O, Canada!

Update: Good news. I wrestled and won my bout with inferior Canadian wifi. The result: a successful upload of the pure joy that is “Duck in a Can.” 

I am embarrassed to admit that before visiting Montreal this week for the American Cheese Society’s annual conference, what little knowledge of Canada I possessed stemmed from watching the 2010 Winter Olympics on television.

From that vast data bank of knowledge, two particular items are seared forever into my memory: 1) the closing ceremonies where giant inflatable beavers were pushed around on the ice, accompanied by a giant inflatable moose (yes, really – watch the video), and 2) the annoyingly catchy “O Canada” national anthem sang at what seemed like every freakin’ medal ceremony, and of which I hummed incessantly for weeks afterward.

So you can imagine my surprise after spending just two days in the beautiful city of Montreal to discover Canada is WAY more than oversized inflatable rodents and addictive show tunes. It’s also home to the largest population of restaurants outside France specializing in serving foods fried in duck fat.

I discovered this little known fact after spending an amazing day touring and tasting our way through the city’s cheese shops – including Fromagerie Maitre Affineur Maitre Corbeau (I’d highly recommend the Delice des Appalaches – a Canadian stinky cheese washed with ice cider), and La Fromagerie Hamel (I somehow talked the French-speaking cheesemonger into letting me taste Oka, the famed Quebecian cheese) – as well as visiting a lovely little goat cheesrie in Mercier run by Caroline Tardif, named Fromagerie Ruban Bleu. (Below, that’s Alma Avalos of the Pasta Shop in California, getting some lovin’ from a friendly goat at Tardif’s farm).

After eating a total of 12 different cheeses, a whopping lunch of smoked brisket, duck-fat fried french fries, cole slaw and a pickle speared with a miniature Canadian flag on a toothpick. I was completely and utterly not, in the very least, at all hungry.

This is why I immediately joined a group of friends, caught a cab, and went to dinner at Au Pied de Cochon in the Latin Quarter of Montreal. With nary a Latin restaurant in sight (the area gets its name from the Latin Quarter of Paris, home to a number of higher education establishments), our group of six decided to order several different dishes and share each.

I decided to maneuver around the Pig’s Head for Two and Tarragon Bison Tongue, instead ordering the Canard en Conserve, or “Duck in a Can.” This little gem of a dish, and I use “little” only in a figurative sense, consists of a duck breast, a half pound of foie gras, a healthy dose of balsamic demi-glaze, roasted garlic, and two branches of thyme. All of this is boiled in a can for 30 minutes and then opened and served at the table, spilling over a plate of a buttered crouton topped with mashed potatoes.

Yes, really. I am not making this up. My hubby took a video of the process and if I ever figure out how to successfully upload it to my You Tube channel while here in Canada, I’ll send you all a link. (It ends with a charming shot of me holding the can and giving a thumbs up).

Long story short, I of course ate my giant plate of steaming hot duck fat, along with Steak Frites fried in duck fat, poutine topped with fois gras, a giant rib bone better suited for dinner with the Flintstones, Foie Gras ‘Tout Nu’, as well as a smattering of dishes all shared around the table, including a beet and goat cheese salad, tomato tart, and apple and blue cheese dish.

Oh, plus two strawberry daiquiris.

With the conference tours finished, attendees now look forward to two full days of educational and cheese tasting seminars at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, with more evening receptions and dinners no doubt featuring dishes fried in duck fat.  Here’s hoping they serve the occasional salad at lunch. At this rate, I may not fit into the airplane seat on the way home. Damn, I love Canada.