Montreal Tartare festival – the next food fad in town?
Montreal Tartare festival – The food landscape in North America has been changing over the last few decades drastically. The arrival of new immigrants has been a contributing factor, of course, souvlakis came with the Greeks, while Arabs and other people from the Middle East have brought shish taouk and many different sauces and flavours. A few decades ago it was sushi, a traditional Japanese food that to some was somehow shocking at first. The shock element came from the fact that this now ubiquitous piece of gastronomy is based on the idea of eating raw fish, something not everyone was ready to do. In the same line, we see these days the growing popularity of ceviche, a Peruvian culinary delight in which fish and seafood are “cooked” with lime juice.
If sushi especially, and then ceviche, have made people in Montreal to accept the notion of eating something without being cooked conventionally, then Montrealers may be ready for the probable next food fad in town: raw meat, more specifically raw beef. The tartare is coming here, and this week it was the subject of a celebration held at various restaurants throughout the city where the dish is slowly, but surely, winning adepts.
The most common recipe calls for raw ground sirloin, some herbs, a raw egg yolk, pepper, onions and some “cooking” agent which could be vinegar or citrus juice. Many stories surround the tartare origins. It is not clear where the dish originated, according to some, the name “tartare” doesn’t have anything to do with the Tartar (or Tatar) people of Asia, which at one point dominated over large parts of that continent, especially the territory in southern Russia. The name would simply refer to the “tartare sauce” (in France it would be known as “boeuf à la tartare”). But those who claim that the real origin of this meal goes indeed back to the feared Tartar warriors don’t accept that rather mild origin of the tartare. Horsemen famous for their military abilities and their capacity to survive as nomadic fighters, the Tartars always on the move, would transport with them pieces of raw meat which they would place under their saddles. The meat, in direct contact with the horses’ skin, would have been “cooked” by the acidic sweat of the animals. Hmm, not very appetizing. Don’t worry though; no horse sweat would be involved in the tartare preparation at the more than forty restaurants that are participating this week in the Montreal’s Tartarefest, where you can taste a tartare and an alcoholic beverage for only $10. The types of tartare are not limited to beef, they can also be made of venison, and for the lovers of fish, salmon and tuna.
The Tartarefest comes to an end this Sunday, April 29, and for detailed information about the restaurants holding this event and the variety of dishes on their menus, you can visit www.tartarefest.ca