Nuit Blanche is the pinnacle moment of Canada’s hottest winter festival, Montréal en Lumière, the night when Canadians and visitors brave the elements to stay up past last call, cross paths at art exhibits and food tastings, and take in concerts and impromptu dance parties on ice, all under gorgeous colored lights and softly snowy skies.
For my friend and I who attended the festival—taking full advantage of the rich gastronomic offerings in keeping with this year’s Buenos Aires theme—Nuit Blanche was also a time when that famous Canadian friendliness was on full display, when two locals who were happy to escort us from an electro show at the Cinémathèque Québécoise to an interactive visual art display projected onto Saint-Jacques Cathedral.
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Here are three highlights from the festival which boasts several hundred events—many free—offered all over Montréal from February 21-March 3.
Brunch at Toqué!: Arguably Montréal’s most famous restaurant, Toqué! served up a sumptuous 8-course brunch by a pair of Argentine chefs flown in for the occasion; Rodrigo Castilla and Antonio Soriano. Standout dishes included fresh-baked bread with coffee butter, beef tamales, boudin noir with chorizo and chimichurri sauce, and dulce de leche flan for dessert.
Lunch in Buenos Aires on a Shoestring: At Restaurant L’Autre Version in old Montreal, diners could choose from 7 dishes to create a 3-course lunch meant to evoke Argentina, with mouthwatering combinations like poached tuna and beef carpaccio with anchovy vinaigrette and grilled provolone cheese with smoked croutons and confit tomatoes. Helping it all go down smoothly: Argentine wines like Alamos Mendoza Chardonnay and Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir.
The Milk Urban Slide: No, it wasn’t made of milk, but whooshing down a giant frozen slide in the center of the Quartier des Spectacles—the heart of Montréal en Lumière—was an equally satisfying experience for adults and kids alike. Festival attendees waited in line for up to an hour to ride the glow-in-the-dark, 360-foot ride that featured sound effects (not including the sounds of cheering onlookers). Regardless of age, riders could hit up the "milk bar" afterwards for hot chocolate, milk berlingots, churros and…you guessed it, that Canadian staple: Maple-flavored milk.
Photo credits: Nuit Blanche courtesy of Montreal en Lumiere Nuit Blanche; All other photos courtesy of Sonja Gould