Ah, food, one of the basic necessities of life. It can be simple or complex in the making. One person’s delight leaves a bad taste in the mouth of another. It has been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Something I’ve found to be more or less true, but it applies to women as well.

So when word came through the grapevine that Les Fetes Gourmandes International de Montreal was hitting town there was no choice but to pack a camera, notebook and tastebuds and head off to sample some culinary delights. This year, the 6th annual taste-off was going to feature “caribou, Arctic salmon and typical Amerindian cooking,” and with that there wasn’t really another choice. The Nation would be checking out the Amerindian gourmande cuisine.

Of course there was a lot more promised: Louisiana alligator, Quebec-raised buffalo and wild boar, emu and ostrich, special milkshakes, wines and cheeses from France, desserts galore and a whole host of mouth-watering dishes.

The first stop after a blue and blackberry milkshake was the Amerindian section to remember home with a caribou brochette. What can I say, I’ve tasted better at home but it was a welcome taste. Down in Montreal, they had to make do with a huge propane baroque-style grill, whereas at home it’s a fire. I must say, though, that it was mighty tasty. Another taste delight was the rabbit that Ingrid Phanoff ordered for herself. I got a morsel that had me slavering like a wild beast for more. The bannock (or “pain Amerindian,” as the bouchère called it) was as good as any I’ve had and better than some. Full marks to Chef Versailles and kudos to the of people of Nunavik, who sponsored this booth.

After this it was over to the wine and cheese section. A nice robust Cote-des-Rhones red wine went well with the three aged cheeses platter. Another well-populated stand attesting to France’s reputation in the food and wine world. Cigars were available but I passed on those as I wanted my palate as pure as possible. I didn’t check to see if they were Cuban. The wine and cheese went down well.

Next stop was at Les Autruches De La Mauricie to try out that new fad I had been told about. It seems that the latest, greatest newest food craze involved our flightless feathered friends, the ostrich and emu. My first thought was that the eggs would make one heck of an omelet but this was not to be save on the Flinestones that day. Looking over the selection, Ingrid and myself elected to try the smoked ostrich brochette. It was a mouth-watering treat with a taste like none I’ve ever experienced before that day. Not bad at all. I was sorry when the last piece went down. Something to try out if you ever get the chance.

Next in line for my bottomless pit was a little bit of an alleged aphrodisiac, oysters. I found them at the Maestro S.V.R Bistro des Fruits de Mer. While they had a variety I took them as I’ve always liked. Freshly opened so you don’t have a chance cutting yourself. Ingrid and myself shared seven. Don’t ask how we shared the seventh. I plead the fifth.

It was the entrée that helped to prepare me for the Bison Bourguignon. Melt-in-your-mouth meat that slowly but inevitably spreads its fantastic delectable taste throughout my mouth. Even after all this time buffalo remains an exotic treat for me. One that has me almost but not quite drooling on my keyboard memory of that dish. I recommend it heartedly if visiting Montreal.

Now I was ready for my just desserts. The Choc-O-Fruits was specializing in a fondu du chocolat. Strawberries, bananas, pineapple and other fruits with a layer of liquid chocolate poured liberally over them.

I was in dessert heaven.

Another feature was the showcase of new food products originating in Quebec. I tasted the carbonated apple juice. Refreshing and not bad at all. If Crees ever manage to get into the food business this would make an ideal place to show off their wares.

Along with the foods, the Fetes des Gourmands showcased some entertainment. The Vieux Munich was popping out polkas along with German food and beers. The sounds reminded of Oktoberfest come early. La Vesse du Loup was on hand to play some traditional Québécois music and classics. African overtures were featured in dance, music and drums. Labrador featured fiddlers jigging up a storm. Clowns were on hand to entertain the young.

One of the best food shows was the Salvadorean cuisine. I went for a coconut milk drink. The man in the photo was nicknamed Coco Loco. When he swung the machete people stayed back but watched in fascination. It looked like a crazed butcher out on the town. He would first chop the top off and give it to you with a straw. After drinking the coconut milk you would return. Coco Loco would then chop it in half so you could eat the coconut meat. Many brought a coconut just to see this madman master the art of machete chopping once again. I considered it one of the highlights myself.

All in all it was a Fetes worth visiting and I recommend that next August you include it on your choice of things to do in Montreal. It is a huge happening place that keeps you hopping from place to place. Ingrid and myself walked, ate, drank and watched a great many things.

It was some time for relaxation and a little exercise. There was a place to rent canoes and paddleboats by the hour. Ingrid decided that a paddleboat would be fun. Surprisingly it is. While paddling off some of the calories we had consumed we saw a huge fish… by southern standards. Probably about 10 or so pounds blithely swimming around. It was a restful time with great scenery. The water pathway even came close to Montreal’s Casino. No, we didn’t drop in there. Our money went to feed our tastebuds and nowhere else.

Les Fetes de Gourmandes is definitely a recommend stop for all.