Monday, January 24, 2011

Un weekend Québécoise- Day 1

Last weekend my wife Susannah and I escaped for a long weekend in Montreal to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and spend a few days sans kids. When I read that the forecast was calling for temperatures to stay below 10 degrees all weekend, I questioned our decision to go North rather than South.  I guess the allure of  a French experience in a city known for its food scene tipped the scales for me.  Just days before we left, I hit the jackpot when a friend emailed me a 15 page guide to Montreal's food scene written by a foodie in the know. 

We arrived in time for a late lunch on Friday, the first of many meals we would enjoy in Paris of the north. We had  suite in a small hotel Le Relais Lyonnais  on the bustling Rue St Denis in the Latin Quarter, well situated just minutes from the old port, the Plateau, and many other cool neighborhoods.  

Just a block away was a local microbrewery, Les 3 Brasseurs, actually a Canadian outpost of a French chain. We were looking for a quick lunch as it was late, and when I saw Flammekueche on the menu, I was hooked.  They make a selection of beer in house, and I enjoyed a 6.2 amber that quickly took the edge off a morning of traveling. The last time I had eaten Flammekueche, besides the Trader Joe variety, was in Alsace where I believe they call them Tarte Flambée. I had the Québécoise, topped with onions, lardons and raclette cheese. Thin crispy crust topped with salty chunks of bacon and  melted cheese. Real comfort food.

After a walk around the cobblestoned streets of the Old City, where it started to snow, we walked back to the Latin Quarter through the small Chinatown neighborhood, looking for roast ducks in the windows. It was so cold that the streets seemed quiet for a Friday night.  We had cocktails back at the hotel before heading out for dinner.  I had a line on a great place in the Mont Royal neighborhood, Au Cinquieme Peche,  and we were lucky to find a table at 9 pm on a Friday night.   One of the things that stood out was the elegant service. It was friendly ( in both French and English) yet inconspicuous at the same time.

The menu was chalkboard only, and I struggled a little with some of the French. My eyes immediately locked onto a special appetizer, Brain & Chips.  I am an adventurous eater, and it had been some time since I had seen brain on a menu. My wife promised that I wouldn't be getting a goodnight kiss, but I took my chances. It was fantastic. Slices of brain were battered and lightly fried. The texture was crispy on the outside, with a creamy custardy filling. The flavor was rich, in the same way that marrow is but I still have a hard time comparing it to anything. The homemade spicy chips were a nice accompaniement.  For a main course I stayed local with tournados of wapiti, the Cree name for elk. It was a lot more tender than most game I have eaten, and the pairing with a rich and fatty roast pork belly was brilliant. As was the 1/2 hollandaise 1/2 veal demiglace on the side.

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