If you’ve never been to the Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack yet then you really have no idea what you are in store for. Rookies don’t tend to fare well here. You can’t just walk in here without preparing yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually and expect to perform well. That would be like thinking you could walk in to an Olympic event and win gold without ever training. Not gonna happen. I’ve been spending the past few weeks stretching my stomach, expanding my mind and praying to Dionysus to give me the strength to survive this mad orgy of food and drink. This is a war after all.
We’re a group of 15 this time so we’ll have a full table to ourselves. I figure our large number will help us conquer our undefeated foe: Picard’s insane astronomical gastronomical feast. I am a fool. Our server comes to the table to take drink orders and I go with a maple Manhattan. This thing has got some real zip to it, quite a strong drink. This is needed to clear up some space and get the stomach warmed up for what’s coming. The server then explains that we’ll be getting 4 starters, 3 main courses and 4 desserts. Is that all? This don’t scare me. She then explains that we can order a tortiere to be served betwixt the starters and the main dishes. It contains pork, veal, foie gras, veal brain, cheese and even a little arugula salad on top. SALAD?! You people trying to mess with me here? Since most of us have prepared and trained and worked hard over the last few weeks to perform well here we order the tortiere too. Does anybody got a problem with that?
First plate comes and it’s what I can only call a salmon tartare lasagna. It’s got layers of rice, avocado, salmon and topped with a layer of what I think is a maple jelly. We got two of these things for our table and we destroyed this plate. It was surprisingly light with some bold flavors to boot and there isn’t much that goes better with salmon than avocado. Great dish. My buddy Shawn and I both took seconds even. Because we’re geniuses. All 15 of us are confident now, defiant even. Where is our next plate? Bring it! So they brang it. An obscene, beautifully presented brioche stuffed with foie gras and topped with fried pork rinds. Foie gras never lasts long with Pete and I around. Another plate destroyed. I don’t think there was any of this one left either. There is nothing stopping us tonight.
Next comes an egg soufflé with garlic potatoes on top with some lardon inside and tripe. I’d never had tripe before and wasn’t sure what it would be like. Have no fear, it’s just offal. This dish came with some baked beans too. Oh, and we also got two of these for the table. I took me a nice helping of this stuff cause I love me some good soufflé. Took some beans with it and slathered it with some maple syrup too. We all devoured this stuff shamelessly. This dish has a nice balance of sweet and salty. I am starting to feel flat out cocky now. You know what goes good with this kind of food? How about a giant beer? Ok! What else you guys got?
The last starter is out and we’re treated to a remarkably delicious sturgeon quenelle served in a creamy seafood sauce that’s got mussels and I think clams in it. Alright, get out of my way. I am eating the living hell out of this plate. The sturgeon was fluffier than I expected and it just dissolved in my mouth. The accompanying sauce was accommodating in its accompanyingness. Killer plate. This one was my favorite of the starters, followed closely by the salmon tartare lasagna. Our end of the table has done a bang up job with all the plates. I look to the other end and sense some dissention in the ranks. We haven’t even gotten to the tortiere or the mains yet, let alone the desserts. We are only as strong as our weakest link. So I look at Pete, a grizzled PDC veteran, and with my eyes I tell him he’s gotta rally the troops at the other end. With his eyes he tells me not to look at him like that again, that I am freaking him out. Frankly, I’m amazed we can communicate like this. In any case, I see him take seconds of the quenelle and a few others follow suit. Nice work dude.
I’m starting to sense a quick and painless victory for us. All that’s left is 4 more meaty courses and 4 desserts. Now out comes the tortiere. It’s breathtaking to look at. Just as I’m thinking to myself that this thing is visually stunning Noah hacks right into it like a barbarian. As he should. We are united in battle. He lets out a battle cry that the fiercest viking would be proud of, ok it was a burp but it was a killer one, and splits the pie up for all us. We do ourselves proud here and this thing doesn’t last 5 minutes. Fantastic crust, all of the meats were succulent, the cheese was a fine, sharp addition and I even had a bite or two of the salad on top. Gotta stay healthy right?
Now, as we’re waiting on the main dishes several of my now battle hardened friends go out to smoke. I stay at the table and lull myself into a mellow meditative state, or meatitative if you will, to focus on the meat matters that will soon be at hand. The first main comes our way, literally. There’s a dude wheeling over a cart with a giant ham on there. Is this supposed to intimidate us? You trying to scare us since you can see we’re winning the war so far? We’re still starving so get carving! A gigantic platter of ham is left to us as well as some fresh donuts and roasted sweet potatoes with melty maple marshmellows on top. SInce I am a genius I cut open that donut, jam some ham in there and throw on some sweet-hot mustard and some rosemary gravy and make me a nice little sandwich. I wasn’t crazy about the sweet potatoes but that’s more because I’m not much of a marshmellow guy. The ham, that was smoked right outside, was spot on. But as I’m finishing the plate I look over to Pete and I can see a bead of sweat on his forehead. Shawn has one too, as does Noah. I touch my forehead and NOOOOOO!!!! The meat sweats are setting in on me too. Come guys, only 6 dishes left. We can do this.
The dude is back with another cart wheeled over to the table. They are now bombarding us with line after line of carted food. They can sense our line breaking. They are coming in for the kill. I begin to have my first doubts. I see on this cart a huge wheel of parmesan and the guy is tossing squid ink pasta with blood sausage directly in the wheel. Here is their first mistake. This dish looks and smells so good that it awakens a hunger in us that I thought we had lost. This turns out to be the plate of the night for me. The saltiness of the squid ink shines through the creamy cheesiness and the blood sausage gives everything a nice earthy tone. I’m surprised by a little bit of zazzy heat in this. They must have snuck in a little hot sauce here. Spectacular dish. I have renewed hope that all is not lost and we can get through every plate with minimal leftovers.
We now see a third cart being wheeled towards us and for the first time I see genuine fear in the eyes of my friends. We’re staring into the eyes of two plates of duck breasts, stuffed to bursting with gizzards and hearts. Our server flambés it before us with cognac and then it’s served. I take a slice and get to it. As I take my last bite I can feel it. SLAM! I’ve hit the wall. I look at Pete and his head is hung in either defeat or unconsciousness. Noah is not so silently weeping. Shawn is in a trancelike state. It looks to me like he’s having visions. I look over to my sisters and Tanya’s got the glow of the meat sweats going on. My little sister, Shooter, has been downing maple daiquiris all night so she’s feeling no pain. She will tomorrow though. I’m beginning to see that we all will. At least there are still 4 desserts coming.
First dessert comes to us and I can tell the staff knows they’re winning now. They bring us a mocha mousse cake mockingly, actually they brought 2. Shawn awakes from his trance and miraculously has two servings of this. I’m surprised that this dish isn’t sweeter. This wound up being my favorite dessert but I must admit by this point I was a shell of my former self. I was weak. I was broken. I was defeated.
Next was a frozen maple yogurt with crunchy maple candy on top. Again, not an overly sweet dessert and quite enjoyable. Shawn has reached deep into his own personal inner sanctum (eww right?!) and managed a second serving of this too. Has he made some deal for his soul with Satan? Has he been playing possum? He may be swaying the entire battle back to our side singlehandedly. Now comes the taffy in sexy little sphere shapes. No man or woman can turn away this stuff so we all get through this course unscathed. Well, as unscathed as we can be at this point.
Finally we come to the apex of the battle. We’ve reached the final course. I am trembling openly now, burdened with the weight of my weapon: the spoon. I can barely lift it at this point. I take 1 single spoonful of the banana cream pie. It is good. Too good to be true really since I normally am a firm loather of bananas. As I finish that final bite I look to Pete. He is hurting. His face shows anger, sadness, understanding and confusion all at once. I gaze around the entire table and it isn’t a pretty site. I see and feel shame everywhere around me. I turn to the man who has been looking to be our champion in this war of gluttony; Shawn. His head is propped against the wall, his eyes are closed. I take my final sip of coffee and suddenly I am no longer in the shack. I am looking at what can only be the center of universe. I see time dancing and swaying before me. I see knowledge and understanding coming towards me as a wave and it slams right into me. I hear laughter all around me, directed at me and my fellow eaters. I open my eyes and I understand everything and nothing all at once.
In my third trip to the PDC Shack the score now sits at Picard: 3 Phatman and Phriends: 0. War is hell.