When the days start getting longer, the snow starts melting and the temperatures start to warm up, it can only be a sign of the seasons changing. Forget Spring, in Quebec, this means sugar shack season!
Like thousands of others, when the clock struck midnight on December 1st, The Divas registered to get a coveted spot at the Au Pied de Cochon Cabane à Sucre in St-Benoît de Mirabel. Luckily, we got a call and confirmed our reservation to experience another masterful cabane à sucre by Martin Picard and his team. This time we went with Sweet Pea, the Artist and her friends, Rambo and two of the cousins. It is a set menu which is 62$+tx, cocktails are an additional charge, and their famous meat pie for 22$. This was our third time, as we had been there for PDC’s Maple Season 2013, and PDC’s Apple Season 2013.
The smoker outside was working overtime, people were gathered on the front porch waiting to get inside and we were trying to figure out if we should adopt the calico cat that was hanging around outside. In the end we left the cat, thinking that she may be better fed in Picard’s backyard! As this was our third time at the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon (PDC), we knew we had to pace ourselves to avoid the meat sweats and unbuckling of our belts.
We started with the signature maple drinks that PDC makes every season, although they do serve wine and beer on tap. The raspberry mojito was made with an in-house raspberry soda and was very refreshing with the muddled mint. The maple daiquiri was around last year, but our favorite was the Maple Manhattan, which packed some punch. Sweet Pea ordered what we called the Cognac Cream and we happily tasted Kahlua and the glass was ice cold and the drink smooth.
Diva #1 was giddy because she found her old cowboy boots that an ex boyfriend’s uncle had brought back from Calgary in the 80s. Three sizes too big, she never goes to a Sugar Shack without them, although driving standard with them was interesting, they always help make the experience memorable…even if she almost killed Diva #2 in the process…
And then the food marathon began. We started with a terrine of layered avocado, salmon tartare and rice – basically a large sushi. Topped with a palatable gelatin (only Picard can make gelatin exciting) and gold leaf (yes, edible gold), it was a light start to our meal. Mind you this was the only light component of the evening… The bottom of the terrine had a flaky layer that did not get soggy under the heavy layers above. The avocado was creamy and the salmon tartare was fresh, it was devoured in seconds.
Next was the foie gras bread pie with oreilles de crisse. It was served with beans in maple, and scrambled eggs with more maple. The oreilles de crisses, which were piled high on top of the bread pie, were ironically light, airy and very crispy, and not at all greasy, despite being deep fried pork rinds. The pie itself had the Fleur de Lys etched on top and lobes of maple pan seared foie gras within. Vive la Nouvelle France! Unfortunately we never got a picture of the inside because once we opened the bread pie we could not contain ourselves. The foie gras was delicate and tender, perfectly paired with the buttery brioche pie crust that had soaked up the flavours of the maple and foie gras. When we finally get convicted for our many felonies, we would like our last meal to be cooked by Martin Picard!
The omelet soufflé arrived bursting out of a deep Creuset pan. When we broke into the fluffy egg we found homemade chorizo and what we think was tripe within the puffed egg. The deep fried potato nuggets on top of the soufflé collapsed inwards, and this truly made everything excellent. The omelet was light and fluffy, and the chorizo slightly spicy, but we wish that there was more tripe, well if it was tripe…haha! The fried potatoes on top were just that, deep fried perfection. It was served with extra maple syrup on the side to be used at your own discretion…and we lathered our plate in it.
The ham that was smoked in the outside smoker was wheeled over on a butcher block by the most delightful gentleman who came ringing a bell so that people would let him pass. We fell in love… he explained that they cut the ham at the table to optimize the flavour and ensure that the meat isn’t dry. We love a man who knows how to cut meat! Diva #2 almost went home with him, at the insistence of Diva #1. This wonderful Ham Carver suggested making it into an open-faced sandwich using the fried discs of corn meal, which looked like little crêpes, and the accompanying Dijon mustard and butter. We were in somewhat of a foodie-trance and never ended up doing this.
The large plate of ham was put the table; moist, the smokey flavour was very subtle and the fried dough was extra crispy around the edges but airy in the center. And of course, a dousing of maple syrup never hurt anyone – EVER…except maybe a few diabetics. Alongside the pork were some baked buttery sweet potatoes with a fluffy marshmallow topping. Diva #2 is not a huge fan of this popular Southern dish but if anyone was going to make it taste good it would be Martin Picard and he did! The marshmallows were fluffy, whipped and torched like the topping of a meringue pie. The buttery sweet potato added some starchiness and a deep caramelized flavour.
We were all slowing down at this point in the meal, some belt buckles were being loosened, some buttons undone, and some of us took a short walk within the cabin to stretch our legs. We couldn’t go far, lest more food came and our accompanied guests ate it all!
Next came the squid ink pasta with blood sausage, cooked perfectly al dente, the pasta was tossed in a spicy Bolognese sauce with pieces of blood sausage that were slightly crispy on the outside and oh so tender on the inside. The squid ink pasta was divine, the combination of flavours exquisite and the black colour of the pasta with the blood sausage made for a dramatic effect. There were crispy bits of something or other within the pasta, we couldn’t even discern all the flavours but they came together to make a heavenly dish. Tiny drizzles of a chili sauce were added for heat, but this did not take away from the dish.
The duck breast stuffed with innards arrived quite theatrically. The duck breast was brought to our table along with a torch wielding waitress who flambéed the meat to caramelize the fat. As if we weren’t already impressed with the food, they had to add a show! The skin was crispy and the duck breast was cooked rare, as it should be. Underneath the duck breast was a stuffing made up of innards, including liver and heart, that were chopped up and mixed with swiss chard; absolutely enchanting!
After our plates were cleared and leftover containers filled, our waitress asked if we were ready for dessert. The first cake arrived, a maple cream and mocha mousse layered delight. The bottom layer was crispy like a Coffee Crisp in taste and texture, and the layers of cream and mousse were light, smooth and delicious! Two maple candies decorated this cake and it was surprisingly light for all of its many aspects.
Next, the soft serve ice cream which was a frozen yogurt covered in broken maple candy bits. The frozen yogurt was slightly sour and very thick, and the maple candy bits added just a hint of maple to the tart yogurt. It reminded Diva #1 of traditional thick Greek yogurt that isn’t sweet at all but almost bitter. Greeks traditionally serve that yogurt with candy, and it went very well with the maple candy, and in the frozen yogurt format. It came to the table with the most traditional of sugar shack treats, tire sur la neige, or as the English call it, maple taffy. Eating tire sur la neige is a true Quebec cabane à sucre tradition; it always makes us feel like kids again. Except for weirdo Rambo, who as a child was deprived of this sugar shack treat and tried it for the first time with us. She must have had a horrible childhood!
The last dessert was a banana cream pie with a maple meringue, this was by far our favourite dessert. And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds, and nowhere near as sweet as it sounds. The pastry bottom was flaky and tasted like the sheets in a mille feuille, the bananas were cut thick and layered into the creamy pudding. The taste assaulted your mouth in the most pleasurable fashion; all of this was topped off with a thick layer of maple meringue. The Divas are not big fans of meringue, but make it like this, and we were soon licking our fingers clean of the torched meringue. Diva #1 brought her P’tit Frère back a container of leftovers, and another of dessert, but she had to warn him to eat the banana cream pie quickly because she couldn’t promise that she wouldn’t eat it in the morning!
Everyone looked happy and satiated but ready for a nap. As usual, you could buy some delectable PDC items before heading home, including maple cotton candy, maple syrup, their meat pie, other sweets, or the PDC Cabane à Sucre book. It was another successful year at the Au Pied de Cochon Cabane à Sucre. The food was delicious, we had a fun night with friends and it was all worth the more than reasonable set menu price. Apple season is just around the corner, make sure that you go onto their website to reserve starting April 1st. If the 2014 maple season was any indication, it will not be easy to get a reservation, only the dedicated beat the masses.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 11382 Rang De La Fresniere, Always on Thursdays, Banana Cream Pie, Beer on Tap, Blood Sausage, Bread Pie, Cabane à Sucre, Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, Cabane à Sucre PDC, Canard, Chorizo, Cocktails, Duck, Duck Breast, Flambé, foie gras, Foie Gras Pie, Gold Leaf, Innards, J7N 2S4, Magret de Canard, Maple Cream, Maple Mousse, Maple Taffy, Marshmallow, Martin Picard, Martin Picard PDC, Meringue, Omelet Soufflé, PDC, Picard, Pork Rings, Rang De La Fresniere, Reservations Needed, Salmon Tartare, Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Ham, Soft Serve, Soft Serve Frozen Yogurt, Squid Ink Pasta, St-Benoît de Mirabel, St-Eustache, St. Benoit, Sugar Shack, Sweet Potatoes, Terrine, Tire, Tire sur la Neige, wine