Friday 27 January 2012

Ettingers : reincarnation of Briskets ; Il Etait Un Fois

Two of Montreal’s once legendary restaurants are back in business, merged into one entity and guided by the culinary genius who is responsible for their creation. I attended the official grand opening of Ettingers Deli (, located at 9100 Newman (corner of Dollard) in LaSalle and I came away very impressed.

This unique and contemporary style deli and bar is the brainchild of well known respected restaurateur and real estate magnate Saul Ettinger, the man who brought us the Briskets smoked meat chain and Il Etait Une Fois, home to the juiciest burgers in town.

Thirty years ago, Ettinger opened his first Briskets deli on  Bishop Street. Twelve  franchises in Montreal and Ottawa soon followed.  As Saul says, people who remember dining at Briskets described the smoked meat sandwiches as "addictive." Briskets smoked meat was not only homemade, but it was never pumped. “Most smoked meat in Montreal and elsewhere were and still are prepared with briskets that are pumped with phosphates and a preponderance of nitrates and sodium,” Saul explains. “ This pumping technique is used in order to increase profit margins by making the briskets heavier. Strange, isn't it---the government bans the use of phosphates in your dishwasher and laundry detergent, but allows it in food? Briskets' smoked meat was made with unpumped briskets using a tightly-held secret recipe. They were dry-cured the truly old-fashioned way over a period of two to three weeks, producing superior smoked meat---smoked meat that was mouth-watering, and truly addictive.

Briskets smoked meat sandwiches were just about everywhere, be it  the Olympic Stadium concession stands or catered at private parties.   As for Il Etait Un Fois, the classic hamburger spot was located in a standalone building in heart of Old Montreal at a time when it was a relative ghost town, Saul  recalls pioneering  a new phenomenon. While McDonald's was selling burgers for as little as as 60 cents, he decided it was time to introduce Montreal to a gourmet half-pound burger at $5. In those days, the thought of a burger for $5 was ludicrous. Yet, within a short few weeks, Il Etait Un Fois attracted huge line-ups and rave reviews. Saul's burgers were made through a rarely used secret process that turned out the juiciest and most scrumptious burgers in Montreal. And along with mouth-watering burgers and incredible fries, the menu included specialities such as homemade beer-battered onion rings and fish n' chips as well as fried mushrooms and foot-long dogs.

Another of Saul's visions was launched on the Trans Canada. It was and is still called Linguini, an Italian restaurant situated in a rustic log cabin built by Saul on the south side of the 40 just west of Morgan.
For years after Saul retired from the restaurant business, he still hosted dinners and parties where he would serve his amazing smoked meat. Without exception, those who partook in these affairs, would beg him for his recipe and strongly suggested he open up a deli. 
Charles Benedek, Warren Kleiner and Saul Ettinger
Decades after his great restaurant successes, a good friend and protégé, Bob Luxenberg, Saul's step-son, Warren Kleiner, and Warren's best friend, Charles Benedek,  joined forces with the legend and Ettingers was born in a former car dealership facility on Newman. Not only is this a pretty restaurant, with flat screen televisions, comfortable seating and plenty of parking – but it is truly a dream destination for Montreal diners who can experience Briskets and Il Etait Un Fois under one roof.

They officially debuted in November and the soft opening has been a success. AT the ceremonial affair, charismatic LaSalle Borough Mayor Manon Barbe cut the ribbon and special guests got to sample the cuisine. I give a big thumbs up to the smoked meat sandwich and curly fries (with cole slaw) that I had served. One of my colleagues from The Suburban, Melanie Pepin, had troubled finishing her smoked meat sandwich while Associate Publisher Sari Medicoff  was in much the same position with her delicious burger.

You can go to and access the complete menu.

I had a chance to sit  down with Saul,  Warren and Charles to get their take on the new restaurant and what the future holds. Could this be a new chain in the making? Take a look: 

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Battle of the Bands - for Ghana

For the 21 year old president of Concordia University’s Hillel, participating in the annual “alternative spring break” last year was a life changing experience. This is why Evara David and her colleagues are pushing ahead with an upcoming Battle of the Bands fundraiser to ensure that these type of programs continue.

The Battle of the Bands will take place on Thursday, February 2 (8:30 p.m.) at Club Lambi (4465 Boulevard Saint-Laurent corner Mont Royal) in Montreal. Hillel Concordia is organizing the event. All proceeds will go towards purchasing building materials for a Hillel envoy to bring to Ghana. Four bands (The Spitfire Nines, the Smokin’ Darts, the Rocket Alarms and Ill City Lights) will battle it out on stage, each playing a set of originals plus an appropriate cover!  

Assaf  Goldberg's band

Groups like New York-based American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and Jewish Funds for Justice (JFJ) coordinate these “alternative  spring breaks,”  a one-week to 10-day international service-learning programs for university students. Participants promote social change in the developing world by volunteering with a grassroots partners, and explore the relationship between social justice, service and Judaism. 

Last year, Hillel Montreal sent a few envoys to Miami, Nicaragua and   yes the poor areas of Los Angeles. “On each trip the candidates worked with different grassroots organizations - some Jewish and others not- such as soup kitchens and urban farms,” David explained. “This year, one of the trips will be going to Ghana! While each participant is responsible for paying their own way, albeit subsidized, they still have to raise money to buy building materials. This is where our Battle of the Bands come in.”

David says that Concordia has provided them with a budget, enabling all proceeds from the ticket sales and potentially a bake sale on site to go directly towards the materials that will be needed to build schools in Ghana by the Hillel volunteers over spring break. 

“I can speak on a personal experience with regard to the benefits of these trips,” said David, who was part of the LA entourage.” For one, I think we can all agree on the value of helping all of mankind, especially in these tumultuous times. Secondly, visiting places like the infamous skid row of LA was deeply emotional. When you take a kid, like myself, who has spent her entire life in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Côte Saint-Luc and put them in one of the most impoverished areas in the United States, it can be quite the realization. Growing up in a bubble, which we often do in the Jewish community, can allow us to take our good fortune for granted. Sure, we say ‘we're fortunate,’ but most of us truly don't understand what it means to be fortunate because we've never seen unfortunate to this extent. “

David notes that L.A has a homeless population of around 80,000. “What we noticed was that government intervention was minimal and upsetting, but we witnessed real life miracles that were manifesting within these grassroots organizations,” she says. “We   spent the day in a totally self sustaining homeless shelter, complete with doctors and legal aids that managed to turn out thousands of meals a day and yet run by a handful of people. We saw what a community, along with donations and good organization can achieve. What I witnessed on that trip will always be seared into my memory, the poverty was overwhelming but the hope and determination was astonishing and truly beautiful. 

“We can't always look at problems as relating to a specific minority, but rather as a human problem. We are Jews, but we are also human beings and as such we should help others. It's important to watch out for these people in your community and it’s a beautiful thing to have a strong community. However, this is the next generation of Jewish leaders and we need to be aware of problems facing all of humanity. My experience on skid row in South L.A was life changing. It changed me as a person and as a Jew. These are lessons that anyone can benefit from.”

Assaf Goldberg,  the vice-president of advocacy  for Hillel  Concordia,    believes that the envoys who go to Ghana will come back feeling very much the same way as David did.   He notes that McGill Hillel is also part of the program.

For information go to!/events/222069461208754.  Tickets are $8 at the door and $6 in advance.  Donations can be made online at in honour of Ghana Alternative Spring Break.

Montreal Memories Facebook page a huge success

As described in my Suburban Newspaper column this week, the Montreal Memories Facebook group page is a great idea.

In just over a year, more than 3,300 people have signed on. Many of them are extraordinarily active and passionate about Montreal. The more ex-Montrealers log on, the more they miss our city. Members are posting some very nostalgic items.

Besides photos, folks like Allan Berbrier are finding things such as an old Miracle  Mart staff ID tag to post. Founder Barry  Zbar, an ex-Montrealer now in Toronto, posted  his old Northmount  High  School Grade 8  scheduler. A quiz on gas stations  that no longer exist attracted 43 comments.

Let me direct you to a post my sister  Lisa wrote about the fan page. She covers all of the bases here.

A few months ago CJAD's Aaron Rand did an interview with  Zbar whose colleague David Perelman  dressed it up as a neat slide show. See for yourself.