Warning: The following blog is NSFV.
Not Safe for Vegetarians.
Those of us who live close to the northern border often forget just how close a European city truly is. With less than a two hour drive and a brief stop to chat at the border we can be in Montreal, Canada.
This past weekend my wife Erin and our good friends Jason and Robin made that trip north for a weekend of eating, drinking, and rooftop wintertime pool swimming. Emphasis on the eating and drinking.
Our accommodations for the night were at the Hotel Bonaventure on Rue de la Gauchetière. Pretty much right in the middle of downtown Montreal, it made a decent base camp for our explorations at only one hundred bucks a night, Canadian. The exchange rate right now is very favorable to US travelers at about $1.20 CA for each US dollar. Always use your credit card to get the best exchange rate and to avoid fees.
Wanting to save the pool for after dark, we struck out into the cold Montreal afternoon (shocking, cold in Canada in January, right?) looking for lunch. Numb fingers and noses pushed us into the first place that looked interested and well heated. Given its flashy and corporate appearing exterior, expectations for Reuben’s Deli & Steaks on Sainte Catherine were not incredibly high to start, but the food ended up being very classic and tasty with smoked meat of course being the order of the day all around. Maybe a little overkill given our upcoming dinner plans, but more on that in a bit.
Lunch was accompanied by a Rickard’s Red ale, brewed by the big guys, Molson Coors Canada, based in Ontario, Canada. Yes, it was a mass market beer from a mass market brewer, but the red went very well with the fatty smoked meat and melted cheese. Rickard’s Red is a 5.2% red lager available year-round and is brewed with three undisclosed malted barleys, Brewer’s Caramel, and Pacific Northwest hops.
After a nap, a few Kinder Eggs, a swim in the pool (very refreshing and hair freezing), exploring the Underground City, and a pre-dinner drink at the hotel bar/restaurant Le Bisco, it was time to catch a cab and head a few miles away to the apex of our adventure, Au Pied de Cochon.
Located on Duluth Est in Montreal, if you love food, chances are you have heard of PDC. The much loved project of chef/owner Martin Picard, PDC is where good pigs and ducks go to die and become amazing dishes, most of which we would attempt to eat in one three hour sitting.
Of course we started with a round of beer, and when a place like this has a house beer, you must start there, right? The Golden Ale/Blond Ale Brewed by McAuslan Brewing of Montreal at 5% abv was light and malt forward, perfect for the onslaught of meats about to cover our table.
We had some idea what we were in for, this was a second visit for Robin and Jason, but we still went a bit overboard ordering. We started with soupe à l’oignon, pasta with black truffle, and quenelle of scallop with mussels. The starters alone would have been dinner for any sane group, but we were just getting started.
More beer, s’il vous plaît.
Pied de Cochon farci et foie gras, or pig’s foot with foie gras, is a masterpiece of old world cooking. One may expect when ordering a pig’s foot to receive a pig’s foot, but in this case the dish was the whole leg and some shoulder, braised until flaky and stuffed with sausage. Not content with that, of course, they topped this light and healthy dish with a massive piece of buttery duck foie gras.
Pied de Cochon farci et foie gras is perhaps the best use of a pig’s leg ever divised, even superior to providing quadrupedal locomotion for said porcine animal.
Moving on, there was yet another pied de cochon, this time served with risotto, and a duck cooked in a can with a generous helping of foie gras and other unidentifiable bits of goodness. The duck breast was a tad firm for duck, but the flavors were wonderful.
Was there poutine you may ask? But of course there was, this is Canada, after all!
When it was time for another round the switch was made to an American Pale Ale from McAuslan’s St. Ambroise line. With more of a bite than the PDC house ale at 35 ibu’s, 5% abv and using Cascade, Willamette, Golding, and Hallertau hops, the consensus was that the house ale was perfect for the meal and could be their only offering without upsetting any of the wonderfully hipster crowd.
As we waddled out of the cozy little meat cathedral many hours after we arrived, overall it was agreed that the experience was near perfect, though the starters were a bit lacking. Go big and go for the classics seems to be the best strategy at PDC and avoid the smaller dishes which want to push into the territory of fusion. (We sampled an Asian inspired wrap of some kind that was so underwhelming I hardly remember the name of the dish.) The seafood was surprisingly good for a restaurant so deeply embedded in the perfection of pig with the scallop and mussel quenelle being the smaller plate standout.
Thank you, Montreal, for hosting our get-a-way weekend. We will be back if for nothing else than more Kinder Eggs because there certainly were none of those in the car when we returned to the States. Nope. Not one.