The end of February is when Winter starts to soften a bit, and up here in these Northern parts, that also means the gradual introduction of two additional events: the introduction of “mud season” (in which the local dirt roads become almost impassible due to the combination of melting snow, poor drainage, and frost heaving), and “maple season” (in which you drive down those same muddy roads visiting shacks emitting large amounts of steam, in which maple sap is being boiled down). It’s a fun time of year, and quite a few places make a pretty big to-do of it. Over the border in Quebec they take things very seriously, and several large sugaring operations in Quebec host elaborate “Cabane � Sucre” celebrations, usually with copious amounts of food featuring maple. But there’s one of these that outdoes all the others: Cabane � Sucre Au Pied de Cochon.
Located in a large sugarhouse in St Benoit de Mirabel located about 45 minutes Northwest from Montreal, this Cabane � Sucre is special, since it is run by chef Martin Picard from Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon, a culinary establishment already famous for it’s excess, such as cramming fois gras into almost every dish imaginable (you can read my review of the main establishment here). Twice a year, Au Pied de Cochon does special festivals up at their sugarhouse: one in the winter for maple sugar season, and another in the fall for the apple harvest. Both are legendarily difficult reservations to get: the maple dinner reservations open up on a first-come-first-served basis at midnight on 1 Dec every year, and fill quickly. But this year I set my alarm, and soon got a call that I was confirmed for brunch on 23 February…
After a pleasant drive through the mostly-open plains of Quebec (I’m still always amazed how much the geography changes crossing from Vermont into Quebec. It’s like someone flipped a switched and you got transported to some sort of French-speaking Iowa), you arrive in the Maple forests near Mirabel at a reasonably large sugarhouse. Pulling into the parking area, one of the first two things you smell are maple and smoke. When we showed up, they weren’t yet sugaring for the season, but they did have a giant smoker out front, and were finishing up some maple-glazed duck breast (more on that later). Walking inside, the interior is a surprisingly nice dining area, primarily with large wooden tables (the primary seating at the Cabane � Sucre is at a table of 8, with food served family-style, although they’ve got a bar as well for smaller parties, such as our party of two), and more than a little “North Woods” decor, like stuffed coyotes in the rafter. Sitting down at our spot at the bar, we were quickly welcomed by the bartender who offered up a series of maple beverages for us, such as my maple coffee cocktail rimmed with molten maple sugar.
But, after about 10 minutes of enjoying our beverages, the food started to arrive from the kitchen. The Cabane � Sucre dinner is served in several pairs of courses, arriving from the kitchen at approximately 20 minute intervals. So we soon found ourselves with a series of starters. First was the foie gras. You can’t do a meal at PdC without at least a little foie gras happening, and here they opened with it: toast with some excellent maple-seared foie gras and fried pork rinds. This was a rather pleasing foie fras, the maple adding just enough flavor to make the dish pleasantly maply without making it too ,29,777131,0,37994,220.127.116.11
777130,732911,777079,2014-04-28 09:38:49.713000000,Re:VW bus food truck”