The Divas don’t often follow rules. In fact, more often than not, we find them unnecessarily constricting. However, when it comes to Martin Picard and his sugar shack extravaganzas, we follow the rules to a tee! When it was announced that names were being taken for their Apple Season Sugar Shack, we immediately signed up even though it was announced on April Fool’s and the contact email read “hahaha.” Even our Sensei thought it was a prank, but we weren’t taking any chances! Having already been to the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon for maple season, we knew that we would be in for a treat from Picard and company.
Located at Picard’s farm in Mirabel, The Divas arrived with the Artist, the cousins and friends, ready to indulge in the apple season feast which runs from August to October 2013. We were seated at one of the large wooden tables and our waitress immediately greeted us and explained their special cocktails. We listened intently and chose to split the Apple Martini and the Margarita while the Artist chose the Rum Slush. Different cousins and friends chose their beer, homemade apple cider, etc. The martini was served with an apple core to give it an extra boost of apple flavour. This cocktail was very generous on the vodka with a hint of apple cider. The fresh raspberry margarita was served in a small vase and was very refreshing and light. The rum slush may have been the winner of the night as it was not too strong nor too light, like the other two cocktails, and so very delicious.
As the food was being delivered to the tables around us, we patiently waited for our first taste of what became a phenomenal meal. Our first dish was the apple pie with cheddar and foie gras. To say that the portion of foie gras was generous is an understatement. It was an entire liver! Diva #2 was given the honours of cutting the pie, making sure a little extra foie gras was on her and Diva #1’s side…we are biased people. The apple pie crust was flaky, the apples were caramelized and sweet, the cheddar was slightly melted and the foie gras was just heaven. Each bite of pie, cheese and foie gras was just decadence. The pie arrived with a jar of crème fraiche but it was not necessary, it was perfection without adding anything more.
At the same time, we were served a hearty and comforting chunky soup with pork, duck and shark meat. There were also large pieces of carrots as well as greens and string beans. This soup was delicious; our waitress explained that to perfect the soup we had to add some of the homemade pesto that came in a jar on the table. This brought the soup from a good soup to another level. Just the simple addition of pesto refined the flavours. Definitely not your typical soup and the chunky pieces of meat were distinguishable from each other, you knew when you were eating shark, pork or duck.
The salad was presented in little black plastic pots with kitchen shears, it was actually in little pots like when you buy seedlings at the market. Dressed simply with an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, you simply snipped off the leaves you wanted and enjoyed. As mentioned above, the Divas are not great with rules so we took an entire pot and sat it between our dishes and ate away, giving the Artist a good laugh. It was also served with a small apple and pear salad. This too was dressed in a simple vinaigrette and the thinly shaved slices of fruit were sprinkled with pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch. The dish was simple but great and we were soon munching away.
Next came the tableside preparation of the risotto. Diva #2 was eyeing the hollowed out parmigiano wheel that was used to mix the risotto. Apples dressed in olive oil and slices of sopresatto sausage were stirred into the large vat-like bowl of risotto. The risotto was creamy, the apples tender and the poignant sausage added the right amount of salt and texture to the dish. And because things at the sugar shack are not decadent enough, there was also some gold leaf sprinkled on top of the dish.
This dish did not last very long on our table! Actually we devoured it; the risotto was so cheesy and fabulous that we ate in silence, for once. We were still at the point when you are eating everything at Au Pied de Cochon, and not taking anything to go. Although they did bring us aluminum takeout containers because they know that in the end you cannot finish every plate, especially if you want to maintain your current weight.
Some of us started moving our belts an extra notch to make room for more. Others were undoing their pants, and these were the same men who scoffed at the idea that we would have leftovers. We had seen a rather large platter of meat floating around on some tables and knew we were in for a treat. The massive slab of wood held a mountain of meat. There is no other way of explaining the amount of meat that we were given. There was everything from smoked meat, ham, bacon, pig’s foot, tongue (a Diva favourite), garlic sausage, a pork chop, foie gras stuffed sausage, foie gras crêpes, mortadella, wedges of apples and potatoes and a base of sauerkraut which was fermented for 6 weeks. The country bacon had a delicious crust and was very thick, the pig’s foot had a maple glaze, the foie gras stuffed sausage had large chunks of foie gras within each bite, the pork chop had a horseradish cream sauce, and the apples and potatoes still had a bite to them. Not only was the presentation impressive but the individual flavours were amazing. We took a lot of the meat home and ate it with friends at work the next day, it was so rich and wonderful.
While we were very slowly attempting to make a dent in the meat platter, they brought us a cheese platter. Six cheeses in total, one aged cheddar and one mild blue cheese, a camembert, brie and two made by the neighbouring cheese farm. The cheese was served with PDC-made delicious crusty baguette, tasty onion-garlic rolls and a crispy cracker made with dried fruits and nuts. All of the breads and cracker were made in-house. The two soft cheeses made by the neighbours were extremely potent. Diva #1 took the leftovers home and even the next day her car stank of cheese. The Divas love cheese but this was a little intense for us. The blue cheese was surprisingly mild and delicious, the camembert was creamy and smooth and the cheddar was sharp with a great aftertaste. The brie cheese was stronger than most, but it still did not compare to the cheese brought from the neighboring farm that arrived warm and ready to stink up the place.
Our waitress came by our table to check on us and whether or not we were still breathing after the meat platter. She also offered us an apple pie shooter, in her words, this was to open our appetites for the dessert portion of the evening. The Artist was intrigued by the combination of whiskey and apple goodness, and Diva #1 joined her. The warm shot was served with a warm apple sliver which was to be eaten before taking the shot. The Artist was a champ and chugged while Diva #1 passed around the shot for the rest to try. It was warm and you could feel the burn; it definitely packed a punch!
Dessert was next though belts had to be loosened once again. First the mille feuille made with a layer of the traditional pastry cream, and a layer of squash cream. Sounds weird but trust us, it was delicious! The layers of pastry were flaky and the custard-like fillings were smooth and rich, yet light. Unfortunately, at this point we were so full that we could not imagine eating more…but we did.
The soft serve ice cream soon arrived served in a tall parfait glass. Two flavours were intertwined, squash and beer. Again, odd combination but it worked so well! The ice cream was wonderful and we kept digging into it, the Divas don’t even like beer but we loved this ice cream swirl. It wasn’t just sweet, it had two different flavours that you could taste with each bite.
Hands down, the best dessert was the apple-filled cinnamon doughnuts, we wish that we could have bought a box for home. Served warm, the apple filling was like a homey apple sauce that was absolutely fantastic and the doughnut itself was light. With powdered sugar everywhere, the table was silently enjoying every bite of what can only be described as a religious experience and you know the Divas don’t go to church every week! Sweet Pea could not make it to the Au Pied de Cochon cabane à sucre because she was too hungover and all she asked for was one of these doughnuts but they disappeared faster than Diva #1 could nab one. Sorry Sweet Pea, try to drink less next time!
We will definitely be back next year for apple season at PDC , we loved it almost as much as maple season at the sugar shack. Suffice to say, the Divas and friends left the apple themed PDC sugar shack satiated, happy and at least 5 pounds heavier. And when you think about all the food that is given to you, the 50$ per head charge is a steal. The cocktails are extra but they are worth it! You can be sure that we will definitely be heading back next year to enjoy more of Picard’s genius.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
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