Euphoria at Cirque du Soleil and Au Pied du Cochon – Montreal

Montreal will always be one of my favourite places in the world. I had the great fortune of having one of the best days of my life on Saturday when I was able to procure almost front row tickets for Cirque du Soleil’s OVO and dinner reservations for Martin Picard’s restaurant, Au Pied du Cochon. Between the beauty of the circus and the circus of the food I am almost dead.

Cirque du Soleil was a bit of a last minute thing. I have never really followed the troup, nor did I even know they were in Montreal, but I came across a link and was so blown away that I decided to buy two tickets at a premium cost to see if the show might inspire my photography in some way. I had shot some photos of performers at a circus school in March and was mesmerized by their beauty and theatrics. All that was left in the box office were Tapis Rouge seats. The red carpet treatment includes brilliant seats, champagne by the bucket, gourmet appetizers (think macaroons stuffed with crab and asparagus), and a memento book…for a hefty cost. But life is a once around thing, so I heaved the cash and hoped for the best. 

The best is what I received. Wow. I can honestly say that this was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. The performers, the costumes, the lights, the sounds and even the treatment was spectacular in a way that was still very Quebecois. OVO was about some insects and an egg that comes to town; it really was about acrobats and performers around the world coming together to produce something artisnal  in the truest sense. Having grown up around a brother who spent twenty hours a week on his gymnastics, I can appreciate what it means to stick a move perfectly; therefore, I was overwhelmed when I saw every single move stick perfectly time and time again. 

No photography was allowed. In so many ways, a new goal of mine would be to photograph these performers in my way, and to produce something with Cirque for the coffee table. Something for me to consider in the next few months. Certainly, I am going to look into setting something up for when I visit the circus school in February again. 

Speaking of coffee table books…what drew me to Au Pied du Cochon is Picard’s apocryphal cooking book. Like Cirque du Soleil, it holds a Quebecois vision of the world with realistic images and a splotchy cartoon style that resonates with me to the core. A few years ago, I had been turned on to this by a friend, Max Perren, who is one of my best resources for edgy stuff – Au Pied du Cochon, Cormac McCarthy. The last time I was in Montreal life was in a much different place for me, and the restaurant was missed on my list of endeavours. The last time I was in Montreal I had decided my had to be rebuilt, and happiness had to be reclaimed. So in many ways, the visit to Au Pied was a milestone. 

Oh my god, the foie gras. Picard is best known for his use of foie gras, pork and duck. He creates a sloppy perfection of food that is sublime. There are no towers of micro-greens on salmon steaks here. I began with the foie gras cromesqui – a bit of molten foie gras in a croquette. It was nirvana. Balanced with some heavy red wines I proceeed to the foie gras poutine. Imagine regular poutine with a foie gras sauce and a lobe of perfect foie on top. This is where I began to feel sick…but I persevered, as I was not going to let something like a stomach slow me down. 

Next up was the duck in a can. Magret duck breast wrapped around a lobe of foie gras and topped with buttery savoy cabbage in a can that is opened at your table and placed on a piece of bread to sop up the goodness. Now had Lady V. been able to help me with the food at this point I might not have become so ill the next day, but frankly I don’t know anyone else who would have been able to consume what I did. Still, she was able to sample our next choice with gusto: pig’s foot. I was advised by the waiter to end my foie gras adventure and not order it stuffed with foie gras. He said it might kill me, and that dessert would thank me for it.It was V.’s favourite, and might be close to mine, too. Like a lamb shank, the pig’s foot was present in a casserole plate with mashed potato and slow cooked veg. Sadly, I was not able to eat more than half of this, but it was worth the effort to be able to taste it.

Lastly, it was the pudding chomeur. I thought this was a bread pudding, but was wrong. It was a pudding with maple sugar and butter that killed. This might have been a top three dessert experience for me. We also had the molten chocolate cake, but it was weak. I was a very happy man as I ordered my espresso and a copy of the Au Pied du Cochon book. I was not so happy for the next 24 hours as my body struggled to cope with what I had done to it, but it was the meal of a lifetime and well worth the agony of having my tummy strain with processing for so long. 

Did I do anything else? I did manage to take a few photos which might prove to be great, but the focus was really to relax and enjoy myself. I love photography, but I also know that sometimes it is far more important to get out from behind the lens and just be in the moment in a different way. V. did take some great photos, so maybe I will post a few on the blog with her permission. I did manage to find a beautiful mask at Cirque which I hope to use in some upcoming photos. I figure this is going to allow me to finally commission a piece from Clelia Scala, a great artist and friend who specializes in masks and sculpture. Maybe I will work it into the Fall portrait session project.

What else did I do? I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road on the train, ate three smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s Deli and walked all over the city with V. It was a weekend to remember.

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