For the fourth consecutive year, Montreal held its big food festival called YUL Eat over Labour Day weekend at the Quai de l’Horloge in Montreal’s Old Port. (If you didn’t know, YUL is the airport code for Montreal’s airport, making this a clever play on words.)

While at a blogger’s event in Toronto last spring, I won passes to the festival, so of course I had to check it out!

This post is a mini-guide to YUL Eat festival describing what to expect, including some useful tips, and of course pictures showing what it all looks like, in case you decide to attend in future years.

Mini-guide to YUL Eat Festival

The YUL Eat site at Quai de l’Horloge was divided into three parts: the General Admission zone, the Smokehouse, and the Parcours Gourmand. (All prices below are in Canadian dollars.)

General Admission Zone

The General Admission Zone (guide to YUL Eat)

The General Admission Zone

A $5 fee gave you access to most of the outdoor area which included food trucks, themed bars, live music stages and small food producer booths in the Redpath Market space, which provided free samples. The Natrel Bistro offered free hot or cold lattes with a selection of their flavoured milks, and put on latte art demonstrations. Of course all the food from the food trucks had to be purchased separately.

Spreads from La Cuisine de Marie-Ève Langlois (guide to YUL Eat)

My favourite food sample in the Redpath Market was a spread made of chocolate and sunflower seeds from a small outfit called La Cuisine by Marie-Ève Langlois. I could see this combination of sweet and salty becoming very addictive.

You can buy the artisans’ products on the spot of course, and if something takes your fancy, you should probably do so. These are small producers who for the most part have not yet expanded outside of Quebec. Although I did tell Marie-Ève that she should come and sell her spreads in Toronto!

Another discovery were the dried vegetable wafers called “rémis-légumes” and sold by 123Santé. These could be useful on a trip, when your intake of fruits and veggies tends to take a dip (no pun intended).

Many of the products on display were organic, with no preservatives or additives, and merchants were generous with samples.

Tasting some foie gras at the Redpath Market (guide to YUL Eat)

My friend tasting some foie gras at the Redpath Market

For people interested in spending a pleasant day outdoors next to the St-Lawrence river, while enjoying a simple food truck meal at picnic tables, listening to live music, and checking out some local food startups, the general admission zone was more than sufficient.

The Smokehouse

The Smokehouse area consisted of a fenced-off outdoor section that was partially covered in case of bad weather.

Some of the dishes at the Smokehouse (guide to YUL Eat)

For $40 ($20 for children under 10) the Smokehouse provided a full meal consisting of five different smoked or grilled dishes cooked by different chefs, whom you could watch in action. Each meal also included a delicious warm flatbread, and a bottle of water. Wine and beer had to be purchased separately.

The menu was different on each day, and very filling. These were not just your regular BBQed foods either. Items like “giant squid with corn relish & roasted tomato” and “grilled pork salad with lemongrass, fish sauce, lime juice, mint & cilantro” were on the menu the day I attended.

The Smokehouse was open for both lunch and dinner but required reservations. If what you wanted from the festival was a full and delicious meal, this was the place to be. Your tickets also gave you access to the general admission zone, but not the Parcours Gourmand.

The Smokehouse food preparation area (guide to YUL Eat)

The Smokehouse food preparation area

Parcours Gourmand

For true foodies, there was the Parcours Gourmand, a large indoor space inside a hangar that included 30 food and drink kiosks from small producers, cooking workshops, culinary demonstrations and round tables. Some of the chefs present came all the way from New York and even Paris.

Tickets came in four versions of increasing value (and price) in the form of electronic bracelets that could be loaded with coupons. Each tasting required between 1 and 7 coupons (although most cost only 2 or 3). You could get 15 coupons for $45, 40 for $65, 65 for $85, or a 3-day pass with 65 coupons for $115. Extra coupons could then be added to your bracelet for $1 each. The bracelets also gave you access to the general admission zone, but not the Smokehouse.

Salmon bites by Fumoir Grizzly (guide to YUL Eat)

Some of the food kiosks changed from day to day, while others remained for the length of the event. Some of my favourites were the little salmon bites by Fumoir Grizzly (left), shredded pork by DuBreton and the delicious fruit and vegetables O de V juices from La Presse Jus. You could also get beer and wine samples, and even mead and gin!

All of the Parcours Gourmand admissions also included one free alcoholic beverage a day. However, I was never able to find out where to get this. Obtaining information was difficult as each person working on the site only seemed to know about their own little booth and job. (A general information counter would be a welcome addition.)

There were about 10 workshops per day (between the hours of noon and 10:00 PM) but they only accepted 20 people each, on a first-come, first-serve basis, although you could sign up for them ahead of time on each day.

Inside the Parcours Gourmand hangar (guide to YUL Eat)

Inside the Parcours Gourmand hangar

YUL Eat festival-goer tips

  • Don’t tie your Parcours Gourmand bracelet too tight if you want to be able to remove it without cutting the ribbon.
  • Given a choice, don’t go on the first day of the festival for Parcours Gourmand. There was a lot of confusion with the coupons-loading on the first morning. The sample servings also seemed smaller than when I returned on the third day.
  • If you want to sign up for a workshop, make sure you’re there when the Parcours Gourmand opens at noon, and go straight to the sign-up desk inside the hangar.
  • If you leave the site and want to re-enter on the same day, make sure to get your hand stamped by the attendant upon exiting.
  • 15 coupons won’t provide enough food to constitute a meal. If you only have $45 to spend and want to be well fed (versus sampling novelties), buy a ticket to the Smokehouse.
  • Conversely, if you eat at the Smokehouse but still want to sample foods on the Parcours Gourmand, 15 coupons will probably be enough, unless you spend all day or have a huge appetite.
A risotto workshop about to start (guide to YUL Eat)

A risotto workshop about to start

I hope you enjoyed this mini-guide to YUL Eat Festival. Bon appétit!

(Note: Thanks to Evenko for the free passes to YUL Eat 2017. As always, all opinions are my own.)

First visit to Montreal?

If you’re visiting Montreal for the first time, put at least one day aside (preferably two) to do this self-guided walking tour through the top sights.

I also recommend Lonely Planet’s Montreal & Quebec City guide to give you a good introduction to the city.

Your first visit to this charming city probably won’t be your last!

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