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Reuters Life!: Montreal restaurant an ode to culinary excess


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Montreal restaurant an ode to culinary excess

 

Wed Sep 19, 2007 7:10am EDT

 

By Lionel Perron

MONTREAL, (Reuters Life!) - When patrons walk into Martin Picard's popular eatery in Montreal's trendy Plateau district, they'd be well advised to leave cholesterol concerns at the door.

 

As the name Au Pied de Cochon (The Pig's Foot) suggests it's all about slabs of pork, beef, venison, lamb and duck with one recurring ingredient -- foie gras.

 

"It's my favorite gourmet food, but a lot of people are reluctant to try it", says Picard, referring to the delicacy made from the livers of ducks and geese.

 

"But when I mix it with fast-food dishes, they seem to forget they're eating foie gras".

 

He lavishes the stuff on everything from hamburgers to poutine (French fries, gravy and cheese curds), a delirious offshoot of Quebec's alternately beloved and despised fast-food icon, to its signature preserved duck in a can.

 

The menu is a foretaste of Picard's love affair with foie gras and Quebec's culinary tradition of rich, hearty, filling main courses. The "Happy Pork Chop" is in itself an ode to excess; one pound of meat stuffed with foie gras, lots of it.

 

"What Martin does at Au Pied de Cochon is right in my emotional comfort zone. It speaks right to my heart, as a cook and as an eater", says Anthony Bourdain in the introduction to Picard's self-published cookbook.

 

Three years ago, tourism officials invited Bourdain, an American celebrity chef, author and TV personality, to sample some of Montreal's finest restaurants and he fell head over heels for this former pizza joint.

 

Picard roasts almost all his falling-off-the-bone meat dishes on a rotating turn inside a brick oven in the middle of an open kitchen.

 

"I was adamant about removing the brick oven when we took over the building in 2001, but I didn't have enough money to do it. Luckily it's become the soul of my restaurant," said Picard.

 

Young kitchen staffers in jeans and funky T-shirts add to the establishment's laid back atmosphere.

 

"It's the kind of nonsense and frippery-free food that resonates with other chefs -- who inevitably 'get' what Martin is all about: The Good Stuff prepared skillfully and without pretension, and a shared philosophy of 'too much of a good thing is seldom enough'", Bourdain added.

 

Just like the restaurant, the cookbook is unconventional. It opens with a photograph of Picard in a meat locker slugging a split pig like a punching bag while his shirtless staffers look on.

 

With no book advance, tour, let alone a publisher, the book, sold out its first press run of 6,000 copies (5,000 in French and 1,000 in English) three weeks after its release last October.

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