Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants

Montreal’s hippest restaurants, bars, nightlife! Maison Boulud restaurant review, Europea menu, PY1 pyramid club.

mexican goth, gothic day dead makeup costume skeleton tights

Dead inside… and on the outside as well!

I’m so, so ready to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico with Borderline Projects and Morbid Anatomy. (See details of my Halloween trip in this post).

Read on for a sugar skulls teaser, as well as a guide to the best French-Canadian restaurants in Montreal.  

day of the dead nail arts, dia de los muertos nails

To get in the Day of the Dead spirit, I went to Glam Nail Studio in Richmond, BC (Vancouver area). I asked for Mexican sugar skulls nails… and here’s what they delivered! 

sugar skulls nail art, gel nails halloween day dead

Glam Nail Studio is world-famous for their intricate Japanese nail art. Can you believe these sugar skull faces and cobwebs are hand-drawn?

The salon used Bio-Sculpture Gel on my nails to create a rainbow ombre, glitter, and 3D effect with cute skeletons. These Day of the Dead nails are perhaps my favorite ones ever — thank you to the Glam Nails team.

sugar skull goth makeup mexican day dead facepaint

I played around with Dia de los Muertos makeup, for a party before the trip.

Love everything about Halloween season. Here’s a fall outfit featuring a Jawbreaker bat cropped sweater, Erbert Chong leather skirt, Strathberry East/West with white edge crossbody purse, and Lack of Color bucket hat.

hermes silver collier de chien bracelet, hermes paris cdc small cuff jewelry

Close up on my Halloween-themed sugar skull nail art designs. Sailor Moon and Goth skull rings by Sapphire Studios, silver collier de chien bracelet by Hermes Paris. 

mexico goths, gothic fashion blogger, mexican sugar skull makeup

Here’s the full outfit for Dia de los Muertos, with a Cyberdog dress and skeleton bones leggings. I made the grinning sugar skull sign myself.

See you in Merida, Campeche and Mexico City — can’t wait to join the parade of the dead!

Europea best restaurant montreal, Jérôme Ferrer

Now, let’s go back in time to Montreal, Quebec: I was here over the summer. If you’re looking for a guide to the city’s most innovative fine dining, then I’ve got you covered.

Let’s start my Montreal food tour with lunch at Restaurant Jérôme Ferrer: Europea. The famous eatery recently moved to a gorgeous new location, with high ceilings and modern furnishings.

Europea is described as a “universe,” as the experience includes a bar, take-out corner, brasserie, afternoon tea, and “grand table” for fine dining.

Chef Jérôme Ferrer cookbook

Chef Jerome Ferrer is a Montreal icon; he has several restaurants in Quebec and abroad, including in Sao Paulo.

The revamped Europea is a collaboration with stage director René Richard Cyr, who oversaw Cirque du Soleil shows. Together, they brainstormed a theatrical dining experience.

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The surprises begin as soon as you’re seated. I found a “hardcover book” on the table — when I opened it, there was truffle popcorn inside! The table is set with avantgarde cutlery and butter platters, and the napkins are hidden in a sliding drawer by your waist.

europea restaurant decor, Jérôme Ferrer cafe

Europea’s decor is upscale, yet playful. The white spiral staircase is an architect’s dream, and complemented the custom paintings throughout the rooms.

(I wore a silk Emilie Shanghai Nights dress by Realisation Par, and a black lace cape jacket by Pheren Couture. See more on my Depop closet sale.)

menu lunch europea, prix fixe menus Jérôme Ferrer

Europea isn’t just about flash (although every dish is beautifully presented). Every item I tried on the lunch menu was marvelous, with a delicate marriage of flavors and garnishes.

The prix fixe changes weekly; I was lucky I got to try the citrus-marinated tuna and watermelon in lemonade and Thai basil, with pretty red quinoa and edible flowers.

 europea jerome ferrer afternoon tea

Europea is known as a fine dining restaurant for special occasions. However, the brasserie set menu is surprisingly well-priced at $35 Canadian.

You can also order drinks and small plates at the bar area, or get take-out from the Comptoir.

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Quebecois cooking can be on the heavy side, so I was happy to receive a main course with grilled turkey breast, and plenty of greens. The dish comes with seasonal asparagus, and a tasty cheese potato mousseline.

quebec creative fine dining europea

Europea’s lunch menu usually includes a fish option, which I recommend. I’d come back any time for this striped bass fillet with a Parmesan herb crust, vegetable spaghetti, and saffron fish soup.

The white wines are two of my favorites — Sancerre and Chablis — perfectly chilled.

europea desserts, dessert menu lunch

And now… dessert, served with holographic spoons! You can imagine the difficulty I had in choosing between the lemon meringue, berry mousse, white chocolate cheesecake, tiramisu…

montreal afternoon high tea pastries europea

… so why not try them all?

Our server also brought us foamy cappuccinos, and a platter of freshly baked pastries. (Europea has an afternoon tea option as well.)

Jerome Ferrer’s Europea menu combines art, technology and gastronomy — and the results get a standing ovation, if you ask me.

maison boulud ritz-carlton exterior

I also had the pleasure of dining at one of the top-rated restaurants in Canada, Maison Boulud at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. This elegant hotel dates back to 1912: a perfect setting for the fine French approach of Daniel Boulud. 

boulud montreal chef Riccardo Bertolino

Perhaps you’ve heard of Boulud’s legendary NYC restaurant, called Daniel, or seen his appearances on Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows.

Montreal’s Maison Boulud is headed by Chef Riccardo Bertolino (above, with his team). The kitchen is lined with jars of spices from around the world, hinting at the global flavors in the contemporary French approach.

ritz-carlton maison boulud fine dining

The restaurant’s decor is posh, yet modern and warm. Maison Boulud has an extensive wine cellar, and the staff can recommend excellent pairings for your dishes.

ritz-carlton montreal duck pond

Be sure to explore the outdoor terrace. The duck pond in the back adds to the memorable atmosphere.

cocktails appetizers maison daniel boulud restaurant

Boulud’s menu is all about seasonal ingredients from Quebec’s local purveyors. We began with colorful cocktails: the “Cosmo de l’Orient” has white cranberry juice with a ginger and coriander infusion, and a purple flower in a giant ice ball! 

The oozing amuse bouche — arancini with peas, mint, and smoked mozzarella — instantly made us eager for more.

appetizers maison boulud menu

The chef’s Japanese inspiration shows in the starters, which include a hiramasa sashimi with ponzu sauce, and a red snapper ceviche with pineapple. The burrata was as fresh as the ones I’ve had in Italy, and came with wild arugula and basil oil.

ravioli daniel boulud pasta

One of the most finely executed and delicious dishes was this one. A single egg yolk raviolo (somehow, it’s perfectly runny inside), with sheep milk ricotta and parmesan froth.

fish dinner maison boulud

Boulud dips into the Middle Eastern spice jar for this dish: a mouthwatering sea bass with za’atar herbs, chickpeas, raisins, and lemon.

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Montreal’s Maison Boulud serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with special thematic menus such as “Singapore Vibes.” Diners can also choose three, four, or eight course “discovery” tasting menus.

maison boulud madeleines  dessert cake

Don’t leave without trying the freshly baked madeleines, which you can dip in the warm chocolate coulant cake with gold foil. I also couldn’t resist a trio of sorbets: raspberry, sea buckthorn, passionfruit.

Without doubt, Chef Daniel’s Maison Boulud deserves its 5-star reputation among foodies.

py1 astral plane nightclub pyramid

As you know, I was recently in Egypt… but I’ll never get tired of visiting pyramids, especially if there’s a wild party inside! 

This triangular behemoth is PY1, the latest project of Guy Laliberté, founder of Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil. In the daytime, you can go inside the pyramid to see a one-hour multimedia show, called ‘Through the Echoes.”

cirque soleil pyramid club, guy laliberte

At night, the PY1 pyramid turns into a futuristic club night. The temporary event is located at Montre Clock Tower Pier, in the Old Port of Montreal. It’s impossible to miss after dark, as the peaks light up with trippy projections.

cirque soleil nightclub party clubbing

PY1 Nights have seven different club themes, with music and visuals to match. I went to Astral Plane, which is all about intergalactic visions. The local DJs were terrific, and spun a never-ending mix of minimal techno and electronica.

digital light projections club montreal py 1

When you’re inside the spacious tent-like venue, you can look up and see fog, shifting lights, lasers, and image projections from every angle.

py1 nights pyramid immersive nightlife

The visual effects were spectacular. Imagine this mandala “flower” blossoming and morphing, in time to the electro music beat.

py1 through the echoes movie pyramid

PY1 Nights is adults-only, but anyone can come during the daytime to see “Through the Echoes.” This 60-minute multimedia show feels like a waking dream, as it immerses you in a tale of space, time, and possible futures.

py1 montreal review night club

Wouldn’t you like to rave inside a giant art-pyramid? PY1 is next heading to Miami, Florida to keep the party going. 

After, the pyramid will move to a new location… perhaps Egypt, or outer space…

bar royal montreal djs club

Montreal is a party city, and there’s an endless number of creative bars and music venues to check out. The two come together at Bar Le Royal, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar with a slightly hidden entrance.

The stylish bar is located in Plateau-Mont-Royal, a trendy district popular with students — making it a great spot to visit after dinner with friends.

craft cocktails, bar royal mont-royal

Bar Le Royal has an extensive list of craft cocktails, some with rather obscure flavors combinations. The staff excels at explaining the menu, and can help you pick something that suits your palate.

Try one of the drinks with an eye-catching presentation. “Le Joli Ghost Dog” is a spicy twist on a Moscow Mule: served in a bamboo steamer basket, with chopsticks and a side of pink pickled ginger. Behind, the mixologists topped “Meiji Le Grand” (sake, cane rum, orange liquor, orgeat, and my beloved yuzu juice) with a spoon of Asian rice crackers.

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A local DJ spins groovy records in the curving metal booth. The sound is never too loud, making Bar Le Royal a great space to chat with friends while enjoying music.

creative cocktails montreal bars

Bar Le Royal serves small plates as well, including Quebec cheeses that pair with out-of-the-box cocktails.

I had never tried a drink quite like “400 Dieux Lapins,” which comes in a glass coated with fine Aztec cacao! The chocolate taste and texture, combined with Mexican mezcal, Quebec liqueurs Shámán and Amermelade, and Japanese yuzu is indescribable… you’ll have to sip it for yourself.

mado cabaret nightclub montreal drag race canada

I wish I had more time in Montreal to go clubbing. I’d love to see a sassy performance at Mado’s Cabaret: she is Quebec’s most famous drag queen.

foufounes électriques goth bar montreal, gothic clubs

There are plenty of Goth clubs and bars in Montreal as well. Above, a duo of angry skulls peers down from Les Foufounes Electriques. I wish I had time to check out the new Gothic / alternative venue Cabaret Berlin… next time.

(I previously visited Montreal and wrote about the Goth nightlife, including Katacombes and other venues. You can see my Montreal clubbing guide here.)

montreal hipster clubs nightlife

Let’s end with a few photos I snapped while walking around the city at night. No matter where you are, you’ll encounter intriguing event spaces and public art.

montreal nighttime buildings lights city

Montreal had heatwaves during the summer, so I took Ubers during the day, and walked around at night.

octopus tentacle statue montreal

I came across a girl in a white dress, doing a photoshoot in front of this enormous tentacle-human statue.

montrael history app, city projections memories

I also passed by historical moving images on several walls. This is the “Cité Mémoire” experience: anyone can download the free app, and interact with projections that come alive after dusk.

montreal notre dame church light show

Notre Dame Basilica also gets the disco treatment. The church has a multimedia show called Aura Basilica, which projects neon lights over the classic architecture.

notre dame basilica chapel montreal

A final hail to Montreal, Quebec — there’s so much to love about this Canadian city.

PS: If you missed Part 1 of my MTL travel guide, which focuses on art and fashion, you can see it here. (My suggestions include Goth stores and futuristic museums!)

And now, off to Mexico! Enjoy my Day of the Dead updates on @LaCarmina Instagram / Twitter.

My food tour of Quebec City: young, hip Quebecois restaurants! La Planque Limoilou, Chez Muffy, Le Voisin.

travel blogger quebec city chateau frontenac

Ouais, ouais… I had a delicious time in Quebec City! Ready for a guide to the best restaurants and art in the French-Canadian capital?

I haven’t been to Canada’s Francophone province since a brief stop here as a teenager. Growing up, I went to a school with a bilingual program — so this trip gave me a chance to practice speaking “en français” again.

(Where to get what I am wearing: Black bucket hat by Lack of Color, platform shoes Rocket Dog, top Valfre from Forest Ink, skirt Charli Cohen.)

hotel frontenac quebec city fairmont architecture

Most travelers know about Quebec City’s historic sites, such as the Hotel Fairmont Château Frontenac. (Built by architect Bruce Price in 1892, these pointed castle spires are unmistakable.)

However, Anthony Bourdain’s food / travel TV shows showed Quebec City in a trendier light. He partied with young (and rather wild) Quebecois chefs, and feasted on dishes piled with hearty, experimental ingredients.

As I discovered, Bourdain was right. Quebec City is the ultimate destination for foodies. Read on for my restaurant recommendations, with lots of decadent photos.

quebec city Confucius statue sister city china

First, let’s take a stroll around Quebec City’s old town. The city is small and highly walkable, with plenty of old buildings and statues to admire.

I was surprised to see a statue of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher. The monument was a gift from Quebec City’s sister city, Shandong; they participate together in a university exchange.

ironic hipster windows 98 t-shirt

Quebec City is far more “French” than Montreal, in terms of the culture and feeling. You can get by speaking English, but locals predominantly communicate in French. I’m sure you will notice a different accent and use of slang too!

(I popped into Simons, the Quebec-based department store. This French Windows 98 “Fenêtre98” t-shirt made me laugh.)

belgian carnival parade old quebec

While walking around, I ran into a colorful parade that reminded me of my adventures in Binche, Belgium. Quebec City has quite a few carnivals, including the famed winter “carnaval” with its rather frightening Bonhomme snowman mascot.

belgian carnival costumes, quebec city parades

Dressed in tufted collars and pointed feather hats, these men danced through the streets. They were accompanied by a live marching band.

Stilt walkers of Namur fighting carnival belgium

I also came across Belgian stilt walkers that were demonstrating Namur stilt-fighting. Dressed in folky red costumes and caps, they try to knock each other off their pedestals to the beat of a drum. I didn’t stick around to see the winner, but he apparently receives “golden stilts.”

outside musee beaux arts quebec city miro

I lucked out with the weather — just as the rain began to pour, I arrived at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec! Located near the Plains of Abraham, the MNBAQ currently has an enormous exhibition dedicated to artist Joan Miró.

quebec city museum rem koolhaas architect staircase

I was especially keen to visit… because the new Pierre Lassonde pavilion was designed by Rem Koolhaas and his team at OMA.

The architect’s signature is unmistakable in the stark glass exterior and curving white staircase. Doesn’t this look like a ramp from a spaceship?

quebecois art artists mnbaq

The Musee des Beaux Arts houses an impressive collection of Quebecois art, including 25,000 works by locals. The museum is large and has various pavilions; I highly recommend that you take time to visit the outstanding Quebec section.

I enjoyed seeing the eccentric visions of contemporary artists like Jean-Paul Riopelle and Jean Paul Lemieux. The latter JP is responsible for “Les Masques” (above), a 1973 expressionist painting that caught my attention.

joan miro art exhibition retrospective

The MNBAQ had an entire exhibition dedicated to Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró. Dubbed “Miro in Mallorca: A Free Spirit,” this special gallery includes almost 200 works from his 1956 to 1981 era in Mallorca.

gaudi miro paintings art

What a joy to see so many of Miro’s works including sculptures, sketches, and even a rug. The exhibit is well-designed, with each room focusing on one of his styles, and including information in French and English. Above shows his Gaudi-influenced period that expresses Catalan pride.

joan miro exhibit gallery quebec city

My outfit matched Miro’s giant abstract paintings from his minimalist series. These black and white works attempt to capture “the void,” or all-encompassing emptiness, as expressed by Tibetan mystics.

joan miro primitivism japanese paintings

Much like me, Miro found inspiration in his travels worldwide. He loved visiting destinations with strange cultures and art, like Easter Island and the Yucatan.

On the left, this series drew upon his travels in Japan, where he was fascinated by Japanese ink calligraphy. The beast on the right is merges his artistic style with tribal primitavism.

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec exhibits

Stars, birds, women… Miro’s energetic paintings are a wonder to behold in person. I hope you get a chance to see his touring works while they’re in Quebec City.

chez muffy restaurant brunch

And now, let’s eat! I consulted long-time locals for recommendations, and they delivered: I could easily imagine these Quebec City restaurants on an Anthony Bourdain TV show (RIP).

I’m a big brunch fan, so I was especially keen to spend a morning at Chez Muffy. The cozy restaurant takes a farm to fork approach, building seasonal menus around ingredients grown on their farm at Île d’Orléans.

(As a fan of Miffy the bunny, I also liked the name… Looks like she’s slurping most of my orange bourbon cocktail!)

chez muffy menu, brunch buffet

I’ve been to decadent buffets around the world, but the quality level has been hit and miss especially at hotels. In contrast, at Chez Muffy, everything was executed beautifully — my mouth waters as I remember the fresh spread of French specialties.

At the ordering station, you could get eggs Benedict with duck confit, pork belly, or smoked salmon. Everything is made fresh to order, and the Hollondaise sauce was on point, which is difficult to achieve.

quebec cheeses, quebecois food

I channeled George Costanza, and bit into these hunks of Quebecois cheese. The fine “fromages” come from local farms, and include blue and goat (chevre).

When you have brunch at Chez Muffy, you can indulge in as much as you’d like from the buffet. It’s the perfect chance to try a bite of something different, like truffle devilled eggs or black sausage with gooey cheese inside.

best buffet quebec city

True to Quebec, everything is written in French and English, and includes healthy bistro-style selections. As you can see from the colors of this beet salad, the dishes are house-made with produce straight from the farm.

 Chez Muffy, hotel Auberge Saint Antoine

Chez Muffy is located in Auberge St Antoine, a luxury hotel by the St Lawrence river. The restaurant sits in what was once a 19th century maritime warehouse; the classic wood beams and iron stairs hint at its former incarnation. In the lobby, you see artifacts dating back to the 1600s, which were discovered during an archaeological dig at this location.

Quebec Restaurant brunch

Pile up your plate with quiches, roast beef, salads, and charchuterie. From the a-la-carte menu, you can order coffee drinks or cocktails.

best pastries quebec city bakery breakfast

Be sure to sample items from the baked goods section. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but I couldn’t get enough of Chez Muffy’s unique pastries. (Kudos to the pastry chef here.)

Among my favorites were the scones (the texture and balance were perfect — Muffy made probably the best scones I ever had). Quebec is known for its strawberries, and the unusual strawberry tart with hemp was outstanding.

la planque olivier godbout chef

One evening, I had dinner at La Planque, and it rocked hard! I could see Anthony Bourdain living it up in this restaurant with a punk spirit.

La Planque is located in Limoilou, a hip neighborhood of Quebec City known for its bars and eateries. Try to get a seat at the kitchen counter, so you can watch head chef Olivier Godbout (on the right) and his young, tattooed colleagues do their thing.

la planque limoilou restaurant review decor

In 2018, La Planque underwent a renovation. The new interior is dark and  stylish, with a giant spider-like wood lamp over the bar. If you aren’t able to get a dinner reservation, you can still hang out at the circular counter, and sip on creative or classic cocktails.

(My wrap top is Valfre from Forest Ink, and skirt Charli Cohen.)

quebec amuse bouche, la planque dinner

Chef Olivier started us off with an amuse bouche with a mustard-based sauce. From this first bite, we know La Planque would live up to its reputation.

la planque hipster chefs tattoos

It was a delight to perch over the kitchen, and see the cooks work in tandem at different stations. Olivier chatted with us between plates, and explained that everyone takes part in all the tasks (from shucking oysters to clean-up), including himself.

dinner menu la planque quebec city

We whet our appetites with this eye-catching dish — just look at the variety of colors and textures. Olivier combined scallops from Nova Scotia with radish slices, squid ink mayo, and grapefruit pieces.

anthony bourdain quebec city restaurants food

If you’ve seen Bourdain’s episodes about Quebec City, you’ll know that the local chefs shine when it comes to meat and rich flavors. One of La Planque’s specialities is their foie gras terrine, masterfully paired with fruit chutney, honey apricot puree, and toasted brioche.

la planque dining hip limoilou

The name “La Planque” means a stash, or a place where you can keep warm and find shelter. In the basement, up to 10 people can rent out the private dining room, which doubles as a soundproof hideout.

quebec city chef olivier godbout

It was fun to chat with Olivier and see him in action. He’s focused and thoughtful about every dish he makes.

best quebec city restaurants food blog

Olivier insisted that we try the thinly-sliced asparagus. The green vegetable is currently in season, and he hand-picked each piece from a local supplier.

The special cocktails were also very Quebecois. One was made with the famous small strawberries, and served in a vintage glass. The other had duck fat whiskey, orange, scotch, ginger. 

la planque menu quebec fine dining

It’s a good thing we were hungry after a long day of sightseeing. Onward to the catch of the day, a white fish with pasta and delicate vegetable foam. On the right: cornmeal encrusted sweetbreads with king mushrooms, turnip puree, and thyme sauce.

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Put your trust in the staff for a wine pairing, and they’ll suggest a global variety to match each dish.

dessert la planque

Breakfast for dessert — why not? The granola came with house-made yogurt, white chocolate crumble, ice cream and berries.

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Rock on, Olivier and his team. I’d take shelter at La Planque restaurant any time.

le voisin quebec city restaurant

Somehow, I had room for one fabulous last meal. I ate lunch at Le Voisin a casual “resto-buvette” that spotlights seasonal, Quebecois cooking. Loved the exposed brick walls, industrial elements and panes that let in natural light. 

(Here’s where to find my exact wrap top, maxi skirt, and platform shoes.)

quebecois lunch cafe le voisin

Le Voisin, which means neighbor, is a perfect spot for dining with friends (they serve brunch/lunch and dinner). This artful arrangement features poached eggs with salmon gravlax, blinis, tzaziki sauce, and capers.

quebec city artisan coffee lattes

The drinks were outstanding, especially the creamy lattes and ginger mimosa. The freshly-baked bread comes with apple butter, and I was delighted to see pomegranate seeds in my berry and apple fruit bowl.

le voisin menu food quebec city

I dove into this pan of gnocchi with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, and two poached eggs — topped with shaved Parmesan. Le Voisin is a wonderful bistro with a neighborhood feeling, where you can find familiar dishes with a twist.

quebec city fashion blogger goth gothic

A final look at the Chateau Frontenac and my outfit of the day. (Wearing this bucket hat by Lack of Color, platform sandals Rocket Dog, ballerina wrap shirt Valfre from Forest Ink, skirt Charli Cohen.)

À bientôt, Quebec City… Anthony Bourdain was right about your formidable food scene. I’m sure I will be back soon to discover more of your restaurants.