It’s that time of year again! If Montreal Oysterfest marks the end of summer for the Divas, harvest season at the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon (PDC) marks the beginning of fall! This special and magical sugar shack, brought to you by Canadian foodie extraordinaire, Martin Picard, has two seasons: harvest (or apple) season in the fall, and maple season in the winter. As usual you have to be at your computer at midnight on a specific day, months in advance of your reservation, to get a chance at a seat at those coveted wooden tables.
Diva #1 and Sweet Pea went with an assortment of cousins from both families, and a few of their friends. It was a fam jam party, with lots of food for everyone! We even had a virgin amongst us, Sweet Pea’s new beau was in attendance, and he had never tasted the marvels of Martin Picard’s cooking, he’s now a believer and can’t wait for maple season at Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon.
While we waited for our whole table to arrive, before being seated, we found the cutest little kittens hiding under the smoker for warmth. Of course Diva #1 had to crawl under the very hot smoker, that was on in full force, to nab a kitten. The kitten’s mother almost mauled her, but Diva #1 prevailed. Sweet Pea shook her head in her usual disgust whereas Sweet Pea’s beau seemed generally concerned that Diva #1 was insane.
Many of you don’t know this but Sweet Pea is a popcorn addict, she makes it on the stove top, fresh, with plenty of butter and delicious sea salt. She’s a popcorn making pro, so when fresh Quebec corn that was partially popped like popcorn arrived on various candelabras, Sweet Pea swooned. The corn had a dressing of melted gouda and garlic butter for added richness, and a little bit of pepper for a kick, we were soon licking our fingers so as not to waste any of the corn’s topping.
We were VERY excited when a tree stump arrived at our table but we behaved ourselves and didn’t dig into it while we ordered our cocktails. We tried a few cocktails including a raspberry daiquiri, and a maple cocktail with gin and champagne. A favourite of the group was a homemade cherry coke with rum, the cherry coke was not too sweet, and as usual, all the cocktails at PDC are on the strong side.
The tree just sat there teasing us when a waiter with an electric saw arrived and cut open the little tree. We were explained that inside the tree was hare and foie gras pâté with pistachios in a terrine of black pudding with sesame powder. The whole tree was edible, and very delicious. This would be delicious with crusty country bread but no one would dare fill their bellies with bread at this sugar shack, you need to save room for what’s to come!
Imagine a traditional Caesar salad, then take that memory and erase it because Martin Picard’s Caesar salad is unlike any Caesar salad that you have ever tried. Thick pieces of lardons, a step above bacon, plenty of parmigiano and homemade oily and crunchy croutons were tossed with romaine lettuce and the creamiest Caesar salad dressing. Fried capelin was also tossed in the salad giving it an added fishy taste that usually comes from anchovies, in a traditional Caesar salad, which you could eat whole, head and all.
In case you forgot, Au Pied de Cochon is ALL about foie gras and we know that some of you are squeamish about suffering geese, but we just aren’t those people. But we were very happy that some of those people were sitting next to us, so we ate their foie gras too. What a great evening!
The foie gras was poached in honey and topped with a tart cherry compote that we simply couldn’t get enough of. The combination of sweet, fat and tart made for a delectable appetizer. A slice of crisped baguette, prepared like a large crouton had a layer of goat cheese and basil, we were explained that you ate the foie gras and cherry compote on the croutons. The foie gras was prepared poêlé, each bite more decadent than the last!
Harvest season at the cabane à sucre had an Asian feel to it. It started when a plate of sushi arrived at our table. The maki pieces were topped with a very fresh salmon tartare, we don’t often get to try tartare at the PDC sugar shack. The real winner was the nigiri that was topped with both salmon and a healthy piece of foie gras. Once again the foie gras haters tossed the foie gras onto Diva #1’s plate and she gleefully ate it all.
The Asian motif continued when an entire salmon, smoked in the PDC’s smoker, arrived at the table. Our waiter explained that the salmon was miso glazed offering a sweet n’ salty flavour from a mix of miso (soybean paste), soy sauce and brown sugar. It had a smoky taste too, fresh from the smoker! We’ve never tasted salmon this good, and one of the cousins even ate the eye of the whole fish.
And then the meat arrived, this time it was a lamb shank confit cooked in the sweetest glaze predominantly made with an au jus sauce from the meat. We were too enamoured with the dish to listen to the description that are waiter gave us. Cooked in its own fat, confit style, the lamb melted off the bone and not one little piece remained to take home. Topped with parsley and cherry tomatoes, this was our favourite of two meat dishes.
The second dish was a stuffed chicken with plenty of wild mushrooms in a pesto sauce. The sauce was oily but full of flavour, each bite either earthy because of the mushrooms, creamy from the sauce or herby from the pesto. The chicken was not your usual hormonally ejected large chicken, but smaller and the meat tastier, in traditional Picard fashion he made something as simple as chicken, taste marvelous.
What we thought was dessert was instead a twist on an old favourite. A mille feuille arrived at our table but it was anything but typical. This mille feuille was made with poached salmon, béchamel, creamy mashed potatoes and a spinach sauce with lemon confit. The fish was creamy due to the béchamel and the lemon confit and spinach sauce was absolutely perfect when incorporated into a bite of salmon.
Then a little treat arrived, a row of fresh bite size apple doughnuts, covered in pink icing sugar. The catch? One of the doughnuts was in fact a rhubarb doughnut, and whoever ate that doughnut won a Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon cookbook. Two people from our group were outside smoking when the doughnuts arrived. We all ate our apple doughnuts knowing that when they returned, one of them was going to get the rhubarb doughnut and win the cookbook…
The cookbook was used as a tray that brought over the most delicious carrot cake. The secret? This carrot cake was also made with beets, it truly was a harvest cake, with not one but two root vegetables. Honey sweetened the carrots and the traditional cream cheese frosting was not too sweet, the cake was layered to perfection, and we devoured it.
To keep the book clean, which was a tray for the cake, the cake had a paper keeping it from touching the cookbook. The paper was the recipe of this cake, which of course we fought over until someone had the bright idea of simply taking a picture of the recipe. If you read the recipe, you’ll see that the ingredients and the recipe are rather simple. It truly is about the quality of ingredients, as opposed to using fancy ingredients that are hard to find in Montreal.
We didn’t think that they could come close to the apple pie with aged cheddar and foie gras of yesteryears, but god dammit Martin Picard, you dabbled quite closely with this apple pie. Apples are to harvest season in Quebec, as peanut butter is to jam. This apple pie was full of delicious apples and an almond paste that was a perfectly creamy addition to every bite of apple. The buttery crust was flawless; all it was missing was some foie gras 😉
And how do you eat warm apple pie? With ice cream of course! This season we tried three different ice creams, a cherry ice cream, dark chocolate and a mint ice cream that was our favourite of the three. The dark chocolate and cherry ice cream were delicious when combined, as was the dark chocolate and the mint but for something refreshing the mint ice cream on its own is perfection.
If you want to read about our 2016 maple season adventures at the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon click HERE – If you want to read about last year’s harvest season at PDC, please click HERE. But instead of reading about it, we recommend that you book a table for next season’s Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, all this food for 63$ +tx and we promise you that you’ll be going home with a full belly and leftovers.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
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