Two alarm clock reminders, one email and a little bit of luck. With that, the Divas were thrilled to get our callback for the Au Pied de Cochon (PDC) Cabane à Sucre. On December 1st over one thousand people emailed the PDC Cabane à Sucre requesting (read: begging for) a reservation. We gathered our friends and headed to Martin Picard’s St. Benoit sugar shack, the smell from the red outdoor smoker wafting to greet us.We stepped inside the wood cabin, complete with full bar, and hung our coats. Diva #2 tried to convince Vegan Vixen to “rescue” one of the lobsters in the tanks but she wasn’t buying her BS. Yes, Vegan Vixen came to the cabane à sucre and made another valiant attempt to continue her charade. But Martin Picard can ruin vegetarians and they are secretly grateful to him!
Joining the Divas on this culinary adventure were Sweet Pea (appropriately dressed in leggings and a loose sweater to overeat), the Artist (and her Russian lover) and Dr. Body Shots (in case we needed medical care).
We sat at the typical Sugar Shack communal table after ordering some drinks. They had a maple Vodka martini, complete with a maple taffy swizzle stick. A bourbon cocktail with homemade maple soda and maple jello, which was by far our favourite. They also had a maple daiquiri and maple beer but we didn’t taste those. Though these drinks were not part of the set price of the evening they were worth every penny. We were soon licking our lips and tasting maple no matter what we were eating!
We anxiously awaited our first course after our waitress told us that, this year, our meal would start and end with dessert! Isn’t this every child’s dream? Every child dreams of dessert before dinner and every adult dreams of alcoholic maple drinks. Our first dessert was a multi-layered affair, sitting on wood tree rings acting as trays. We enjoyed maple cotton candy, toffee, crème caramel, donut holes, mini ice cream cones filled with maple taffy, homemade whippets, maple popcorn, maple flan soaked in alcohol, almond / maple croissants and individual Jack Daniels Maple Shots. That’s right alcohol + maple soda.
The maple theme was concurrent throughout the night. A feast for the eyes for sure, our favourites were the donut holes, very light and full of flavour, and the croissant was divine, flaky and tender. Even the maple flan and maple cotton candy were lovely. And of course, a Diva favourite, the maple popcorn, which we made sure to buy at the end of our night. Everything had maple but the desserts were unique and made for different combinations that you did not get tired of.
Dessert opened up our appetites for what was to come. Our first course consisted of four dishes. We started with a traditional dish of sorts, fried pork rinds (aka oreilles de crises). But these were light and fluffy and, ironically, served on a salad which had rabbit hearts and other delectable innards, with a creamy blue cheese dressing. These are not the overly salty pork rinds that most sugar shack adventurers are used to, these babies were gourmet! It made a mockery of the term “side salad.”
We anxiously awaited the duck, since Picard is the man who invented duck in a can. When it arrived we grinned in delight. At this point Diva#1 was dizzy from all of the maple glory. When she has too much sugar it is extremely similar to too much alcohol. The duck was encompassed in a shrimp/salmon mousse which was then covered in panko crumbs, deep fried and served with a maple BBQ sauce on the side. This was definitely one of our favourite dishes and we wished there were more than four served. The duck was succulent, the mousse was creamy but you could still see pieces of shrimp and salmon. The crunchy coating was wonderful and the combination of tastes perfect. Dr. Body Shots who is not a big eater was soon eyeing the last duck leg and of course Diva#1 assisted her by thieving it for her consumption.
Next up, an extremely generous amount of foie gras, which was poached in maple and served on crêpes. The foie gras was also served with baked beans, another cabane à sucre specialty but once again not the usual canned variety. Cottage cheese decorated this plate and thick slices of pork, lardons style. Au Pied de Cochon Cabane à Sucre makes Quebec country cooking divine! The Divas never had foie gras that tasted so good and even Vegan Vixen enjoyed it and did not care about the dead geese. Who could after tasting that fatty maple perfection?
Soon an omelette with thick slices of bacon and brain arrived at our table. Yes, brains. Not everyone is eager to sample this but as you know, the Divas will put just about anything in their mouths, and brain was no exception. In general Diva #1 does not favour brain, it is her least favourite innard due to the texture and bland taste. This brain was slightly crispy on the outside (probably pan seared) with a hint of maple. The inside had a unique texture that most will not enjoy (including Vegan Vixen who cautiously put some in her mouth). So while it was not a favourite, it was a good rendition of any type of brains that we had tried. Picard likes to use shock value in his cooking and he truly did this year.
The food coma was starting to set in but the second course was on its way. First up was a ham glazed in white wine and maple, decorated with a pineapple slice and red cherry. Not big fans of ham, this was delicious and moist. Not at all like the bland ham that is usually available at the Cabane à Sucre. It was also served with roast potatoes but the Divas and Sweet Pea didn’t bother filling up on the potatoes so we could indulge in the whole chicken which was stuffed with foie gras, lobster and cotechino, and served with a bisque-type gravy.
If the chicken was not moist enough, the delicious sauce only made it more tender. The chicken was juicy and the stuffing was overflowing and delicious, but the sauce was absolutely mouthwatering and velvety-smooth. The head of the chicken was also served and when Diva #1 was done posing with it, Diva #2 enjoyed the flavourful meat. Like we said, Picard’s menu is not for the faint of heart, many people look stunned when the whole chicken arrived at the table complete with the head. But where were the feet? We were looking forward to eating them! The chicken was also served on top of crisp green beans and almonds… this was perfect for Vegan Vixen.
The Divas and company were certainly feeling drowsy from all the food but our second serving of desserts was on its way. Diva #1’s eye lit up when she saw the tire sur la neige. Individual taffy portions sat on top of the most creamy maple ice cream. Had we been able to buy the ice cream, our trunk would have been full! The perfect end to a typical sugar shack meal, tire is essential and without it something would have been missing. The maple ice cream just added to the wonderful maple taffy and we were soon wondering if we could take a nap before heading home.
A homemade maple jello (which was also in the bourbon drink) and yogurt cube was also served with the desserts. The yogurt was cool and slightly sour, and was masterfully incorporated with the maple jello cubes. Diva#1 was very jealous because she has always failed at making jello. Vegan Vixen absolutely loved this! But who wouldn’t? We are sure that the yogurt was made of goat’s milk, it was a great dessert.
Last was the angel food cake with pecans and maple meringue. The cake was light and the pecans added a nice crunch with the soft meringue. Too bad we were not more people because we saw a few tables receive an entire maple cake served in a glass case smokey with dry ice. Even the meringue was unique. It tasted a bit like melted marshmallows and the angel food cake was so soft that we butchered it while cutting it.
The Artist was sure that she had developed diabetes. Dr. Body Shots couldn’t stop smiling and dreaming of duck. Vegan Vixen survived in an unnatural habitat (inside, the Divas are bursting with pride that she tried everything). Sweet Pea was glad for her choice of loose clothing and no underwear. And though Diva #1 uttered the words “no more foie gras” and Diva #2’s heart rate slowed considerably, Martin Picard and his team have found a way to make people happy … start and end with dessert, add maple, the sweet nectar of the gods, and foie gras to everything and let people indulge to their hearts content! We even had leftovers and we were so full…
Before leaving, we bought a few of the products from the cabane à sucre, including the maple popcorn, tire, a lot of maple butter and the meat pie. We also left with the anticipation of attending the Au Pied de Cochon’s Apple Season Dinner, which happens in the fall and consists of a menu crafted around apples. This dinner was an absolute steal for only $59. We welcomed the food coma, knowing we would never be able to go back to a regular sugar shack again.
Au Pied de Cochon also has two cookbooks, one on the sugar shack that won Gourmand World Cookbook Awards as cookbook of the year, and the other on its Montreal restaurant. Of course the Divas own both because:
Montreal + Gourmet Food=Montreal Food Divas
We left PDC sugar shack thinking that we can rarely say that we had too much foie gras because it is usually served as an appetizer or in a tiny amount. The Divas proudly admitted to being full of foie gras, a beautiful feeling that we hope everyone can one day experience. Before anyone thinks that the 59$ flat rate (including the Jack Daniels maple shots) was too much for a cabane à sucre…JUST STOP. There is no restaurant in Montreal where all of this could be ordered and leave you with so many leftovers for such a great price. So we loosened our belts, unbuttoned our pants, and went home feeling satisfied.
Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, Bourbon, Brain, Cabane à Sucre, Cookbook, Cookbook of the Year, Cotechino, Cotton Candy, Crème Caramel, Crêpe, Dessert, Donut Holes, Duck, foie gras, French, Glazed Ham, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, Hearts, Innards, Jack Daniels, Lobster, Maple, Maple Beer, Maple Daiquiri, Maple Ice Cream, Maple Jello, Maple Martini, Maple Soda, Maple Syrup, Martin Picard, Meringue, Mirabel, Omelet, Oreilles de Crises, PDC, Picard, Pied de Cochon, Popcorn, Pork Rinds, Quebec, Rabbit, Rang De La Fresniere, Shots, St-Eustache, St. Benoit, Stuffed Chicken, Sucrerie, Sugar Shack, Taffy, Tire, Yogurt