“Do you like food?”
The question was put to me, last night after work, over a glass of wine. Sebastien, bless his Teutonic sensitivity, was concerned that I hadn’t made Official Dinner Plans in Montreal. This is apparently a sin of some sort. Add to that, it was Friday, and well, he was concerned.
“What did you have for lunch?” he enquired. I answered — smoked salmon over a bed of lettuce with capers, onions, and two small blinis. “That seems awfully healthy,” he observed pityingly, “Not like Quebec at all.”
When he asked me, shortly after this, about whether or not I liked food, I laughed out loud — I am not anorexic, it’s pretty obvious I like food — but it was such a pitying, concerned way he asked it that I found it funny. I assured him I liked food — really, really liked food. And I had one real night in Montreal (the other one I had arrived into my room, straight from the airport, at midnight. Everything was closed.)
Sebastien had two recommendations: Chasse et Peche, and Aud Pied de Cochon. The first translates roughly as “Hunting and Fishing” and is a super-fancy restaurant for surf and turf. The second translates literally as the Foot of the Pig. When we found that Chasse was sold out for the night and Sebastien just barely managed to get me room at the bar at Pied (“You can go at 7pm but you have to be out of there by 9:30, okay?”), he proceeded to sell me on it.
They serve poutine (gravy fries) with foie gras on them. “Because,” Sebastien said, “they can. It’s schweinemast.” “Ah,” I said knowingly, “like Emeril Legasse. Pork fat rules, and all that.” “Exactly, exactly,” he said.
I did not have poutine with foie gras (the lady next to me did, and we discussed it in-depth). I did have duck tartare (and had a private little moment at the bar over it) and then had Plogue A Champlain, which is basically duck bits with foie gras over a pancake and syrup and hey, don’t judge if you haven’t tried it. This is what comes from listening to Sebastien over a glass of wine and then putting yourself utterly in the hands of the nice waiter person at the bar.
Yes I had dessert.
Yes I promptly went for a run this morning to try to ameliorate the caloric destruction of last night. Old Montreal is great for a run if you don’t mind a. taking your life in your hands at every cross walk and b. can find your way as quickly as possible to the waterfront where there are a few k’s of unbroken (or only moderately broken) running/biking paths. Montreal is a lot like the newer bits of Paris in terms of architecture (buildings 300 years old!), tons of little cafes here and there, and friendly people.
You read that. Go read it again. Friendly. People.
I had heard about Quebec — some of the kinder phrases said things like “all of the attitude of France with none of the scenery” — having been to France I can verify that the attitude was there (for I found France friendly), and it had its share of scenery. The only crappy bits were the tourists at my hotel during the manager’s reception (I went for a drink and left before having it — when you have 200 odd guests getting “free” drinks and only 3 servers and 2 barkeeps to attend, it’s a nightmare and people suck). Even the airport was a pleasant surprise — a 2pm departure on a Saturday usually means get there 3 hours early to fight your way through security– which took all of five minutes.
And so here I sit in Cleveland — stop 1 of 2 stops on the way home (ooh, Philly is next!) having only marginal guilt about last night’s excess (it makes the not-eating of airport food easier to go by). Airports really are the least glamorous part of travel.