Tag Archives: Paris

Café à la québécoise

J’ai récemment publié un très long billet sur la scène du café à Montréal. Sans doûte à cause de sa longueur, ce billet ne semble pas avoir les effets escomptés. J’ai donc décidé de republier ce billet, section par section. Ce billet est la troisième section après l’introduction et une section sur les cafés italiens de Montréal. Cette section se concentre sur une certaine spécificité québécoise de la scène montréalaise du café.

La scène du café à Montréal comporte plusieurs autres institutions qui ne correspondent pas vraiment à l’image du café italien. Certains de ces endroits peuvent même servir de base à la «Renaissance du café à Montréal».

Dans l’ensemble, je dirais que ces cafés sont typiquement québécois. Pas que ces cafés soient vraiment exclusifs au Québec mais il y a quelque-chose de reconnaissable dans ces cafés qui me fait penser au goût québécois pour le café.

Comme les intellos de Montréal ont longtemps eu tendance à s’identifier à la France, certains de ces cafés ont une tendance française, voire parisienne. Pas qu’on y sert des larges bols de “café au lait” (à base de café filtre) accompagnés de pain sec. Mais le breuvage de base ressemble plus au café français qu’au café italien.

D’après moi, la référence à la France a eu beaucoup d’influence sur la perception des cafés montréalais par des gens de l’extérieur. Pour une large part, cette référence était plutôt une question d’ambiance qu’une question de caractéristiques gustatives et olfactives précises. Dans un café montréalais, des Nord-Américains ayant passé du temps en France pouvaient se «rappeler l’Europe». La Rive-Gauche à l’Ouest de l’Atlantique.

Pour revenir au mode «mémoires», je pense tout d’abord à la Brûlerie Saint-Denis comme institution montréalaise de ce type. Vers la fin de mon adolescence, c’est par l’entremise de la compagne de mon frère (qui y travaillait) que j’ai connu la Brûlerie. À l’époque, il s’agissait d’un café isolé (au cœur du Plateau, qui n’était pas encore si «chromé») et non d’une chaîne avec des succursales dispersées. Ce dont je me rappelle est assez représentatif d’une certaine spécificité québécoise: un «allongé» de qualité.

L’allongé (ou «espresso allongé») n’est pas exclusif au Québec mais c’est peut-être le breuvage le plus représentatif d’un goût québécois pour le café.

En Amérique du Nord, hors du Québec, l’allongé a généralement mauvaise réputation. Selon plusieurs, il s’agit d’une surextraction de l’espresso. Avec la même quantité de café moulu que pour un espresso à l’italienne d’une once, on produit un café de deux onces ou plus en laissant l’eau passer dans le café. «Toute chose étant égale par ailleurs», une telle surextraction amène dans la tasse des goûts considérés peu agréables, comme une trop grande amertume, voire de l’astringence. En même temps, la quantité de liquide dans la tasse implique une dillution extrême et on s’attend à un café «aqueux», peu goûteux.

Pourtant, je me rappelle de multiples allongés, presque tous dégustés au Québec, qui étaient savoureux sans être astringents. Selon toute logique, ce doit être parce que la mouture du café et le mélange de grains de café ont été adaptés à la réalisation d’un allongé de qualité. Ce qui implique certaines choses pour l’«espresso serré» (ou «espresso court», donc non-allongé) s’il est réalisé avec la même mouture et le même mélange. Même à Montréal, il est rare d’avoir dans le même café un excellent espresso court et un excellent allongé.

Mais parmi les Montréalais amateurs de café, l’allongé «a la cote» et les cafés montréalais typiques font généralement un bon allongé.

Selon mon souvenir, l’allongé de la Brûlerie Saint-Denis était de qualité. J’ai eu de moins bonnes expériences à la Brûlerie depuis que l’entreprise a ouvert d’autres succursales, mais c’est peut-être un hasard.

Une autre institution de la scène montréalaise du café, situé sur le Plateau comme la Brûlerie Saint-Denis à l’origine, c’est le café Aux Deux Marie. Le Deux Marie aujourd’hui ressemble beaucoup à mon souvenir de la Brûlerie Saint-Denis. Comme à la Brûlerie, j’y ai bu des allongés de qualité. C’est au Deux Marie que j’ai découvert certains «breuvages de spécialité» (“specialty drinks”, comme les appelle le World Barista Championship). Ces breuvages, à base d’espresso, contiennent des fruits, des épices, du chocolat et d’autres ingrédients. Si je me rappelle bien, la Brûlerie fait le même genre de breuvage mais je ne me rappelle pas en avoir remarqué, il y a une vingtaine d’années.

Il y a plusieurs autres «cafés à la québécoise». Dans les institutions connues, il y a La Petite Ardoise (tout près d’Outremont, sur Laurier). C’est d’ailleurs mon premier lieu de travail puisque j’y ai été plongeur, à la fin du secondaire (1988-9). C’est un «café bistro terrasse» assez typique de la scène culinaire montréalaise. Le cappuccino et l’allongé étaient très populaires (si je me rappelle bien, on les appelait «capp» et «all», respectivement). Et je me rappelle distinctement d’une cliente d’un autre café s’enquérir de la présence du «mélange de la Petite Ardoise». Honnêtement, je n’ai aucune idée sur ce que ce mélange comprenait ni sur la maison de torréfaction qui le produisait. Ma mémoire olfactive conserve la trace du «café de la Petite», surtout que le café était la seule chose que je pouvais consommer gratuitement quand j’y travaillais. La dernière fois que j’ai bu un café à La Petite Ardoise, il a titillé ma mémoire gustative mais je crois quand même qu’il a beaucoup changé, au cours des vingt dernières années.

Une autre institution typique, le Santropol (qui est aussi connu pour ses sandwiches et tisanes). Il y a quelques années, le Santropol a commencé à torréfier du café à large échelle et leurs cafés sont désormais disponibles dans les épiceries. Mon souvenir du café au Santropol se mêle à l’image du restaurant lui-même mais je crois me rappeler qu’il était assez représentatif du café à la québécoise.

Il y a plusieurs autres endroit que j’aurais tendance à mettre dans la catégorie «café à la québécoise», depuis La Petite Patrie jusqu’à Westmount, en passant par Villeray et Saint-Henri. Mais l’idée de base est surtout de décrire un type d’endroit. Il y a une question d’ambiance qui entre en ligne de compte mais, du côté du goût du café, la qualité de l’allongé est probablement le facteur le plus déterminant.

Ce qui surprend les plus les amateurs de café (surtout ceux qui ne sont pas nés à Montréal), c’est de savoir que j’ai dégusté des allongés de qualité dans un café de la chaîne Café Dépôt. Pour être honnête, j’étais moi-même surpris, la première fois. En général, les chaînes ont énormément de difficulté à faire du café de très haute qualité, surtout si on considère la nécessité de fournir toutes les succursales avec le même café. Mais je suis retourné à la même succursale de Café Dépôt et, à plusieurs reprises, j’ai pu boire un allongé qui correspond à mes goûts. D’ailleurs, j’aurais dit la même chose de certains cafés dégustés à une succursale de la chaîne Van Houtte. Mais c’était il y a plus de dix ans et Van Houtte semble avoir beaucoup changé depuis.

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Café à la montréalaise

Montréal est en passe de (re)devenir une destination pour le café. Mieux encore, la «Renaissance du café à Montréal» risque d’avoir des conséquences bénéfiques pour l’ensemble du milieu culinaire de la métropole québécoise.

Cette thèse peut sembler personnelle et je n’entends pas la proposer de façon dogmatique. Mais en me mêlant au milieu du café à Montréal, j’ai accumulé un certain nombre d’impressions qu’il me ferait plaisir de partager. Il y a même de la «pensée magique» dans tout ça en ce sens qu’il me semble plus facile de rebâtir la scène montréalaise du café si nous avons une idée assez juste de ce qui constitue la spécificité montréalaise.

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And We’re Still Lecturing

Forty years ago this month, students in Paris started a movement of protests and strikes. May ’68.

Among French-speakers, the events are remembered as the onset of a cultural revolution of sorts (with both negative and positive connotations). As we reached the 40 year anniversary of those events, some journalists and commentators have looked back at the social changes associated with the Paris student revolts of May, 1968.

The May ’68 movement also had some pedagogical bases. Preparing an online course, these days, I get to think about learning. And to care about students.

As I was yet to be born at the time, May ’68 resonates more for generational reasons than pedagogical ones. But a Montreal journalist who observed some of those events 40 years ago has been talking about what she perceived as irrationality surrounding such issues as abolishing lecture-based courses («cours magistraux»).

This journalist’s reaction and a cursory comparison of the present situation with what I’ve heard of pre-1968 teaching both lead me on a reflection path about learning. Especially in terms of lecturing.

As a social constructivist, I have no passion for “straight lectures.” On occasion, I bemoan the fact that lecturing is (still) the primary teaching mode in many parts of the world. The pedagogical ideas forcefully proposed more than a generation ago are apparently not prevalent in most mainstream educational systems.

What happened?

This is an especially difficult question for an idealist like me. We wish for change. Change happens. Then, some time later, changes have been reversed. Maybe more progressively. But, it seems, inexorably.

Sisyphean. Or, maybe, buddhist.

Is it really the way things work?

Possibly. But I prefer to maintain my idealism.

So… Before I was born, some baby-booming students in Paris revolted against teaching practises. We still talk about it. Nowadays, these teaching practises against which students revolted are apparently quite common in Paris universities. As they are in many other parts of the world. But not exactly everywhere.

Online learning appears more compatible with teaching methods inspired by social constructivism (and constructionism) than with “straight lecturing.” My idealism for alternative learning methods is fed partly by online learning.

Online lectures are possible. Yet the very structure of online communication implies some freedoms in the way lecture attendees approach these “teachings.”

At the very least, online lectures make few requirements in terms of space. Technically, a student could be watching online lectures while laying down on a beach. Beaches sound like a radically different context from the large lecture halls out of which some ’68ers decided to “take to the streets.”

Contrary to classroom lectures, online lectures may allow time-shifting. In some cases, prerecorded lectures (or podcasts) may be paused, rewinded, fastforwarded, etc. Learning for the TiVo generation?

Online lectures also make painfully obvious the problems with straight lecturing. The rigid hierarchy. Students’ relative facelessness. The lack of interactivity. The content focus. All these work well for “rote learning.” But there are other ways to learn.

Not that memorization plays no part in learning or that there is no value in the “retention of [a text’s] core information” (Schaefer 2008: xxi). It’s just that… Many of us perceive learning to be more than brain-stuffing.

As should be obvious from my tone and previous posts, I count myself as one of those who perceive lectures to be too restrictive. Oh, sure, I’ve lectured to large and medium-sized classrooms. In fact, I even enjoy lecturing when I get to do it. And I fully realize that there are many possible approaches to teaching. In fact, my observation is that teaching methods are most effective when they are adapted to a specific situation, not when they follow some set of general principles. In this context, lecturing may work well when “lecturer and lecturees are in sync.” When students and teacher are “on the same page,” lectures can be intellectually stimulating, thought-provoking, challenging, useful. Conversely, alternative teaching methods can have disastrous consequences when they are applied haphazardly by people who were trained with “straight lecturing” in mind. In fact, my perception is that many issues with Quebec’s most recent education reform (the “competency based program” about which Quebec parents have been quite vocal) are associated with the indiscriminate application of constructivist/constructionist principles to all learning contexts in the province. IMHO, a more flexible application of the program coupled with considerate teacher training might have prevented several of the problems which plagued Quebec’s reform.

Unlike ’68ers, I don’t want to abolish lectures. I just hope we can adopt a diversity of methods in diverse contexts.

Back in 1968, my father was a student of Jean Piaget, in Geneva. Many of Piaget’s ideas about learning were quite compatible with what Parisian students were clamoring for.

Beyond the shameless name-dropping, my mentioning Piaget relates to something I perceive as formative. Both in my educational and in my personal lives. My mother had much more of an impact on my life. But my father supplied me with something of the Piaget spirit. And this spirit is found in different places. Including online.

The compatibility between online learning and lecture-less teaching methods seems to be a topic for frequent discussions among eLearning circles including LearnHubNing, and the Moodle community. Not that online technology determines pedagogical methods. But the “fit” of online technology with different approaches to learning and teaching is the stuff constructionist teachers’ dreams are made of.

One dimension of the “fit” is in terms of flexibility. Online, learners may (and are sometimes forced to) empower themselves using personal methods. Not that learners are left to their own devices. But the Internet is big and “wild” enough to encourage survival strategies in learning contexts. Perhaps more than the lecture hall, the online world makes critical thinking vital. And critical thinking may lead to creative and innovative solutions.
Another dimension to the fit, and one which may be more trivial than some EdTech enthusiasts seem to assume, is the “level of interactivity” afforded diverse online tools. You know, the Flash-based or other learning objects which should make learning fun and effective. I personally like the dancing mice a lot. But my impression is that these cool tools require too much effort for their possible learning outcomes. I do, however, have high hopes for the kind of interactivity common to the “social platform” sometimes known (perhaps abusively) as “Web 2.0.” Putting things online is definitely not a panacea for adequate pedagogical practise. And while “School 2.0” is an interesting concept, the buzzwordiness of some of these concepts makes me take pause. But, clearly, some students are using adequate learning strategies through the interactive character of online communication.

As I’ll be teaching online for several weeks, I’ll surely have many other things to say about these learning issues in a pseudo-historical context. In the meantime, I assume that this blogpost may bring me some thoughtful comments. 😉


Montreal Culture and Linkup

Noticed an event on Montreal Linkup set up by the Linkup founder. In it, he says:

I’d like to help Montreal Linkup eventually become just as active, so I am scheduling a series of events on the Montreal site to help get things started. I will not be able to attend this event myself, but I wanted to provide this opportunity for people on Montreal Linkup to gather for dinner and get acquainted in a relaxed, comfortable setting.

(Follows: a description of the restaurant, apparently coming from a guide.)

Given my ongoing commentary on the Montreal Linkup and Quebec culture, I really had to say something.

Here’s my message to him:

Firinn,

Though you may do the same for all of the less active Linkups, I get the impression that you’re trying to get the Montreal Linkup up and running.
As a cultural anthropologist from Montreal, I feel compelled to give you my perspective on what may or may not work. I blogged specifically about this issue.

Since then, I participated in two events in Montreal with people from New York Linkup.

Obviously, you know your business very well and this is not meant as a way to “teach you your job,” but in case these comments make a difference, I wanted to send them to you.

Clearly, every Linkup has its own life, feel, “personality.” From direct contacts with members from Boston and New York City, it seems that these differences are quite consequential. My argument is that Montreal might be even “more different.” Businesses from the U.S. that have established branches here were either already well-established outside of the U.S. or went on to become quite well-established elsewhere. Chances are that your success outside of North America (Paris, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai) will bring success to the Montreal Linkup, and vice-versa.
The key here is to adapt to the culture.

So let me pinpoint some differences between Montreal and other North American cities in the hope of helping you adapt Linkup to Montreal. Similarities between Montreal and the rest of North America are quite obvious but differences are making adaptation desirable.

The first thing to realize is that, as you probably know, Francophones make up for the majority of Montreal’s population (including a significant part of the business community which seems to be your primary target). This is not to say that you alienate two-thirds of the population by having an English-only site. After all, most of us French-speakers also read and write in English fairly frequently. (Contrary to Paris, English proficiency may not necessarily correlate with business-mindedness.) Yet the sociolinguistic constitution of the city might help explain why homegrown solutions are usually preferred. Quebec portals and blogs are really quite popular and even the traditional media are controlled locally (in a unique and much-bemoaned example of vertical integration).
Even English-speaking Montrealers perceive themselves as significantly distinct from the rest of North America. This is no mere city rivalry.It’s an actual identity.

While it has little to do with Hollywood or New York City, Montreal has its own star system. Montreal celebrities aren’t necessarily well-known outside of Quebec but they have a tremendous impact on the culture and appear in most of the media. Those celebrities are perceived as very personable and people meet them regularly, as they live in specific neighborhoods and tend to “hang out” at specific cafés, bars, and restaurants (hint: not Nizza). If a Montreal celebrity were to host an event, chances of getting the word out and the ball rolling would increase tremendously. Few celebrities are truly part of the two language communities but attendees may come from both communities if they really feel compelled.

To compare with Boston, locations listed for the Montreal Linkup (Saint-Jérôme, Joliette, Granby, Drumondville) are more like Springfield than like Cambridge. Similarly, your “Paris area” sounds as if the New York area included Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Bangor. A common way to divide up the Montreal region is (Island of) Montreal, South Shore, Laval, North Shore. Quebec itself is divided up in very distinct (and large) regions (the aforementioned cities are all in different regions).

Quebec culture in general tends to emphasize informality in many circumstances. One reason the Montreal Linkup appears to only be working with a specific group of entrepreneurs is that most other people are quite fond of impromptu, informal gatherings.
For an example of a homegrown network, you might want to look into the history of YulBiz, started by members of YulBlog (a blogger network).
The YulBlog rules may clash with Linkup’s “Good Hosting Guide.”

By the way, the website for Nizza is http://www.nizza.ca/.
Sorry to be blunt but the link you gave is for a restaurant in Minneapolis. It might just be that you were going through a list for all Linkup locations but it makes us think that your choice was arbitrary. There are many great restaurants in Montreal to host Linkup-type events, including way too many French restaurants. It doesn’t sound like Nizza would be a first choice for anyone to make.

Again, I hope some of this can help you understand what needs to be done to make Montreal Linkup a success.


Alexandre
https://enkerli.wordpress.com/

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