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Pourquoi pas un camp de Liverpool à Montréal? Dirk Kuyt de Liverpool à la lutte avec le Marseillais Julien Rodriguez. Photo AFP François Gagnon La Presse Raleigh, Caroline du Nord Coupe-vent aux couleurs du Canadien sur le dos, George Gillett déambulait dans le vestiaire de son équipe, distribuant accolades, mots d'encouragement et blagues de son cru. Débarqué en Caroline du Nord pour assister au lancement de la saison du Canadien, hier, contre les Hurricanes, George Gillett s'est aussi assuré d'aller visiter les installations du dernier-né de son empire sportif, l'équipe Gillett Evernham Motorsport (GEM) dans la série NASCAR. En Caroline du Nord, la série NASCAR occupe l'avant-scène du sport avec le football et le basketball universitaire loin, très loin, devant les Hurricanes et le hockey de la LNH. De fait, ces sports sont de véritables religions dans cette portion très biblique des États-Unis. Après avoir suivi de près l'entraînement matinal de son équipe et fait le tour du vestiaire trois fois plutôt qu'une, Gillett a pris la route de Statesville, localité située à une quarantaine de minutes de Raleigh-Durham. Il allait y effectuer un tour du propriétaire. Même s'il avait plus envie de parler de hockey et des chances du Canadien d'accéder aux séries - chances qu'il qualifie de très bonnes - et de NASCAR, le propriétaire du Canadien a reconnu avoir l'intention de se servir de son équipe de soccer, le FC Liverpool, pour promouvoir ce sport au Canada et aux États-Unis. «Il est hors de question pour le moment de faire l'acquisition d'une équipe de la MLS (Major League Soccer). Nous avons par contre des discussions avec quelques-unes des formations de ce circuit afin de nous impliquer dans le soccer afin de rendre ce sport plus populaire. Notre club de Liverpool pourrait venir effectuer un camp d'entraînement à tous les deux ans au Canada ou aux États-Unis, il pourrait venir y disputer des matchs hors concours. Rien n'est exclu», a lancé George Gillett. Lorsqu'un collègue journaliste lui a demandé si cet intérêt pourrait se traduire par l'implantation d'un club de la MLS à Montréal, Gillett s'est vite défilé. «C'est une belle et une grande journée aujourd'hui. Le Canadien commence sa saison et c'est ce qui prime sur tout», a lancé le proprio du Tricolore en guise d'esquive. Une esquive qui a été aussitôt suivie d'une invitation à tous les journalistes de visiter les infrastructures de son écurie. Gillett est parti seul. En fait, non. Il a quitté avec les gens de son organisation et était de retour à 17h pour l'arrivée des joueurs du Canadien au RBC Center où ils ont donné le coup d'envoi à leur saison, hier.
These Chefs Believe in Sticking Close to Home Source: New York Time MONTREAL is not just a good eating town, but an opinionated one, too, with deep roots and a culture all its own. There’s always a debate about where to get the best rotisserie chicken or the most authentic poutine, that classic Québécois belly buster of French fries, gravy and squeaky cheese curds. Or whether to go to St.-Viateur Bagel Shop or Fairmount Bagel Bakery for sesame bagels that are baked in wood-burning ovens and put New York City’s fluffy bread bombs to shame. The epicurean partisanship fight extends to the city’s two venerable food markets, Marché Jean-Talon and Marché Atwater. Even when winter has wilted the local supply of fruits and vegetables, the markets are bursting with stinky cheeses, apple cider and all manner of charcuterie: plump links of black blood sausage; fowl and furred game rendered into terrines and galantines; piles of confit frosted in white fat like the snow that blankets the city for a good part of the year. Not that Montreal lacks for proper, sit-down restaurants. L’Express, the reigning bistro king of this officially Francophone city, is as close to Paris as one gets while on the wrong continent. Toqué, run by the chef Norman Laprise, is the city’s standard bearer for haute cuisine. But over the last few years, there has been a surge in quirky restaurants that are extensions of their chefs’ personal tastes and dedication to Montreal’s regional ingredients. At these restaurants, no part of the pig escapes the kitchen knife, whether it’s the ears (sliced and fried in a salad with frisée) or feet (braised, stuffed and roasted). And foie gras abounds, never far from marrowbones, sweetbreads and steaks so big they’d make a cowboy blush. All are dressed down and welcoming: perfect places to come in from the cold. AU PIED DE COCHON These days, you can’t mention food in Montreal without touching on the chef Martin Picard’s unrepentantly Québécois restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon (536 Rue Duluth Est; 514-281-1114; http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca). P.D.C., as the locals call it, was a pizzeria before Mr. Picard got his meaty mitts on it, and a blazing fire in a wood-burning oven greets guests at the door. Beyond it, the restaurant is long and narrow, bright but not too bright, with a mirror running down one side and an open kitchen on the other. The bare wooden tables are crowded with boisterous eaters of every age and description. And the chef — look for the unshaven man with a shock of untamed black hair — frequently works both sides of the bar, talking and drinking with customers and cooks. Mr. Picard put his restaurant on the gastronomic map when he put foie gras on poutine back in 2004, just after the restaurant opened. Many dishes at P.D.C. are conceived with that same wicked sense of humor — who puts foie gras on French fries? — and carry an unspoken threat of a cholesterol-triggered overdose. There’s a even a whole section of the menu dedicated to the fatty livers: foie on a burger, foie on a pizza and, most compellingly, the Plogue à Champlain — a dizzying combination of buckwheat pancakes, bacon, foie gras and maple syrup. But Mr. Picard doesn’t need to rely on fattened blond duck livers to make a dish worth seeking out: My meal started off with a simple plate of leeks — which crowded the local markets when I visited — poached and dressed with a bright vinaigrette. The salt cod fritters (another Montreal staple) were as greaseless and light as could be. But nobody goes to P.D.C. to diet. The restaurant’s namesake dish is a pig’s foot the size of grown man’s forearm that is poached, stuffed and roasted in the wood oven; a lobe of seared foie gras is laid over it sidesaddle before it goes out to a table. Entrees are reliably heavy and frequently come with some kind of surprise, like the dark brown fritters that accompanied a pot au feu for two (or was it four?) The fritters, which were speared on skewers, were crisp and brown. But it wasn’t until I bit into one that I realized what they were: testicles. Lamb’s testicles. And they were good. Dinner, with drinks and tip, about 80 Canadian dollars a person (the Canadian and U.S. dollars are nearly at par). JOE BEEF On my next visit to Montreal, I will put back another couple of dozen oysters at Joe Beef (2491 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest; 514-935-6504; http://www.joebeef.ca), a bistro of sorts that opened in the Petit-Bourgogne neighborhood in 2006. Shucked on the night I was there by John Bil, the restaurant’s champion oyster shucker (he captured the Canadian shucking crown three times), we slurped small, sweet oysters from Prince Edward Island and fat Moonstone oysters from Rhode Island, each shell brimming with oyster liquor like a bathtub with the faucet left on. Named after a 19th-century saloonkeeper, the restaurant has the coziness of a neighborhood pub: a chalkboard menu (that changes daily) covers one wall, wainscoting wraps the room, the light is flatteringly low. The chef Frédéric Morin’s menu has a classic bistro slant, though he’s tweaked each dish to make it his own. He eschews lardons and instead tops his frisée salad with strips of pig’s ears cut into matchstick strips and fried to shattering crispness. Pucks of silky foie gras au torchon are served with buttery brioche toast and pears poached in cinnamon-infused red wine. Entrees change nightly, but there are two menu stalwarts: pasta with lobster, and a massive côte de boeuf for the table. The lobster in the former was slightly overcooked the night I tried it, though it wasn’t hard to grasp the appeal of such a decadent cream-and-butter dish. The steak, served with marrowbones and potatoes, embodied the full-flavored, mineral promise of grass-fed steak. Dinner, with drinks and tip, about 110 Canadian dollars a person. LIVERPOOL HOUSE Joe Beef has a new neighbor. Mr. Morin spent last fall covered in sawdust, building his second restaurant, Liverpool House (2501 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest; 514-313-6049; http://www.liverpoolhouse.ca), just a few doors down from his first. Liverpool House is split into a barroom and a laid-back dining room. The woodwork and wainscoting are painted a warm white. The rest is decorated with an eclectic mix of paintings — oversized modern canvases and tiny impressionistic works — and odd, pig-themed tchotchkes like the porcelain porcine head, affixed to the wall at eye level like an extra diner at my table. Liverpool House is ostensibly Italian, though the restaurant’s cuisine owes more to Mr. Morin’s imagination and whatever is in season. One night, the bar plates were undeniably Italian: perfect sausage-stuffed arancini, a ball of buffalo milk burrata cheese (mozzarella’s creamy cousin) and a plate of salumi cured in the restaurant’s basement. But when I returned two nights later, the menu had been hijacked. I ate poached skate with black trumpet mushrooms in a buttery sauce, the mild ropes of fish an unobtrusive stage to show off those tender, earthy mushrooms. Hard-boiled eggs topped with crab meat sounded like a dreary canapé from the 1950s; instead it was a showcase for a snowdrift of sweet crab meat, piled on a pedestal of egg white anointed with house-made mayonnaise. The rest of the meal continued in the same manner: technically assured cooking that typifies the simplicity of the Italian kitchen (like the vitello tonnato), or lets the hand of the nearby market push it toward riskier directions (like a grilled veal chop served with roasted root vegetables and a sauce fortified with foie gras and sweetbreads). Is Liverpool House Italian? French? Or Québécois? Whatever it is, it’s an excellent place to eat. Dinner, with drinks and tip, about 100 Canadian dollars each. GARDE MANGER Another spot that trades the sanctimonious trappings of fine dining for a looser atmosphere is Garde Manger (408 Rue St.-François-Xavier; 514-678-5044). It is one of the few restaurants with real charm in Vieux Montreal, the oldest part of the city. Tucked into a small building on a side street, the restaurant has dark brick walls and a wildly oversized chandelier that looks as if it could have been pilfered from a merry-go-round at Versailles. The roaring fireplace offers a warm refuge from the blustering winds off the nearby St. Lawrence River. Early in the evening, the loud soundtrack leans toward Neil Young and the Grateful Dead, and the crowd is older, the men in dapper suits and ties. After 9 p.m., the soundtrack shifts to clubbier music and a younger crowd sets in and doesn’t mind standing two deep at the bar. One Montrealer commented to me that Garde Manger is a “bar that happens to serve some food early in the evening.” But at 10 p.m. on the night I was there, every table in the restaurant was full. The restaurant is rightly regarded for its seafood platters, which take a place of prominence on many tables. The largest is 120 Canadian dollars and comes in a giant wooden trough that contains enough raw shellfish to feed a romp of otters. A less expensive option, at 70 dollars, is still impressive: a dozen each of oysters and clams, plus Alaskan crab legs and a half-dozen poached shrimp. And though the kitchen, overseen by the chef Chuck Hughes, offers an appealing and ever-changing blackboard menu with its own signature poutine (with lobster and lobster gravy), I would not pass on the opportunity to order the steak frites again. It’s rare to find a restaurant that takes as much care with such a simple dish: the steak (bavette, or what we call flank steak south of the border) is seasoned with an assured hand and charred to a textbook medium rare; the fries were crisp and fresh and tasted like potatoes. Though we had to shout over the gunshots ringing out in the chorus of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” my dining companions and I were impressed that a place as rollicking as Garde Manger chooses to pay attention to what’s coming out of the kitchen.