We were lucky enough to reserve a seat at the game feast held last weekend at M. Wells, the Montreal style diner Sarah Obraitis (formerly of Heritage Foods USA) runs with her husband, chef and Montreal native Hugue Dufour, who moved here from the kitchens of the famed Canadian restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. (M. is short for magasin.) Our meaty meal: Battered and fried whole frogs, hare civet (a winey winter stew), smoked herring salad, housemade pickles, cheddar and ham doughnuts with ice cream and maple syrup and best of all, a steaming whole hotel pan of thick-crusted tourtière, a Canadian meat pie stuffed with gamey goodness like bone marrow, pork, pheasant, grouse, red tail deer and wood pigeon, plus potatoes and onions. (Not that we could identify out the pieces of our menu menagerie, other than the marrow bones.)
As they did last year while the restaurant was in the works, Obraitis and Dufour make the pies (a 9-inch round version) and sell them to go for $35, using spiced ground pork, braised meats (those can include beef, venison and guinea hen, or whatever’s on hand) and potatoes, mushrooms, onions and beer. Plus each comes with baking instructions and a jar of their cranberry ketchup.
In Montreal and thereabouts these pies are not just a local passion but an icon, akin to pizza pies and knishes and beef patties all wrapped up into one meaty dish. “It’s beyond tradition,” Obraitis told us last year, “it’s an obsession.” Having now gotten fantastically full on her and Hugue’s several times now, we totally agree.