The highlight of my trip to Montreal, this year, was an eye-opening study in contrast; two worlds colliding. A symphony of athletic prowess juxtaposed next to an opus to excess. The pursuit of glory and the pursuit of gluttony. Pure discipline vs. pure gourmandize.
Let’s begin with the good. Playing professional tennis requires hours of devotion and years of sacrifice. I marveled at the players’ talent and physicality. Seeing them up close is a wonder. In what was very lucky break for me, I got to see, meet and shake the hand of my favourite player, Filip Peliwo. I caught him after a lengthy practice and he couldn’t have been kinder or more polite. This man is a terrific player with fiery determination, cocky swagger and a never-say-die-go-after-every-shot resoluteness. His play can be electrifying and goose-bump inducing. He’s still trying to find his way on the tour and, I believe that he will one day be amongst the world’s best. Did I tell you that I got to shake his hand? 🙂
Of course, Filip fanboying aside, I got to be in the presence of many top players. I stood about a foot away from eventual champ, Andy Murray, watched Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov dutifully practice, and I witnessed the return of the bespectacled one, Janko Tipsarevic.
This year’s Open had some pretty decent concession fare, as well. A chicken sandwich that included an honest to goodness chicken breast, and a combo platter made up of a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette was served alongside a tomato salad and chocolate cake. It was very civilized given the occasion and milieu.
Now let’s move on to the bad (bad not meaning lousy but more in a high-risk, not listening to my cardiologist kind a way). We dined at Au Pied de Cochon, Chef Martin Picard’s ode to all things sebaceous. The restaurant’s reputation for over-the-top and obscenely rich food is well deserved. There is definite levity to the ramshackle of excessiveness. The menu includes, among other things, Black Pudding Pie with Salt Foie Gras, a Foie Gras Poutine and, a Stuffed Pig’s Head with Foie Gras AND Lobster. Even the salad was outrageously rich— endives engulfed in globs of mayonnaise, creamy blue cheese, and topped with walnuts. It was delicious, by the way.
My companions dined on Temaki Tartar, Bison Tongue with Tarragon, and some ribs. I took their wiped-clean plates as an indication of satisfaction. I indulged in the Plogue à Champlain, one of Pied de Cochon’s signature dishes. A buckwheat pancake is topped with aged cheddar, potatoes, a fried egg, bacon, seared foie gras and, all is envelope in lusciously sticky-sweet maple syrup. The sweet, the salty, the lusciousness, the tart, the creamy and the decadence of this creation were all in perfect harmony. Eating this absurdly eloborate dish is very much living large and I don’t regret a minute of it—although I’ve hit the wall on gustatory debauchery. I’m going to need to subsist on salads for a while. Ones not containing blue cheese.
Although they come from different worlds, these top athletes and this famous chef have some things in common. They have fans who flock to breathe their rarefied air, they are among the very best in their field, and being in their company makes me very, very happy. I’m just glad I don’t have to play tennis after eating the bacon, foie gras, maple syrup concoction!