Mar 072008

On my way to China, I watched a few episodes of No Reservations, Anthony Bordain’s latest television exploit. One of his trips was to Quebec, where he visited a duck farm to see how foie gras was made, cooked at the Montreal Culinary Institute, ate a breakfast of maple syrup at a sugar shack, and stuffed himself silly at Au Pied De Cochon. I was amazed at and jealous of his bacchanal at Au Pied De Cochon, and it was one of the reasons why I was interested in going to Montreal. (Interestingly, when I mentioned to my friend Mary Taylor that I was going to Montreal, one of her questions was if I was going to Au Pied De Cochon. It was also well known by the folks at the hotel.)

Fois Gras at Au Pied De Cochon
Au Pied De Cochon is a restaurant with a love of foie gras, duck, and pig. When you walk into the restaurant, you know that you are going to have unique experience. After the coat rack (heavy coats are a necessity in Montreal in the winter), you look down to a refrigerator full of shrink-wrapped foie gras. Check out the menu: the foie gras section has nine dishes dedicated to this elegant ingredient. I only wish I had the stamina, time, and money to taste them all.

Plogue à Champlain at Au Pied De CochonPlogue à Champlain at Au Pied De Cochon
I started with the Plogue à Champlain: a layered dish of potatoes, cheese, and bacon below a seared piece of foie gras and topped with chopped apples. The entire dish was covered in maple syrup. It sounds decadant and heavy, yet the dish felt light, and all of the elements were able to hold their own against the sweet syrup. (Apologies in advance if I had gotten ingredients of the dish incorrect–it was a long, but fun, night.)

PDC's melting pot at Au Pied De CochonPDC's melting pot at Au Pied De Cochon
I followed up with the “Melting Pot”–a variety of meats and potatoes in a large 10-inch diameter, 6-inch high dish covered with pastry dough and baked in the oven. That is a marrow bone poking out in the photo above. A waiter noticed me struggling with the standard fork in trying to get the filling out, and he was kind enough to bring me a demitasse spoon. This was heartiness in a pot, the perfect winter dish. Although the dish was heavy, the meat was rich, tender, and flavorful.

Double Chop at Au Pied De CochonAu Pied De Cochon
I was lucky enough to be given a seat at the end of the bar by the pass-through between the kitchen and dining room. In addition, the kitchen is open, so I was able to see dishes move back and forth between the kitchen and the brick-enclosed wood-fired oven before being passed off to the servers. Like all restaurants, it’s a fast paced, hot environment with food zipping back and forth.

Marc at Au Pied De Cochon
Marc at Au Pied De Cochon
The chef of Au Pied Du Cochon, Martin Picard, was not working that evening; the person running the kitchen was a gentleman named Marc. I was able to chat with him throughout the evening even though he was busy preparing dishes. Unfortunately, I did not think to get his full name even as he prepared my food.

Marc at Au Pied De Cochon
The staff at Au Pied De Cochon has a passion for good food and wine. This was not a job where members of the staff were phoning in their work–they were excited and happy to be working there, and their enthusiasm was contagious. I tried to thank everyone at the restaurant who made my visit there so pleasant, but I’m sure I missed people. For those of you who I did not thank, please let me thank you again here!

Passthrough at Au Pied De Cochon
Au Pied De Cochon is truly a meat-lovers paradise. The large cuts of meat fell off the bone; they looked luscious and tender.

This is a wonderful restaurant: I was welcomed with opened arms even though I was dining by myself, and the food was excellent, hearty, and made for a perfect meal on a cold night. Another single diner was seated next to me; we had a fine conversation and I enjoyed splitting my bottle of wine with her.

I would want every restaurant meal to be good as the meal I had at Au Pied De Cochon.

Marc at Au Pied De Cochon
Marc at Au Pied De Cochon

 Posted by at 12:10 am

  2 Responses to “Au Pied De Cochon”

  1. i would be interested in hearing your thoughts on fois gras production. i take it you don’t have issue with it since you ate it at the restaurant.

  2. I do not have an issue with foie gras production.

    The ethics of foie gras production is debated because of the process of force feeding (gavage). For more background information, Wikipedia has a well-researched and balanced article on the controversy surrounding foie gras.

    From a production standpoint, it seems to me that the only difference between foie gras ducks and other farm animals is the process of force-feeding. I am not convinced that force-feeding ducks and geese is inherently painful or cruel to the animal, and analysis by veterinarians appears to be split. (Both sides of the debate cast aspersions on the motives of the veterinarians who disagree with them.)

    There is the argument that force-feeding ducks and geese is unhealthy. If I were trying to raise an animal to lead a long life, I would not force-feed the animal. The animals are not being raised for a long life; in fact, they are being raised for slaughter and consumption. There is no question that the enlarged liver that occurs because of force-feeding is not natural and does not lead to a long life for the animal. However, life on a farm for any animal raised for consumption inherently does not lead to a long life.

    As a comparison, beer is used to stimulate the appetite of cattle for kobe beef production. This is not natural, nor is it particularly healthy for the animal. Is it painful or cruel?

    I think when we talk about the ethics of foie gras production we are actually talking about the ethics of eating any farm-raised animal or having animals raised for slaughter for any reason. I have made the decision to continue to eat animals and not be either vegetarian or vegan; once I have made the choice to consume farm-raised animals, I find it almost hypocritical to not eat foie gras.

    Foie gras is an easy target for people opposed to raising animals for the purposes of slaughter. It is consumed by a small number of people, it’s expensive, and the processes use to produce foie gras are esoteric. Farms that produce foie gras undergo more scrutiny than other farms, and I believe that they are better run than the average farm.

    I am more concerned about cruelty towards animals at other “regular” farms and slaughter houses. The abuses at farms and slaughter houses are well-documented and seldom punished. I am puzzled by people who are opposed to foie gras production but still eat mass-produced eggs, beef, pork, and chicken. And I am curious why the coverage of massive beef recalls seldom include questions about our farm system as a whole.

    Links to more articles about foie gras include Does a Duck Have a Soul? and I want my foie gras.

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