Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Montreal: Au Pied de Cochon

 Our last meal in Montreal was at Au Pied de Cochon.  This was restaurant was really the main reason for our trip to Montreal.  Au Pied de Cochon, or PDC, is a temple of excess.  Any single dish on the menu probably has more fat and cholesterol in it than a normal person would eat in a month.  This place is not healthy.  It is, however, damn tasty, and it is a really fun environment.  Its the sort of restaurants where you walk in and everyone is absolutely excited to be there.  Eating at this restaurant is an event, but it isn't an event like, say, eating at Alinea, where the atmosphere is formal and subdued and the food is precise and refined.  PDC is loud; it is sloppy; and it is decadent.

PDC is located on a street where there are a number of pretty bad, touristy restaurants.  Before PDC took over the space, the restaurant was a pizza place, and PDC puts the pizze oven, above, to good use.  I'm not sure if you can see it without zooming in on this picture, but a whole pig head is sitting in the mouth of the oven.  This roasted pig head dish is served on a big platter, with a knife sticking out of the top of the head, and a whole lobster coming out of the mouth of the pig.  It's a pretty crazy presentation.  If you google "PDC pig's head" you should be able to see a ton of images of this dish.

One of the drawbacks of this restaurant is that, because everything is so rich you can't order as many dishes as you would at a "normal" restaurant.  With three of us at the table, I picked out a few appetizers and main courses, just like I would at any other restaurant, but as I was ordering, our waitress stopped me and warned that we were ordering way more than we could handle.  We went ahead and ordered all of the dishes we had in mind anyways, and made a pretty good dent in everything.

The first dish that we go was called "Plogue a Champlain."  This was a really nice dish.  It consisted of something like a pancake, topped with ham, aged cheddar, a big slice of foie gras, and a maple syrup sauce.  It's a strange combination, but it all worked really well together.

At Francis' recommendation, we also ordered something light.  The tomato salad that they were serving as a special that night was excellent, but I wished that we had asked to have it served latter in the meal.  It would have been nice to have a nice, light salad at the end of a very heavy meal.
 We also ordered the stuffed pied de cochon with foie gras.  I mean, when you're at au pied de cochon, you should order the pied de cochon, right?  For this dish, they debone the pig trotter, braise it, remove the meat and chop it up and than stuff it back into the trotter with mushrooms and foie gras.  The whole thing is the breaded and roasted and served on top of mashed potatoes that are just loaded with cream and cheese curds.  It isn't the most photogenic dish, but it's an impressive presentation and it is really tasty.

We also order the "Canard en Conserve," or duck in a can.  This one is a really fun presentation.  The server brings you a plate with a dollop of mashed potatoes on the bottom,

then she opens the can and dumps out the contents 

which include a duck breast, a pig lobe of foie gras, braised cabbage, and a balsamic sauce.  Everything is cooked together in the can, letting all of the flavors meld together. 

Our last dish was a cured foie gras tart.  The has a really light, flakey crust, topped with slices of blood sausage and torchon of foie gras.  The blood sausage was the highlight of this dish.  Previously, I had only had blood sausage as part of "english breakfasts" at places that you go to for the soccer viewing instead of the food.  It was never really that great.  This stuff, though, was amazing.

After all of these dishes, we were all totally defeated.
Next time, I'll have to bring more people so I can try more dishes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Montreal: La Chien Fumant

 Right around the corner from where our friend Francis lives, there is a great little restaurant called Le Chien Fumant (The Smoking Dog) that is run by a guy that used to cook at Joe Beef.  Like Joe Beef and Liverpool house, this place focuses on big flavors in fairly simple, homey dishes.  At least that was the sense I got from a few of the dishes we tried out for brunch.  Here are a couple of pictures that Abby took.  One nice thing about brunch - at least from the photographers perspective - is that you get much better pictures than at dinner, where you often find yourselves in a dimly lit dining room, as was the case the night before at Liverpool House.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Montreal: Liverpool House

 Abby, Francis, and I went to Liverpool House on our second night in Montreal.  Liverpool House is owned and operated by the chefs that run Joe Beef, one of Montreal's more well known restaurants.  Since I couldn't get a reservation at Joe Beef, Liverpool House was the next best thing.  The setup at the two restaurants are very similar.  The only menu is written on a big blackboard in the dining room, and a lot of the menu items are the same at both restaurants.
 Like a lot of good restaurants these days, Liverpool House and Joe Beef serve dishes that are seasonal, locally sourced, and simply prepared.  I thought that the meal had some hits and misses, but was pretty solid overall.

This dish below, their bone marrow presentation, was the highlight of the meal and this dish alone makes this restaurant a place you have to visit as long as it is on the menu.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best things I have ever eaten.

The marrow bone is split lengthwise, roasted, topped with big chunks of raw albacore tuna in a caviar sauce.  Bone marrow alone is pretty decadent.  Topping it off with tuna and caviar is just totally over the top in a very, very good way.

In addition to the bone marrow, we tried a fried anchovy starter

and another appetizer of cavateli and pork belly.  Both were good, but not spectacular.

For the main courses, we tried a "Pintade" or guinea hen that was served in two preparations.  The legs were braised and served with pasta,

and the breast and wing were pan roasted and served over whipped potatoes with a pan jus.

This was a really nice, homey dish, and I like the idea of breaking a bird up into two preparations like this.  I might have to do something like this for a dinner party in the future.  This dish also came with a really nice salad.  I have been to a couple of restaurants recently that served salads that, while simple, were among the better dishes on the menu.  This was one of them.

 The second main course that we ordered was the lobster spaghetti, which is a mainstay on both the Liverpool House and Joe Beef menus.  Read any review of either of these restaurants and this dish is mentioned.  I don't get it.  It's good, but not great, and certainly not worth the $50 price tag.  If I went back, I would try something else, as this dish is something that you could make at home with similar results.

By the time our meal ended, we were the last people left in the restaurant, but, rather than rush us out so they could close up shop, our waitress brought out a couple of complementary desserts (which we forgot to take pictures of).

All in all, this was a really good meal, and as long as that marrow dish is on the menu, I would highly recommend it.

Montreal: Farmers market

On our second day in Montreal, Francis took us to an amazing market in Montreal.  I wish we had something like this in DC.  One of the butchers had everything from foie gras...
 ...to horse meat (you can see the silhouette of the horse below).  Evidently that's something that some people eat north of the border.  I didn't see it on the menus of any of the restaurants I went to, though.  Not that I would have tried it na

Of course, the market also had a number of stands selling maple syrup

and there was a dizzying array of beautiful produce.

Montreal: Random pics

This past August, Abby and I took a mini-vacation to Montreal, where we got to try out all sorts of great restaurants and test out Abby's new camera - a Canon 5D Mark III.  We had been wanting to visit the city ever since we saw a No Reservations episode filmed there, and when a friend of our recently moved back there, conveniently, we were able to have a local guide show us around.  Between all of the amazing food and the public art, Abby was able to get some pretty good pictures.  Above and below are two of my favorites.  We spotted the Batman poster in an alley we walked by, and the mural below takes up the entire side of a building in the Plateau neighborhood where our friend lives.

Walking around Montreal, there were a few things that reminded me of other cities I had been to.  Something about the style or vibe of the city reminded me a lot of places like Portland and Austin...only French.  Other things were sort of like New York, only different.  For example, Schwartz's is a Jewish deli that makes a version of a smoked meat sandwich that is sort of like the pastrami sandwiches at Katz's,
and Montreal also has there own version of bagels that they contend is better than any New York bagel.  Personally, I thought Schwartz's was over rated.  The line to get in took 30 to 45 minutes, and I don't think I would wait in line for it again.  It was good, but not great.  The bagels were really good though. I don't know if they are better than the best NewYork bagels, but its a valid argument.

Montreal is also filled with all sorts of cool little restaurants and bars like the Reservoir, which makes their own beer

and had a pretty good looking menu.

There were also a bunch of little cheese shops, butcher shops, and places like this chocolate shop that we walked past

Probably the most famous Montreal export, though, is poutine, which you can find all over the place.  On our first night in Montreal, we tried out a place called La Banquise that was open late and had an extensive array of poutine dishes on the menu.  The next day, we tried a place called Patati Patata.
While La Banquise was large, loud, and at the time we went, filled with drunk people, Patati Patata was very quaint and quiet, with just a few seats at the bar.  The poutine at both places was very good, but I think that Patati Patata was slightly better.