CFL road food: Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon

Back when I was a one-blogger operation running the Scratching Post, I would regularly post dispatches from my travels around the league. As an avid eater, I would sometimes regale (a.k.a. bore) my readers with details of my culinary adventures. As 3Down has taken up more of my time and energy, I’ve gotten away from those personal posts. On my recent road trip to Montreal, however, I enjoyed one of the most epic meals of my nine years on the beat and felt compelled to write about it. 

Please be aware: this is not a post about the CFL but something I experienced as part of my duties covering the league. There was (and probably still is) a “stick to football” contingent that didn’t particularly enjoy these posts so consider this fair warning: there’s plenty of other CFL and Ticat content on 3Down. Also, former Montreal Alouette and Argo Josh Bourke was two tables over. But most importantly this is my blog and it’s free so I’m of the mind to write pretty much whatever I damn well please. 

Ok, here we go.

The piece of foie gras no bigger than a thumb tip has defeated us.

It sits on the edge of my brother’s plate, the last vestige of the most decadent meal either one of us has ever eaten featuring a series of dishes so rich our waiter warned us against ordering them all. He was absolutely right. And so, so wrong.

The trip to Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal wasn’t a destination for us, it was a pilgrimage. All three of the Edwards boys have outsized appetites and gluttonous tendencies, constantly on the lookout for the decadent and the delicious: our group chat is almost exclusively food porn and Trailer Park Boys references. This restaurant was a bucket-list thing.

A bucket, as it turned out, filled with foie gras.

Before we go much further, let’s deal with the ethical issues at play. Foie gras is goose liver that has been, in most cases, artificially enlarged by feeding the birds more than they would naturally eat. That process has led to several countries including Finland, Germany, Italy and the state of California to ban its production.

Au Pied de Cochon chef and owner Martin Picard has been an outspoken advocate for foie gras, insisting that the birds are treated humanely. Having already made the decision to eat meat, I don’t find the slide down the ethical slope to foie gras that difficult, though I recognize that others disagree.

Most of the legendary dishes at Pied de Cochon have foie gras and we were determined to have them all.

Up first was the foie gras poutine: fresh frites, cheese curds, foie gras and the most luscious gravy I’ve ever eaten. Poutine is already pretty rich but adding foie takes it to an entirely new level, not quite over the top but certainly, the peak of Mount Ridiculous is within view.

We also ordered the cured ham, which is sometimes carved table side (though not on an insanely busy Saturday night.) The meat was, as expected, extraordinary but the item we didn’t see coming was the accompanying pancakes fried in duck fat. Unbelievably good, when I used one to sop up the gravy from the poutine.

The foie gras burger came next, a $39 extravaganza that features a brioche bun, a burger patty and a slab of foie gras on top. Dumb in all right ways.

Then, the legendary duck in a can. My youngest brother, who couldn’t make the trip because he went to France this summer to eat himself stupid, insisted we get this. It features half a duck, foie gras, cabbage, and a sensational balsamic semi-glaze all stuffed into a metal can and sealed. The kitchen boils the can for the appropriate time, cooking the contents. The waiter opens it table side and dumps it on a plate.

It’s fantastically unique and spectacularly delicious. It’s rich and fatty – duck and foie gras – but cut nicely by the cabbage and the balsamic. Of all the dishes we ate, this was the most balanced: still ridiculous but within reason. Like the entire meal, it was like getting punched in the stomach with a velvet glove.

But one piece of foie remained. It was a big hunk left over from the poutine and my brother – the best eater I have ever known – put his hands up in surrender. There was a moment of irony as two men pondered being forced fed foie gras.

I finished it, the perfect capper on one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. Like everything else about Au Pied de Cochon, it was too much… which on this night, in this place, is exactly right.

Drew Edwards is the founder of 3DownNation but has since wandered off. Beard in the photo not exactly as shown.