In June 2010, I read about a restaurant in Montreal, featuring French Canadian cuisine called Au Pied de Cochon. I was salivating. At the time I was somewhere in Africa and Montreal was an impossible dream. A cookbook was mentioned in the article, introduction by Anthony Bourdain, and Amazon was just a click away. I bought the paperback (called The Album) for $26 because the hardback was over a hundred dollars and I thought that that was too steep. Now The Album is $145-156 and the hardback is $449. I left the book in France because many of the recipes include foie gras, fat ducks, local produce and quality condiments. I must try some of the recipes when I go back in September.
Anyway, Montreal is only 6 hours or so by car and I made reservations for the Hotel du Paris on the Plateau, not far from the restaurant. This boutique hotel is housed in a 100 year old Victorian. Our bedroom at the front of the hotel was spacious and featured a terrace (2nd floor left), perfect for sun downers and people watching.
Even off season, reservations for Au Pied de Cochon can be grim. In fact, we talked to several Canadians who were surprised we had managed it. Off season or not, the place was jammed, inside and out!
To begin our waitress recommended a Chinese influenced crepe, Cheung Fun, with lobster and foie gras as an entree that we could share. While waiting we sipped glasses of a pretty good quality Chablis! I can still taste it!
However, there was a little “contretemps.” We were accidentally served as entree a crepe Bretonne stuffed with 3 types of cheeses, potato, spinach and fiddlehead ferns.
We were well into our second, hearty, luscious bites before we looked at each other and said, “Hey, what is this marvelous wrong order”? Overheard by our waitress, she apologized profusely for the mix up and promised to bring the Cheung Fun out immediately, in the meantime, we could just finish up that entree at no extra charge. Idiots that we were, we thanked her but told her that we thought the two entrees would be too filling and politely refused her offer. Sometimes we’re tiresome or the Chablis went to our heads or we’re too old to travel 🙂 We wish we had that crepe now!
While waiting for our main dishes, we admired some of the restaurant’s sophisticated decor.
Although the restaurant setting is casual, don’t let that fool you; the food and wine are at least 2 star Michelin and so are the prices. Bring lots of money, it’s worth it.
As the sun went down and I lost natural light, my photographs, as always happens in restaurants without a tripod, suffered shaky hand, out of focus and darkened ugliness because, in a false sense of photographic professionalism, I refuse to set the camera to automatic and won’t use the flash. So the picture of my main course of rare Magret de Canard with Fois Gras looks like this:
You’ll just have to take my word for it, it was delicious!
At the table next to ours, a man ordered a dish called simply Hot Chicken. It was a layered stack of chicken, foie gras and peas. He was very pleased!
My husband ordered the signature dish of the restaurant, Canard en Conserve or Duck in a can.
The chef cans the dish himself with foie gras, a 1/2 duck breast, a balsamic demi-glaze, thyme and garlic. Before serving, the can is boiled for about 30 minutes then opened and plated at the table. We both agreed that foie gras loses important texture when boiled in a can and mainly becomes a lumpy part of the sauce. Still, it didn’t distract from my husband’s enjoyment of Chef Martin Picard’s novel, innovative cuisine.
On the last day, after soliciting opinions on the best place to eat Quebec’s ubiquitous fast food dish, Poutine, the unanimous response was La Banquisse, within easy walking distance from the hotel. Traditional Poutine is a hearty dish of fried potatoes, cheese curds and gravy although variations are also popular.
My husband had the basics with the additions of bacon, green pepper and mushrooms. Realistically, unless you are working in a cotton field, two people can comfortably share a plate. Did we? No.
With protruding stomachs, we waddled back to our hotel terrace chairs to sparingly sip Fleurie to aid digestion. It took a long time and more than one bottle 😀