We were marching. My mind was focussed on “getting there,” while my ears, fingers, nose and toes were numbing themselves. Mike and I had just finished a tour of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts when we realized we had exactly an hour until our reservation at Au Pied de Cochon. With time on our hands it made sense in the moment to take the 37 minute walk across the city in pitch black on one of the coldest nights I can remember. Half way through our Pied Pilgrimage I whined about my ankles giving in but we still persevered and pursued along our path. Even as we were hustling through snow covered sidewalks I chirped, “this will be the best story ever! I’ve been meaning to experience Au Pied de Cochon for years and now I’m actually having to suffer to get there.” Culinary heroism, reflections on Homers Odyssey.
The restaurant interior glowed, with no sign to speak of I had to double check that we were at the right address but was certain a packed dining room at 6pm was indicative of our success. I remember being hit by a wave of warm air as our hostess whisked us past the open concept wood burning oven, along a narrow alley by “the pass” and finally motioned us to our table across the bar.
Mike warmed up with a glass of Scotch while I allowed my body to thaw with a crisp and cool glass of Quebecois cider. It actually took me several minutes to get my brain functioning again. I felt I needed someone to slap me across the face, force me into the moment. In a daze I reflected and painted myself a smug mug after realizing in one day I would be eating at two of Quebec’s most lauded restaurants. My lunch at Toque! had been a revelation and Au Pied de Cochon has such a cult following it was bound to satisfy my comfort cravings.
Our waiter was clearly passionate about the food he so humbly served and enthusiastically rambled on about the restaurants daily features. A list which seems to always be extensive. Which is a good thing, it shows the kitchen is always looking to be creative. He was able to persuade us into ordering dishes predominantly off menu. I very much wanted to sample the restaurants famous Duck in a Can but was cautioned the portions were large and we’d be eating too much.
Chef Martin Picard’s food has been praised by food writers and gastronomes across the country with his biggest fan being the always entertaining Anthony Bourdain who exclaimed it was one of Canada’s best. Last year Anthony was all to quick to defend Au Pied de Cochon when it was snubbed by Maclean’s “2012 top 50 restaurants in Canada,” list.
The fact Picard’s flagship was at the centre of a Canadian culinary controversy goes to show how passionate people are for the place. So how thrilled was I at the opportunity to make my own sound judgement?
First word of advice, eat a slice of apple for breakfast and a glass of water for lunch. You’ll need your appetite here. Second hot tip, leave your vegetarian friends at home. Au Pied is a carnivores wildest dream. The portions are large, the food is rich and the service is always friendly. The music playing throughout the dinning room was upbeat and complimented the “crazy busy” in the kitchen while acting as a nice little anthem for the waitstaff twirling about the dining room. The taps exclusively offer local suds while every table is adorned with a piping hot paper bag filled with fresh baguette complimented by a cold slab of butter.
Au Pied de Cochon is a champion of foie gras and those “three little pigs.” Our favourite dish of the night believe it or not was the salad special which featured warm pork lardons, pecan, aged cheddar and root vegetables. It was the naughtiest salad I’ve ever eaten. We sampled two foie centric dishes which were as decadent as one could possibly imagine: perched on top a poutine and chevre slathered french toast. We crossed the finish line with a massive Berkshire pork chop featuring smooth and creamy roasted chestnut mashed potatoes accompanied by crisp green beans and sweet cranberry confit.
Be sure to include Au Pied de Cochon in your next Montreal culinary adventure. The restaurant offers an unforgettable dining experience where meat is your master and calories don’t count!
Daily Salad Special
pecan, cheddar, yolk, pork flank, root veg, greens
Foie Gras French Toast
goat cheese, cranberry
chestnut mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry confit
Foie Gras Poutine