Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Montreal Street Food: 3 Pig's and the NDG Sausage Party

What a summer for street food so far, the Balconville and rue Saint-Lauent sidewalk sales and now Monkland avenue in NDG. For a city that does not allow street food we sure have been enjoying ourselves eating in the sun. During the live blogging sessions of Top ChefCanada we discovered The 3 Pig's that serve street food every Saturday on the terrace of the The Italian Pantry (6132 Monkland Avenue). The pop up resto project is a joint venture between the owners of The Italian Pantry and Chef Shawn Dascal, a Cordon Bleu trained Chef that is part of the Epic Meal Time crew, who treated us to a gourmet hot-dog feast this weekend. 

Update November 2012: This page gets lots of traffic so we think it is worth mentioning that Chef Shawn Dascal is now full time at Cartel Street Food Bar on Fairmount Street. You can link to their website here.

The 3 Pig's menu changes every week, for updates and additional information you can follow the 3 Pig's on Twitter and "Like"their Facebook page "if you like pork."

Since street food is a rarity in Montreal it only makes sense that it requires some planning. This experience is the closest thing we have to a hunter-gatherer adventure in our concrete jungle. Besides food trucks another food trend right now is the pop up restaurant. Pop ups are restaurants that pop up anywhere and can take any form including street food. Remember Chef Ludo Lefebvre from Top Chef Masters? He is doing a pop up project called Ludo Bites. Lefebvre’s pop up project will appear on the television show Ludo Bites Back on the Sundance channel in the U.S. Ludo’s pop up caused protests in L.A., the capital of the food truck trend, when he featured foie-gras on one of his menus. Since street food is the a big thing in L.A., or is already so last year, it makes sense that people are taking it to the streets of Montreal despite the municipal sanctions. In the case of the 3 Pig's their food-service is carried out on the terrace of The Italian Pantry so they are not subject to the municipal by-law.

Korean Seoulfood: BBQ'd short ribs
We set out a few weeks ago (July 2nd) in search of The 3 Pig’s. Strolling down Monkland we had a stroke of good luck at the Korean restaurant 5000 Ans (5737 Monkland). A Korean church group was fundraising for a project in Africa and served us up a succulent platter of Korean Bar-B-Q'd short-ribs ($8). The restaurant was sponsoring the group and they cooked outside on their terrace. The rice served with our ribs was sweet and sticky and offered more comfort to the taste of our Korean Seoulfood. We found a different Korean church group earlier this summer at the Verdun sidewalk sale. The Verdun group had the best food on the block so we are more than happy to support these worthy causes.

The Italian Pantry: 2 words, Buffalo Mozzarella
No luck in finding the 3 Pig's this day, should have checked the Facebook page, but The Italian Pantry did come to our rescue with a table outside the store offering a variety of sandwiches. We were told to come back next week for The 3 Pig’s, there was supposed to be bad weather that day. We think they went to see Will and Kate who were at the I.T.HQ. that day. From the Italian pantry we enjoyed a tomato and buffalo mozzarella sandwich. We are very familiar with these ingredients but never thought about putting them on a sandwich because it is a really good idea. A nice, light, summery, refreshing, tasting sandwich. Despite not finding the 3 Pig’s we did find some street food so we left feeling satisfied mainly because we love Korean food.

This weekend (July 9-10) was the Monkland sidewalk sale. I know what you are thinking but this is a real small potatoes event, the street is still open to traffic. We set off again in search of the 3 Pig's, after a few weeks anticipation we started to feel like the big bad wolf in pursuit of his prey. In honour of the sidewalk sale, Lucille's Oyster Dive (5626 Monkland) was serving up street food with hamburgers, sausages and pulled pork sandwiches. We decided to give Lucille a go and opted for the pulled pork sandwich ($6) that was really nothing worth mentioning. The bun was not not even toasted or warmed up on the grill. As we sat down to eat our sandwich we understood why our server seemed preoccupied. A less than flattering review had appeared about his restaurant that day in the Journal de Montréal. You can read the full review here.

We hate to kick someone when they are down but it is probably not a good idea to rant into your cell phone about your bad review in front of your customers. We would have probably never known about this review had it not been brought to our attention by the staff. It is even hard to find in Google. The burgers and sausages at Lucille's looked really unappetizing almost as if they had been kept warm on the grill for way too long. The unappetizing look of the food might have contributed to our lack of enjoyment of our sandwich.

We finally arrived at The Italian Pantry and found the Bar-B-Q set up on their terrace. This week the 3 Pig's menu featured gourmet hot-dogs. As we have often pointed out hamburgers and hot dogs are only as good as their individual components and in this case we appreciate the attention to detail. First the wieners, hot dogs tend to suffer from super size mania with jumbo being sold as a premium over taste. We were happy to find small dogs at 3 Pig's. We prefer small hot-dogs for a few simple reasons. First, if it is small it will leave you wanting more. Second the big dogs can be too much of a bad thing. The small wieners at 3 Pig's were more like knockwurst than hot dogs. They also had really nice snap when you bite into them giving them an almost addictive quality when combined with food opiates like truffle oil, cheese and Prosciutto.

3 Pig's: Say Cheese
We sampled two out of the three dogs on the menu. While waiting for our food we were offered a taste of some home made truffle potato chips. As owners of our own deep fryer you can trust us when we say that that nothing tastes better than fresh chips. A splash of truffle oil never hurts either. First, the truffle mac and cheese dog, a very nice and dry (in a good way) mac and cheese was placed on our sausage with just a splash of truffle oil.

Prosciutto: Better than Bacon
Feeling full from our pulled pork sandwich at Lucille's, ear of Mexican of corn from 3 Pig's (garlic mayo, lime & cheese) we still enjoyed our mac ‘n’ cheese dog so much that we decided to order another - smaller is better. This time we opted for what we were told was the best seller of the day, the Prosciutto dog. Besides the obvious use of Prosciutto there was a condiment with the taste of roasted red peppers. Chef Dascal told us that he uses herbs from the garden of the terrace at the Italian Pantry in his condiments. The combination of the salty Prosciutto and roasted peppers was a perfect combination. We skipped the Bolognese Chili Dog only for reasons of sanity but are sure that it was as good as the rest. Next week we have been told the 3 Pig’s will be doing Bar-B-Q.

Like at Lucille’s we could not resist eavesdropping on the conversation on the 3 Pig’s terrace. The discussion of course had to do with hot-dogs and the best in town. This time. One individual boasted about being a "hot-dog sommelier," in his youth. Our sommelier also recalled picking up a Montreal ex-pat at the airport who insisted they stop at the nearest steamy joint. Naturally the conversation progressed into a debate between toasted versus steamed hot-dogs. Orange Julep and Belle Pros came up as a few of the fan favourites.

Le Classique: Chien Chaud Chez Belle Pro
With the demise of our beloved hot-dog joints on the lower Main (Saint-Laurent south of Sainte-Catherine), the Montreal Pool Room has moved across the street, there is an obvious need to protect our historic greasy spoons and famous hot-dogs. The lower Main has been declared a heritage site by our government and as such certain guidelines are to be respected when making changes to these landmarks. In this case developers have been given carte blanche with regards to the area with no preservation of the neighborhood's history mainly because it falls in the new Quartier des Spectacles. Depsite the business Frites Dorées would have drawn being in the Quartier des Spectacles we seriously doubt they could afford the neighborhood's new rent. Also, we doubt the festival organizers want a greasy spoon dive in their clean and controlled, sanitized site. Festival organizers control the food concessions on the festival sight even though they fall on our public streets. First our food trucks are illegal and now they are taking away our greasy spoons. Oddly enough, because it was on the festival site (a food concession) and obviously approved by the organizers, the green taco truck was spotted at the Jazz Fest this summer.

On another sad note, a few weeks ago we set off to Beaver Hall Hill to grab a hot-dog at Victoire as part of this article, remember the lineups out the door and up the street at lunchtime? Victoire is now closed and we have also been told that a 5-Guys burger chain has opened down the street. Are you starting to get the picture? Our hot-dogs are in danger of extinction. Next they will be taking away our foie-gras. Support your small locally owned food business. You can start next Saturday by visiting the Italian Pantry (6132 Monkland Avenue) and then stopping for a bite on the terrace with the 3 Pig’s.

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