It Happened to Me

Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon

01 au pied de cochon exterior

There are a couple of restaurants with the name Au Pied de Cochon, which translates as “with the pig’s foot”. There’s the one in Paris — a place that became popular for serving its namesake – whose glory days are probably long gone as it’s become a bit of a tourist trap. Closer to home is the one in Montreal run by Martin Picard, an adventurous chef whose hijinks you may have seen on Food Network Canada’s The Wild Chef, or if you speak French, on Radio-Canada’s Martin sur la Route (“Martin on the Road”). It’s probably one of the only shows where a TV chef has cooked a muskrat.

(My Quebecois friend Guy Barrette tells me that The WIld Chef is a bowdlerized version of Martin sur la Route; the French edition shows butchery that the producers think that English viewers wouldn’t stomach.)

The Ginger Ninja and I stayed in Montreal this past weekend to sample some restaurants we’d been meaning to try. One was the steakhouse called La Queue de Cheval (“the horse’s tail” – I should organize a tour of restaurants named after animal anatomy), the other was Au Pied de Cochon. We managed to squeeze ourselves into the first seating on Friday night – the place is always booked solid unless you make reservations well in advance – and I took some photos of our visit.

Au Pied de Cochon is far from stuffy. While the food is a little more adventurous than your typical bistro, the place is pretty down-to-earth (although well-kept). The layout isn’t all that different from a diner, you can get a hamburger – yes, it’s got chunks of foie gras in it, but it’s still a burger, and the staff (clad in black jeans and mechanic’s shirts with their names on patches) are not only friendly, they look like they love their jobs.

02 canard en conserve

The can shown above line Au Pied de Cochon’s foyer. Canard en Conserve translates to “duck in a can”, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Chef Picard uses a number of unorthodox techniques for cooking, the best-known of which is canning. He has his own canning rigs in which he prepares a dish, cans it and then cooks it in the can.

03 potato pancake

We ordered a couple of appetizers. The first one, shown above, was an appetizer special. It was made of two potato pancakes with shaved cheese and ham between them, served with fiddleheads and walnuts and topped with a fried egg. It was delicious!

04 duck carpaccio

The second appetizer, shown above, was a regular on the menu: duck carpaccio topped with mushrooms, parmesan cheese and spices. It was topped with an egg yolk, hot mustard and hot sauce, which the waiter suggested we mixed together to form a sort of mayonnaise. I loved this one, and ended up sopping up the remaining goo with bits of the restaurant’s tasty baked-in-house bread.

05 poutine and duck in a can

Ask a Canadian outside Quebec what the official dish of Quebec is, and nine times out of ten you’ll get the answer “poutine” (I’ll have to ask some Quebecois what they believe their official dish is). Poutine is the perfect post-drinking food: fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. It’s popular all over Canada and has even been making inroads into the U.S. where they’ve been marketing them as “Quebec Fries”.

We ordered poutine as a side dish, which you can see on the left in the photo above. The fries are cooked in duck fat, and the gravy is made of pureed foie gras, egg yolks and cream. You can also order it as a main, topped with foie gras.

As for the dish on the right, that’s Duck in a Can, which I’ll describe later.

06 beef tartare

Wendy ordered the beef tartare, which is unusual for her – normally that’s the sort of thing that I would order. She chose it on the strength of a recommendation of our friend Jason Gorber, and it was delicious. It was served with a salad and two pieces of toast made from their wonderful bread.

07 duck in a can

This is Duck in a Can. In the can is a duck breast, a generous slice of duck foie gras, a slice of duck fat, balsamic vinegar, duck cabbage and a head of garlic. The whole thing is boiled in the can for a half hour and then the can in opened right in front of you and the contents are emptied onto a slice of toast covered in a puree of celery root and lardons (which is essentially French for “chunky bacon”). I was in fatty heaven.

You probably shouldn’t eat this every day, but life needs its pleasant vices, and I highly recommend this one.

08 can o duck

We had seats at the bar right by the kitchen (I asked for them, because we love watching food being made – it’s dinner and a show, all in one). The photo above shows my empty can of duck, with the kitchen crew in the background, hard at work.

09 olive oil

Au Pied de Cochon have their own olive oil specially commissioned from a co-op in Spain. It’s very good, and a great deal at $14 a bottle. We picked one up.

10 seafood kitchen

The next time we’re at Au Pied de Cochon, we’ll have to try their seafood. While half the kitchen is devoted to meat and fat, the other half has a lovely array of fruits de mer, which I also like.

11 seafood

Our meal, which consisted of:

  • Two hearty appetizers
  • Two very filling mains
  • Beer (their own house beer, which went very well with all that fat)
  • A bottle of olive oil to take home

…cost a grand total of CAD$132 before tip. For well-prepared food that you’re not going to find in many other places in such generous quantities, that’s a serious bargain.

If you’re going to Montreal (or if you live there), make sure you pay a visit to Au Pied de Cochon. I’m heading back there next time I’m in town.

I’ve posted my photos from Au Pied de Cochon at full size in a Flickr photoset, which you can also view in the slideshow below:

Geek It Happened to Me Work

TechDays Montreal, Day 1

With the setup complete, TechDays Montreal was ready to begin, which it did on Wednesday. Like TechDays Halifax, Techdays Montreal sold out weeks before its date. Here’s what the registration line looked like at 7:45 a.m.:

01 registration

We members of the Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team arrived at 7:00 a.m., but the TelAV A/V guys (I keep saying that their motto should be “To Serve and Project”) had been there at least an hour before, making sure that the displays and sound were working perfectly:

02 theatre

The speakers were asked to show up at 8:00 a.m. in order to be briefed on the day’s proceedings, double-check their demo setups and make sure that they were familiar with the audiovisual equipment.

03 laurent

TechDays Montreal, being the only TechDays held in the province of Quebec, required extra work to support both English and Français. Attendees could request radio headsets which they could use to tune into simultaneous translations of the sessions, which were provided by translators located in booths near the rear of every presentation room:

10 translation booth

All the presentation slides were translated into French, and we showed both the English and French slides at each presentation, with the French slides on the left screen and the English slides on the right. Each slide deck ran on its own PowerPoint machine and was advanced using a “clicker” that advanced the slides on both machines simultaneously:

06 laurent

With the exception of my start-of-day introductory mini-session, all the sessions in my track, Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, were done in French. As track lead, I normally play the role of host in my track, but my rather limited command of the French language just wasn’t up to the task. I was very fortunate that one of my presenters, Laurent Duveau (pictured below by the lectern) was able to act as host. He did an excellent job MCing and introducing the speakers.

04 laurent

Laurent was also the first presenter of the day. He did the What’s New in Silverlight 3 session:

05 laurent

The second session of the day was Expression Blend for Developers, which was presented by Louis-Philippe Pinsoneault. The two photos below show Laurent on the left and Louis-Philippe on the right:

07 laurent louis philippe

08 laurent louis philippe

Here’s Laurent introducing Louis-Philippe:

09 laurent louis philippe

Just down the hall, Dan Nerenberg presented at the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010: The Next Generation session:

11a dans room

Dan presented to a packed room:

12 audience

Then came lunch, which took place in the large room on Centre Mont-Royal’s fourth floor:

13 lunch 1

The lunch highlight was a demo showdown in which we asked the question “Who can do better Windows 7 demos – developers or IT pros?” Christian Beauclair represented the developers and Pierre Roman represented the IT Pros; both got four chances to do 60-second demos of various features in Windows 7.

Here’s Pierre setting up before the showdown:

14 lunch 2

The winner was determined by audience applause, and Christian (and thus the developers) won.

In addition to the sessions, attendees could also visit the Windows 7 lounge, and area set up with Windows 7-equipped touchscreen computers and an XBox 360, where they could take Windows 7 and its multitouch features or XBox 360 indie games for a spin:

15 lounge 1

16 lounge 2

17 lounge 3

Day 1 of TechDays included a bonus session at the end of the day. Rodney Buike and I did a presentation in which we talked about PHP on Windows, the Web Platform Installer (WPI) and the Expression Web tools. In another room, Anthony Bartolo and Mark Arteaga, did their presentation on developing for Windows Mobile:

18 windows mobile

Although TechDays’ Day 1 had ended, it wasn’t the end of the day for some of us – we had Career Demo Camp that evening, which I’ll cover in the next article.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Photo of the Day

 Two guys posing beside a sign in French that points to the showers: "Douches"

[Found via Certified Bullshit Technician.]