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February 2012

January 2012

CSL resident revives two legendary restaurants

For the last six plus years as the Côte Saint-Luc city councillor for District 2, I have known Saul and Farla Ettinger (below) as constuents of mine. I was aware of Sau's success in real estate and Farla's involvement in the community.  Somehow, though, I did not know  Saul was a legend in the local restaurant circles.


Growing up in this city I loved the smoked  meat the Briskets restaurant  chain while my mouth watered whenever I t hought about a hamburger from Il Etait Un Fois.

For all those folks like me who have longed for a return of these two restaurants, Saul has answered your prayers and revived  them under one roof. Ettingers Deli ( is located at 9100 Newman (corner of Dollard) in LaSalle.
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.
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.

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:


End of an era: Nautilus Plus in Côte Saint-Luc to close

It is sadly official. Nautilus Plus, located at the Cavendish  Club in Côte Saint-Luc is closing its doors. The move affects hundreds of longtime members.

This location has been in operation for several decades, offering personal training, fitness and nutrition programs. There is a nice swimming pool, where many youngsters have learned how to swim, racquetball and squash courts and of course a large room of nautilus equipment where  people can enjoy socializing and getting into shape.


The club officially close for business on  February 29.  When I dropped by to find out why it is shutting down, I was told that the lease was up and the company wanted to go in a new direction. Members will be given rebates or offered  to use one of the other Nautilus Plus facilities,

There is no question that the opening of our magnificient Aquatic and Community Centre has had an impact on other local health and exercise centres.  The swimming programs at our two fabulous pools are going strong. We have a modest workout room overlooking the pool, a room for dance clases, a mini library and soon a café. There is place for youth to congregate, large meeting rooms, headquarters for our seniors and Legion group and a large gymnasium attached to the facility.

Cat Committee looks ahead to 2012

The Côte Saint-Luc Cats Commmittee held its first meeting of 2012 recently. As the official liaison between the committee and city council, it was my pleasure to share an energized gathering of  people who – like me – adore felines.

Alanna Devine of the SPCA, Johanne Tassé  of the Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec (CAACQ) and Côte Saint-Luc Associate General Counsel Cheri Bell were among our special guests. Cheri has already had a number of meetings with Alanna and she will serve as a big help for me in the coming months as I wish to bring forward some new measures pertaining to the cat population in our community.

Our Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program resulted in almost 50 cats being sterilized in 2012.  This would not have been possible without our devoted group of volunteers, headed by the dynamic Shelley Schecter.

Shelley said that there is no question this committee has made a difference. If we can get more volunteers in 2012, a lot more can be done. This includes trying to change the mindsets of landlords and condo board associations which prohibit cats to be on their premises. She also shared a sad story of people who were feeding cats that had already been sterilized at a condo on CSL Road. The condo board was against this and one gentleman went outside, took the food which was waiting for the cat and threw it away.

Shelley said she has noticed that TNR is gaining more credibility than before. The important issue is this:  TNR is not just picking cats up and neutering and vaccinating them; it is also maintaining the colonies.  No one likes to release a cat back outside, but at this point we do not always have a choice.  It is important to get the tame ones and kittens off the street and maintain the wild ones. 

Our committee extended thanks to Dr. Marlene Kalin and her team at the Côte Saint-Luc Hospital for Animals. They did a wonderful job treating the cats we brought in and even found homes for some of them. One member of our committee, in fact, wants to launch the TNA program – Trap, Neuter and Adopt.
Johanne Tassé provided us with an excellent  recommendation:  that we start using the term “community” cats instead of “feral” or “stray” and consider actually naming colonies to give them more identity and importance.

Just as a reminder, we do have a cat hotline at  514-485-6800 ext CATSa and a Facebook page. We encourage people to call the hotline if they are interested in adopting a cat.

In the coming months look for a promotional video to be produced and for us to  announce some exciting fundraising initiatives and events.

Here is a feature on Shelley on CTV Montreal's Power of One:



Victoria, BC newspaper highlights CSL cat program

This  story appeared on the Postmedia wire. It has been picked up by newspapers across the country.

Citizens' groups trying to purrrge feral-cat problem


Feral cat populations have increased significantly across Canada.

The kitties gather around train yards, back-alley trash bins, under porches and other urban haunts, looking to score a meal.

In Toronto, it's estimated there are as many as 100,000 of the scrappy animals on the loose, and the numbers are similar in Montreal. Populations have bred to 44,000 in Edmonton, 25,000 in Windsor, Ont., and the cats are abound in Ottawa, as well.

Their rising numbers are cause for concern, experts say, since they can carry disease transferable to humans and household pets, such as rabies, cat scratch disease, tapeworm and hookworm infection and are a threat to local wildlife.

Last summer, a Winnipeg woman's hand was severely disfigured by bacterial infection after being bit by a feral cat she had attempted to take in.

"There's a serious problem in most municipalities," says Mike Cohen, a city councillor in Montreal's Cote SaintLuc borough, "but many cities have shut their eyes to it."

New citizen groups, however, are cropping up nationwide to tackle the problem.

Last March, Cohen and a small army of volunteers formed the Cote SaintLuc Cats Committee to trap, neuter and return (TNR) the thousands of feral cats that roam their community.

These TNR programs aim to curb the growth of feral colonies, which average roughly 10 cats each, by sterilizing, vaccinating and returning the animals to where they were found.

"Our program has trapped and neutered 50 cats in its first year," says Cohen. "That prevented hundreds of unwanted kittens being born."

Yet they continue to multiply. "We're making a small difference right now, but if you don't do anything, their numbers will be even larger," he says.

It's a hard-fought battle, says Dr. Esther Attard, a staff veterinarian with Toronto Animal Services. "If you can sterilize 80 per cent of a colony, that colony won't grow," she says. "It's a big job to do that, but it's better than just euthanizing them. Otherwise they breed and you get more cats to take their place."

A breeding pair of felines can, on average, produce 5.6 kittens a year.

Volunteers remove any cats that can be socialized and put them up for adoption. But cats more than one year old that have never known a human home are considered wild.

"By removing kittens and any friendly strays that have joined the colony, we immediately reduce not only present colony numbers, but future numbers, too," says Virginia Dobson, co-founder of the Little Cats Lost TNR effort in Edmonton.

This month, the city is giving Dobson and her partner Lisa Paskar $30,000 to expand the operation they started three years ago and to monitor their success at four pilot sites. "The funds will also allow us to develop messaging and support to help community residents understand what we do," she says.

Already overburdened with high numbers of unwanted and abandoned animals, the Edmonton Humane Society and city-operated Animal Care & Control Center are unable to take on the work needed to make a TNR program successful, Dobson says.

Traditional animal welfare organizations are on the ropes in other cities, too. Donations to the Toronto Humane Society plunged 50 per cent last year, and Montreal faces its own challenges as it works to reform animal welfare services.

Yet, community groups seeking to fill the vacuum by stepping in with TNR programs are wasting their time, says Chris Hassall, a conservation ecologist at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"One of the main things you notice when you look at the research literature around trap-neuter-return is how poorly we understand these feral cat colonies," he says. "I'm skeptical of the role TNR could play. There are lots of emotional arguments and little intensive research to back it up."

That's not to say feral cats don't pose a significant concern to public health and local wildlife, Hassall says. "We know that, given the opportunity, they will eat reptiles, amphibians and that 20 per cent of their diet are birds."

"In an urban environment, we're already looking at an ecologically desolate place and that additional pressure can have a big impact." There's also the fact that 80 per cent of rabies shots are given in the U.S. because of contact with infected cats, he adds.

"Sometimes, people will approach these animals thinking they can help and end up getting bitten," notes Attard. "They can also start using people's porches as a litter box."

Two large-scale studies of TNR programs in California and Florida, Hassall says, showed no decline in the population of feral cats because gains were offset by people introducing new animals into the area.

To create an effective TNR program, he says, would require thorough monitoring and complimentary efforts, such as adoption and vigorous public education campaigns.

Dobson agrees and says these are exactly the efforts the expanded Little Cats Lost program is taking on. "There has to be a mix of initiatives to get overpopulation under control," she says. "We also need to push for lowincome spay and neuter services and a licensing for these animals."

Dobson and Cohen look to Calgary's innovative Animal and Bylaw Services, led by director Bill Bruce, as a model to aspire to. The program's annual operating budget of $5.3 million is all raised through its initiatives, rather than taxpayer money.

"We've seen the effectiveness of these programs ourselves," says Dobson, "now we just need to show others that it works."

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