While on holiday in Montreal, we were unknowingly caught in the midst of the thousands of students and citizens protesting the government.
Even with all of the great food we ate while in Montreal, our best vacation stories came from some totally unexpected events. Actually, let me clarify — unexpected to us. Like the worst of Americans, we didn’t do much research about Montreal except for menu stalking, map reading and guide book skimming. I could tell my husband, as we walked through the Parc du Mont-Royal, all about the Croix that stands proudly on the side of the mountain. But I couldn’t tell him why, on our first night in town, we had to fight through a stream of police cars just to get to our hotel…
After a fabulous dinner at the Liverpool House we caught a taxi back to our hotel. However, every street for at least a mile was blocked off by cops and the sound of sirens filled the air. We were befuddled, thinking maybe there had been a terrible accident or a drug bust.
Our cab driver was not too much help, as he was one of the few people we encountered who spoke only French. He just kept driving, trying to get us closer to our destination, throwing up his hands in frustration every time we were stymied by yet another group of police.
The next day, in true vacation style, we forgot all about it. The streets were calm and the sun was shining, so we headed out from our hotel, the wonderful Auberge le Pomerol, to walk around the nearby Plateau area. After hours of meandering, eating and drinking, it was dark when we decided it was time to make it back. As we got closer to our hotel, the streets became more and more packed with people. Some were walking while others were almost running, but one thing was consistent — they were all headed in the opposite direction that we were going. At first we thought, hey, the guide book was right — the people of Montreal like to party. Here we were, heading home to sleep, and literally thousands of people were just leaving their houses!
That’s when we heard a rhythmic thumping coming from in front of us and saw a row of riot police slamming their batons on their shields. A cloud hung over them from slowly dissipating smoke bombs and pepper spray. The people who had passed us must have been right in the center of the madness. We bolted into an alley to watch for a while before deciding to try to make it the last two blocks to our hotel.
Ever since my friend DB gave us a copy of the Au Pied de Cochon (PDC) cookbook, my husband and I have been a little obsessed with chef Martin Picard. We watched the DVD that came with the book several times, even playing it for our friends last Thanksgiving. Picard spends a majority of the video eating copious amounts of foie gras and drinking wine — two interests we definitely have in common.
We also watched the “No Reservations” episode where Anthony Bourdain ate so much food at PDC, he started to turn green. Towards the end of the segment, he was taking just one bite from each plate and wearily waving the rest away. The best part is seeing Picard in the kitchen, threatening to send out more and more foie gras. I admit we (foolishly) laughed at Tony’s inability to keep eating, thinking we could do better.
So when we made our own travel plans to Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon was, quite honestly, the only place we had to go. There were no ifs, ands or buts. We would be dining on duck in a can one way or another, come hell or
high water street riots.
Luckily, we were able to make a reservation for the second night we were in town. And since we knew we were about to be killed with food, we made sure to walk a few miles around Montreal’s Plateau area as a warm-up. It didn’t help.
Clearly, we underestimated the extravaganza that is PDC. We didn’t stand a chance against all of this:
Next was the “salad” course:
Our next dish, an evening special, was supposedly “foie for two”:
This was the dish that put us over the edge. The server told us it was 350 grams of foie gras, but when the Le Cruset pot came out and we peered into it, my husband and I shared a look of wonder and fear. Along with the chunks of ham, pineapple and potatoes, there was a whole lobe of roasted foie gras nestled in the pot. It was absolutely ridiculous.
And I will straight-up admit I hit a wall during this dish and tapped out after only eating about six ounces or so of the actual foie. But my husband managed to almost finish it. He really is my hero.
For our second to last night in Montreal, we followed numerous recommendations and had dinner at L’Express, a quintessential French bistro. We had the foie gras terrine, the steak tartare (a house specialty) and ended it all with a maple tart. But this salad, a special of the evening, was one of the best dishes of our trip so far — the fiddleheads were cooked perfectly and the cheese was gooey, crispy and fantastic.