I have visited both bagel shops and I'll just say that eating a warm morsel of a St.Viateur bagel sprinkled with sesame seeds and covered in salmon cream cheese made me want to occupy the shop and eat bagels, (which until that point, I thought I didn't like) all day.


Poutine is an acquired taste. This Quebecois dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy has risen from a late-night, hangover-alleviating remedy to a cultural hallmark. You will find poutine at McDonald's, at cafes, diners and delis but whatever you do, don't eat it at any place with poutine in the name. That's a guarantee that it will not be good. There's a lot of discussion on what makes the best poutine--extra fresh and squeaky cheese curds? Crispy fries? Well seasoned gravy?  I personally think that the cut and crisp of the fries is key and the Le Plateau mainstay, Chez Claudette  serves up a very popular menu of poutines with great fries. Bedsides, the classic, you can order poutine with spaghetti sauce and ground beef, hot dogs, mushrooms and peppers or braised pork. I had the veggie version, which was fine but nothing I could eat regularly. Poutine is best enjoyed late at night when your senses are blurred and your taste buds are eager for unhealthy food. Have you ever sampled Montreal bagels or poutine?



Monday, March 12, 2018

More Montreal Street Art


Besides the bohemian spirit and international vibe, what I love about Montreal is the zany street art. Yes, there are historic murals and lovely statues but what really excites me are the unexpected art scenes that pop up on walls and in alleys. I  last chronicled the city's street art in 2014 and four years later, I discovered fresh pieces all around the city with Danny from Spade &  Palacio, which supplies non-touristy tours. Check it out:



This rather creepy paintings stared back from a side street.


I was thrilled to spot this Jackie Robinson tribute for when he played with the Montreal Royals baseball team. I learned that he played with the Royals in 1946, before starting with the U.S. National Leagues and that it was a mutual love affair between Jackie and Montreal. His wife Rachel described his year of playing in Montreal after dealing with the racial hatred in the U.S. as "like coming out of a nightmare, the atmosphere in Montreal was so positive."



This old world figure peeked out of an alley across from the iconic  St. Viateur Bagels shop.


I really loved these anime characters hanging out on the side of a cafe.


And this old lady is quite famous from travel photos but I still enjoyed seeing her up close. If you visit Montreal, the street art should be at the top of your must do list, next to eating poutine and bagels, which I will cover in the next post.