Celebrating food in Montreal

One of many indoor food shops at Montreal's Atwater Market, where many gourmet, ethnic and hard to...

One of many indoor food shops at Montreal's Atwater Market, where many gourmet, ethnic and hard to find items are on offer. (QMI Agency/Jane Stevenson)

RITA DeMONTIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:47 PM ET

Looking for a fabulous getaway that's close to home and includes awesome ambience and magnificent munching?

Think Montreal! A short plane ride, a leisurely train ride, it's one of the best mental health breaks in our own back yard.

From a visit to the delightful Atwater Market with its gorgeous art deco clock tower to the famous Fairmont Bagels, where native Montrealers and visitors alike line up for the freshly baked bagels -- Montreal is all about the neighbhourhoods and the noshing. And the winter festivals!

And -- if you're a cheese lover, you're in for a real treat for you. The 6th annual famous Festival of Quebec Cheeses, presented as part of the 12h edition of the Montreal High Lights Festival, is coming up starting February 16 to Saturday, February 19 in the Grande-Place in Complexe Desjardins.

It's a wonderful opportunity to meet the cheesemakers of Quebec -- this year some 50 cheese makers -- whose diverse array of exceptional quality products never ceases to impress. Add to the pleasure by discovering a large selection of vintages in the salon des vins. Visitors can taste the Québécois "classics" and make surprising discoveries-- plus you can purchase them to enjoy back home--all the while enjoying excellent wines. And since the theme of this special edition of the food and wine program is "Celebrating Women," the salon des vins plans to throws open its doors to veteran international female producers and their excellent products.

In the competition's highly successful inaugural year, over 400 participants tasted and judged the culinary creations of local chefs. This year's competition, hosted by wine writer Jean-François Demers, will once again see four finalists vying to outdo each other. Participants will be judging a total of 16 cheese dishes served in four theme-based courses and paired with superb wines, and the winner will walk away with $5,000. Great food and good company all in one!

The Festival of Quebec Cheeses is presented as a part of the famous Montreal High Lights Festival, which takes place from Feb. 17 to 27, a must-see happening for hundreds of thousands of Montrealers and tourists culminating in Nuit Blanch a Montreal, a thrilling, dazzling and completely crazy night of fun and frolic. Over 900,000 participants attend last year's festival that has become one of the largest winter celebrations in Canada! All the details on the Festival of Quebec Cheeses plus Wine and Dine Experience are available at Montrealhighlights.com or by calling the HIGH LIGHTS Info Line (514-288-9955 or toll-free, 1 85LUMIERES). The programs of the Nuit blanche à Montréal and the BMO Bank of Montreal Celebration of Light will be unveiled on February 8.

Food highlights include:

- Welcome to the gourmet world of chocolate makers: February 19 and 26.

Experience the story of chocolate, from its humble beginnings to its entry into the salons of high society, and access the exquisite universe of passionate chocolate makers, who will discuss their delectable métier and unveil their delicious specialties.-y. Minimum 15 persons, maximum 20.

- Flavours and Aromas of Old Montréal: February 19 and 26.

Take a savoury stroll through the culinary, cultural and historical charms of the oldest neighbourhood in Montreal. Expert historical and gastronomic commentary throughout the trip and subjects include he influence of Amerindian culture, the history of religious figures and the development of good manners, and Expo 67 and its explosion of flavours.

- A Taste of Little Italy: February 19 and 26.

Discovering Little Italy, one of Montreal's most charming neighbourhoods, with its colourful past, distinctive streets, renowned restaurants and fine epicurean grocery stores. Includes a visit to Marché Jean-Talon, the largest open-air market in North America. Visit the Madonna della Defesa Church, Dante Park, St. Laurent Blvd.--the heart of the 'hood--and learn more about the history and cultural diversity that make this corner of Montreal so unique! It's a trip full of sensory delights for the ear, eye"¦ and tummy, a cultural acknowledgement of Montreal's vibrant Italian community.


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