HOME > Chowhound > Quebec (inc. Montreal) >


Fiesta des cultures de Saint-Remi (Mexican and Guatemalan Festival)

The post about the Festival de la Poutine just reminded me that I wanted to post about this:

The Fiesta des Cultures is a cultural festival held in Saint-Remi in the Montérégie on 29/30 August 2009. This year will be the second edition. It was organized the bring together the locals and the Mexican and Guatemalan farm workers and celebrate their culture. There will be music, dancing and art, but most importantly for us chowhounds there will be food. Last year(I didn't go) there was a stand for each state in Mexico serving local specialities. One can only hope they will do the same this year.

I've been looking forward to this all summer. So come on out and make sure to wear your special chow mafia pin.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The wife and I have been talking about this for quite awhile. We're looking forward to it as well, plus we're basically just down the road.

    I often travel the backroads of St. Remi, St. Isidore, St. Edouard, St. Chrysotome, etc etc (never realized how many saints are out there...) and have seen the growth of the migrant (and increasingly full-time immigrant) worker population.
    There are a smattering of nationalities, but by far Latinos in general and Mexicans in particular make up most of the workers.
    These small burgs have adapted somewhat accordingly; the small IGAs/Provigos/Metros stock plenty of Mexican products from can goods like La Costena and Embasa to Maseca to fresh habaneros.

    Nice to see a rural municipality embracing such a cultural event.

    1. Just thought I'd bump this up as a reminder. Its this Sat/Sun and we're planning accordingly.
      Lemmee know if anyone else is going. I know SnackHappy isn't missing it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker

        Alas I have another event this weekend. I would have loved to go there. Celebrating the people who grow and who harvest our food is an important duty - and pleasure - for foodie folk.

        1. re: porker

          I'm planning on going Sunday, if the weather's nice :)

        2. Thank you so much for this post, I work with two Guatemalans on my farm in Vermont. One of them has two brothers working in the St. Remi area, we will be attending the festival on Sunday. It will be nice to celbrate the culture as opposed to forcing it underground like we do in this country.

          1. Did anyone go today? How was the food and what were the prices and portions like?

            11 Replies
            1. re: jellybelly25

              Three of us hounds went this afternoon, somehow managing to avoid the rain. Good thing, too, as there's not much in the way of cover. We ran into porker soon after arriving, who got us started chowing with a comped plate of tacos al pastor. I was expecting more people, especially more Latinos, but the weather may have kept visitors away.

              The booths are arranged on either side of a paved street running east and west. The entrance is at the east end; at the west end is a cul-de-sac of booths clustered around a beer stand. About a third of the booths serve food (the organizers appear to have dropped last year's "booth from every Mexican state" theme, and more's the pity). The other booths house vendors of clothing, wire-transfer services, Mexican wrestling masks, toys and the like, as well as representatives of Mexican/Guatemalan-Quebec friendship association, the local UDA chapter, etcetera. Since we didn't note the names of the food vendors we tried, I'll list the booths not in the order we visited them but geographically in counter-clockwise order, working from the entrance down the north side, around the cul-de-sac and back up the south side. Would guess we sampled the wares of about two-thirds of the food booths.

              You'll spot the tacos al pastor stand on your right as soon as you enter the fiesta grounds. The pork's on a gyro-like vertical spit. The meat was a little dry but tasted fine, with depth being added by a lightly applied red sauce and spark being supplied by fresh pineapple chunks, smaller than usual and all the better for it. The soft corn tortillas were OK, probably from a manufacturer like Maya. (One of the fiesta's few outright disappointments was that no one appeared to be making tortillas.) I didn't pay for these (TYVM, porker!) but would guess they ran about $4-5 for three tacos.

              A few booths down is St-Hubert Street's Churros Montréal. The warm fritters filled with dulce de leche and dusted with cinnamon sugar are a fine way to cap off an afternoon of snacking. $2.50 each.

              Wander a little further and you're at a booth selling menudo, though the servers had to be convinced I really, truly knew what it was before they'd sell me a bowl. While the broth would have benefited from a little more chile and salt and a little less grease, it was complex and beefy. The tripe was nicely done, both tender and crunchy. Unlike nearly every other version I've eaten, this was posole-free. The quesadilla here is a large flour tortilla (President's Choice!) folded over shredded chicken, jack cheese, avocado slices and two green salsas (one herby, one hot). Not bad. The bowl of soup and the quesadilla ran $9.

              The booth next door serves bags of what the vendors called chicharonnes, though all of us thought they were made from batter, not the traditional pork rind. Shaped like a thin slice of lotus root, the fritters were neither sweet nor particularly flavourful, which isn't to say they didn't make for some strangely compulsive snacking. A bigger-than-enough bag was $2 or so, IIRC.

              A few booths down was the star of the event, a booth with an open-air steel griddle that a cook would film with lard and then fry sauced corn tortillas on. The tortillas were folded over three fillings (refried beans, chicken and potato), topped with a little more sauce, lettuce, sliced radishes and cheese: 3 enchiladas for $7. All the fillings were good but the beans were out of this world. A refreshing and not at all sweet agua de jamaica (water flavoured with hibiscus flowers) ran $1 a glass. We returned to this booth on our way out and ordered tamales to take home. Will report on how they turned out.

              In a booth or two farther down the row were a couple of guys selling tamales and tacos. The tamales were big and wrapped in corn husks (several vendors were using banana leaves for their tamale wrappers). The masa dough was looser than usual but fresh, moist and tender. We enjoyed both fillings -- the spicier green chicken and the mellower, slightly sweet mole beef. The taco fillings were also tasty: cochinita pibil (pork marinated in sour orange juice and achiote, then roasted and shredded) and a stir-fry of chicken, onions and peppers. Several serve-yourself salsas and relishes were arrayed at the front of the booth; the ones we tried were excellent. The taco plate also came with a small serving of Spanish rice. I didn't pay here but suspect it came to a little under $10.

              All the way around the cul-de-sac was a booth selling empanadas and various mango concoctions. We tried the vegetarian turnover, a tasty number filled with greens and cheese ($3). I also had a small mango stuck on a stick, peeled and cut like a flower ($2.50). I asked for it to be sprinkled with lime juice and chile powder but the vendor said she'd forgotten to bring them.

              On the south side of the street, about halfway toward the entrance, is a small stand serving posole and chicken soup. We ordered it with trimmings (herbs, chile sauce, chopped onion, green onion). The salty broth tasted like it could have come from a mix but that didn't interfere with our enjoyment of the dish, a homey blend of mellow and bright with perfectly al dente posole and chicken cubed to the same size as the corn. Comfort foodissimo. About $3 a medium-small bowl.

              Most of the booths had other options, but our stomachs had only so much room. The flautas, gorditas and company will have to wait till next year.

              1. re: carswell

                A report on the tamales that we bought at the booth selling the Michoacan-style enchiladas (the ones with sauced tortilla pan-fried with lard and filled with potato, bean and chicken, then served with lettuce and radish). We brought home the bean tamale, and the meat tamale. Sadly, the bean tamale was disappointingly bland, so much so that my normally spice-averse hubbie trotted over to the fridge get some tom ot toi, Vietnamese chile and garlic sauce (we didn't have any salsa), to add some flavour. The masa was dry. The meat tamale was better, but I think I preferred the tamales at the other booth (the one selling the cochinita pilbil).

                My favorites were the Michoacan-style enchilada filled with bean, and the cochinita pibil. The booth selling the cochinita pilbil had a really excellent spicy salad/relish made with jalapeno slices, green bean and baby corn. Definitely get some of that salad to add to your cochinita pilbil! It is really yummy.

                It was a real pleasure to get so many different types of Mexican/Guatemalan food in one site. Boy I miss the taco trucks down in the States!

                Hey, if anyone goes tomorrow, can you try to find out if we can get those Michoacan enchiladas from a restaurant somewhere? Same for the cochinita pilbil? I would love to know if we can get these year round...

                1. re: moh

                  Wow. Those tamales were disappointing. Way too much masa, especially when it's so heavy. Boring fillings. And the at-odds odour/taste of the banana leaf wrapper. Fortunately, I had a bottle of salsa sitting in the fridge.

                  Next year I'm going to ask for all three Michoacan enchiladas to be filled with beans. Or maybe two bean and one potato for contrast. Insanely good.

                  Would also be interested in knowing if the empanada people had a storefront in the Montreal area. The dough may not have been exceptional but the filling certainly was.

                  1. re: carswell

                    Wow, thx Moh and Carswell for that quick report. I'm going tomorrow and took good notes of what to eat!! I'll try to get some answers too.

                    1. re: Chocolatine

                      I had a good time at the Fiesta on Sunday; friendly atmosphere and authentic food it seems. We got there at about 11h30, and almost all booths were ready to serve food. I've never been to Mexico so not too familiar with that food, outside of North Americanized classics... I really enjoyed the tamales and cochinita pibil (tortillas filled with shredded chicken in a tomatoey sauce and rice), especially with the salsa verde. The Michoacan-style enchiladas were so-so for me in terms of filling; I wasn't won over by the bland potato nor bean ones, and the chicken was a bit dry. Still tasty, mostly from the red sauce over it and garnish, but not worth a second plate. In terms of portions, 2 filling tamales and 1 conchita pibil tortilla was 6$, compared to 7$ for 3 small enchiladas.

                      Here's what I was able to find out: neither the Michoacan enchiladas place nor the tamales / pibil place have a restaurant. The folks doing the tamales have a traiteur business called Casa Vieja, 450-692-2778, in Chateauguay. The nice lady at the enchilada stand told me that they would be present at the Mexican Independance day fiesta on Sept 19. It's usually in Jean-Drapeau park but will be moved somewhere near the Olympic stadium this year (Maisonneuve park perhaps?).

                      For me, the churros were THE hit! Much better than what I tasted in Costa Rica. Crispy on the outside, not too greasy, with a good caramel filling. The people making them run Churros Montreal at 7497 St-Hubert (corner Faillon), where they also serve empanadas, etc.

                      The SalsaFolie lady was just hilarious. She kept repeating "1,2,3, en arrière, on se touche (... les mains), en arrière " and trying to get solo people to get in the circle.. "madame, trouvez-vous un homme...". I don't remember the name of the dance, but it's kind of a latino set carré.

                      Didn't try anything else to eat, we were full!! We bought a few pastries on the way out from the Suro stand (sureau = elderberry), http://www.suro.ca/. Tastes like blueberries, with much higher antioxydant content. They were featured recently in the L'Épicerie show.

                      We coupled this with a stop at the goat cheese shop in Mercier on the way back. I'll post more details about this under the Cheese post.

                      1. re: Chocolatine

                        Thanks for the detective work Chocolatine! We were so busy eating, we forgot to ask the important details.

                        It is nice the churros are so readily available. If I recall, they also serve deep-fried empanadas, which are a nice change from baked ones (albeit a bit unhealthy.)

                        1. re: Chocolatine

                          At Churros Montreal, they also serve fat churros stuffed with chocolate, as well as thinner, more "Spanish-Style" churros.

                          1. re: Chocolatine

                            For those who may be interested, I found some info on the Mexican Independence Day Fiesta at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau. Warning: It's written in tri-lingual.


                    2. re: carswell

                      "I was expecting more people, especially more Latinos, but the weather may have kept visitors away."

                      When we were there on Sunday, one of the farm workers told Girlfriend that they only showed up at 6pm on Saturday. They work six days a week. On Sunday they were out in droves. So much so that our car got walled-in by the farm buses double parked on Rang St-Paul. The crowd on the site was about half farm workers, half locals.

                      1. re: carswell

                        Thank you for the in depth report. I made it there on Sunday around 5 pm and the place was full but I unfortunately didn't come across many of the foods that you tried.

                        I had the tacos el pastor. It was 4 for $10 and the pork was a bit dry. I tried the enchiladas from the Michoacan-style enchilada booth. I didn't realize that there were different options. They automatically gave me and the person ordering after me the chicken enchiladas, which were served with the lettuce and radish but which I found to be very sparse on the chicken. I didn't see any other booth selling tamales, expect for this booth nor did I see any booths selling soup.

                        I also couldn't find the booth with the serve-yourself salsas and relishes.

                        I tried the beef tacos from the last booth before the big tent (almost across from the Michoacan-style enchilada booth). This place had the longest line and the wait was about 15 min. This was the booth that had a cash register and pictures of each of their dishes posted at the front. I found these to be the best tacos that I tried because they were very moist and flavorful and served with onions and yellow peppers.

                        I also tried the spicy beef empanadas, which I also enjoyed.

                        1. re: jellybelly25

                          The other tamale place with the pickles and salsa ran out of tamales during the afternoon. We didn't get to sample them either. The sign said Casa Vieja Traiteur, but I've found no traces of them on the internet or in the yellow pages.

                          There was no menudo to be had on Sunday, either. They were replaced by a guy selling popcorn and cotton candy.

                    3. Weather was ominous, but held for a short while yesterday. Today looks much better, but alas, we might head to St. Laurent st.

                      I knew moh and company were going and did bump into them; moh, mr. moh, and carswell.
                      I still had an aftertaste of Friday evening's bonfire wine in my mouth, so I opted to start with a menudo (first pic). The order-barking lady (she was bossing around the younger girls at the stand :-) ) opened a hotel pan displaying plenty of cooked tripe and pigs feet. Only the tripe ended up in the bowl (sigh). Broth was added from another pot and then microwaved.
                      Quite good and with a squirt of lime, just what the doctor ordered.
                      The wife had a torta (sandwich) of pork. The braised pork was good enough, but they also microwaved the whole thing, making the bread very tough as it cooled.

                      Across the way was a stand offering posole (picture 2). I'm not sure of carswell's guess of packaged broth as I got PLENTY of chicken inedibles (spine, bone, cartelidge, skin, etc). I'm not complaining, just that they definitely used chicken carcass in the brewing, although not necessarily ruling out a mix.

                      The only alcohol offered was Labatt Blue and Brahma (no wine or spirits or perhaps more appropriate beer). Labatt distributes Brahma (Brazil),and so probably the monopoly here.
                      One stand did offer agua fresca ($3.50) in various fruit flavors or pina colada ($7.00) using a whole pineapple (non-alcoholic), picture 3. Very tasty.

                      Our favorite was the Michoacan style enchiladas as well, pretty much as moh and carswell describe. We all kidded on the liberal use of pure unadultered lard!

                      If you do head out today, just beware of the blaring 'dance lessons', where the instructor repeats "un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept" ad naseum.

                      I saw mariachi guys sipping from brown paper bags, getting ready to play in the tent, but the rain drove us off before they started.
                      Also a regular band set-up on the stage for more music later on.

                      Just thought I'd post a few picts

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: porker

                        Hi Porker, it seems your photos were not posted.

                      2. We went today with the kids and had a great time! Thanks so much to SnackHappy for posting about this!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Arktik

                          Unique event and impressive reports. Even website is well done for just their 2nd year, drawings for kids to colour, contest for visitors to win trip to NYC --did you enter? Hope all of you will remind us ahead of time next year so we can enjoy this cultural, culinary experience. When we were touring Ile d'orleans last year we wanted to enter a beautiful church and were surprised to find a mass in Spanish taking place and the church full of men then realized they were working on the farms, buses had brought them for the service--its a long time since I saw a church so full. I really think this is a wonderful initiative for quebecers to get to know their cultures and cuisines. I couldnt find the pictures that porker posted.....thanks everyone

                        2. Just a little reminder that the 3rd edition of the Fiesta des Cultures will be held on the 21st and 22nd of August 2010. Please note that the Ruelle Marchande with all the shops and food stalls wil be open from 10am to 1pm on Saturday and and 9:30am to 7pm on Sunday.

                          See you there!


                          15 Replies
                          1. re: SnackHappy

                            We're looking forward to it, thanks for the reminder!

                            1. re: SnackHappy

                              Ah, I am adding this to my calendar NOW. I must go (last year's food reviews were making me salivate).

                              And there's a tomato fight scheduled, which should make for great photos.

                              1. re: TheSnowpea

                                Whaddya mean "photos"...should make for great sport! (wheres my Bunol goggles?)

                              2. re: SnackHappy

                                Anyone know what happens in case of rain? 100% chance of rain tomorrow and I can't find any mention on the site of whether the whole festival gets cancelled or if it moves indoors.

                                1. re: kpzoo

                                  Can only tell you it was drizzling today when I went. No one seemed to be packing up because of the clouds. And by the way, great food! One place had cheese and pepper tamales with a chipotlé sauce. The tamale was the best I've had since arriving in Quebec. Another stand sells horchata and enchiladas that were both very good. Finally, would have hoped for a little more zip with the stuffed jalapenos, but they were not bad.

                                  1. re: texaspeppers

                                    Thanks for the report! It's supposed to be much rainier tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll make the trek unless I know for sure it's still on.

                                      1. re: kpzoo

                                        Took a ride to pick up farm fresh garlic today (near St. Urbain), made a large circle (picking up apples, pickles, jams, corn along the way) and stopped at the St. Remi Mexican festival.
                                        Happily, it has grown food-wise since last year.
                                        First up was elote - corn on a stick topped with butter, cheese, and hot sauce. The corn was really sweet and could have stood alone - the toppings brought me back to Mexico, very good, washed down with a Corona.
                                        Next up, the Michoacan enchiladas and lechon tacos. The chicken filled enchiladas cooked very similar to this
                                        tasty. The lechon was simple braised, shredded pork in a red sauce. Also very good.
                                        Washed down with a Corona
                                        One stand featured a Mexican "Paella" but was more of a catalan style zarzuela de mariscos laden with rice. Geedeeyup! A whole blue crab, shrimp, mussels, clams in a toothsome, tomatoey, piquant broth. Winner! Had to sit at a picnic table to pick the crab.
                                        Washed down with a Corona.
                                        It was about this time we discovered the tequila stand - margaritas, some type of punch, and straight up.
                                        (Mrs Porker was scolded by a festival organizer who pointed at her drink and said "you're not allowed wine here"
                                        "This?" the wife points to her glass, "this is tequila" It was a reposado, somewhat yellowish white wine-colored.
                                        "Oh" he replied sheepishly.
                                        )Onward to a plate of rice and lechon, featuring a 4"x4" square of chicharron. The rice was fried with chunks of stringy pork and beans. Very very good, even better with a drizzle of salsa rojo. The pork skin seemed baked (not fried) which would have been OK had it come right out of the oven crispy (think cracklin), but it was held in a warmer and lost its snap. It was tasty, but too chewy.
                                        Spot of tequila to cleanse the palate.
                                        I was now getting full and had to choose carefully...then I saw it: A type of stew featuring potato and chicharron in a light green sauce. The chicharron is stewed soft and lends a great flavor to the dish. Served on tortillas, my favorite of the day (again bringing me back to Mexico). They had 4 salsas to choose from, the hottest being an onion salsa with habanero, really setting off the dish - and necessitating another Corona.
                                        Lastly, I tried a pazole, sipped while walking to the exit. It was so-so as the flavors were somewhat muted and the corn (hominy) coming through weakly (but maybe it was the habaneros desensitizing my taste....or maybe the coronas? Naw, the habaneros).
                                        We plan to return tomorrow, especially to participate in the tomato battle, but alas the weather looks like 90% showers.
                                        Theres a few plates I still want to try - a different stand's pazole, and an especially good looking carnitas plate.

                                        1. re: porker

                                          Thanks for the awesome report. Sounds amazing.

                                          "We plan to return tomorrow, especially to participate in the tomato battle, but alas the weather looks like 90% showers."

                                          Any idea whether it'll go on despite the rain or will be cancelled? Thanks!

                                          1. re: kpzoo

                                            They've added some new features like rides this year, which were probably expensive. I bet they'll keep going as planned and hope for as many attendees as possible in spite of the rain.

                                            That said, for a more conclusive answer, you might want to try the festival director:
                                            Cynthia Ménard
                                            Chargée de projets - Revitalisation Saint-Rémi
                                            Téléphone : 450 454-3993, poste 2782

                                            Good luck! (and if you do make it out there, hope you have fun!)

                                            1. re: anachemia

                                              Thanks! I actually tried calling that person earlier (the number's on the fiesta's website) but there was no answer, and as it's a government office, I don't expect anyone to be there tomorrow morning, either. Guess I'll be playing it by ear!

                                          2. re: porker

                                            Arrived around 11h30, so a couple of the shops weren't up and running by that time.

                                            SO wanted a gordita from el rey del taco (usually in JTM). Filling of the gordita was good, but the added chicken was somewhat bland.

                                            Next had a cheese tamale with salsa verde, which was very good. The filling was still moist and 'lardery'. From the same stand, we later had a pozole, with added bits of chicken and pork. The broth was a little lighter than expected, but tasty nevertheless. A couple of squirts of lime really brought up the flavors.

                                            From one of the busier stands (probably the one where they also had the Michoacan enchiladas, there was a minivan parked behind the stall), we had flautas, corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, deep fried, then covered in a tomatillo, avocado, jalapeno and cilantro salsa. Served with refried beans and dipped in a chipotle salsa, these were exquisite. I had to restrain myself from getting another serving.

                                            Stayed until the tomato fight and then left. I did not partake, but it was quite a sight, with the fireman standing by to rinse off the mess!

                                            1. re: porker

                                              A few pictures...
                                              1st: Michoacan style enchilladas
                                              2nd: My favorite of the festival, Chicharron con papas
                                              3rd: Another goodie, Mexican Paella
                                              4th: Tomato madness - La Tomatina tomato fight. I was still pulling tomato out of my ears the next day! Many of the tomatoes were rotten and smelled real bad.

                                          3. re: texaspeppers

                                            Hi texaspeppers

                                            I wasn't able to attend but I have been searching for very good tamales for a while now. Would you know the name of the place selling them?


                                            1. re: juanito75

                                              I noticed that not too many stores were selling sweet food or desserts... I loved Churros... by the way, there were not there on sunday :(:(:

                                        1. re: porker

                                          Thanks for the heads' up! Looks very interesting.

                                          1. re: Plateaumaman

                                            We went tonight and had fun. I had a braised pork sandwich from a stand called Pisko and it was good, $8. We also grabbed some chicken burritos that needed some seasoning, and a delicious tamale from a Colombian place (I think?) that was around $4. But the scene stealer had to be the Hungarian chimney cakes "Les Gâteaux-Chimnées", made quickly on the spot with a lot of wooden rolls and different toppings. That set us back $8 but it was worth it. We were going to line up for a second one but the fireworks started. Overall, great ambiance, okay food (we've spent much of July in Mexico so maybe we're more picky than usual), and fun activities for the kids, especially the zipline.