I have been sitting on the idea of writing an article on Au Pied de Cochon and its mad genius chef, Martin Picard, for some time now. But this relationship is complicated. It is no ordinary love. A love between a man and his wife; a love between a father and his children; a love between a man and his hockey team…they are all powerful things, but this is much deeper than that. This is a gluttonous, carnivorous, majestic, meat sweat inducing kind of love. A dirty, not so secret, sinful kind of love. So after putting much thought into this I have decided to just focus this article on the Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre. I Just don’t know you all well enough yet to open my soul to you and talk about my visceral love affair with the entire Pied de Cochon experience just yet. But please baby, don’t turn away from me just now, we can still talk about the shack.
Six of us headed to the shack, located out in the countryside about thirty minutes northwest of Montreal, on a dark and stormy night, seriously I know it sounds like a Scooby Doo episode but it’s true. After driving through a torrential downpour the storm calms down just as we get there. As we walk up to the shack/cabane we’re surrounded by patches of squash growing out front. I am excited already. We are early but can head inside to get some drinks and relax on the balcony. The beer steins must hold at least a litre of beer. Drinking this giant thing makes me feel like a hobbit. A hungry and soon to be pretty tipsy hobbit if I can manage to finish this thing. Sitting out here, enjoying the beer while all of the drool inducing fragrances waft outside from the dining room could be considered torture if the beer didn’t taste so good. There is something about being out in the country, nice and relaxed that is just so harmonious. Good thing too since we are about to put our eating abilities through the gauntlet.
We are now seated at our picnic bench-like table that sits fifteen people. So, yes, unless you are fifteen you will be sharing a table but the atmosphere is one of sharing, indulging and partying so this isn’t a drawback at all. We are in store for nine courses of food, three of which will be dessert! Take note people, this is not a sampling menu the likes of which many chefs work by. Each course will be an epic, rich, flavor orgy. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the picture above. That right there is an apple pie topped with foie gras. No kidding. Look at the density and crispness of that crust. This is what was brought out first and as soon as I tasted it I was a little fearful that nothing would beat the smooth, velvety, sweet but slightly tart masterpiece I just crammed down my face hole. As we’re eating this a ridiculously fresh salad is brought to the table. How fresh you ask? First of all, you really do ask a ton of questions, but that’s cool I don’t mind. This salad is so fresh that it is still in the pot that it has grown in! The dressing has been sprayed onto the leaves so all we need to do is cut the salad and mix it with some sautéed apples and onions that have been provided too. The salad is pretty good and the presentation is pretty fun. While we are working on this a huge bowl of duck, chicken, and pork vegetable soup is brought to the table along with a jar of pesto. We are to scoop some pesto into our bowls and then ladle in some of the soup. This dish is really hearty and quite nice but this place is getting a bit hot so I don’t take too much of it. I can imagine that a big bowl of this after shovelling snow in the winter would be pretty damn amazing. The addition of the pesto adds a sweet herby undertone.
Did you think the first round of appetizers were done? You obviously haven’t had a Martin Picard dining experience yet! As we are working on the soup a lovely man who I almost wanted to hug came to our table to let us know that he would be preparing a squash risotto for us tableside. Umm ok! So naturally we get up to take a peek at his fine work. If you’ve eaten or made risotto before you’ll know that it takes a fair amount of parmesan in the final stages to get it just right. So what do these guys do to ensure this? Instead of doing the final prep work for the risotto in a pot or bowl like normal, boring humans this guy is finishing it up IN a wheel of parmesan. Mind=blown. Highlight dish of the night for me right here. Creamy, decadent and sweet balanced out perfectly by the salty and tangy sausages. Oh and the little gold flakes on top? That was risotto dude’s(yes that’s his name) way of saying thanks for us getting up to watch him do this.
Alright well we are four courses in now and I am working on my second mammoth beer and starting to get a nice glow on my forehead that I like to call the meat sweats. Time to start pacing myself and stop taking seconds of all these things. Well, ok I took thirds of the risotto which would normally send me into a shame spiral but it was just too damned good to evoke shame out of me. Take that Catholic school!
I should mention here that although this sounds like an excessive amount of food, oh and it is, have no fear. It need not go to waste. The servers bring you ”to go” plates as they bring out the first courses so you can pack up food throughout the night. I highly recommend that you get packing BEFORE you’re set to burst and can’t even think about one more bite of food.
And you thought those four dishes we just sank our faces into were a bountiful amount of food. Silly reader you haven’t seen the main dish yet! Look at this platter.
What you see there is approximately 1767 different preparations of pork. If I was a responsible person I would have memorized every single variety here that our server described to us. Alas, when you drink behemoth beers things don’t always work out how you want them to. What you see here is pork, pork, pork, pork, some more pork, foie gras and apple sausages, a sad and lonely potato and underneath that heap of porky heaven is the best choucroute I’ve ever eaten. I am of Ukrainian descent so if there are two things I know they are self loathing and choucroute. Trust me it is fermented heaven on a platter. Ok so seriously there are about ten different styles of pork on here ranging from: pork sausage with foie gras and apple, crispy fried pork liver, pork tongue, pork pepperette style sausage, smoked pork meat(Montreal style smoked meat but pork baby), a whole ham hock, and roasted white pork. Ok those are the ones I can remember. The stars of this plate for me were the pork liver, the two styles of sausage and the potato. Just kidding potato, we all laughed at you in your loneliness all surrounded by porky pork.
What else can I say? Where else can you get a plate like this? Maybe if you build a time machine and travel back to the days of opulent feasts of kings. I am fit to burst at this point. I stand up to stretch for a moment and wow look at that, hello gut my how you’ve grown! Didn’t I used to have feet before? Meal is done now right? I can happily roll down to the car and pass out? Nope!
What better way to follow up all that meaty goodness than a teeming platter of six kinds of cheese. I do like to nibble on a little cheese but have always been an embarrassment to my French friends at this point in a meal. While I like cheese I just can’t eat more than a few bites of it on a good day. It just fills me up fast and in case you haven’t been paying attention I’ve kind of done a good job of that already. There was a soft, ripe cheese infused with apple that really was fantastic but here I let my friends go nuts and tried to save myself for dessert. Well, save myself as much as a voracious food whore like myself can save myself. On to Dessert!
Our server informs us that there will be three desserts brought to us. Oh good, I thought it was going to be something obscene*sarcasm alert*. Here is where I met the other star of the night. A squash and St. Ambroise oatmeal stout ice cream. The flavor that crashes into my mouth here surprises me. I was expecting something a little bitter due to the beer that would be balanced out by the sweet squash but here I get hints of star anice and maybe some spearmint. Very refreshing and shockingly light. Maybe I should eat a ton of it. Ok, I will! The wheels are coming off here people. I am getting tunnel vision, every friend I think I see looks like juicy pork to me. Ok, stay focused phatman, two more desserts to go…
Next up is what I can only describe as an enormous mille feuille that also has some squash worked into the creamy filling. Normally, mille feuille is not my thing but I can still slightly open my mouth and when I do no words come out so my friends cram some into my face. It is good, very good, but full, so full. I now see pigs dancing around me with my waking eye. When I close them all I can hear are piggish squeals of delight. For the love of God how can anyone eat so much food? Oh ya, I was supposed to pack some to take home…Oh good, more dessert is here.
Lastly, a box of warm apple beignets is brought to us. I am doubled over in joyous agony now so obviously I refuse and say that I will take one home. HAHA! Nope, I take one and pile some of that now melting ice cream on top of it! Good, warm, can’t talk, got the shakes, got the sweats, got the something something…full..done now…dear God what have I done to myself?
What a night. You won’t dine like this too many times in your life so get here one night and make sure to wear your Thanksgiving pants! The fresh air outside is, well, refreshing. I linger in the hopes that the rumors I have heard may be true that Mr. Picard can be seen by the moonlight in the woods dancing naked, smeared in pig’s blood. No such luck tonight but as I pile into the car I can hear a mad laugh of joy eminating from the darkness. I love you Martin Picard.
- 25 foods worth traveling for (usatoday.com)