Sunday, November 28, 2010

Harry Connick Jr @ Montreal Jazz Festival‏

Andre Menard, founder of the 'Montreal Jazz Festival', as
well as 'Planète Jazz 91.9 FM', the premier FM radio station
for serious Jazz Aficionados in Montreal, quietly strolls
onto the stage and announces, to the filled-to-capacity,
Salle Wilfrid Pelletier at Place des Arts, that in a few
minutes we will be making history. Harry Connick, Jr, has
decided to record a DVD for this celebrated event and we
should be made aware.

Then added, "If you're good and he's good."

Several minutes later, the lights come on and the curtains
began their ascension, while the band, of over 8 musicians
begin to play. The audience stands and an uproar of claps
and cheers ensues, but no Harry. "Is that Harry Connick,
at the upright base?" A woman next to me was heard saying.

After that first set, he walks out non-chalantly, just as
quiet and sits at one of the pianos, he has three on stage.
This is the beautiful, black-lacquered Grand, turns slightly
to his right, to face the audience, and says, "This song
symbolizes the resilient, magical music capital, New Orleans."
Which is his hometown and proceeds to play. Following several
songs, stands and begins to interact with the audience, made
up of mostly 40 to 60 years old, and talks about coming to
Montreal, since the inception of the festival, in the early
He's also a raconteur, and proceeds to tell a story about
being somewhat related to Quebeckers. He's got some French-
Canadian blood in him; his great-grandmother was originally
from Quebec City.
'My New Orleans Tour' is an homage from native son Harry
Connick, Jr, and marks his return to the Big Band format à
la Connick, with taste, imagination and passion. 'Yes We Can',
together with 'Oh, My Nola' are two new releases that double
as love letters to the Crescent City. Endearing long ode to
his hometown of New Orleans and the bright spirit of her people.
Harry Connick has done, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many
testimonials to the city that he left at 18, but has never
left him.

"The thing about New Orleanians is that they just kind of
pick up and move on, and that's what we're doing. The albums
are a great celebration of the musical influences that I had

As for the city's musical legacy, it's as ingrained as his
light Big Easy drawl.

"All my formative years were spent down there," he has said,
whose father was the city's long-time district attorney, and
his mother was a judge in small-claims court. But it was music,
not the law that beckoned Harry, who developed his skills at
the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts under the tutelage
of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis and boogie-woogie master James
Booker, whom he wrote, in honor of, and plays a song, he
dedicates to. Connick's first public performance came at age
5, a version of The Star-Spangled Banner that enlivened his
father's swearing-in. By 9, Harry had his union card and regular
gigs on Bourbon St., and a year later made his first record
with Dixieland jazz musicians, five and six decades, older
than he was.

An accomplished musicians, arranger and composer. He's also
an actor, which is either the reason for being so personable
and extroverted, a real showman. Or that he's an actor because
of those character traits. The show consists of an impressive
collection of classic songs associated with the city, and also
features four original compositions. Including the moving song
"All These People", written after Harry visited New Orleans,
two days following Katrina, when much of the city, including
his family's house, was still underwater. He will also be donating
a portion of his royalties to the New Orleans Habitat Musicians'
Village to provide refuge for over 300 displaced musicians.

* Reviewed June 30, 2007

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gala @ Sheraton 2010‏

Tradition, some say, is an outdated mode of a bygone era. Manners,
etiquettes, and a proper course of established criteria, is no more
necessary in a world dominated by Internet real-time. Not so in the
world I was privy to the weekend of November 20. As is customary,
for the past several years, I attend a Gala @ Sheraton. A sumptuous
affair organized to full aplomb by a natal village association of
which my father is a founding member.
The Associazione Cattolica Eraclea was the brainchild of a man,
recently passed away, who felt their arid corner of Sicily and its
customs deserved to be celebrated, honored and remembered, especially
for the generations that ensue. He set about to amass an array of
family, friends, and other like-minded businessmen to found this

Every year, at about the same time, they celebrate an event in
honor of La Madonna della Immacolata (Our Lady of the Immaculate).
An evening of succulent, gastronomic, fare, wine, dance, re-kindling
of old friendships and nurturing of new acquaintances. There is
a myriad of business luminaries and political dignitaries nearing
800 strong.
As a close family member of the organizing committee, I have the
privilege of enjoying accommodations such as a beautiful room and
a bountiful brunch the following day. The lodging allows much more
freedom with the night's festivities. This year I had the distinguished
privilege, nay, honor of having the ever so magnificent Maria be
my special guest. The devilish Maria was very tanned, tight as a
drum, and wore the most delicious décolleté.

'Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments...
searching for the marvelous.' ~ Anaïs Nin

The Gala was an amazing evening of unsurpassed expectations. The
Culinary delicacies were lavish and exquisite. The 'primo piatto'
was an assortment of aubergines, tantalizing Portobello mushrooms
and shrimps the size of a golf-ball. Then it was onto the Italian
indulgence of 'Fazzoletti con Ricotta'. The dish translates into
'handkerchief with ricotta cheese', which is exactly what these
large squares of fresh pasta resemble. They were laid out next to
a bed of small 'Macaroni with pomodoro' sprinkled with a touch of
basil and parsley.
To refresh one's palette for the night's most anticipated arrival
we were served a heavenly baby spinach salad with a juicy, diced
pear. The final course of this divinity was a Pan Roasted 4 inch
succulent side of Veal chop the size of a golf driver with Arugula.
The wine, including the spillage, was with licorice and leather
scents released from the dark garnet hues, along with ripe black
fruit notes. Coated tannins and flavours of cassis were perceived
in the mouth. A delightful sorbet with gelato topped off this elegant
banquet. My friend and I swayed with complete abandon to the cool
sounds of The Showmen Orchestra. Maria looked so delish I wanted
to stand and salute.

'Camminando le donne può tutto mostrare...Ma niente non lasciare
vedere! (Sensual women can show everything, without revealing
anything!).' ~ Marcello Mastroianni

Due to the recent events in the news, it was a much more subdued
and Serene soirée. In my humble opinion it felt roomier and easier
to get around, hence you were more prone to stop and mingle. It was
a spectacular night filled with a thousand and one delights.

* Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the
moments that take our breath away.

Tanti Baci Con Amore,

* Observed November 20th, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dinner w/Friends @ Luce‏

Ladies & Gentlemen,
'Dostoyevsky' (1821 – 1881), one of Russia's most eminent
authors and essayist, best known for his novels 'Crime and
Punishment' and 'The Brothers Karamazov', was considered by
many as one of the founding fathers of 20th-century

I was a guest at a soirée entitled 'Dinner with Friends
@ Luce'. The food was delicious, the service cordial and
the ambiance was jazzy. There was even a balladeer who
serenaded us after dinner and throughout the evening.

Except for my little corner of the table there were mostly
new faces. While I perused down the long table I thought
of something Dostoyevsky wrote over a century ago. . .

'We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who
begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all
at once, before a word has been spoken.'

And I realized that I had found, through no conscious effort
of my own, individuals who are enlightened, of which I would
like to include on the journey known as life.

'We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves
after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.' ~ Marcel Proust

'On a tombstone it's not the two dates that matter, but the
dash in between, for that represents your life story!' ~ Linda Ellis

* Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but
by the moments that take our breath away.

* Luce Restaurant Bar
8693, rue St-Denis @ Crémazie
Montreal, H2P 2H4
514.858.5823 Leo Iacono

Monday, November 1, 2010

Liverpool House * * * *

Several weeks prior, visiting Bombshell at the venue she slings her cocktails, was a local cooking show on one of the large screens. On the show, was Fréderic Morin (one of the chef/owners of Joe Beef and McKiernan Luncheonette Bar à vins) and Bombshell turned to me and said, 'That's where I want to go for my birthday, and I want you to invite Julie and her 'chum'. I don't want one of your big shindigs just Julie & Victor.' I could never refuse My Muse's wishes. It took some finessing, due to scheduling conflict, but it finally came to pass.

Friday night, October 22nd, to celebrate Bombshell’s birthday, we ventured to a place on Notre Dame St. West whose façade had that same weathered look and I thought of what that French novelist said a century ago, and for me it was the Quincaillerie Tillemont.

'We come together in unity to play a grand symphony of cosmic consciousness in the divine
meditation of our souls' manifestation as being one.' ~ ©Frank Borsellino

In fall of 2007, the dynamic trio behind Joe Beef restaurant (David McMillan, Fréderic Morin and Allison Cunningham) opened another restaurant a few doors down. Located next to the Atwater market and numerous antiquarians on Notre Dame St. Liverpool House is a triumph. As we entered, the hostess, a Moroccan princess, who is probably the most stunning woman to ever come across my periphery, greeted me by name. I thought it was customary, being the one who made the reservations, but lo and behold she also looked familiar. When I voiced my thinking she replied, 'I served you at Otto @ W Hotel a while back. You came in for a family dinner'. The minute she said Otto I said, 'Samia! My love, I have been on a quest to reconnect for some time.'

The other guests / friends were already there, which I had kept it a secret from Bombshell. Victor is family and his wife Julie, are a very eclectic couple. We love to spend time with them. Bombshell feels a connection with Julie I say it's because of a similar family name. No matter where or what we do . . . it is always fabulously cool. It was nice to see them again. We have not seen each other for some time. But I digress!

Liverpool House is split into a barroom, which is totally decked out in Canadiana, and a laid-back dining room, deer antlers and rowboat oars, and great artwork on the walls. The woodwork and cream-coloured wainscoting are painted a warm white. The rest is decorated with flowered wallpaper, brass chandeliers, leather banquettes, antique hutches and squash displays beside the door. There is an eclectic mix of paintings — over-sized modern canvases and tiny impressionistic works — and odd, pig-themed tchotchkes like the porcelain porcine head, affixed to the wall at eye level like an extra diner at my table. Listen carefully and you can hear Bob Seger's 'Against the Wind'. We sat facing the dinner menu, which is a large blackboard suspended over a row of tables. Throughout the evening people had to come stand near the patrons to take a look at the 'menu du jour'. This could be a great way to meet new people or irritating. Depending on which side of the bed you woke up on!

We started with a Marange Camil Giroux, a superb Bourgogne. Then we set off for the northern region of Italy for a splendid Barolo Alessandria. I am not a big fan of Italian wines but this one was a delightfully robust. Liverpool House has a rotating menu, so many reviews have mentioned specific dishes that were nowhere on the menu that night, so at first I was a little thrown but Samia came to our rescue, in spades. It offers seasonal entrees inspired by ingredients found in the market. We started with several to have a smorgasbord of delicacies. A plate of succulent 'huitres' (oysters), an antipasto of Bufala milk cheese (mozzarella's creamy cousin). The Beet Salad was delicious. We had the Gnocchi w/basil, leeks and bacon. It was creamy and soft, obviously made within the day. 'Artic-char 'Gravlax', a cured fish, was awe-inspiring and tasty. This had to be the biggest piece of char I have ever seen, and the smallest plate. For our main courses we enjoyed a veal cheek w/cauliflower mushrooms and homemade squash ravioli. Wild Striped Bass on top of a saffron risotto was unbelievable. The Lapine (aka rabbit) Putanesca could have served two, but I managed to finish it off! I have never had rabbit at a restaurant because it's a Sicilian specialty and homemade as always been exceptional. Their originality and taste shined brighter than the rainbow. The meal set the precedence for the fabulous dessert of almond cake with a slight vanilla tinge.

Service was great, of course, Samia explaining all the wacky dishes and preparations, and she wasn't bad on the eyes either... even the ladies couldn't concentrate on what she said if they stared at her. There's a lot to like about Liverpool House, but the question is, 'How does it differ from Joe Beef?' I read somewhere that compared the two in this fashion, 'If Joe Beef is macho Liverpool House is more feminine.' You sit among a gallery’s worth of fine art and soak up the buzzing candlelit atmosphere.

* Liverpool House ****
2501, Notre Dame St. W. @ Charlevoix
Montreal (Little Burgundy) H8S 1A1
(514) 313-6049 Samia Hannouni