High-Fashion Corsets, Gastronomic Redemption and Old School Jams

You can’t always have great travel experiences. Our luck ran out yesterday with an ill-fated trip to Eggspectations. Apparently, the egg-focused restaurant originated in Montreal and our guide books mention it as the place to go for breakfast. We saw one near the jazz festival, so our plan was to have breakfast at Eggspectations and then catch a few free concerts. We were seated outside after about a 20 minute wait. Our waiter took our order promptly. I ordered the “Eggstravaganza,” basically the works, and Inez ordered a green eggs and ham benedict. Then we sat for an hour with no service. We had to ask a hostess for water. We complained to our waiter. He said our food would be out shortly. More time passes and we complain to a server who immediately gets defensive saying that it is really busy, averting his eyes and darting back into the restaurant. People who were seated after us were happily scarfing down their eggs; their eggspectations met. We tried to enjoy the music wafting over from the festival, while trying not to turn into angry, ugly Americans. Just as we were about transform, our eggs arrived. The food was good. I think. But I would have thought my own arm was good at that point.There was never any apology or explanation, but our drinks were removed from the bill. We took our own discount from the tip. No more high expectations for Eggpecations.

We shook off our bad dining juju by heading back up Sainte-Catherine and over to Rue Sherbrooke to Musee des Beaux Arts to see the Jean-Paul Gauthier exhibit, which more than exceeded our expecations. Whether you like his designs or not Gauthier is truly a creative genius. My favorite tidbit from the exhibit was that when Gauthier was a child his mother took him to see a burlesque show. He was fascinated by the feathers and the next day at school he proudly drew a picture of a seductively costumed woman in class. His teacher took him to the front of the room where he expected praise, but was instead rapped on the knuckles as punishment. As it turns out, the picture made him a hero among his peers and he received his first taste of fame. So, this leads to Gauthier’s fascination with corsets and designing Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour, which was on display. We also saw a dress from his mermaid collection, which Marion Cotillard wore as she accepted her Best Actress Oscar for “La Vie en Rose.” We were shocked by the amount of pieces that were on exhibit. Some just weren’t meant to be worn anywhere but on a runway like a skintight outfit painted with muscles and veins. We are certain this was the precursor to Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Then there was a sequined, very anatomically correct, number meant to look like a nude woman. There were so many fabulous fashion surprises and facts. For the Cameo fans, Gauthier designed for the funk/pop/R&B band in the 80s. Remember Larry Blackmon’s red codpiece? The exhibit was incredible. I am not sure if it is traveling, but if you make it to Montreal before October, it is a must-see. Check out a few pics below.

After exploring Gauthier’s fashion genius, we head back to the festival to experience more musical genius. We’d pretty much walked the length of Montreal’s downtown so we welcomed a relaxing moment to listen to the Jacek Kochan Quartet. Puppeters, stilt-walkers and mimes created a fun carnival-like experience. By this time, it’s time plan our next meal. It’s our last night in Montreal so we hope for better dining karma than in the morning. We also plan to check out Montreal’s nightlife. Sarah’s hubby Jean-Claude tells that a place we were considering had turned “ghetto” and closed recently, but recommended Le Piano Rouge. We saw this place in Vieux-Montreal the day before, but saw and heard a woman singing very bad karaoke through the window. We were skeptical, but thought we’d give it a try on the way back from dinner.

We found Chez L’Epicier on the corner of Saint-Claude and Saint-Paul in Vieux-Montreal. It was dimly lit inside with exposed brick and huge picture windows looking out on the cobbled-stone streets of Vieux-Montreal. We chose the spot because it was described as French fusion and we weren’t in the mood for anything traditional. As soon as we were seated, our waiter mentioned a change to the menu. It was a salad that should have featured razor clams, but shrimp had been substituted. A diner next to us piped up and said the salad was amazing and that we should have a nice gewurtztraminer along with it. Our recommendations from fellow travelers hadn’t steered us wrong so far, so we ordered the salad along with a Black bread crusted Halibut for me and lobster for Inez and a glass of Santa Ynez white wine since it carried Inez’s name. A fabulous dining experience ensued. Eggs were the furthest thing from our minds as we started the meal with an amuse bouche of a chilled, creamy lobster panacotta, followed by the salad that came with instructions. A crisp resembling a tortilla chip sat atop a small bowl of shrimp layered with edamame, yuzu and wasabi. We were told to crack the crisp and blend it with all the other ingredients for texture and taste. It was delicious. As were our main entrees. My halibut was flaky and flavorful resting in a saffron sauce with tomatoes bursting with an unknown flavor, which I learned was anise. Mussels lined the plate in a fennel and shallot sauce. Inez’s plate had food decorating all corners with a beautifully pink-red lobster in the center. We were most intrigued by the celery panacotta, nestled inside a celery stalk. A meal like this can only be made better with great conversation which we got from fellow diners Tara and Alan, a writer and musician, from Toronto. We raved about the meal before launching into discussing our other travels, politics (Why don’t Americans want national healthcare?) and medical anthropology. They were lovely. We exchanged information and they left us with a dessert recommendation, the chocolate club sandwich with pineapple fries and creamy melon salad and fresh mint. Sounds crazy, right? It was one of the best and most innovative desserts that I’ve ever had. The pineapple fries, lightly battered and coated with brown sugar, would make you want to reach back and slap your grandmama. They were that good. See my photos to trace our gastronomic journey.

Good food has a way of making your evening, so we couldn’t loose by checking out Le Piano Rouge. As soon as we walked through the door the funk sucker-punched us dead in the face. James Brown funk, that is. The band was killing “The Big Payback.” The bar was packed with folks bobbing their heads and trying to squeeze onto a tiny dance floor in the front. We were blown away when a vocalist started speaking the words from the poem “A Blues for Nina” from the movie “Love Jones.” We were pretty much done when the DJ took over and blasted old school jam after old school jam, Bobby Brown to Bell Biv Devoe to Adina Howard and Al B. Sure. He even hit the house classic “Follow Me.” It was ridiculous. There is just no other way to explain it. We left Le Piano Rouge played, sweaty and smiling. We got back to our hotel at 3 am. What a way to leave Montreal.

Next stop Oxford. I may not post for the next day our two as I’ll be traveling, but keep your eyes peeled for the next installment.


About Robin

Robin Bennefield is the author of the blog Robins Have Wings, which is not just a blog; it is a travel manifesto, reminding her—and maybe you—to take flight and embark upon unexpected journeys near and far.

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