One of the most anticipated culinary events that took place in Montreal this February came not by way of the annual Highlights Festival as you might have expected, but rather courtesy of a private initiative on behalf of the crew at Impasto where chefs Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita hosted acclaimed chef Nate Appleman for two nights of clever cookery in Little Italy. Distinguished amongst his peers, chef Appleman's accolades include Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs" list, and the James Beard Foundation "Rising Star" award in 2009. Most recently, his celebrity status was sealed on the other side of the pass when he became a household name, competing on the Food Network's Chopped All Stars and The Next Iron Chef.
Following our whirlwind trip around Spain, we returned home with a reinvigorated outlook on food, on cooking, on eating and with a reinforced perception regarding the North American pollution of the term "tapas". When local restaurateurs manipulated and marginalized the meaning of tapas to little more than small plates of food they could swing a better profit margin on, they let the congeniality slip through their fingers. The reasonably priced cava and cold beers, immaculately canned seafood and swoon-worthy pork were all gone. What remained was the shell of an idea that was force-fed to the rank-and-file in portions barely large enough to share with the person next to you, let alone divide amongst a table. It was a mockery, a low-rent cover band, an impersonation of much more than a restaurant format, but a culture. It all made the register ring, but lacked heart.