In Quebec, the beginning of spring is synonymous with sugar shacks and while the majority are outside of Montreal, recently, many restaurants have started urban versions, offering menus filled with maple-inspired dishes. The Divas were invited to the first night of Renoir’s Chalet Urbain Sortilège, which is held on their heated terrace every Thursday, from 5 to 8 pm, until April 13th. Sortilège is a Canadian whisky blended with pure maple syrup, and we were quite happy to see that every cocktail at Renoir’s Chalet Urbain involved wonderful maple Sortilège.
We arrived at the Sofitel Montreal and took advantage of the valet parking since we were already running late…what a surprise! We were greeted at the door with a glass of hot Caribou, a sweet Quebec red wine with whiskey and maple syrup, perfect to keep us warm. Once on the heated terrace, complete with heat lamps, a BBQ and a fire pit at the far end, we were given empty maple syrup cans for our complimentary cocktail of Sortilège on ice. Not only was the presentation fun but the drink was the perfect balance acidity with sweetness.
A little wooden cabin was set up and Chef Olivier Perret was inside, dishing out the pulled pork and foie gras beans. This is the first year that the Sofitel builds an urban cabane à sucre, and the staff, some Renoir regulars and other visitors were all enjoying the festivities on this crisp winter evening. Somehow, we ended up inside the cabin with Chef Perret, warming up, with our drink in hand. The Renoir en Sucre cabin was perfectly toasty. The shelves were lined with cans of maple syrup and bottles of Sortilège and snow was packed on the bar, ready to be doused in maple taffy, or tire as it is called in French. We chatted with Chef Perret and Stephanie, a manager from the Sofitel, about the Renoir en Rose event that we had also attended at the Renoir, while indulging in the delicious sugar shack amuse bouche.
The pulled pork was tender, succulent, and not drowning in sauce, absolutely decadent! And the maple flavour was present but it wasn’t overtly sweet. On the Renoir’s maple menu, only available until April 13th, the pulled pork is served as a sandwich with a maple endive salad. On our visit, we enjoyed it as an amuse bouche underneath the foie gras beans. The beans were excellent as well, cooked al dente, they weren’t mushy at all and more importantly, they were cooked with foie gras! Usually, sugar shack beans are overcooked and you don’t even need teeth to eat them. These still had bite to them, were almost stewed and were well paired with the pulled pork. Once again you can get the foie gras beans with maple as a dish in the Renoir. The Chalet Urbain is on their terrace but the festivities continue inside with a DJ and a maple inspired menu at the bar.
Diva #1 had just finished telling Diva #2 that the first time that she had had Sortilège was at her Halloween party when Ms. Garde Manger brought a bottle. Maybe her ears were burning because we soon received a text demanding to know if the Sortilège event was fabulous and that she and her boo were going to drop by for drinks. Diva #1 absolutely loves it when her friends pop by after seeing the Divas tag themselves in different restaurants and bars in Montreal. And it is truly an honour when Ms. Garde Manger actually leaves Garde Manger!!!
You can’t be at a sugar shack and not have tire sur la neige or maple taffy and since we were warm and cozy inside the cabin, we had easy access to the maple goodness being poured on the snow in front of us. And we had more than one sample, trying our best not to get it in our hair! You can never have too much maple taffy and Chef Perret’s tire wasn’t too sweet either which was quite different from the usual sugary taffy that we are used to. For true maple lovers, Renoir also sells maple taffy lollipops which we sadly did not get to sample!
After our sugar fix, or sugar high, we headed inside to the bar area and sat in the comfortable leather chairs. The DJ was playing and the vibe was very relaxed. We looked over the Sortilège cocktail menu and ordered the mojito and martini. We were given complimentary snacks that included maple flavoured popcorn, spicy black and green olives and mixed nuts. We actually aren’t sure if the popcorn was maple flavoured or if we had eaten too much maple and it was on our lips, but either way it was fabulous!
The mojito was served in a mason jar with a handle, with plenty of mint to freshen it up, the Sortilège gave it a little kick but a nice balance. We asked for the martini to be made with gin instead of vodka and the bar obliged. Definitely the stronger of the two drinks, it was poured from a maple syrup flask and had the pale orange colouring of the Sortilège, but with impressive gold leaf floating on top. These were serious cocktails, potent and delectable.
The maple menu had a few options but we were both eyeing the French onion soup with maple syrup. When it arrived we could smell the cheese before it hit the table. Served in a white ceramic bowl on a pedestal, the aroma was intoxicating. The cheese on top was either a Brie or Raclette cheese, creamy and plentiful. Perfectly melted with crisp edges, it covered the abundant amount of sweet caramelized onions. The broth was a rich brown colour, the baguette wasn’t soggy at all and it was the best French Onion Soup that we had ever had in Montreal. We would have loved some extra French baguette to soak up the broth but our bowls were soon completely clean.
Ms. Garde Manger and her boo arrived, drinks already in hand from the outdoor chalet. We drank and chatted, crediting her for introducing us to Sortilège as we planned the rest of our evening. Before leaving, we were given a little thank you gift, three mini bottles of Sortilège one being the original, and two new flavours: spiced nuts and caramel. How absolutely divine! We all went off to meet Whitey at Geppetto’s for pizza; she is easily bribed with the promise of pizza, alcohol and seeing Ms. Garde Manger outside of her usual habitat.
Renoir’s Chalet Urbain Sortilège takes place every Thursday from 5 to 8pm until April 13th on their heated terrace and at the bar. There is a DJ and BBQ, and it’s a great experience in the city where the sugar shack comes to you! The maple flavoured menu is served daily at lunch and dinner, and the cocktails are fantastic. There is also a Maple Brunch on Sundays, and a 3 course meal with cocktail pairings at the Renoir. All maple inspired and in the cabane à sucre spirit! The Divas already plan to come back for another 5 à 8 with friends and we are sure that the Chalet Urbain Sortilège will become a new tradition at the Renoir.
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