Au Pied de Cochon — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Montreal

A few years back, my pal Donnie brought a “duck in a can” over to our house. It was a dish he had experienced at a restaurant in Montreal that had changed his life, and convinced them to let him take one home. He and his wife Monica had texted me photos from the restaurant of whole pig heads passing by their table on large platters.


The restaurant was called Au Pied de Cochon — “The Foot of the Pig” — and the “duck in a can” was duck meat, gravy and foie gras cooked in a can and then opened and poured over mashed potatoes and bread at table. A perfect example of Quebecois cuisine.

The restaurant’s chef owner, a chat named Martin Picard, was the first to create a contemporary, fine restaurant celebrating le cuisine de Quebec — French in style with a healthy infusion of Canadian rusticity and regional produce, sealed with a carnivorous bravado. With the addition of foie gras, he elevated the provincial specialty, poutine, to star status. He put duck in a can.

Flynn & Willa at PDC

Flynn & Willa at PDC

One of the first things I did when we decided to go to Montreal was to book a table at PDC, as they call it here.

The restaurant was a 40-minute walk from our hotel in Vieux-Montreal. A fine way to see the city, we decided. We wandered through the Montreal Jazz Festival and passed through the Latin Quarter, up some pretty tree-lined streets and then we were there — a small, open and unassuming restaurant on a neighborhood street.

We were a few minutes early for our 5-o’clock reservation and hung out in the chocolate shop next door. A line formed outside the restaurant, and by 5:05 we were seated and every table was full. Our toothy, jumpy waiter began rattling off specials in French, I apologized for my poor mastery of the language, and he switched over to an equally frenetic, almost equally unintelligible English.

Tuna tarte appetizer

Tuna tarte appetizer

There were twenty or so specials that it took him the better part of five minutes to get through, the only ones I remembered were a raw tuna appetizer and a poutine with squid ink sauce and fried capelins. The menu is organized into several categories: foie gras; cochon (pork); canard (duck); bison, beef and veal. There is no salad or chicken category.

We made a good guess from the “Vin de Monde” portion of the wine list — one of the less expensive options, a delicious McLaren Vale shiraz from Australia. Our meal began with a foie gras cromesquis, a little cube of breading that exploded with foie gras in your mouth. My wife made the mistake of trying to cut through her’s with a fork, and the foie all oozed out.

Flynn and his fish & chips

Flynn and his fish & chips

Next was a delicious salad (yes, we found one on the menu under the “Starters” category wedged between pickled bison tongue and guinea fowl liver mousse) of apple, blue cheese and endive, and that raw tuna appetizer — an extraordinary tower of bluefin and yellowfin tunas, beets, sushi rice and a flaky pastry, served with a squirt bottle of spicy vinaigrette.

Flynn and Imogen opted for the monkfish fish & chips, which arrived in towering paper cones taller than their heads. Willa got the gnocchi, which was prepared table side in a performance that captivated every table nearby — the pasta was swirled with pesto, morels and warm pasta water into a massive hollow parmesan cheese, where the dish came together as if by magic.

It was a two-bottle kinda night, and our second shiraz arrived with our main courses — a colossal plate of duck breast with mushroom sauce for Leslie, and a plogue à champlain for me. Mine was the only sensibly sized dish of the bunch, a small breakfasty tower of foie gras with buttery maple syrup, bacon, egg and buckwheat pancake which the waiter had described as an “appetizer portion,” but upon further consideration had conceded could be a main course based on richness alone.

We had promised the children some dessert, of which there were many tantalizing options. But we were all so stuffed we had to pass on confections such as the milkshake with PDF maple syrup toffee, maple poudding chômeur and sugar pie with two scoops for a single maple creme brûlée. The burnt crust tasted like marshmallow, the creme inside maple-ly and rich. I wondered if there wasn’t perhaps a bit of foie gras in the creme.

My plogue, Immy and her chips

My plogue, Immy and her chips

We thanked our wonderful waitstaff, bid adieu to the friends we’d made at neighboring tables including a nice family from Calgary, gathered our bags of leftovers and limped like gavage-stuffed geese out of the restaurant and back down neighborhood streets past the Latin Quarter, through the Jazz Festival and finally to our hotel.

Along the walk home, I received a text from Monica with a question about something. But my eyes had a foie gras glaze, I couldn’t quite make out what she was asking.

“Not now,” I replied. “I’m digesting.”


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Jul 03, 2015 @ 15:52:56

    Hi Sean! Great to read about your thorough Lobster Roll taste tests up and down the state. I’m glad to hear you and your family enjoyed your visit to Maine…..and now I see you are keeping on the right track with visits to Quebec and Montreal. Did you get a chance to try Canadian Wapiti? If you are still in Montreal you MUST try the wood-fired bagels at St-Viateur. They are unlike any other! Au Pied de Cochon is so beyond words. I went to Martin Picard’s “Sugar Shack” in the countryside near Montreal last year….it blew my taste buds away! Enjoy the rest of your travels.
    Susan (Nat’s Sister in Maine 🙂


  2. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jul 03, 2015 @ 19:24:33

    Sounds like a wonderful day and dinner had by all! Plus a nice long walk…


  3. Jessamine in PDX
    Jul 04, 2015 @ 05:06:27

    OMG. I love the video of gnocchi – how cool! Your whole meal sounds like a winner. When my husband and I ate there a few years ago, we ordered so much food our server eventually shut us down. “If you eat at that and you want more, we can talk,” she said. Thank god because I have never been more full in my life. Talk about the meat sweats. We also got the cromesquis, such a perfect happy bite. Can’t wait to read more about your trip!


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