The Adventures of Shaina and Chase in a Fatty Place Called Montreal

29 Jul

Leave me here to die in a bloodbath of gravy, pork gelatin, and half pichet’s of kamikazes.  That is how I felt leaving Montreal two Sundays ago.  I was coming down from my poutine trip from the day before, and I was unprepared to cross the Canadian-US border back into the Empire State.  I reached into a brown bag of cookies my boyfriend, Chase, and I bought to bring back to the states.  I sought stability in food form, although neither of us knew what those delicious “biscotti” really were.  Was that flavor coconut?  White chocolate?  I didn’t give a shit, as I munched and waited behind a man and his wife on their Harley and a very large dragonfly in the border control line-up.  All I wanted was one more bite of my Montreal experience.

Why Montreal?  Everyone in the US constantly jokes about Canadians and their shenanigans, although I’ve never understood why that was remotely funny.  “Dude, it’s CANADA.” Nope, I still don’t get it.  I have always longed to visit our North of the border compadres and take part in their sketchy-cum-brilliant cuisine.  I’ll tell you why Montreal:

Maple syrup

Piggy

A fondness for foie

Sweaters

European-esquity

Drinking for “minors”

That’s most, folks.

I love all those things.  I know sweaters in July are not a great idea, so forget those until I re-visit Montreal in the cooler months.  But I needed to get out of the US of A and could really see myself downing a few Unibroue beers with a dish of narsty/beautiful poutine.  And it happened.

Chase and I arrived on a Thursday evening to Hostel La Maison du Patriote on Rue St. Paul.  Turn onto Rue Paul! Rue Paul! RuPaul???  Is this a drag hostel?  Whatever works.  Finally, after seven or eight hours of driving, I would’ve crashed almost anywhere.  We got into the building and promptly found our room.  At $50 each per night, we were pretty stoked to have a clean, fairly large room with two large windows looking onto the main street, a stone wall with an electric fireplace (small detail: it didn’t work), and two fat beanbag chairs all to ourselves.  Oh, and a decent, clean kitchen to cook in if the opportunity presented itself.

We went to dinner at a small corner bistro with al fresco dining that night.  Game terrine, smoked salmon, French onion soup, a braised lamb shank, and some solid red wine all graced our presences over the course of the meal, and we were both happy campers calling it a night after that.Image

Friday, we walked around and looked in stores in the morning.  We got coffee at a small café, and that is when we found those crazy cookies: Heavenly Taste Biscotti.  Weird, overly sweet, overly lumpy cookie bricks, studded with white and milk chocolate and almonds is an under-description.  Just go get some.  They are just fucked up at the very least.

After enjoying our weird cookie, we went window shopping and wondered why there were so many native American stores.   Those and gift shops that sold aprons depicting a naked dude boning an animal from behind…maybe these quirks explain the Canadian jokes…At any rate, all the Inuit- and bestial-inspired art confusion got us thinking we might understand Canada more if we sat down and got some lunch.

OK, so we got pizza.  At least it was pizza Quebecois—with bacon, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.  That and some wine and beer.  Even though pizza is not inherently Canadian, it is not inherently New Jerseyan either, but I get it there all the time.  The Quebecois was yummy and hit the spot.  We tried not to overdo it though…in light of our reservation at AU PIED DE COCHON that night.

When we got to APDC, we were very pumped.  A glass of champagne was the least we could order ourselves to say, “thank you, selves, for having the magnificent foresight to choose to spend all your money at this Mecca for pork lovers.”  We perused the menu long enough before ordering the PDC platter (from their seafood bar), the special app of softshell crab pancake fried in duck fat with bacon and maple syrup, and the pig’s head for two.  Glory, glory.  I was stoked. Image

When the PDC platter came, we were in awe.  Periwinkles; razor, cherrystone, and littleneck clams; mussels; oysters; calamari; and conch awaited their turns to be dumped into our gullets.  It was glorious.  Sauces, dressings, and garnishes made each piece of seafood sing in a new light: the razor clam, chopped up with red onion and herbs was refreshing; the raw oysters, unadorned, were briny, juicy, and delicious; the littlenecks, with a creamier dressing, were rich yet light.  Everything was just right, even when we were poking sticks into the periwinkles to extract the miniscule muscle, while simultaneously coating our fingers in their sticky, barbeque-like glaze and scoring about 5 for 10 in the “is there a periwinkle in there or is it an empty shell?” category.  It was all bueno.

At that point, we were already full, but we still shoveled the softie pancake sandwich, with its cucumber slaw and bacon filling, into our mouths.  It was yummy, even though I wondered if maybe its exoskeleton wasn’t a little overdeveloped to earn softshell status: maybe medium-softshell would have been more accurate…crunchy, no; chewy, yeah, probably. Image

The piece de resistance was yet to come.  We were full.  The man next to us was blotting his brow with a linen napkin; he had a severe case of the meat sweats.  But we had to soldier on.  That pig’s head for two was coming.  The wait staff armed us with Victorinox knives and such for the onslaught.  We relaxed our bellies with more wine.  And then the fat wooden board, carrying a large pig head, came to our table.  It was big.  Mashed potatoes were smeared on the board.  A whole damned lobster, for fuck’s sake, stuck out of the pig’s mouth.  I was touched to see a pot of pan drippings next to the head.  Damn…we were screwed…Image

We did the only thing anyone could do: we just dove right in.  We carved fatty, sticky cheek and jowl bits off.  We ripped off the snout and sucked down its jelly-ish porkiness.  We grazed the skin off the ears like a regular human eats steamed artichoke leaves.  Stopping meant pain, so we kept going until we started feeling faint…

We asked for the check and some more water.  Our waitress became elusive.  Where IS she, damn it?  She had abandoned our care in favor of waiting on the newly seated couples on either side of us.  As a chicly dressed hipster/foodie wannabe ordered a Hendrick’s martini and tried to impress his date, we breathed shallowly and willed ourselves to maintain composure.  We were as washed up as a pair of beached wales being force-fed funnel cake by Snooki on the beach of the Jersery shore.  Wa.ter. Please.  Finally, we got some water, paid, and peaced out quickly.

Driving home was rough.  With Chase in the passenger seat, bemoaning his pork overdose, I, too, was struggling to keep it together long enough to park in the overpriced lot next to our hostel.  We both fell into hard core food comas that night, and either I was too tired, or my ears were too stopped up with pork fat to hear the partiers on the Friday night pub crawl outside.

The next morning, we both slept in.  When we woke up, we were not really too much worse off for our previous night’s food exploits other than a probable five extra pounds on the scale—but who’s counting on vacation?  Once we got our brains back in the game, we headed over to the Jean-Talon market, apparently one of the biggest open-air markets in North America.

After painfully withdrawing some more money at the ATM, we began to check out the stalls.  Cured meats, cheeses, fresh meats, produce, and more abounded.  We bought a bunch of things for dinner that night, including blood sausage, goat cheese, berries, a dry cured sausage, and chanterelle mushrooms.  We also picked up some Canadian beers on our way out, after stopping to try some delicious, briny oysters at the oyster stall.

Back at the hostel, we turned our now hopelessly mushed bag of mixed berries into a jam to go with our cheese.  Meanwhile, we drank a wheat beer and enjoyed the cool shelter from the 95 degree day outside.  After sautéing our chanterelles and cooking off the blood sausage, we took our foods to our room and ate them while people watching from our window that opened onto Rue St. Paul below. Image

If that wasn’t enough, we decided to hit the streets later that night to see what we could get into on our last night.  A few doors down, a live band played in a nightclub, and we decided to check it out.  Once inside, we watched an energetic band play some songs in French and some randomly thrown in American songs, including “Footloose.”  Don’t ask.  Over our half-pitchers of not quite cold cocktails, we weren’t questioning the soundtrack.  It was fun!  A birthday girl was ushered on stage with her friends and mom for a song, and at one apparently choreographed point, all members of the group downed the contents of their glasses in one fell chug.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel at home.Image

Driving to the US border the next day brought a tear to my mind (I don’t cry actual tears often).  It was over.  We at least had a couple of those weird biscotti to keep the memories alive a bit longer, but no cookie could mend the fact that we were headed onto highways that only had speed limits; not speed minimums, as we so appreciated in the land of our Canadian brethren.Image

FIN.

Oh, PS: we ate this really good poutine next door to our hostel in an amazing beer garden type place and drank some really nice beers:Image

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4 Responses to “The Adventures of Shaina and Chase in a Fatty Place Called Montreal”

  1. Ross Ramsey July 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Wow! All of your pictures looks great. I really want to go here now. That PDC platter looks insane!

  2. Yosef July 30, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    You said “cum” – Hahaha. Great Blog post though, and are you going back to Cornell now?

    • getinmebelly July 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Very funny, Yosef. I am finishing up Caterina FOH and I’m graduating CIA on August 17th. I’ll go back to Cornell after that.

  3. Marilyn Bogdanffy July 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Sounds like a good time.

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