This all happened Sunday, May 27, 2007.
I awoke early Sunday as I had the previous morning with mojitos and the sounds of barely tolerable French Canadian pop music simultaneously sparring for center stage in the sleepy haze of my head. We'd imbibed on both a bit too much Saturday night. Are there worse signs of a quarter life crisis than finding your hangovers lasting just a bit longer and finding that you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before eight a.m. every morning. Without an alarm clock.
Considering my solid history of good luck with all things culinary in Montreal , K and I had had a surprising string of mediocre food since our trip began. Nothing overly bad ; just bad enough to question the bill every time: "I paid how much for that?"
But Chez Suzette was still a bit of a surprise. This quaint, unassuming creperie specializes in [drum roll please] all things crepe. It doesn't get much more French than that and frankly, being in the biggest French-speaking city outside of Paris we figured, "How can they screw up a crepe?".
In the U.S. (and I suspect other parts of the world), crepes are almost exclusively a breakfast food. Occasionally, you'll find a pompous downtown eatery serving them up with a dash of powdered sugar and fruit as a fifteen dollar dessert. But I'd never seen them served as an all-day entree, stuffed with everything under the sun. After convincing K that crepes are much more than a breakfast food in other parts of the world, we agreed to give it a go.
With walls painted in bold, yet soothing shades of yellow and orange, the atmosphere is quiet and homely, like eating breakfast in a European neighbor's upstairs kitchen. Our waitress was courteous but to-the-point and at times she seemed a bit overwhelmed. We both ordered the Sugar Shack - crepes stuffed with ham and eggs and topped with Quebec maple syrup. Although the ham was quite good, the dry, buffet style eggs left something to be desired. Their one saving grace: traditional Quebec maple syrup. My god, throw out your Mrs. Butterworth's and feed the Log Cabin to the dogs, the Quebecois know how to make a syrup. And honestly, how could they not? It snows for fourteen months out of the year, during which they've plenty of time to brush up on their hockey and stick spigots in trees to see what drips out.
In light of our string of bad culinary luck, we decided to grab the car and the TomTom and get out of the city. We didn't know where, so I picked the first place that popped into my head: La Banquise. As far as 24 hour poutine-eries go, every review I came across said it's the le meow de chat. Forty-five minutes and a lot of cursing later, we came to the firm realization that either TomTom was drunk, La Banquise never existed, or (the more likely scenario) there's more than one La Banquise in the massive sprawl that is the city of Montreal . A funny coincidence later in the day proved that it was in fact the latter and that we should've been searching for Restaurant La Banquise.
Our curiosity and hunger for the heart disease on a platter known as poutine soon gave way to boredom and time constraints and we abandoned our search in favor of heading back into the city. One of the three highlights of our trip - the Body Worlds exhibit - awaited us at 5:00p sharp. I won't go into all of the details here, but I'd encourage anyone who's even remotely interested in science or the human body to visit the exhibit. It's absolutely fascinating, professional, and the whole production is very well done.
A quick wardrobe change at the hotel, then we jetted to Tres Braseures for a pre-dinner drink (read: more mojitos) or five. My cell phone dead, no WiFi connection at the hotel, and the TomTom sitting comfortably on the bed at The Delta probably contemplating more ways to screw us, I realized that I had no idea how to get from TB to our 9:30 dinner reservation at Au Pied de Cochon. On the off-chance that Esther - our bartender and angel of all things mojito - did happen to know, we asked her. "Of course - that's right near my house!" she replied in her thick French accent. "Ah, now I know where it is," I replied in my best stalker voice. Apparently the thought of my pale American face leering outside her bedroom window did not amuse her, but she obliged with written directions nonetheless. As we got up to leave, I asked if she also happened to know a great place for poutine.
"Oh . the best place in Montreal is La Banquise. That's right near my house too - near Au Pied de Cochon."
And absolutely nowhere near the land of moose and trees where the TomTom had taken us five hours earlier.
We bid her adieu shortly after 8:30p. And so began the briefly nerve-wracking and ultimately best culinary experience of my life: Au Pied de Cochon. A restaurant worthy of a blog post all its own - what better compliment can one give?