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bistro suggestions-thank you

  • j
  • Judith Gorman Oct 23, 2002 05:17 PM

Just wanted to thank you for the recommendation of Pied de Cochon. We loved the homey artisan style cooking and the foie gras appetiser with goat cheese and carmelised apples was spectacular. We passed on the foie gras with poutine, which the server assured us tasted better than it sounded-maybe next time.

Incidentally, we stayed at a lovely boutique hotel, le Germaine, that gave us a competitive rate when we asked for it. It includes breakfast and other perks like free cappucinos any time. It is also centrally located on Drummond near the train station.

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  1. Uhm, did you happen to catch anyone eating the foie gras with poutine? Could you describe it (the appearance, obviously, since you can't describe the taste without ordering it!)??? I'm not from Montreal, but just spent a week there and have posted a bunch of things here about the trip before and after. I am having a difficult time picturing poutine combined with foie gras.

    Speaking of poutine, we brought home some cheese curds. Any idea what it is they put on top of french fries to make poutine (other than the curds)? I want to attempt poutine at home. (And, what does "poutine" mean, anyhow?)

    12 Replies
    1. re: Patti

      Poutine has been around for only a couple of decades, I believe. According to an article that appeared in the magazine Grandeur Nature, it was invented in Warwick, a suburb of Victoriaville, where locals already topped their fries with cheddar cheese curds. One day, a customer asked for that specialty in a "sac brun" (brown bag, for takeout). The cook, who may have heard "sauce brune" (brown sauce), poured another staple of Quebec diners, hot-chicken sauce (more on which anon) over the fries and cheese and said "ça fait toute une poutine, ça!" ("that's some pudding!"--I think; see below). Instead of chucking the concoction, the customer tried it and liked it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

      Hot-chicken: found on the menu of nearly every greasy spoon in Quebec is a sandwich called "un hot-chicken." On a plate place a piece of standard white sandwich bread (like Wonder bread). Top with several slices of roast chicken and another slice of bread. Cover with a ladleful or two of hot-chicken sauce, a kind of smooth, light brown gravy usually from a can, and garnish with a few canned green peas.

      Poutine: Bergeron's Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise defines poutine as (1) a pudding; (2) a chubby person, usually a woman [poutine is feminine]; (3) home-distilled alcohol. Bélilse mentions the first two meanings and says the word derives from English pudding.

      To make poutine: Prepare your fries as per usual. Place them in a shallow bowl. Mix in some white cheddar cheese curds. Top with hot brown sauce. Enjoy!

      Many restaurants and certainly most homes rely on canned sauce or reconstituted dried sauce (packaged like Knorr soup and sauce mixes). Hot-chicken sauce used to be the only choice but now you can buy purpose-built poutine sauces. Guess you have yet another reason to come to Montreal, eh?

      More than you want to know, perhaps, but there are classic variants:
      - all dressed (pronounced "all dress"), which is classic poutine plus sautéed sliced mushrooms and green bell pepper chunks
      - richie boy or richie, classic plus sautéed ground beef
      - BBQ, barbecue sauce instead of brown sauce
      - Italian, spaghetti sauce instead of brown sauce
      - Hawaiian, Italian poutine plus pineapple chunks
      - Chinese, which is half classic, half Italian (don't ask; I don't know why).
      Smoked meat or chicken have also been known to make their way into poutine. The only limit is your imagination.

      From what I'm told, Le Pied de Cochon's poutine involves their superb fries, a brown sauce super-charged with a foie gras emulsion, artisanal cheese curds and foie gras chunks. The one person I know who tried it says it was good but rich.

      By the way, all the above is reported: I've never eaten poutine or even felt tempted. And I don't crave smoked meat. There goes my Montreal cred, eh? ;)

      1. re: carswell

        >>There goes my Montreal cred, eh? ;)

        Boy, I'll say!! You don't crave smoked meat, and you don't feel the need to try poutine? I'd worry less about your Montreal-ism and more about your Chowhoundishness!! Kidding, of course. You've been nothing but helpful to me, culinarily, these past few weeks (dunno if you pay attention much to *who* is the originator of a post, but I've posted a few things and you've responded to most of them at least once), so I'm only ribbing you now. :)

        >>More than you want to know, perhaps...

        Actually, when it comes to the origin of things related to language or food (or both, as in this case), the more information the better. So, thanks for the lengthy explanation. :D Do you folks in Montreal have a group like we have here in Washington DC, called "CHOW?" Stands for Culinary Historians of Washington. They meet once per month, with one person or group volunteering ahead of time to research and report on the historical significance of something food-related. And a handful of non-researchers volunteers to bring samples of appropriate food. So, one month, the topic was "vegetarianism in 17th century Europe" or something like that, and someone researched this and provided a 45-minute talk on it, and three people brought vegetarian food prepared from authentic 17th-century recipes.

        I digress. Sorry!

        I guess my reason for wanting to try (and later, to find out about the origins of) poutine is my general fondness for all things potato. With the exception of potato chips, which I can't stand, I have never met a potato I didn't like. So, when I heard of poutine, I had to try it. And it has cheese on it, which I dearly love.

        Never knew there were so many variations on poutine, though. To be honest, I only saw it on the menu of one restaurant, the first we ate at during our visit. (The restaurant was unmemorable except for the poutine.)

        When I return to Montreal, I will have to try LPdC for that poutine-foie gras concoction. Now that you've described it, it sounds heavenly.

        As for smoked meat, I tried it (twice) and certainly enjoyed it, but it didn't taste any different than anything I could get in a deli in NYC. But it was very good, honest! (Before anyone bans me from Montreal for saying such a thing.)

        - P

        1. re: Patti

          >I'd worry less about your Montreal-ism and more about your Chowhoundishness!! Kidding, of course.

          Of course. Anyhoo, I feel pretty secure in both, especially my chowishness.

          >Do you folks in Montreal have a group like we have here in Washington DC, called "CHOW?"

          Not that I'm aware of. A few restaurants have offered historical dinners, though.

          >I digress. Sorry!

          Don't be. This board could use more digressions, especially interesting ones. And one of the wonderful things about the Web is that people can easily skip posts they don't want to read.

          >With the exception of potato chips, which I can't stand, I have never met a potato I didn't like.

          Obviously you never had my grandmother's potato candy...

          Hey, another spud lover who hates potato chips. Let's form a club!

          1. re: carswell

            >This board could use more digressions, especially interesting ones. And one of the wonderful things about the Web is that people can easily skip posts they don't want to read.

            And one of the wonderful things about this particular Chowhound site (Montreal's, as opposed to my own in DC) is its approachability. Dunno if you've ever checked out DC's Chowhound site, but it's really overwhelming, slightly acidic (lots of flame wars and real bashing of chefs/wait staff/dining partners), and has new posts every five minutes, at least. It would take me years to get through one month of posts.

            >Obviously you never had my grandmother's potato candy...

            No, but I'm intrigued! Can you tell me about it? It almost sounds like an Eastern European/Jewish thing.

            >Hey, another spud lover who hates potato chips. Let's form a club!

            No kiddin'! :) I guess my problem with potato chips is that they taste nothing like potatoes. The exception to this is real, homemade potato chips, especially the thick-cut ones. I'll eat those, generally.

            And, re your previous post about soggy fries...my husband and I have a "Jack Sprat" thing going on with french fries. He likes the ones that are so crispy as to be almost burnt. I prefer the softer, even soggy, ones. So, whenever we order fries, we end up eating each other's rejects and it all works out quite well. :D

            1. re: Patti

              >>Obviously you never had my grandmother's potato candy...
              >No, but I'm intrigued! Can you tell me about it? It
              >almost sounds like an Eastern European/Jewish thing.

              More like a Midwestern depression-era thing...

              Not only can I tell you about it, I can give you the recipe (and a warning: don't try this at home).

              GRANDMA MADGE'S POTATO CANDY

              Boil 2 medium-size floury potatoes until tender. Peel and put through a foodmill or ricer or mash until lumpless. Add a few drops of the food colouring of your choice. Gradually beat in confectioner's sugar until the potatoes attain a doughy consistency (be careful not to overdo it with the sugar). Turn the dough onto a large piece of waxed paper. Pat or roll into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick; the ratio of the lengths of the rectangle's sides should be about 3:4. Spread evenly with peanut butter leaving a half-inch or so uncovered along the top wide edge. Starting at the bottom wide edge, roll the dough like a jelly roll. Press the top edge to seal the dough. Transfer to the refrigerator to harden for slicing (and to meld the flavours--ha!). Slice into 3/16-inch rounds. Serve at room temp.

              Aren't you glad you asked? ;)

              Funny thing: a few years ago I dropped by my neigbourhood ProviSoir (convenience store) late one night and there on the impulse-purchase rack near the cash register were little cello-wrapped styrofoam trays each with four white rounds with that telltale peanut butter spiral: uncoloured (!) potato candy. It was presented as an artisan product and the asking price was $2.95. Talk about your mark-up! The store never restocked it, so I guess it wasn't a big seller. Duh.

              Agree about potato chips BTW. They taste like crunch and salt and oil. Not my cup of tea.

        2. re: carswell

          I can't believe you've never had poutine. I have a twice rule about new foods: I'll try anything twice, on the chance that the first time, I get a bad portion, I'm too suprised/weirded out/etc to enjoy it.

          I'm a transplant to Quebec, but I've learned to love poutine as great after-winter sports food. It reminds me a lot of a place that we call Brezhnev's in Boston. Its a little chinese place whose name changes every two or three years, but the cook (who looks like Brezhnev) doesn't. He cooks northern chinese food-very heavy, carb filled food that makes winter OK.

          Also in the gourmet poutine department is Globe, where the poutine is done up in a red wine reduction and interesting cheeses. I've had one with a blue and another with goats cheese.

          1. re: John Green

            Oh, now you've done it. I'm going to *have* to go back to Montreal, just to try the various incarnations of Poutine.

            What are the chances that something like Poutine could make it big in Washington DC? (That's where I'm from.) I pray for the day. Just the whole combination of french fries/sauce/cheese makes my head explode.

            Re trying food, I'm with you. I'll try anything, at least twice. And, even the few things I don't like, I try again and again, just to see if my palate has changed, which it has in the past. :)

            1. re: Patti

              I doubt that poutine will make it big anywhere not so far north. I also think it helps a lot to munch some off a friend's plate to get into it: Americans are too scared of fat and grease to order something like that. (Also, if Carswell's friend wouldn't re-order the foie gras poutine at LPDC, go for the one at Globe as your high end choice.)

              I think the right export choice for Quebec are ice ciders. I was turned onto them at Bonaparte, and if my wine budget wasn't so darn limited right now, would have a lot more to say about them. ;)

              1. re: John Green

                >>Americans are too scared of fat and grease to order something like that.

                Oh, I dunno about that anymore. Especially on the east coast. California, sure...Poutine wouldn't make it unless you doused it in wheatgrass juice instead of gravy, and wheat germ instead of cheese curds. Just make sure everything is organic!!! (I can bash California...I'm originally from L.A.)

                But, I think that Americans, in general, are getting away from the all-tofu, no-fat regime. I think we're becoming more of a "moderation in everything...including *moderation*" type of society. Never before have I seen so many so-called premium ice creams on the market, which generally have *way* more fat in them (I'm thinking Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, and the premium lines of more mainstream brands).

                And, besides which, your poutine is similar to an American diner staple called "wets" or "gravy fries." Same thing as poutine, basically, but without the cheese curds.

                So, if I ever open a restaurant (maybe someday ), I'll put poutine on the menu and let all your Montreal chowhounds know about it. :D

                And, before my recent trip to Montreal, someone (was it you?) recommended that I try ice wine. I didn't get around to it, and we didn't bring any back with us (we'd reached our legal limit on booze we could bring back with us), but I'm still intrigued by it. I'll definitely try and buy some on my next trip to Montreal (who knows when!?).

            2. re: John Green

              I'm a more adventurous eater, more open to new taste experiences, than just about anyone I know. Lamb eyes and those live shrimp that freak out as they realize you're about to chomp down on them might give me pause, but little else does. My problem with poutine is largely conceptual in that I detest soggy french fries. Add the fact that I'm not particularly enamoured of fastfood in general or Quebec-style greasy fries, cheese curds or gravy (especially from a can) in particular, and my resistance is pretty understandable.

              Gourmet poutine strikes me as reverse slumming, as taking a whore to culture ("but you can't make her think," as Dorothy Parker once said). It's like serving a cheeseburger with a bottle of Romanée-Conti ("Like popcorn with Champagne, here's a great intellectual conceit: the world's most exalted wine with America's basest food. But the idea of slumming is to set up a contrast that makes you see something in a different way. That just doesn't happen here." -Red Wine with Fish). Not having tried the gourmet concoctions, I can't say "that just doesn't happen here." But interestingly, my friend who ate LPDC's foie gras poutine and thought it was pretty good says he doubts he'll be tempted to order it again.

              1. re: carswell

                Sure, gourmet poutine is reverse slumming. As is everything that Wolfgang Puck ever served (ten dollar pizza in 1970?!?) David MacMillan describes his cooking as great comfort food. So, yes, take something that works and run with it, wherever you find it.

                Speaking of adventurous and open, I really liked that Ray's list page, but where can I get "Oreilles De Christ?" The cabane a sucre that I've been to haven't had it.

                1. re: John Green

                  Actually I'd intended to link to the Gallery of Regrettable Food, not Ray's list, but had lost the bookmark. Google just found it for me (see below).

                  For oreilles de Christ you'll have to go to a cabane à sucre that specializes in traditional fare. There's a famous one in Rigaud and others in the Laurentians and Lanaudière (and maybe near Mont St-Grégoire). A lot of them have websites, so you might try a Google search. Or wait until spring and check out the ads/articles in the newspapers. Will let you know if I come across any leads.

                  Link: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/