Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal

The French (and, doubtless, the French Canadians) have a term for the thing that happens to your body after a meal like this – it’s a crise de foie, or a liver crisis. My own liver is palpitating and throbbing, has likely become hardened and greenish in parts and feels as if it’s doing its job about as competently as Gordon Brown, but this is a small price to pay for a sublime meal. Even if it’s a sublime meal that makes you have to go and lie very still in a darkened room afterwards.

Au Pied de Cochon (536 Duluth Est, Montreal, 514-281-1114) is run by foie gras and fat genius Martin Picard. It’s a Montreal institution, always heaving with diners (who are, strangely, quite thin for the most part) – you’ll have to book, and book well in advance. This is a menu where you’ll find foie gras in almost every dish; where offal and fat are treated with something between respect and worship.

We opened with the home-brewed beer and starters which we thought we had cunningly selected to avoid too much richness before the main course. After all – salads and soups are the thinking person’s way to ensure there’s room left for pudding, aren’t they?

Not here.

Dr W’s French Onion Soup was based around a darkly glossy, rich and meaty stock, and came in a bowl large enough to drown a small family in, topped with a battleship-sinking amount of cheese. It was also extremely good, so he drank it all with little thought for saving room for what came next. My own Crispy Pied de Cochon Salad (see the picture at the top of the page) was only a salad in the very loosest sense – fatsome, hot nuggets of pork nestled with walnuts in a salad full of fried onions, roast tomatoes and steaming meat juices, any green leaves wilting gorgeously against the warm ingredients. On top was balanced a deep-fried, breaded square about half the size of a fat paperback book, sprinkled with some fleur du sel. Poked with a fork, it leaked an intensely porky, gelatinous mash of pork hock, made liquid by the heat of the frying. Something in that pork went straight to the self-control centres of my brain and prevented me from stopping eating before the plate was nearly clean.

Starters over, we looked at each other in panic. There was clearly no way in hell we were going to be able to manage our main courses.

Something untranslatable called a Plogue à Champlain arrived for Dr W. It’s a pancake. And a thick slice of home-cured bacon. And some crispy potatoes. And a layer of melted cheddar cheese. And a lobe of foie gras. And a ladleful of a rich, sweet duck and maple syrup sauce.

I realise that this sounds like a total abomination. God knows how Picard came up with it – and it doesn’t make the slightest sense on paper – cheddar and foie gras? Nonsense. But once this stuff is in your mouth, you’ll see exactly why this man is a fruitcakey, cheese-sodden genius. Utterly amazing, completely delicious and approximately 240% bad for you. Between moans of pain from a rapidly distending stomach and imprecations to various deities, Dr W cleaned his plate.

I’d ordered the Duck in a Can. A plate arrived, bearing a large slice of toasted sourdough bread covered with a thick layer of celeriac purée. Next, a waiter with a large, hot can and a tin opener came to the table, unzipped the top of the can and poured the contents over the slice of sourdough with a fabulously meaty schloomping noise. A fat magret de canard, yet more foie gras, some whole garlic cloves and unctuously buttered cabbage, dotted with bits of preserved pork sausage, slipped out in a balsamic glaze – the meat and vegetables aren’t preserved in the can, merely cooked in there in a sort of weird sous vide style. (Something of a shame, in that this means you won’t be able to buy your own can to take home.) Meat touching the bottom of the can had caramelised into a sticky, heavenly layer of goodness – and I have no idea how cabbage can come to taste so good.

This thing was absolutely enormous. Even if I hadn’t consumed nearly my own weight in fatty pork only ten minutes earlier, it’s unlikely I could have made much headway into the dish – as it was, for the first time in my life I found myself eating around a foie gras, because all this richness was becoming simply unbearable. My god, though, the aroma coming off this dish was incredible. So much so, that people at the next table turned, asked what it was and immediately ordered one each.

I tried. Really, I tried, but ultimately the terrible groaning noises emanating from my entire digestive system from the gall bladder down did for me, and I ended up leaving more than half of what I’d been served on my plate. I asked Dr W if he fancied a dessert. He looked at me with dull, bilious eyes and whispered, “No. I think I need to lie down. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to walk back to the hotel.”

We staggered back to the hotel. Slowly. We lay down. We have nearly recovered. We’re going back again on Friday evening.

26 Replies to “Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal”

  1. My arteries are furring up just looking at those photographs.

    I love my fat, but that looks like definite Mr Creosote material. I take it you weren’t surrounded by ladies who lunch on half a salad leaf and a bottle of Perrier.

  2. Remarkably, most of the people in there looked – you know – normal. (Apart from one very large gentleman who looked as if he had just swallowed one of the tables.) It’s quite beyond me – perhaps the cold winters do something odd to the metabolism.

  3. Yum!

    Due to an amazing coincidence of space and time, I went to Au Pied de Cochon two years ago when I was in Montreal for a few days.

    I was on my own, and sat at the bar, which was excellent. Mainly because the female staff (I won’t insult them with the mere epithet “waitress”) were gorgeous and friendly. The bustling atmosphere, and happiness of it all, combined with kindliness, made dining alone there most pleasant.

    I had a black pudding pie. It was delicious, but I could only eat half of it. This being North America, the remains were nicely packaged up for me, and it made a fantastic brunch on the train the next day.

    I must have had a pudding as well, but can’t remember what it was. Must have been awesome!

    Au Pied de Cochon is the canonical example of what is excellent about Canada in general – European quality food, with American size portions.

    If you go back on Friday, ask any of the waitresses if they’ll marry me!

  4. PS I actually came here at Helen’s suggestion to ask you a question.

    How can I cook soya so it stays in solid lumps? I have memories / visions of Chinese style dishes with chunks of whole tofu in it.

    Whenever I’ve tried I’ve bought something like Blue Dragon Tofu (firm only, on more recent occasions!)

    Then I try frying it in a reasonable amount of oil, hot or cold, for ages or not very long. Whatever I do it breaks up into tiny fragments, like kind of soya breadcrumbs.

    Which is OK, but it then becomes more like a protein supplement to the rest of the dish, rather than a textured part of it.

    Anyway, Helen thinks you may have suggestions 🙂

  5. Francis! Long time no see and all that – I must give you a shout when we’re back.

    Quite right about the serving staff – all the ladies, in particular, were oddly attractive and inexplicably shapely, given the daily temptations laid out before them. I suppose toting all those very, very heavy plates all evening makes for some fearsome exercise.

  6. Oops – wrote that before I saw the tofu question. Silken tofu does indeed fall apart when cooked – which is rather nice if you’re making Ma-Po Tofu or similar, but not otherwise. You can buy a firmer variety, and also some dried kinds which require rehydrating and have a slightly spongy texture. I shall accompany you to the Chinese supermarket on Mill Road some time and point you at the right sort. (And I *really* ought to do a Ma-Po Tofu recipe at some point – gorgeous stuff.)

  7. Oh, good lord. That all looks amazing, and you would have had to carry me out of there. We’re hoping to go to Montreal next year – maybe I should start a training regimen of eating pork fat?

  8. Just found your blog by searching for this restaurant. we’re hoping to eat there in a few weeks and this write-up (excellently written!) has sealed the deal for me. i can taste the foie gras melting in my mouth now.

  9. I’m amazed at how many commenters have been to APDC – it probably explains why it’s so hard to get a table. And ModerneMama – I have just seen your duck in a can picture, and I’m *cursing* (loudly) about the fact that it’s probably going be a very long time until I can get back to Montreal.

  10. I am absolutely gobsmacked by Liz's blogs about Foie Gras, various people's comments & the apparent total lack of care or appreciation for the animal welfare issue in relation to Foie Gras.
    There is a reason why the production of Foie Gras has been banned in the UK & 15 other countries – it is unspeakably cruel & inhumane to the poor ducks & geese who live short, miserable, painful lives.
    I have seen many truly heartbreaking images & videos of horribly injured & dead or dying geese & ducks in Foie Gras "farms" (in France as well as China).
    Come on people, we all love food but as a civilised & compassionate society the welfare of animals bred for food must come before our greed.
    For anyone who thinks its fine to eat Foie Gras, Google it & visit a few websites showing images of how it is produced & see if you still think its ok.

  11. Oh Liz I am so sorry that by daring to mention the horrendous cruelty to the Geese & Ducks involved in the production of Foie Gras I have brought an end to the conversation – actually caring about cruelty to animals can be such a conversation stopper, much better just to pretend it doesn't happen & carry on isn't it ?!

  12. As a matter of fact, Gavin, it’s not a given that foie gras is always raised cruelly; I’ve visited elevages in France and have seen gavage for myself (which you’ll be aware of if you’ve read my other posts on the subject), and, like Picard and plenty of other chefs, I try to ensure I only eat and cook with a product whose origins I’m happy with. I’m leaving your messages up, but I’m not going to carry on talking to you about this beyond this post, because I don’t believe you’re here for an informed debate.

  13. Funny how you've removed my final comment Liz following your assertion that I'm not here for an informed debate – the actions of someone who has lost the debate if you dont mind me saying !
    So I'll repeat it & no doubt you'll remove it again because you dont have a response.
    You are as wrong as you could possibly be – I am only making these comments because I WANT an informed debate, both with yourself & people who visit your site.
    You're correct that some Foie Gras (such as some elevages in France) is produced in a more welfare-friendly manner – HOWEVER, if you were better informed you would know that 85% or more of Foie Gras is still produced in a hideously cruel way (whereby pipes to force-feed Ducks & Geese are sometimes forced down their necks so violently that they pierce the neck, leaving the poor creature to die in agony).
    I appreciate that you try to ensure you use Foie Gras from responsible producers & if you made this point in your posts & actively encouraged people to do the same then I wouldn't have an issue with your site.
    BUT, you dont – you dont mention the animal welfare position at all re Foie Gras which I believe is entirely irresponsible – by your posts you are actively encouraging people to buy Foie Gras & a majority of them will buy it from wherever they can & will not be aware how cruelly it has been produced, or will not be aware it can be sourced more ethically – as such you are helping to perpetuate the cruelty.
    I defy anyone, except those with zero compassion, to watch some videos of intensive Foie Gras production & still buy it without a care for how it has been produced.

  14. Very good tag line Liz.

    I have read the article so in the interests of both of us looking at both sides why not reciprocate & view some videos of intensive Foie Gras production as it happens at some farms – at the link "".

    Please check it out Liz & then we are both better informed of the facts & both sides of the coin – I'm not suggesting all Foie Gras is produced in this way but a large proportion is – I would be interested in your comments once you have viewed the videos.

    It is an interesting article & I agree with some of its comments, particularly that there are many many other terrible things that go on in the world & why focus on Foie Gras which affects, in world terms, a small number of animals – but from my own perspective, Foie Gras is just one of many aspects of intensive animal food production I find abhorrent, such as intensive chicken farming.

    There are so many areas of world food production where animals suffer terrible & unnecessary cruelty in order to put food on the plates of people, a reasonably high percentage of whom are entirely ignorant of what it took to get that food on their plate.

    I believe that people need to be made aware of how their food was produced so they can make a principled decision based on the facts – many parts of the food industry rely on the ignorance of consumers for their profits.

    I think a high percentage of people's eating habits would change forever if they were better informed as to the level of suffering involved for some food to reach their plates.

    Where the article is wrong is in suggesting that because Foie Gras is only a tiny part of food production in the US it shouldn't be focused on – but its the principle that is key, not the numbers involved.

    Please let me know your comments once you have viewed the videos.

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