Lest we are not Facebook friends, allow me to inform you that about a little over a week ago, Harry and I braved the Arctic-like conditions of a northern winter for a brief vacation in Montreal. While we spent the requisite amount of time exploring the many winter activities that the city has to offer, this of course would not have been possible without warming, comforting, rib-sticking, hearty meals to look forward to at the ends of the days, when our fingers were numb, boots soaked, and snot frozen to our upper lips. We really were a swell-looking bunch on this trip.
And while we enjoyed many a mighty meal, the most satisfying, savory, eye-and-button-popping of them all was at Au Pied de Cochon. Recommended by many a friend, guidebook, and Yelper, this was a splurge we decided on before we were even heading up I-87.
Fortunately, we had been clued in that the restaurant features no visible signage indicating that it is indeed Au Pied de Cochon. And as soon as we entered, we knew we were not mistaken. The exterior was warm and inviting, with a lot of wood, mirrors, and various pork-themed designs. It was simple and fitting for the homey meats that were to follow.
We started the meal with some vegetarian (okay, pescetarian) delights, since we knew the mains would be packing enough meat for the night if not week. The homemade bread had one of the most perfect, crisp crusts I have ever encountered, and came in extra handy for soaking up all sorts of juices later. The codfish fritters, which I envisioned as a kind of fish stick when I ordered them, were comprised of surprisingly large chunks of cod, and were greatly accented by the sauce and lemon they were accompanied with. That being said, it is worth noting that this, the lightest part of our meal, still tasted decidedly fried and far from light. I suppose such is the nature of Quebecois cuisine.
We continued with the foie gras poutine, the most affordable and cheesy of the foie gras. It was a far cry from the over-salted, slightly unbalanced (but still delicious) poutine that we had sampled after hitting up a few bars the night before. PDC’s poutine consisted of fries cooked in duck fat, authentic Montreal cheese curds, and large chunks of foie gras, all covered (but not smothered) in duck liver gravy. It was perfection. Which is not to say we were able to finish it, though all of the foie gras was gone quickly. How could it not be? It was so tender and juicy, that just one little bite into it broke its shell and filled your mouth with the intense richness of the meat. It was less of a melting sensation, and more so one of a gentle explosion–and it was great.
Our next and final dinner course was the PDC melting pot, which to our delight actually contained several varieties of pork: flank, belly, sausage, and blood sauage. The pork belly and sausage were clear winners, and the flank was excellently prepared though it did not seem to stand out as much. The blood sausage, we were a little more torn on. The flavor was definitely unlike anything we had tasted before: earthy, dark, slightly coffee-ish, and unbelievably smooth. In the end, though, the flavor was not for us, though we could tell it had been well-prepared. A little late in the game, once we were already too over-stuffed, Harry made the innovative discovery of bread with blood sausage and duck liver gravy. I daresay, it is probably the most daring of innovations that have been made at PDC, and we found the blood sausage much more to our liking in this fashion.
While the PDC melting pot is certainly ordered by most for the various meat offerings I have detailed above, I would say my favorite aspect of it was what I am calling the cheese potato. I shall not call it cheesy potatoes or mashed potatoes with cheese, for that would be a lie. This concoction was at least equal parts cheese and potato (and also included cream, milk, butter, “and many other things,” as our waiter informed us). It was so laden with cheese, that picking up the fork for what appeared to be a bite of mashed potatoes led to the very unexpected appearance of melted cheese being pulled apart. This is definitely one of the most winning sides I have ever tasted, and worthy of a review of its own. I will not be attempting to recreate it at home, for I fear for my own health.
At this point, I was glad I was wearing a skirt, and wondering how anyone could come to such an establishment in pants (unless, of course, they featured an elastic waistband). But, I persevered, and took the waiter up on his offer to see the dessert menu (a move I rarely make). And I am so glad I did, for PDC is the home of the infamous Sugar Shack. I went for what was an innovative use of a Canadian classic, the maple milkshake. It was just the right consistency, and the taste of the maple really stood out. Harry noted that it was very sweet, but I would disagree. Of course, I had to ask the waiter to take it away after Harry and I had finished a meager half of the milkshake, but this was solely because of the notable struggle to continue beating our hearts were experiencing.
If you couldn’t already tell, Au Pied de Cochon gets a glowing (from all the grease) recommendation from me. It’s a great place to enjoy a new take on some Montreal classics, and an even better place to go for one last hurrah before really starting to work on some of those New Year’s resolutions.