The details of the 2003 Montreal High Lights Festival (Montréal en Lumières, in French) have been announced. The festival dates are February 13 to March 2. Tickets for all events go on sale at noon tomorrow, December 14.
The main interest for foodies is the SAQ Dining Experience, whereby a number of world-famous chefs come to town and team up with local chefs (for example, Charlie Trotter, who's giving the 2003 festival a pass, has twice been paired with Toqué!'s Normand Laprise). The non-exclusive theme of this year's Experience is Catalonia and a number of prominent chefs from Barcelona and environs are being wheeled in.
For mere mortals, the problem with the festival is two-fold: prices are on the high side, and getting a reservation for the high-profile meals can be difficult if not impossible (this year, several dinners were said to be sold out even before the program was officially announced). In other words, it comes across more as an event for the elite--members of the press, SAQ bigwigs, the event's coporate sponsors and the well-heeled regular patrons of the host restaurants--than for, say, less affluent chowhounds tempted to splurge on a meal because who knows when they'll be able to afford a trip to Barcelona.
A series of cultural (concerts, performances, lectures, exhibits) and illuminating (fireworks, light displays) events rounds out the two-week program. Package deals (airfare, lodging, tickets) are available from several U.S. cities, and ViaRail is putting on a special train from Toronto to Montreal featuring a five-course gourmet meal served in a domed dining car.
See the Montreal High Lights Festival webpage (clickable link below) for details.