Friday, October 7, 2011

Montreal- Real Mountain? Is Montfake Nearby?

I get how immersion works now.  The longer we stayed in French Canada the more my college French came back.  I started recognizing and understanding the words I was seeing and some I was hearing.  Very cool!  I see how a person living and using a language can quickly learn a language, at least enough for basic communication.

By the time we checked in at the Hyatt Regency Montreal, I confidently greeted the clerk with Bon Jour! Then, he said, "Bon jour, Madam! Mouwen alueo, ouwel anslue lkjsldur, blah, blah, blah."  I smiled and replied, "Brooks, checking in.  Thanks."  That's as far as 2 days immersion got me.  C'est la vie!

Arriving around noon, we walked around the city and, frankly, were not impressed.  Compared to Old Quebec City, Montreal was Cincinnati, Ohio.  We felt that we were in a foreign city without the quaint old world feel.  Of course, we were just walking in the shopping district of St. Catherine's Street on a dreary day so we don't know much.

For lunch, we discovered a fabulous brick oven Italian Pizzeria beside a small park just off St. Catherine's.  The menus were all in French, but having become so fluent so fast, we ordered.  Ten minutes later, we were enjoying, pepperoni, sausage and snail pizza.  Yes, snail pizza.  Yes, we meant to order it. C'est le escargot.  "Tastes like chicken," said Wyatt which was our first surreal moment in Montreal.

Escargot Pizza and salad

Brave Boy

Our second surreal moment was when we returned to rest with a little TV in our room.  Has anyone ever seen Sponge Bob in French?  Well, now you can:

Weird, right?

Surreal moment number three was ordering Le Whoppers in Burger King for the kids.  They served poutine (fries with gravy and cheese) in Burger King.  Unusual.

We only spent one night in Montreal and came for only one reason: Au Pied de Cochon.  We had 9 pm reservations for this fantastically reviewed Brasserie and couldn't wait for our decadent meal.  We had dined at the same namesake in Atlanta at the Intercontinental Hotel, but realized immediately that the name was the only thing in common between these two restaurants.  I first heard of the Montreal Au Pied de Cochon while watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  On this episode, Bourdain had come to enjoy the foie gras.  The chef, renowned Martin Picard, told the staff to bring Bourdain everything on the foie gras menu.  "When he dies, stop."  See what I mean about decadent?  We couldn't wait to go to a restaurant that had a "foie gras MENU"!

I can honestly say that this was one place seen on TV that did not disappoint.  In fact, Bourdain did not do it justice.  The feel of the restaurant was electric and I'm not just talking about the eel aquarium.  So simply decorated, but so truly French: wooden counter, fresh bagettes in brown paper, fresh butter, fall flowers and gourds, huge bar, open kitchen, and a brick oven wafting incredible smells.  We were led to a table with a terrific view of both kitchens, ordered and watched the action.

bison tongue
Greg's started with bison tongue while I enjoyed the best onion soup I have ever tasted.  The broth was unbelievably flavored with bacon lardoons that melted in my mouth along with the creamy cheese and bread.

onion soup

Greg's meal out of the can
It was difficult to decide what to order as a main course while watching all the delectable dishes coming out of the kitchen.  I really don't think there was a wrong choice.  We decided to stick to just the foie gras menu where Greg order the duck and foie gras in a can and I took the waiter's suggestion and had the most amazingly sinful dish I have ever eaten.

Decadence at its best!
Get this:  my dish consisted of a huge slice of foie gras on top of bacon on top of cheese on top of potatoes on top of a buckwheat pancake all covered in the most incredible maple syrup sauce.  It's a wonder I didn't have a heart attack on the spot. Luckily, I had ordered the heart healthy red wine to wash it all down.

I'll leave it to Greg to describe his meal, but just let me say that he was as pleased as I was.

Oh!  I almost forgot our surreal moment number four:  in the bathroom at Au Pied de Cochon they have nightvision camera footage of a deer in the woods playing on a small TV.  Strange, but interesting.

Looking back, I don't know that I will remember much about the city of Montreal, but I will remember that meal forever (I'll probably be working it off for that long, too.)

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