Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Drummer in the middle.

Tonight I went for a quick walk around the plateau just to clear my head of recent events. And what do I see at the Quai Des Brumes? Kingsfoil was playing tonight. Who is Kingsfoil? It's a small pop-rock band whose drummer is none other than the famous child actor from Malcolm in the middle, Frankie Muniz.

It's not very clear, but that's him on the right.

I hung around for a bit trying to see if my landlady was working there tonight. (Yes my landlady is a bar maid at the Quai Des Brumes!) Unfortunately, her shift was already over and she was on her way home. I stuck around for a little bit and saw a little tour van  just down the street. And who do I see walking by me? Frakie. Freakin'. Muniz. I went up to him to say hi and he was a really nice and humble guy. I asked him about his racing career and he said he let that go and that now he was doing his drummer gig full time. He asked me if I was going to see his band tonight and I told him that I couldn't unfortunately. I felt bad, but I have work tomorrow. Anyway, he was nice enough to let me snap a picture of us together.

He's a pretty cool dude. And I was super excited to meet the star of the hit TV show that I used to watch so often. This was awesome!

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Authentic Taqueria

Last Friday, I went out again with my highschool buddy from last week. Remember that taqueria I found on Saint-Denis on record store day? I invited my friend there for dinner to try it out. It turns out the place is called La Matraca!

First of all, don't let the signage fool you. The moment you step in, you can plainly see that this place is truly authentic. Not some over the top three amigos with sombreros with wooden stick separators and Aztec carvings all over the place. No. Just a couple of televisions playing a Hispanic sports channel with futbol all over the place and some Latin music for the mood. Also, the place was packed with Hispanics. Call me racist, but if you were in Mexico and you were looking for a tasty poutine restaurant, you'd best go to the place where you'll find a bunch of French Canadians. Because that's most likely the best place to get your real authentic Quenecois poutine fix. Anyway, meanwhile in the back of the restaurant, there's an open kitchen where you can see the cooks preparing the food. I was pretty excited when I saw the kitchen. The whole layout and the way they were preparing the food, especially the meat, it was just like that place where I had the bet tacos ever in San Francisco. It smelled delicious in there too!

When we sat down, we were handed a sheet of paper with a list of items and a pen. Basically, how it works is you write down the number of items you want in the squares, kind of like in an all you can eat sushi restaurant. The menu was basically to explain the items and it had a pretty good variety. Most of the items in there were not your typical white people Mexican restaurant. (For a lack of a better description) Dishes such as sandwiches and pretty well garnished tortillas and soft shelled tacos.

I was hungry for some tacos so that's what I ordered along with a bottle of mandarin flavoured Jarrito. I asked the waitress how big they were and she told me she usually orders 5 or more. They looked pretty big in the picture, but from what she told me, they were actually pretty small. So, I took her advice and ordered 5, one of each kind, with some extra cheese. My friend ordered three with a quesadilla and some kindof milky drink with rice. After a long while, my friend and I finally had our food.

I was missing one, but the waitress soon came back with another plate with the extra taco.

So this is what real authentic tacos are like. I mean just Google it and that's what it is. A bunch of toppings on some soft-shells that you roll up and eat with your hands. (Notice the absence of utensils.) I added the sauces on there, rolled up and took a bite. Man, that was good. Those were some very tasty tacos The little salsa was fresh and tasty and sweet with a little bit of pineapples and cilantro. I had two kinds of beef tacos, two kinds of pork and one chorizo taco. The meat was not ground beef. It was marinated, grilled and hand chopped. It was absolutely delish. The sauces were very spicy too, and I mean it. I'm used to spicy and that was hot. Let that be a warning to you. But, I enjoyed it very much. Though I wish I had ordered more because I was still hungry.

The place was super busy that night. I mean it was packed! The waitresses had trouble keeping up and service was super slow. They almost got our order confused at first, but they were fine. Nonetheless, they did their best and kept on serving us with a smile. They were real troopers.

When we got the bill though, my jaw dropped. For 5 very small tacos and a soda pop, my bill went up to $20 just for myself! Quite frankly, for that amount of food, I didn't expect this kind of price. That was pretty much the only thing that bothered me with the place. Maybe next time I should try ordering something bigger and more filling.

Anyway, over all we were very pleased with our experience and we definitely want to go back there again. Additionally, you can buy a t-shirt that says "I *heart* tacos!". Who could refuse that?!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Record Store Day on Mont-Royal Avenue

Last Saturday, I went to a little get together at a friend's place and ended up going home super late. The next day I woke up in the beginning of the afternoon, which is very late by my standard. I usually get up around 9 or 10 am in the weekend. By the time I was finally out of bed and in shape to do anything it was almost 3pm already. Sunday was about to pass me by and I wouldn't have the chance to take advantage of it? No way, José. I wasn't gonna let that happen. And I was starving! I wanted a big ass breakfast with eggs, saucage, ham, potatoes, fruits, pancakes, the whole nine yards. So I called up my good ol' friend I've known since highschool, you know, the one I always go to concerts with? I know this guy usually wakes up really late on his days off.  I rang him up and invited him to my favourite breakfast place, La Petite Marche located on Saint-Denis, corner of Laurier. (Sorry, forgot to take a pic. I'll update this post next time I have one.)

We went up there and had an amazing breakfast. Every breakfast comes with bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, fruits, mushrooms, bread and you can pick from a list that offers either delicious French crêpes, poached eggs on whatever, lox, etc. I picked a buckwheat crêpe with goat cheese, walnuts and maple syrup with two eggs. All this is $15 and it comes with a glass of OJ and unlimited refills of delicious coffee! It was another friend and co-worker of mine who introduced me to this place. He should know that I am really grateful for it.

After breakfast, my friend wanted to go check out this store on Mont-Royal avenue called 33 tours. 33 tours  means 33 revolutions, which is the number of revolutions a vinyl record makes per minute on a record player. That's right, you guessed it! It's a vinyl record store! He mentioned that it was record store day and he wanted to check that place out to see if there was anything cool there.

On our way there, down Saint-Denis, I noticed a restaurant that I hadn't noticed before. A Mexican taquiera. Basically, a Mexican taco restaurant. The front said it was 100% Mexican and they seem to be very serious about the authenticity, even though the restaurant's signs were pretty washed out.

But, I'm really curious about the place. After I went to what was probably the best taqueria in the whole world in San Francisco last summer, I've been craving a really good , fresh taco of the same kind. Carlos and Pepe and The 3 Amigos just don't cut it. If this place is as authentic as it claims to be, I'll have to try it out. Stay tuned!

When we turned on Mont-Royal avenue, we headed east for a while until we almost reached Papineau and we finally found the record store.

We stepped in and while there was a lot of people, it wasn't crowded. My friend and I spent a couple hours just going through vinyls. He pulled out some rare albums from some of his favourite bands such as a U2 album with a cover that had been banned in Canada for a while. My favourite section though had to be the soul/funk section. There were tons of awesome James Brown vinyls, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, Betty Davis, etc. It made me wish I had a turntable at home. Then I remembered how small my apartment is and I said "Nope!". Besides, I enjoy the clear crisp sound of mp3s anyway without all the crackle and pop.

Anyway, I had never been in a vinyl record shop before and it was a great experience. We stayed in there for so long though that when we came out it was already past 6pm. We ended up not really buying anything because neither of us have a vinyl record player. Yeah, I know. What was the point of going there in the first place if we don't have turn tables right? Well we still got a chance to see some pretty cool collector's items in there and that was cool.

We walked around for a bit and hung out at a video rental store where we'd pick really shady movies and just make fun of them. One of them that made my jaw drop in disbelief is this straight to video movie from The Asylum movie studio called Age of the Hobbits. Hobbits? Yes, Hobbits. Starring the Stargate SG-1 famous Christopher Judge. And the movie has nothing to do with Tolkien or the book The Hobbit. See for yourself.

After we had a good laugh checking out all the covers of B-movie grade DVD boxes for explosions and unknown actors, we walked out of the store. But, not without noticing an ad for a sweet motorized RV. Notice how it says JMC Centurion instead of GMC. That's because, in French, the letter J is pronounced "jee" and the letter G is pronounced "jay". Still, the brand name is written on the damn truck! And trust me on this one, the written French on this ad would make anybody with a literacy level of an elementary third grader cringe. But, damn that's a good lookin' camper!

Finally, before heading back to my place to watch a (good) movie, we passed by a laundromat with a classic Tetris arcade box! I had a nerdgasm right there. Now I know where to spend my quarters, and my time. (Actually, not really.)

We headed back to my place by bus, went to get some McDice (that's street slang for McDonald's, in case you're not cool enough) for dinner and watched the original spaghetti western that inspired Tarantino's many movies and of course his latest masterpiece: Jango, by Sergio Corbucci, starring Franco Nero.

And that, dear readers, is how I spend my last Sunday. If you're into vinyls and never heard of the 33 Tours on Mont-Royal near Papineau, make sure you go take a look. It's a pretty awesome store.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Geeking out and a ramen surprise

This weekend there was a small convention of all things geek called Geekfest. It's basically like a comicon but on a much smaller scale, no celebrities, and more about socializing with other geeks. The event was located in a shoddy looking little hotel at the corner of René Levesque and Guy called Hôtel Espresso. The hotel is not that bad a place after all. It's no Mariott or Sheraton, but it looks pretty clean and well kept inside.

The even was spread across a bunch of rooms. There was one in the basement where people gathered and played board games. I went to take a look to see if there was anyone I'd recognize. I hung out with a bunch of people last month, playing board games. It's a group of friends that gather every month and hang out like this. I was invited through an acquaintance and decided to go to meet new people since most of my friends are all married with kids and living an hour away in the burbs now. So, I went to see if any of these people were down there. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize anyone.

On the second floor is where all the action was. To much of my surprise, there were a LOT of people that decided to dress up as all sorts of characters. (Also called cosplay, for costume play.) They were all hanging out in the hall and chatting away about anime, cartoons, video games and such. You know, geek stuff. Some of them had great costumes.

When I decided to take a picture of the cosplayers, they had all scattered. Boo!

I was passing by them to go to a room in the back where everyone seemed to be heading and I accidentally passed by the booth where you're supposed to pay for your entry fee. (oops!) I did go back, however, and paid for my entrance, but only about an hour and a half later after I was told I should get a bracelet before checking in my coat. Oh well.

In that room  there were kiosks set up to promote various local comic book artists, geek apparel shops, the local Ghostbusters club and Quebec city's 501st Imperial Legion of Star Wars costumers.

The Ghostbusters club are fans of the franchise and they like to talk about everything Ghostbusters. Their website even has steps to reproduce the props from the movie. So if you want to build yourself a proton pack, they'll tell you what you need to get and how to put it together. Their kiosks were selling Hostess Twinkies! I thought those things were discontinued! Apparently, Saputo owns Hostess' Canadian branch and they have decided to keep producing the Twinkie! So this marvellous little cream filled cake will live on, thanks to Canada!

As for the Star Wars 501st Imperial Legion, they're basically people who like to dress up as various storm troopers and participate in parades and show up in events. Their mission apparently is "To promote interest in Star Wars. Facilitate the use of costumes. To contribute [...] through fundraising, charity work and volunteerism." (http://www.501st.com/mission.php)

Walking around the kiosks I noticed a steampunk studio that makes anything look steampunk. What is steampunk? Imagine a parallel universe where steam still powers our technology with retro-futuristic inventions and everyone still dresses in Victorian fashion with a kind of a wild west influence. Heck, think of the movie Wild Wild West with Will Smith. It's a sub-genre that people got into somehow. And basically, anything that has copper, lots of gears and steam pipes and top hats  is now considered steampunk. By the way, if you want to read a really good science-fiction steampunk thriller, you should definitely read The Difference Engine, by none other than the famous author William Gibson, famous for his futuristic cyber-punk hacker novel Neuromancer. Anyway, here's what steampunk stuff looks like.

This may look like a mirror...

... but it's actually a computer monitor!

Top hats and gloves and glasses and such.

Some other kioks had local comic book artists promoting their work. One notable artist was Olivier Carpentier who participated in the comic book Le Front by publishers Front Froid. There are multiple volumes of that comic book, which is basically an aggregation of comics of different stories by several artists. His work was amazing. I had a chat with him and told him how much his art reminded me of one of my favourites, Ben Templesmith, creator of the detective story Fell. (A great graphic novel by the way!) He told me he was actually a big fan and that his work had a big influence. It totally showed. His story seemed to be about some bad ass Santa Claus and a psycho Tooth Fairy who protect children from something. Not sure though since I haven't read it yet, but it looks promising. So do the other stories in the volume. I can't wait to read it. I had it dedicated and Olivier drew an amazing picture of a monstrous evil-looking elf with sharp teeth, ink and all. Amazing!

Later, I learned there was a masquerade. Basically, a costume competition. People were introduced by a host and people would walk on stage and either just show off their costume or act out some elaborate scenario with their costumed friends. It was pretty neat, the hosts were terrible. It was their first time though, so I'll let it go. As long as everyone had a good time, that's what matters. There were many costumes, but one that got a lot of applause was this guy:

Admiral "It's a trap!" Ackbar!

Admiral Ackbar and I are actually good friends and we've known each other for a while. We're like total BFFs. Though I tease him a lot and play a lot of tricks on him. During the convention, he was looking for the men's room and I showed him the way to the ladies room instead as a joke. He walked in and got yelled at and kicked out. I was standing outside laughing my ass off and yelled "IT'S A TRAP!" and he was all like "FUCK YOU Steph!" Good times man, good times...

After the show, one of my friends showed me a room where some acquaintances were working on some artwork and presenting their paintings and mostly trying to sell them. I was impressed. I met these people before, but didn't think they were artists. Their work was pretty good. The one in the middle is C-3PO looking at the Emerald City of the Wizard of Oz through some kind of portal.

Afterwards, there was a video games room where some people had set up an arcade emulator with arcade controllers a couple of retro Nintendo consoles and the new Nintendo Wii U. I spent the rest of the afternoon in that room with some friends playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4 on the arcade, Super Mario Bros. on the classic NES with a giant controller, but mostly playing Nintendo Land on the Wii U. It was tons of fun.

This thing is not easy to work with.

Finally, I had to leave a little early. A friend of mine, who just bought a house, was hosting a party to celebrate his new suburban home. Before I went there, I decided to get myself some dinner. What better way to end this than to go get myself... ramen. Delicious, filling ramen. I remembered there was a Japanese restaurant that had opened up on Sainte-Catherine close by called Kazu. But, it's nearly impossible to get a table without waiting for hours outside. I thought, you know, since it was raining, maybe there wouldn't bee that many people. WRONG! There were still a huge lineup outside the damn place. I said fuck it. But, I really was craving a hot bowl of tasty noodles. Especially in this cold wet weather. I remembered people telling me about another place around the Concordia area. I whipped out my phone and searched for ramen in Montreal. One urban food website mentioned a place on Bishop just north of Boul. De Maisonneuve. That was probably it. It was called Miso Ya. So I decided to check it out.

The restaurant is located in a basement and it was really hard to notice. I took a look at their menu and it looked like a pretty basic ramen place. Though the dishes looked well garnished with lots of food. Then again, it was the same thing at Sumo Ramen in Chinatown and I was kind of expecting the same kind of portion and quality than Sumo Ramen, which was quite mediocre. But, you know, never judge a book by it's cover and all that, right?

The place was pretty quiet, but it was nice, very clean. The smell of the place was mouth watering. I could smell the smoke of the grilled pork coming from the kitchen and it was promising. I realized that this might not be such a bad place after all. I told the waiter I was by myself, so he seated me at the bar. Another good hint for guessing if a ramen restaurant is good is if they have a bar next to the kitchen at which to sit.

Getting a closer look at their menu, I noticed they only had one kind of broth. True authentic ramen joints in Japan usually specialize in one broth. It's their secret recipe and it's what distinguishes them from other places. Miso Ya offered a pork bone based miso broth that looked thick and milky. Pork bone broth is my very favourite kind of broth! I was getting excited now. Their #1 on their menu was the porc miso cha-shu with 3 pieces of pork. I was hungry and that was their biggest portion. So, I ordered that with some pork gyoza dumplings.

The service was super fast and I got my food very quickly. The dumplings were over stuffed with meat and green onions and came with a little cup of dipping sauce. They were super tasty.

But. The ramen... Oh LAWD! The RAMEN! Just look at this...

THIS is what your typical ramen-shop meal is supposed to look like. Look at that broth. Look how milky it is. Look at the pork, it's been grilled to perfection. Corn and green onions are absolutely typical. And that thing in the middle is actually fried potatoes. I took a whiff of my soup and the smell was amazing. I filled my spoon with broth and took a sip. Oh sweet Jesus, I'm in heaven! I picked up a piece of pork and took a bite and it was absolutely perfect! There was a little bit of fat in there, but it was so soft and tender it just all melted in my mouth. Then I checked out the noodles and they were thicker than anything I've ever seen in ramen noodles. They were chewy and tasty and just perfect. I ate everything down to the last crumb and drank that broth to the last drop. This has been one of my best ramen experiences in a long time and I'm definitely going to recommend this place to my friends.

Dear God! Did I just find a place that serves ramen that's actually better than my usual spot, Ramen-Ya? I don't know. Ramen-Ya's ramen is very flavourful and delicious. It's very hard to beat. But, Miso Ya has some of the most authentic Japanese ramen I've ever had in Montreal so far. And it was absolutely dee-lish! I think this place might become my spot from now on. The prices were better too. I'll have to think about this.

Anyway, that was my day on Saturday. I should probably write something about the area that I call the Concordia area. There are a lot of very cheap restaurants in that sector. Mostly student dives, but some are still very good nonetheless, especially Asian restaurants. Keep an eye on my blog  for a post about that area soon!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Geek Burlesque in the Katacombes of Doom!

About a month ago I went to see a burlesque show. It turns out that the girl who's the head of these shows is an acquaintance of a few of my friends. We got in touch and it turns out she was at it again. This time she was doing a special show with a geek theme. I got a chance to go and see it last Sunday with a friend of mine and it was nowhere else than... the Katacombes! You know, that heavy metal place turned weird hipster 80's turned heavy metal again? Here are some pics from last summer.

So I got to see the inside of that place after all. It's a bit of a small concert venue, but with a pretty bad ass feel with fake skulls and bones and tons of metal and pictures of evil dead things. Though maybe not as bad ass as the heavy metal / punk rock bar les Foufounes Électriques. (That's French for the Electric Buttocks.) Still, it was a cool place. I managed to get a shot of the place before the show started. It was pretty dark in there and a flash would've been useless, but here goes.

As you can (or can't) see, there are two floors. The ground and the mezzanine. The place was packed, but we were able to find a spot upstairs. So many people showed up for this show. And as it turned out, there were other burlesque performers from Ottawa, Toronto and even Japan that were there, and not just in the show itself, but in attendance as well. My friend and I had a conversation with one Velma Candyass who actually invited us to attend her show this Friday. If I remember correctly, we were watching movie clips on a screen before the show started and we got her attention when we were discussing Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish while watching a scene from Dusk Til Dawn where an exotic dancer played by Salma Hayek puts her foot in none other than Tarantino's mouth himself and pours liquor down her leg and into his mouth.

Shortly after the show started. We got the chance to see performances by Lulu les belles mirettes, Sucre à la crème, Lady Josephine and Cherry Typhoon among others. They put up a great show with sketches inspired by Mortal Kombat, The Legend of Zelda, Batman, Terminator, V for Vendetta, The X Files, Star Trek, etc. It was great! The people that put this together had a lot of imagination. There was also a live performance by a band that named itself after the original comic book gang, Archie, who played Sugar Sugar. Overall this was a great burlesque show and was tons of fun to watch.

Lulu les belles mirettes will soon be at another show with a group called Sublimes Rondeurs. The show is called Le Cabaret des Bombes - Hello Sailor at the cabaret Café Cleopatra.

While writing this and finding all the links to the places and performers, I realized that Montreal had a pretty big group of burlesque performers and a lot more shows than I expected. And a lot of, um, shall we say, alternative shows and parties occur at the cabaret Café Cleopatra which seems to have established itself for this sort of thing. So if you have an "alternative" lifestyle, I assume you already know about this. I learn something new about my own city almost every time I write these things.