Our time in Montreal was already half over, so we spent our third morning making a difficult decision: Fairmount (bagels) or Schwartz’s (smoked meat sandwiches)? Our practical side won over our gluttonous side, so we headed over to the Plateau-Mount-Royal neighborhood in search of these famed bagels, among Montreal’s best.
I hate to say it, but I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. Did we order incorrectly? Did we go on an off day? Our bagels tasted fine, but they were cold and I wasn’t sure what made them famous. Still, I’d happily go back and order again, this time getting them warm.
Bellies full of cold bagel, we headed to Marche Jean-Talon, the farmers market I’d been so excited to visit. This market is huge, and includes over 300 vendors during the summer months. But even during the cold Canadian winter Marche Jean-Talon was bustling full of stalls selling everything from honey to mushrooms to sausages to pastries.
I stopped at Epices de Cru, a beautiful spice market full of hard-to-find spices and picked up a few packets of Iranian saffron for a fraction of what they’d cost in the States. Over at The de Cru, a tea shop owned by the sister of the guy who runs Epices de Cru, I bought a few tins of tea. The owner let us try a few samples and heralded stories of her favorite blend, a silk road chai inspired by her time spent in western China.
Meat is big in Quebec, and this market was no exception. For lunch, we feasted on a Romanian sausage sandwich, heaped with sauerkraut and grainy mustard. Delicious.
We spent the rest of the evening exploring downtown Montreal and I happily discovered The Bay. Who knew Canadian shopping was so good?
For dinner, we headed to the infamous Au Pied de Cochon, a bastion of excess, offal, maple syrup and beloved by none other than Anthony Bourdain. Dinner there was exactly what I expected it to be: loud, inebriated, and full of heart. The chefs in the open kitchen were probably drunk, the diners most likely on their third or fourth drink, and our waiter — well, he was red in the face and stumbling with such grace that I was amazed he hadn’t yet dropped anything. “What do you recommend on the menu?” I asked him. “Menu? Eez good. Eez all good oui?”
Oui indeed. We started with the tarragon bison tongue. So tender and succulent, and surprisingly not gamey at all. A rich herb-inflected sauce left me wanting more.
We also shared a dish of poutine temaki, which was well, amazeballs. Poutine plus crab sushi. Genius. Need I say more?
Nishan had the eel-wrapped foie gras and if that isn’t excess, I don’t know what is. I’m not the biggest fois gras fan, but the eel was crispy and the gravy-soaked onions served alongside the meat were drool-inducing.
Surprisingly, my least favorite dish of the evening was my entree. I ordered a dish mysteriously named PDC’s melting pot and well, let’s say Mr. Drunk Waiter didn’t explain the dish so well. “Eez good!” Let’s see. I had a classic sausage, a blood sausage, a pork belly, more pork, all sitting atop a bed of cheese and mashed potatoes. The sausage and potatoes were fine but I steered clear of the pork and oh man, they should really just rename this dish PDC’s clogged arteries. Despite the entree, Au Pied de Cochon was my favorite meal in Montreal (along with the poutine, of course).
We woke up the next morning in a meat-induced stupor and went easy on lunch, opting for a salad before spending the day leisurely exploring the Latin Quarter. By evening, we made our way back to Old Montreal and had dinner at Da Emma, a former women’s prison turned Italian restaurant.
We started with what we thought would be a light appetizer of burrata, basil, and prosciutto with tomatoes. I kept forgetting that Quebecers don’t play when it comes to meat and cheese. Our serving was huge and I was full before our appetizer was finished. Which was a shame, since my veal ravioli entree was delicious. Four pieces in though and I was done for the evening.
We woke up early the next morning and headed to the airport for our flights home. Montreal had fed us well and had earned a spot as one of my new favorite cities. I can’t wait to return. After all, there’s more poutine to be had.