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Montreal: Cooking Demo, Book Signing & Au Pied du Couchon and that Foie Gras Poutine

Au Pied de Couchon

You must go to Au Pied du Couchon, ran the chorus. Pied du Couchon meaning pigs trotter, I knew there was a likelyhood that I would agree. Famous for rich food, especially the foie gras poutine, I booked a table for after my demo and book signing at Appetite for Books.

My taxi driver got lost, and I was clueless, so I worried when we ended up in what seemed like mountains nearby. Eventually we reached Appetite for Books, and I was delighted and a little surprised to see a full house. I crept up the side and started getting ready in the kitchen.

Demo at Appetite for Books

My book has just come out here, and this is the first signing / demo I have done in North America. A few blog readers have turned up (which was lovely!), and I get started on my chocolate mousse and honeycomb, which went down a treat. Little lentil shepherds pies from Comfort & Spice were also on offer. It was a fun evening.

Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb

As I signed his book, one gentleman asks where I will spend my last night in Montreal. Au Pied du Couchon! I reply. And he says: Oh! It is rich! I had my first proper crise de foie at 3am after a meal there.

I love that term, and love even more that it only exists in the French language. A crise de foie is “a set of digestive and neurological manifestations are not serious, such as vomiting and headache, usually in response to a meal too rich.”

Piffle, I am not worried, I am made of tough stuff. I love my food and have eaten many rich things in my time. It sticks at the back of my mind though as I head out for dinner.

Pork rinds

Who can resist the pork rinds? Fantastic they were too, like chicharones and light as air while beautifully crisp. A little foie gras cromesqui looks petite and innocent, one bite and my mouth is flooded with unctous liquid foie gras. Wow, this meal is already very rich. And very lovely.

Foie Gras Cromesquis

The special of gnocchi with veal ragu just had to be tried. The gnocchi were light as air and tender with a perfect bite. The ragu rich and deep. I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t finish it.

Gnocchi with veal ragu

The foie gras poutine was next. It arrived and it looked a mess. Poutine always does, I mean how can you make it pretty? It smelled amazing. It tasted divine. Woah. I couldn’t stop eating it, but I had to for I was headed for my own first crise de foie.

Foie Gras Poutine

No dessert, just a digestif of calvados. I feel like a womble as I trundle home (would they like poutine?). What a meal though, flavour in spades. Unashamedly punchy, big and delicious. What all food, for me, should always be.

http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.mca/

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In Montreal: Bagels, Smoked Meat Heaven & Liverpool House

St Viateur Bagels in Montreal

So now I am in Montreal. I love it. It is quirky, friendly, independent in spirit and has a near permanent circus (Cirque du Soleil comes from here and is in a giant circus tent in town). I have seen so many restaurants, a raft of independent shops near my rented flat and hardly a supermarket. This is my kind of city and I am glad I found it.

Montreal is rumoured to have more restaurants per capita than any city in North America. In parts of the down town area and Old Montreal, there are 74.3 restaurants per square kilometre (figures from 2009). A mix of normal every day bistros, delis, cafés and more upmarket restaurants. That is a lot to explore in just a couple of days.

It is quite a challenge but I compiled a list. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit everything on it as Joe Beef was full and there were no cancellations (but there is a fine reason to come back). I went to their excellent bistro style restaurant Liverpool House instead. So, here are some highlights before I bound out into the day again.

Smoked Brisket Sandwich at Schwartz Deli

Smoked Brisket at Schwartz

Schwartz deli is the deli of legend, with queues every day even in the deep winter snow. The smoked brisket sandwiches are immense and if that isn’t enough, Leonard Cohen lives around the corner and is rumoured to eat there.

Brisket

Hunks of smoked brisket sit inside the window. It is salted and spiced, cured for a bit, smoked and then steamed. The result is tender flavoursome brisket. The queue was short when I arrived and when I asked what I should order, I was told the smoked brisket sandwich with pickles and a cherry cola. Done. The waiter asked how I liked it, I said medium. Which means medium fat. You need it for the flavour.

Schwartz Deli

How was it? Deserving of the hype, the deli was bustling and fun and the food really delicious.

St Viateur Bagels

St Viateur Bagles

My next stop was St Viateur bagels. People travel for miles for these (and also Fairmount Bagels – locals feel very strongly about which they prefer). Arriving at the shop I note bags of flour and an instant smack of amazing hot fluffy bagel smell. A sirens call for a food lover. Inside there was a pile of dough that I wanted to bounce on, bagels pre boiling, post boiling, dipped in sesame seeds, in the oven and then ready for me to eat.

St Viateur Bagels

OH MY. I had just had my huge sandwich at Schwartz’s so could only have a bit. I stored the rest in my bag and every time I opened it, it was like a little delicious tickle of my nose that made me want to eat it. I resisted, I had yet more to eat.

Liverpool House

Liverpool House

Liverpool House is ever the bistro. First impressions were that it was dark, candle lit, and there was lots of wine. The large daily changing menu was in French and written on a big blackboard. My French is rusty, so I almost missed the sweet breads ($16), which were cooked like buffalo wings, crisp and spiced with crudites and dip. Honestly folks, this is a death row dish if ever there was one. The best thing I have eaten in a while, I love twists on perceived dirty foods and this was wonderful.

Veal sweetbreads, buffalo wing style at Liverpool House

I couldn’t resist the fiddleheads, as you know I am obsessed, so I ordered the capeletti with fiddleheads and pork ragu (also $16), it was wonderful although I will say it was very difficult to follow those sweetbreads and I should have eaten this first.

Cappeletti with Fiddlheads & Pork Ragu at Liverpool House

Cappeletti with Fiddlheads & Pork Ragu at Liverpool House

For mains, I had to try the onglet, very reasonable at $25 and with a perfect char, almost bark, bright pink inside and tremendously flavoured. They are sourcing their meat very well. It was served with leaves, mash and gravy, all perfect. With the onglet I had a wonderful natural red wine, Roagna, which was as ballsy and flavourful as the steak itself. Recommended by the waiter and a perfect match.

those amazing maple beignets at Liverpool House

Desert was irresistible maple beignets with smoked cheddar (forgive my terrible French translation!). You can imagine that by this point I am starting to fill up. But these were like crack. WOAH. Such a well priced meal and packed full of flavour,  I was very impressed and I need to go back.

A lot of food, eh? I can hardly move today, although it is nothing that a brisk walk can’t sort out.

http://www.schwartzsdeli.com/
http://www.stviateurbagel.com/main/
http://www.joebeef.ca/ (Liverpool House info is on the Joe Beef website)