Au Pied de Cochon: Intimidation, Defeat and Probable Bypass Surgery

Gentle readers, please sympathize with me, for I, like a man who’s been dining exclusively on centipedes, have the bitter taste of defeat in my mouth. That this humiliation and defeat arrived, to twist a metaphor, at the hands of nothing more sinister than a pig’s foot, has only served to exacerbate these feelings of embarrassment and self-loathing.

Those of you already somewhat familiar with our body of work here at We Are Never Full may know that we are always ready to face down even the hardiest gastronomic challenges, frequently with all-to scant regard for liver, waistline and coronary arteries. It’s a kind of culinary cockiness and machismo that, strangely enough, we find so odious in TV food tools like Guy Fieri. I sincerely hope that this foolish trend, which continued during our recent trip to Montreal, has no lasting repercussions on our health.

Having heard about the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon (literally, at the foot of the pig) and its joyful, some may say reckless, use of duck and pork fat (& offal) in the preparation of traditional French and Quebecois dishes, plus several unique heart-stopping creations, we figured that it sounded like the kind of place we should visit.

“…a green salad tossed in warm, duck-fat vinaigrette and topped with a fritter of trotter mush…”

The red sign near the entrance cautioning patrons to be careful on the greasy floor should have been taken as warning, as should the glazed and listless gazes of departing patrons. Heedless, we proceeded to order the sliced tongue and the crispy PDC salad as starters. The former, which was beef tongue, sat nicely in our comfort zone. Meltingly tender and served with a butter-finished veal stock sauce and garnished with sliced cornichons for a texturally-satisfying crunch. We were intrigued by the latter when the waiter explained that it was basically a green salad tossed in warm, duck-fat vinaigrette and topped with a fritter of trotter mush. Yes, that’s right – the nerves, cartilage and natural gelatin from the pig’s foot, mashed together and seasoned, then breaded and deep-fried. Not a salad for dieters, but amazing tasting, wonderful mouth-feel, with the prince of vinaigrettes.

That we had ordered mains after this was our first major mistake, and the second was that one of them happened to be the pied de cochon with foie gras. (The fact that the other was a large tranche of foie gras with a side of poutine (more on this in a later post) barely registered.) Few are the times in my life that I have had a plate of food put in front of me and I have suddenly felt weak, timid and overawed – even at the most trying times I usually soldier bravely on before leaving the table bloated and sweaty – but, on this occasion I was defeated the moment I was served.

“…like the governor of a provincial state thrust into the spotlight of CBS News … I was suddenly way out of my depth and performed pathetically, embarrassing myself in the process.”

Never before have I even seen a plate of food that large for one person, let alone been prompted to eat it. It was gigantic. The pigs foot was large – maybe a foot long – and deep-fried, though that of itself caused little consternation as it was mostly bone, and was topped with a 4oz slice of seared foie gras, again, excessive, but perhaps not fear-inducing exactly. What really intimidated me was that the trotter sat on an inch-deep bed of creamy mashed potatoes and between two foot-long trenches – for that’s what they were – of button mushrooms and spinach in a cream and butter sauce. I would estimate there were two 6oz boxes of button mushrooms plus a cup of cream on the plate, and the whole thing must have weighed about 5lbs and could have served six adults. What was I to do in the face of such magnitude?

Pied de Cochon with foie gras (before)

You’re right, I could have plowed in and tried to eat it all, and then admitted defeat gracefully later on. I could also have harangued the waiter for not giving me any idea of what a fool I was making of myself, but frankly, my spirit was broken. You see, I’ve always managed to perform creditably at the table before, even if I have ultimately been overwhelmed, but, like the governor of a provincial state thrust into the spotlight of CBS News for the first time, I was suddenly way out of my depth and performed pathetically, embarrassing myself in the process.

As these photos attest, I was barely able to make a dent in it, and in truth, it was my wife who ate the lion’s share. I had been psyched out and failed to regain my composure. Some would say, with good reason, that it was a shameful waste of food, but I prefer to think of it as a lesson in humility.

Indeed, chatting with the maitre d’ later on over calvados (one of the few things that can cut through thick layers of duck fat) I learned that this was Martin Picard, the owner’s, dastardly plan for this dish, — that no-one who orders it leaves unscarred. Everyone is dominated by it and no-one gets anywhere near cleaning their plate. So confident are they at Au Pied de Cochon of their ability to manifest gluttony so vaingloriously that they number every deep-fried pig’s foot they serve. Mine was 5141. So from now on, like a retired GI with a talisman made of shrapnel, I shall wear that number with pride and humility, in place of a hospital bracelet during the bypass surgery I expect to now need.

Au Pied de Cochon
536 avenue Duluth Est
Montréal, QC H2L 1A9, Canada
(514) 281-1114

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33 thoughts on “Au Pied de Cochon: Intimidation, Defeat and Probable Bypass Surgery

  1. I picked up the Au Pied de Cochon cookbook in Vancouver a couple weeks ago, and have been touching myself thinking about foie gras poutine. Jealous you got to eat there.

    Take heart, Bourdain couldn’t take what Picard dished out either.

  2. Too funny. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such an experience facing food. I have the same spirit-breaking moment just recently — actually, more than once, when confronted with the task of packing and moving the massive amount of Christmas decorations our mother has amassed over the years. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  3. WOW. I give you huge credit for ordering it in the first place. The fact that they have found over 5,000 people willing to try and take this piggy foot on is amazing. It’s great to be able to live vicariously through you, because I am too much of a chicken to even think about eating pig’s feet and crispy offal!

  4. The first time I ate there I also ordered an appetizer before my entree….the appetizer SALAD had more meat on it than I generally consume in a week. That said, screaming kidneys did not keep me from going back again, and I’d meet you there in a heartbeat given half a chance. Gluttony is what I do best.

  5. Thanks for a great recap! I enjoyed an awesome meal there this past summer and I can’t wait to go back. I know pig parts dominate the menu, but my top moment was the best oyster/raw bar platter I’ve ever had.

  6. We love this restaurant in Montreal.
    I love the country style cooking.
    You know we would eat duck fat, duck hearts, duck rillettes, duck liver, or any liver or pig’s feet or any other organ meat, and anything from a cochon! (obviously, I am not kosher!).
    You guys get around!

  7. Hilarious! I don’t think I could have gotten through any of that. I like to think I have an adventuresome spirit, but really, I don’t think I could go there.

  8. Thanks for a wonderful piece about my favorite restaurant in the world. You are indeed brave for facing the pig’s foot. Of course adding insult to injury was the fact that it wasn’t mostly bone, was it? Noooo, it was boned out (where do you think the mush for that fried cake comes from) and stuffed with MORE PORK and wild mushrooms. Martin Picard is evil… evil I tells ya. 🙂

  9. This is one of the best written posts I’ve ever read. The humor, the horror, the pure disregard for everything sacred in a portion controlled world… it was great. My hat off to you Jonny Boy, for at least trying to fight an uphill avalanche. May the food gods bless your efforts 🙂

  10. Rich/Heather – thanks. i’m starting to feel better about things with your reassurances. Yes, Picard is evil, and yes, it was stuffed with more pork – think it was hock, but my brain was swimming in fat by then, so i can’t be sure – but, if that were as evil as mankind could be to one another then this world would be a happy, contented, peaceful place. Albeit one with a staggering rate of coronary heart disease…

    PeterMarcus – that’s a great story. I mean, disgusting, but great. My dad often regales me about the time in early 80s he was in Texas and was told that if he finished his 28oz steak he could have another one free.

    Stacey/Sue Bette/Tina – great to know that i’m among friends who understand me. Some people are weak for desserts. My weakness is pork. The raw bar? I barely even remember that being there, but should I summon the courage to go again, i think that should be my choice. Discretion is, as they say, the better part of valor!

    TS/Adam/Jensenly/Jen/Joan Nova – thank you for your kind words. I almost wish I was living vicariously through someone else at times like that. Not that it sucks to be me exactly, but that sometimes I would like to choose to watch the trainwreck rather than be at the bottom of the pile, if you get my meaning!

  11. Talk about living vicariously through someone else. I would LOVE to be defeated by a dish like this. I am convinced I would not be defeated, but then again, you were too.

    I am melting at the concept of a vinaigrette made from duck fat.

  12. FYI, if you do happen to go back for the seafood platters/raw bar, know that those are only available from about the third week in May to about the third week in August.

  13. Thanks so much for finding my blog because now I have found yours. Your last post had me laughing out loud. You have a gift with words. It was wonderful. I’m bookmarking your site and will return often.

  14. rich: ohhhh, thanks for the head’s up… we’d love to make a spring/summer trip up to montreal again. we’ll keep this in mind.

    Joie de vivre: THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! We really hope you stop back again and again! welcome…

    maybelle’s mom: you are SO right. it’s all about going in with a normal or below-normal idea of what you think you can do. we were bitch-slapped w/ this meal and sent home depressed.

    caked crusader: hey! yes, it was near death… we were on the brink. it took us almost 1 day to feel kind of normal again. it was a good dish, just too, too much of a good thing. please stop by again!

  15. I wish I were as adventurous as you guys. I’m the one who didn’t want to try Ass Sandwich.

    I think the restaurant is a chain. I seem to recall seeing one close to me.

    The portion sizes look pretty ridiculous.

  16. ok, psychgrad…an Ass Sandwich? I don’t know if i could do that either? but i’d try!

    ass sandwich… ha ha ha ha ha ha ha – i feel like beavis and butthead.

  17. Oh my God!! I can’t believe they would serve something so rich in such quantities! This is hilarious. haha.
    I’m glad to know you’re still standing on your two feet after something like this. What an experience! 🙂

  18. Au Pied de Cochon is one of my favourite experiences ever. The pumpkin soup with foie gras? Amazing. The poutine with foie gras? Amazing. There’s a commonality here… Is it foie gras?

  19. WOW that’s a plate! It’s huge!? I love the photos before after LOL I agree with you that the “tartare” is not what I prefer and I understand you were sick when you saw it. What did you drink with your meal, do you recommend the place?

    1. @Clarisse: we would definitely recommend Au Pied de Cochon. It’s an incredible experience, and even though it’s too rich and over the top, the food really is excellent and speaks uniquely of Quebec. I believe we drank red wine, a gamay from Gaillac, France, if memory serves. PDC has an excellent wine list, mainly French.

    1. @Mickael: merci bien for votre avis! J’aime beaucoup ce dicton. Nous avons visite au pied de cochon encore un fois en Aout. Nous n’avons pas mange le pied en cet occasion, nous avons goute le boudin noir et la langue du bison.

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