MONTREAL – The city’s spring festival circuit is in full bloom and includes “the best lobster in the world,” towering graffiti, cheap but delectable croissants and an unseemly amount of beer.
Considering what is on offer, travellers to Montreal in May and early June shouldn’t be faulted for assuming everybody in the city has decided to start a festival.
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The city’s unforgiving winters incite Montrealers to cram every kind of hedonistic and food – and art-oriented event into the spring and summer months for tourists and locals to enjoy – and most of the fun is outdoors.
Lobster Clam Jam
Fabio Broccoli started the Lobster Clam Jam in 2013 and this year’s crustacean fest “is bigger than ever” with a kids section he says will include an electric train ride and two bouncy castles.
On Sunday May 22, head down to the city’s historic Lachine Canal where Broccoli will be serving north Atlantic lobster from Quebec’s Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
“It’s considered the best lobster in the world,” he said.
“They are in cold, cold, water. It’s a hard-shell lobster, a very healthy lobster, good quality – the best.”
The goal of his festival is to make lobster – usually a high-end, intimidating and costly dish – accessible to anyone.
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“For the millennials it’s all about food festivals now,” he explained.
“We have all these cool little restaurants in the city, very hipster.”
But Montreal’s spring festival season isn’t just for trend-obsessed millennials.
Aside from what are considered the city’s major events such as the Canadian Grand Prix, the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Just For Laughs comedy festival, there are tons of smaller celebrations featuring everything from croissants to graffiti.
The June 9-19 Mural festival allows artists to paint the sides of buildings in the downtown core.
The city’s iconic Saint-Laurent Boulevard is closed to cars as the owners of restaurants, retail stores and bars set up outdoor kiosks to feed and entertain as artists on scaffolding transform brick facades into stunning works of art.
If crowds aren’t your thing, stop by any of the bakeries in the city that are participating in this year’s croissant festival on April 30.
What started out as a competition in a Montreal newspaper has turned into a delicious celebration of the French pastry.
More than 70 bakeries, mostly in Montreal, but many across the province and two in Paris will be selling croissants for $1.
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“In Paris they’ll do it for 75 centimes because of the Euro,” said the festival’s vice-president, Louis-Andre Joyal, who runs La Petite Boulangerie in Montreal.
He said the goal of the festival is to encourage artisanal pastry chefs and to spread the love of the croissant.
Joyal said the ideal croissant must include several key elements.
“First, it has to look mouth-watering,” he said.
“Then we smell it. It has to have the aroma of hazelnut and butter. You then press it and feel if the flakes crack properly, then you cut it open and it should be filled with large holes and that’s when you get the aroma of butter, fermented milk and sugar.”
Montreal beer week
And, to wash down all that flaky goodness, tourists can stop by one of two of the city’s beer festivals.
First on tap is Montreal Beer Week from April 29 to May 8, where six local bar and brew pubs will offer samples of their alcoholic delicacies with food pairings.
From June 8 to 12, the city hosts the more formal and larger-scale Mondial de la bière, which features beers from around the world.