L’épicerie Muscade brings the zero waste movement to the Plateau

Green lifestyle swaps are happening everywhere and Montreal has become a hub for the new eco-friendly businesses to open.

After a month of spreading the zero-waste spirit with their business, l’Épicerie Muscade strives to deepen its roots in the iconic Montreal borough, the Plateau Mont-Royal.

Quebec still struggles to find ways to cope with the waste it makes yearly. In 2012, residents were producing approximately 750 kilograms of waste a year, and according to Recyc-Quebec only 64 per cent of recyclables are recycled.

Muscade tries to reduce plastic waste by selling dry ingredients and spices in bulk and local artisanal zero-waste swaps. Swaps are re-usable products that you can buy or make to help lower your single use plastic consumption. But what draws customers into the shop is the cozy cafe that serves vegan foods and drinks.

Although it isn’t the first of its kind on the island, this grocery store is giving many eager shoppers access to zero-waste product in the Plateau. François Guinaudeau, a local who has been working towards a zero-waste lifestyle was very pleased with the new business.

“We live right near l’Epicerie Muscade,” said Guinaudeau. “We had been waiting for a long time for something that did ‘vrac’ shopping that was close.” There are limitations to what products they offer. Zero wasters still need to go to their local fruiterie to find fresh produce and protein, which still makes low-consumption shopping a difficult task.

The cozy store is located a short walk from Mont-Royal metro station, on the corner of Messier Street and Mont-Royal Avenue. The warm-coloured decorations and giant window let in some natural light to create a homey feeling space.

Éline Bonnin, the head chef at Muscade, explained how the concept for this business came alive.

“At first it was more of a restaurant, but once we found this location everything changed,” she said.

Since she started living a zero-waste lifestyle, Bonnin realized that she wasn’t finding what she needed in her neighbourhood. Shortly after her realization, Bonnin, Lola Farruggello and Melyssa Lemieux–the other co-owners of l’epicerie Muscade–quickly jumped on the opportunity for a zero waste business.

The three young women hope to reshape the way residents think about vegan and zero-waste lifestyles through their new business. “There’s a big cliché that being zero-waste and vegan is more expensive,” said Bonnin. “But this isn’t always true. We hope to offer something that can break this mould.”

Although there isn’t any fresh produce, this store is neatly stocked, offering typical ‘dry’ ingredients as well as spices in bulk. Additionally there are a variety of zero-waste swaps you can find there.

“We have an entire table dedicated to zero-waste feminine hygiene products” said Bonnin. Lots of cosmetics and kitchen stuff, the house, artisanal products made in Quebec.”

On top of the grocery shopping experience, customers can also buy ready-to-eat food in mason jars. L’epicerie Muscade also offers dishes, soups, vegan cheeses and yogurts for customers to take home. “What we’re most proud of is the little fridge with all of our homemade goodies,” said Bonnin.


Photo by Juliette Palin

Student Life

Yum or Yikes: Café Chat L’Heureux

Last week, I paid a visit to Café Chat L’Heureux.

Located in the heart of the Plateau, it’s one of two cat cafes in Montreal, where guests can enjoy their cup of coffee in the company of some feline friends. Café Chat L’Heureux opened in 2014, and has since become a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

The first cat cafe can be traced back to Taiwan in the late ‘90s. The concept was picked up by Japan shortly after, and spread across the rest of the world throughout the following decade. Now, many major North American cities have opened these cafes, their popularity supported by the growing influence of social media and a growing support for the adopt don’t shop movement.

Café Chat L’Heureux is currently home to roughly 10 cats, some of which were adopted from local shelters, and others which the shop foster. Upon entering the cafe, I was confused: where were all the cats? It took me a few moments to realize that the cats were, well, everywhere. Nestled in between cushions, curled up in corners, and perched on the beams overhead, the cats were camouflaged with their environment. Eventually, a few came out of their nests to say hello and—not to be dramatic—it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The cafe’s ambiance was homey and mellow, with soft music playing overhead and guests chatting quietly, some of them relaxing on the couches, often with a cat resting beside them. I had the pleasure of enjoying my food while a tiny kitten rested on my lap, so it’s safe to say that I was pretty happy with the atmosphere.

Ambience: 7/5

The menu is entirely vegetarian, with a few vegan options as well, offering a selection of sandwich melts, salads, soups and smoothies. I tried their popular menu item dubbed “Cat Lady,” a grilled sandwich with goat cheese, cheddar, caramelized onions, fig jam and honey. The sandwich was delicious and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys rich comfort foods.

The cafe also offers a variety of lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, so I enjoyed my sandwich with a super tasty hazelnut latte. This was followed by a piece of cheesecake and a brownie that I shared with a friend. Unfortunately, the desserts didn’t live up to the main course, as I found the cheesecake a bit bland, and the brownie to have a texture closer to cake.

Food: 3.5/5

Price wise, the menu was a tad expensive—on average, sandwich melts cost around $14 each, coffees around $5 and desserts about $6.50. However, considering the fact that keeping cats alive is a costly affair, I could understand the need for higher prices and didn’t mind paying a little more than I normally would.

Price: 4/5

The employees at Café Chat L’Heureux were really nice, and you could tell that they really loved working with the cats. My only teeny-tiny complaint is that the service was slightly slow, but considering the relaxed atmosphere, I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I was in no rush to leave, that’s for sure!

Service: 4.5/5


Photo by Laurence B.D.


Weaving people and memories together

Collecting Loss: Weaving Threads of Memory celebrates life and death through clothing

I remember when my grandfather was in the hospital. In the final weeks leading up to his death, my grandmother taught herself how to knit. She had never knit before and yet, during the long days spent in the intensive care unit, she had managed to create a scarf for everyone in my family. At nine years old, I did not understand. “Why couldn’t she just read a book?” I would ask. “She is grieving,” my mother would answer.

Many years later, I understood. The practice of weaving offers the mind rest and focus, it is at once creative and emotional. Collecting Loss: Weaving Threads of Memory demonstrates this need to create something that will hold together during times of loss. On display at Yellow Fish Art Gallery in the Plateau, the exhibition is a public art memorial that celebrates life and death through clothing.

Embroidered and patchworked, the garments offer individuals and community a place to mourn and remember together, and demonstrate the possibility of death as something that “weaves” people together. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

The space feels very much like a memorial; a place for grieving and remembering. Clothes hang from the ceiling, holding shape as though they were recently worn and leaving the viewer with a feeling of emptiness. Framed poems are on display at the foot of each garment, and lit candles are scattered throughout the room. It is at once eerie and wholesome; while the items represent loss, many people are gathered to celebrate life.

The items, created of donated clothing once belonging to loved ones, were cut up and sewn together. Embroidered and patchworked, the garments offer individuals and community a place to mourn and remember together, and demonstrate the possibility of death as something that “weaves” people together. From teddy bears, to child-size dresses, to pants, each item is unique and expresses different experiences and memories.

At the far end of the room, Christy Thompson’s work Shroud hangs from the ceiling. An homage to the artist’s brother, Kelly, following his death, the piece is five metres long and composed of his knitted garments. The work, which took Thompson over three months to complete, demonstrates the creative process that helped the artist develop an understanding of their relationship and his loss.

Thompson’s goal was to create a dialogue surrounding grief and loss, while simultaneously exploring alternative ways of dealing with loss and mourning.

Collected, gathered, disassembled and reassembled, the creation of the works follow a similar pattern to the ways in which one’s life is changed when experiencing loss. However, being given the space to share memories and stories, and to fill it with items that have been repaired, offers individuals a place to remember and honour their loved ones, both individually and collectively.

Collecting Loss: Weaving Threads of Memory demonstrates the possibility of creating meaning and bringing people together to create a community of tightly woven individuals.

Collecting Loss: Weaving Threads of Memory is on display at Yellow Fish Art Gallery, at 3623 St-Laurent Blvd., until Oct. 27. Additional information and open hours can be found at


“The Lower Plateau”, a movie half a decade in the making

How Montreal local and Mcgill graduate, Liz Singh turned her life into a film

Liz Singh spent nearly half a decade working on her first film, The Lower Plateau, which was released in 2018. Made on a $19,000 production budget using just one camera and a boom mic, the film was Singh’s way of illustrating the many facets of her own life in the lower Plateau as an emerging artist. Based in Montreal, Singh obtained her bachelor’s degree in cultural studies at McGill in 2006, and went on to study film and television production at the University of Southern California.

Singh’s inspiration in pursuing this venture arose from a lack of interest in other opportunities. “I was looking for a project, and I couldn’t find anything I wanted to work on, so I made my own,” she said. Filmed in Montreal, the cast and crew consisted of about 50 people, many of whom had never worked on a movie set before. For a bunch of first-timers, the end result is quite impressive.

The Lower Plateau follows a 20-something named Jaine, who seems to be idling in uncertainty as to where to take her life. In an experience that is all too familiar to the creatively-adept young adult, she navigates toxic relationships, unemployment and a routine that seems tantalizing in its swift ability to direct her attention back to both.

A few solid friendships pull Jaine through the worst of times, though each bond bears its own set of scraps. Singh attributes the personalities of some of the supporting characters to her real-life companions. “I think probably every character that you write is a facet of yourself, and then mixed in with bits and pieces of people you know,” she said. “I wanted it to feel like my life in the lower Plateau; a lot of people I know, this is how we’re living, sort of working in bars and working at night, doing multiple gigs and making art on the side.”

Right now, Singh and co. are working on a few web series, one of which may involve “a modern take on superheroes,” Singh said. Through her production company, Dépanneur Films—which was established in 2014 under the name Cinéma La Vox—Singh has also put out a web series that resembles The Lower Plateau, called Bonjour Hi.

In listening to Singh describe her past as well as her ambitions, the parallels between her and Jaine are clear, despite one poignant detail. If Jaine is a version of Singh in any capacity, I have reason to believe that she represents a Singh of the past. The beaming woman who stood before me to eagerly discuss the details of her debut film seems to have surmounted a period of uncertainty and poured her heart and soul into her art. The result is content as beautiful as it is sad.

Though The Lower Plateau is a noticeable first attempt a full-length film, if it’s any preview of what Singh and the rest of her crew are capable of under a tight budget, I’m looking forward to whatever’s next.

The Lower Plateau was screened on April 7 at Transparent Film Festival in New York City, and will be available online next month as part of the Lift-Off Sessions.

Student Life

Would anyone Fancé a coffee?

New Plateau business creates a hybrid of the classic dépanneur and café

It’s common knowledge that dépanneurs are meant to be convenient. However, François Ste-Marie, a young Montreal entrepreneur, thinks they should be so much more.

On Sept. 9, Ste-Marie opened the dépanneur he’s been longing to see in the city. The result, frankly, is impressive.

Dépanneur Fancé is located close to the corner of avenue Des Pins and Saint-Dominique street. Photo by Danielle Gasher

Located in Plateau Mont-Royal, just a few blocks away from Montreal’s iconic Schwartz’s Deli, Dépanneur Fancé is a one-of-a-kind spot.

At first glance, the quaint shop stands out on the residential street close to St-Laurent Boulevard. The street doesn’t have much hustle and bustle. However, once inside Fancé, the street’s quietness becomes a forgettable detail as you are immediately faced with a colourful array of carefully chosen products. Vegetable chips, locally-produced soda drinks, kombucha and craft beers share the shelves with high-quality household basics, such as organic juices and cereals. The shop also sells meals and desserts made in store, available for take-out.  Most importantly, behind the counter is Ste-Marie, the owner and sole employee of Fancé, ready to serve you like he would a friend.

The store sells mostly local products. Photo by Danielle Gasher

Although Fancé offers typical “convenience” products, it is also appealing as a place to satisfy your gourmet appetite. Fancé’s tasteful creamy and nutty lattes are delicious, especially coupled with their croissants, or homemade cookies. The spot also has a breakfast and lunch menu.  The breakfast menu includes classics with a twist.  You can choose toast on artisanal bread with your choice of spread, or an iranian breakfast which consists of toast with feta cheese and nuts.  The lunch menu includes items such as feta and watermelon salad, homemade sandwiches made with fresh, local ingredients, and salads.

Ste-Marie is an ardent supporter of local ingredients and products. Most of his products are Canadian. The coffee he sells comes from Montreal’s trendy Café Saint-Henri and Calgary’s Café Phil & Sebastian, and he buys his chips and cereals from two British Columbia-based companies.

Prior to opening his own business, Ste-Marie worked as a manager at a clothing retailer in downtown Montreal. “My dad had a dépanneur when I was young,” he said. “I’ve always fancied the idea of having mine, but with the products I’d like to find. I love good food, good beer and good coffee. I wanted to appropriate the concept.”

Photo by Danielle Gasher

Ste-Marie filled his shop with just that—you can tell right away by his small inventory that he only sells his carefully chosen, and high-quality favourites.

Fancé, Ste-Marie’s Québécois spelling of “Fancy,” is sure to become the new Plateau hotspot to grab some beer and snacks for a night in, or your go-to café to enjoy a velvety latte to help you get through a study session.

The spot’s seating consists of a stylish and sleek bar with five chairs along the large window of the shop.  The bar, made of concrete, features only a few computer outlets.  Wifi is also available.

For now, Dépanneur Fancé is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m, however, Ste-Marie said the opening hours are subject to change as Fancé gets a feel for the neighbourhood.

Dépanneur Fancé is located at 3764 St-Dominique Street.

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