Saturday, September 05, 2009

Au Pied de Cochon: bonjour, canard en conserve!

Last weekend we took an almost-spontaneous (i.e. with only two weeks' notice) trip to Montreal. The drive up was a little rough — a six-hour trip after a full day's work — but we pushed onward, motivated by a constant drumming rhythm:

Duck-in-a-can, duck-in-a-can, duck-in-a-can ...

I wrote about our previous trip to Montreal, the highlight of which was
dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, where The Boy realized his lifelong dream of eating poutine with foie gras and I discovered that my lifelong dream would be eating canard en conserve.

Now we were returning to fulfill that dream.

The only available table was at 9:00, which is later than we usually eat. So we prepared accordingly: we spent the day shopping on Rue Saint-Denis and took an afternoon nap. Oh, and we had an early lunch at
Bières et Compagnie, a Belgian-style brasserie with 100 beers on tap and a lovely ostrich/duck/pheasant sausage plate:

(That was The Boy's lunch. I just had a simple salad.)

(Okay, it was loaded with Toulouse sausage. But salad nonetheless!)

Anyway, back to the main event.

Au Pied de Cochon was, as always, loud and busy. People at a long table in the window taking turns standing and making exuberant toasts. A group of six hip young guys, devouring plates of meat and passing around a plate of salad. An older guy with a graying ponytail and matching beard, looking like a world-weary corsair, steadily making his way through a plate of blood pudding.

We knew, of course, what our main objective was; but what else to order? Even with the best of intentions to be restrained, the
menu at PDC almost dares you to try everything.

Come on, you haven't had the duck carpaccio before! What about the boudin and foie gras tart? Or the guinea fowl liver mousse? Or the Quebecois version of chicharrón, oreilles de crisse?

But we were good, and ordered salad.

Among other things.

Most notably, the cromesquis de foie gras:

They look innocent enough, don't they? But here's the deal: They're cubes of foie gras, breaded and deep-fried. The breading becomes an impermeable shell and the inside turns to liquid.

To eat, you put the whole thing in your mouth, close your lips, and bite. And suddenly it's as though the entire inside of your head is bathed in warm, soft, rich, deep, soothing liquid.

It actually, literally, seriously brought tears to my eyes.

As another snackeroo to begin, we ordered the plate of cochonailles. In fairness, we expected a small sampling of tasty pork bites. Earlier in the week, we were at Craigie on Main's Whole Hog dinner (see
review from the people sitting behind us), where the tiny, delicate cochonailles looked like this:

So naturally we were surprised to find that at Au Pied de Cochon, the cochonailles looked like this:

Head-cheese terrine, two types of pâté (one of which is hidden beneath the bread), sausage, half a deviled egg, a lovely onion jam, something dolloped with mustard that I don't even remember, and that dark brown square, which is essentially salty beef-stock Jell-O.

But it's okay, because we also had salad.

Layers of fresh beets and goat cheese I could easily have eaten for dessert, had there been room for such a thing.

And then it came.

When they say "duck in a can," they mean it: the waiter brings a can, and a can-opener, and pours the contents out onto toast topped with celeriac puree.

My photographic skills are not sufficient, so I advise you check out
Claudine's Flickr photo to see it in all its glory.

The magret: perfectly cooked, moist, meaty, delicious.
The foie gras: soft and tender and all the better for sitting in balsamic meat broth.
The cabbage: well, when the description essentially translates to "embuttered," what else needs to be said?
And despite the richness of the dish, serving it on toast somehow made it seem like home-cooked comfort food; as though there was really little difference between opening a can of duck and a can of beans to throw over toast for a quick lunch.
It was a luxurious and decadent experience, and one I highly recommend.
Interestingly, though, when I asked The Boy whether he'd order the same thing next time, he said no.
Not because he didn't enjoy it, of course (he later admitted he was disappointed that he had to share the foie gras with me; thanks, honey).
But as he pointed out, there are so many other things left to try: the foie gras burger. The lamb confit. The fries made with duckfat. The foie gras-stuffed pig's foot ...

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