The Best Foie Gras Experience at Au Pied de Cochon

This is a Love Letter: disclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

I had one of the best dining experiences traveling alone at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal in the super cool Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. It’s not a fancy pants white table cloth place, feels more like an upscale bistro/French brassiere that is unpretentious yet refined. Definitely fine dining although hipster beards and tattoos would not be out-of-place here.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famed foie gras poutine since I dined alone, but I definitely will if I have the opportunity to return to Montreal. Instead I had apps of a fresh baguette with butter, definitely above average. I do think it’s the sign of a good restaurant when items that are sometimes throwaway are given a lot of care.

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Then I felt adventurous and had the foie gras nigiri. I had something similar awhile back at A Plus Sushi in Taipei. Not the most pretty, but holy crap, it tasted amazing and genuinely like nothing I had ever before. Fusion food tends to be crap, but this combo of big ole hunks of high quality foie gras, good nigiri rice, topped with the slightest bit of soy sauce made this trip worth it alone.

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Of course, I had have what Anthony Bourdain had, the Canard en Conserve or Duck in a Can – literally a pound of duck and foie gras cooked in a can with vegetables and thyme so all the fatty juices melange. I rarely can’t finish a dish, but the richness and how tasty it was almost nasty. I kept trying to shovel more bites of the fatty duck, foie gras, and lard-glazed veggies but couldn’t especially after the plate of nigiri and bread. I ended up taking half it back with me. I joke around about eating heart attacks in a can, but very little hyperbole here. Perhaps kind of an abomination to French Canadian chefs, but it was bomb the next day reheated with sriracha sauce.

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Eating at Au Pied de Cochon and Jean Talon Market were definitely the highlights of my trip to Montreal. For solo travelers, it’s a fantastic place to dine alone with a long bar in front of friendly chatty kitchen staff. I was far from the only one enjoying a foie gras feast on a solo trip.

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Ironically, I’m writing this love letter I mentioned I had been there to an older Canadian couple on the same bus I was traveling on from Croatia to Bosnia, who I thought were surely French tourists at first but then turned out to be awesome friendly Canadians whom I talked food and politics all day after we bonded after I mentioned I had been there. Nothing brings together people like food.

  • Website
  • 536 Duluth Est, Montreal, QC, H2L 1A9
  • $30+ Canadian Dollars or so for entrees and $12 for apps 
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The Original Yogurt Coffee at Cafe Duy Tri in Hanoi

Vietnamese Yogurt Coffee originated Hanoi’s Cafe Duy Tri. Cafe Duy Tri represents one of the atmospheric, what I call old school coffee places in Hanoi, but ups it a notch with its own roaster, selling beans out front and three low floors/crawl spaces to hang out in with free Wi-Fi. It’s a bit hot and can smell a bit cigarette-smoky but worth coming through for the experience and for the yogurt coffee.

Real talk, the yogurt coffee I’ve had here is second-to-none in Hanoi, and I’ve had a lot of yogurt coffee in Hanoi. The key difference is instead of the regular tart yogurt used by most places, they freeze theirs so it has a frozen soft serve quality that balances the stronger notes of the coffee differently than other place I’d been to. Really good. It’s a little out of the way of the old quarter area, but I enjoyed walking around the lake in this area. Much more calm, leafy, and residential. Stop by if you’re planning on checking out the One Pillar Pagoda, Chua Kim Lien, or Maison de Tet Decor nearby.

Coffee Master and Craft Beer at Vagabond Hanoi

One of my favorite parts of visiting Hanoi was chilling with one of the owners of Vagabond, a craft beer and coffee bar near the 24h street and train tracks that many tourists enjoy going to. We talked about the Lakers, Celtics, my thoughts on Hanoi as a Taiwanese-American, childcare, etc. Just a good time.

Vagabond has a variety of coffees, including traditional Vietnamese and Aeropress expresso, two draft beers on tap, cold-pressed juices, and more bottled craft beers. I personally preferred the blonde even though I’m normally an IPA-drinker, but both are worth stopping in for.

This place definitely represents a new wave of shops in Hanoi that might be taken as worldwide hipster generic if not for its showcase of indie Vietnamese brands as well as warm and very hip locals. It’s a good stop for people who need a little taste of home and to pick up some more upscale and unique gifts. I’m so happy I saw it and stopped in.

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  • Address:7 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Hanoi, Vietnam 100000
  • Price Range: $1-$3 USD

Amazing Longanisa at Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is known for clam chowder and Seattle Seafood, but as luck would have it, I had less than half an hour to spend there before a flight and found this gem. I lived next to Daly City for years and miss Filipino food so much living in NYC, and this is definitely some of the best longanisa I’ve ever had, paired with some awesome pancit and rice. Check out Oriental Mart if you’re in the area and don’t want the usual.

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

Longanisa with Rice and Pancit

The people who work here are awesome too. Super nice and a fun bunch. The food stall has some serious character and Filipino pride that I appreciate by extension.

Diaspora Tales Part 124341

I thought I lowkeyed American all weekend in French Canada and avoided anything awkward until I got in the Uber to go to Trudeau Airport.

Guy is chatty and asks, “Why are you leaving town with the good weather?” Apparently it’s been a miserable chilly Canadian summer. I reply, “Well, I was just here for the weekend and am going back to New York.”

Game immediately recognizes game, and we get into one of those overly personal and political conversations that only two strangers from a diaspora would suddenly have without hesitation. He immediately brings up how he and his buddies use to like to go to NYC for the weekend, but Canadians don’t travel down as much anymore, especially him because he has North African heritage. He doesn’t want to deal with being harassed at the airport. He talks about how even his White Canadian friend got harassed by Customs Border Patrol for three hours. They made her give her Snapchat and Facebook passwords because she wouldn’t give her opinion about Trump.

He talked about how in Canada you can’t get away with saying all the racist things that people say in America. That after the mosque shooting months ago, Canadians didn’t let people get away with being so hateful. There’s a pride in it, but I can tell it doesn’t salve everything. He’s sharing this undertone of distress with me because in a weird way we’re all in this together. He explicitly says he won’t let people say bad things about “people from China, Japan, and Black people, etc.”

This turns into a conversation about his cousins in France, one of course who is married to a White French woman who said “All these Arabs are savages” despite being married into a family of them who have extended extreme generosity to her.

He explains, “All the news on TV poisoned her mind. She’s out of touch with reality.”

We all know what it’s like to have one of those in our close circles. We agree that minorities have it worst in France out of the Western countries, and how laughable France attributes so many problems to immigrants given how few of them there are when you compare it to Canada and the United States. We talk about how France calls them “2nd generation immigrants.” Neither of us would tolerate such a laughable label, we’re both native borns, not immigrants. 2nd generation Canadians and Americans, yes, but we’re not immigrants. And regardless, you should treat immigrants like people and let them contribute. He says, “Yes, there are bad people who want to cheat the system,”  but counters the net contribution to countries far exceeds that and are not the roots of the social ills in the places we live.

We talk about how people were brought over because all these countries needed immigrant labor, and now they don’t want us anymore now that they’re not doing so well. He told me a story of how he drove a “racist American type” who was proud Tesla was Made-In-America (fuck yeah?). He totally destroyed that guy’s day by showing him Google search and informing him that Elon Musk holds Canadian citizenship and came from South Africa to Canada before going to America. He talked about how America’s toxic nationalism reminded him of France sometimes, he doesn’t like to travel to France and America and I suspect outside of Canada much these days.

At some point his phone rings, I see an image of lady in a headscarf with that sensible not-over-the-top-like-Americans smile I notice Canadians do and a cute kid. It occurs to me he totally reminds me of the Cantonese and Filipino guys in another life in SF. Culturally rooted and responsible, a Morrocan-Canadian Daly City dude. Aspirational and hardworking, but with that slight unease of figuring out how to be man in between two cultures probably telling him very different things. The kind of guy who will talk about his feelings to woman like me because he knows I don’t judge and get it. If I wasn’t so obsessed with airplanes and moving around, I’d have ended up with someone like him in another Cali life and be the picture that flashes on the phone in another anxiety filled diaspora conversation in another life.

I talk about who I am, and how I hang onto a Taiwanese identity, though we both have that vague unspoken anxiety knowing he doesn’t speak Berber that well, and I don’t speak Chinese as much anymore these days either, but feel our place and that of people similar to us are in a precarious position, where we’re at, and in places like the UK, France, Australia, and beyond. We’re mutually stewing in our unease about our relative and conditional privilege. Way early into this conversation, we’ve dropped our “proper North American English” speaking voices, him speaking in what I can only call Drake-music-video-Canadian-English with a touch of French accent, and me with dripping with a non-White Cali enunciation.

We end up in a conversation about crab mentalities, bad homies, and good homies. The fucked up things that happen when you try to stay loyal to people in your crew and your small community. It’s overly personal, platonic, and calm at the same time, the only conversation two diaspora folks living in this time could have. He talks about how he wants to get into real estate, but his friend was trying to sabotage his success, and how Canadians don’t travel that much because taxes are so high. I talk about how Americans don’t travel because a lot of them are too poor to do it at all because it costs so much to do out outside the coasts. He mentions even though Canadians don’t travel, they don’t share our insularity because they aren’t so nationalistic. I talk about how much I hate everything happening, that two countries exist in mine, but he knows all that already.

It occurs to me in this short window of time, I’ve probably had a more personal conversation with him than White people I’ve known for years. You only talk like this with the ‘special White friends’ (google Special White Friend Americanah) and Facebook posts to spare yourself the emotions of possibly having someone discount the convo or reveal to you they basically think your culture is backwards.

When I get out of the car, he says, “You’re welcome back anytime to Canada.” It breaks my fucking heart, because I know I can’t say the same, even though we’re weirdly all in this together. Fuck the fucking Le Pens and Farages of the world. I tell him we’re trying to get of Trump, but I know that isn’t happening in the near future. This is what it is now.

At least in some moments, we have each other.

East Midtown Poke Love

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First crosspost here from ViewingNYC to get rolling.

I definitely recommend Sons of Thunder located on 38th and 3rd for those transplanted New Yorkers from Hawaii or the West Coast or just those folks who crave poke and good rice.  Really good poke bowls and options with good options for customization and really really good soft serves to top off.

In a neighborhood starved for more healthy and chill restaurants, Midtown East/Murray Hill has a new poke spot in a refreshing addition to the area. Headlining the menu at Sons of Thunder are its poke bowls for those looking for a healthy meal, as well as creamy organic shakes and soft serves for those looking for a treat…. read more.