WOW! What a meal! I’m all for any restaurant that is “cramming foie gras into every dish imaginable”.
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 ,29,777131,0,37994,126.96.36.199
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It’s worth mentioning the other place I ate in Quebec, Le Chien Fumant. The fact that the Cabane a Sucre starts off in the morning made this more or less a required overnight stay in Montreal, so we decided to visit a few of our favorite Montreal watering holes (Le Cheval Blanc and Dieu du Ciel), and then find someplace for a light dinner (since while I knew PdC would be a massive foodfest, I didn’t yet appreciate the extent of it). We ducked over to a Le Chien Fumant (“The Smoking Dog”):
Walking in, it was immediately obvious that Le Chien Fumant is one of the more popular bistros in that part of town, since it was thoroughly packed, even considering the fact that it was a Saturday night. Indeed, this is where a small problem cropped up: the previous party on our table was still only half-finished with their meal, so it was going to be a bit of a wait before we could get seated. But as the wait started to get a bit uncomfortable, the staff made it up to us by giving us a free charcuterie plate to nosh on while we waited. Considering that this was one of the things I was looking forward to (the restaurant has a nice charcuterie refrigerator right next to the front door), this was a nice little treat, and the charcuterie was very pleasant and nicely done, with some very rich pork flavors. I d happily get this again:
As I mentioned above, the goal was to get a few small plates to let us explore the menu, without filling us up. The first was a relatively simple starter of a frisee salad and some grilled polenta. A simple dish, but it was perfectly executed: the polenta was right on the nice balance point between firm and smooth , with a nice crisp and a rich savorful flavor. The salad was nicely dressed, and served up with a nice cheese grated over it:
The next course was also a fairly simple one, but also nearly perfectly executed: thick and generous pork medallions roasted up and served in a pleasant sauce over a bad of mash: this wasn t haute cuisine, but it was very nicely done: the interior moist, the flavor rich, and the skin nicely crisped:
The real attraction, however, was the beef carpaccio. Instead of being served up as the traditional carpaccio with cheese and lemon, this was served up Korean style, with a rich bulgogi-style marinate heavy with sesame notes. Usually the thing I really like about bulgogi is the crispness of the just-seared meat, but here it worked well with the perfectly thin-sliced slivers of quality ribeye meat. I d get this again in a second:
About the idea of not filling up by getting small plates? This turned out to be a miscalculation on two different levels: first of all, the small plates at Le Chien Fumant are actually fairly generous, and the portions of the dinner at the Cabane a Sucre were enormous. Ideally, we should have just fasted. For several days. But you know, I m still rather happy that we go to enjoy Le Chien Fumant, since the food was quite delicious, the staff friendly, and the ambiance cozy. I ll definitely give them another try on another visit.
(Full review here[/url])
I could eat foie gras with saut�ed apples…….and a slice of toasted brioche!
Showing you how these things go…. since I went to their Maple event, they opened reservations for Apple season on April 1st, and were sold out by April 3rd (that’s for several seatings of ~100 people each a day, every day from August 15th through November 1st).
Now I have an excuse to go to Canada! WHat a great report, (as usual) and a great location.
Terrific meal. Terrific review
That was a lot of groceries and I believe our own BB would have had to take a break. Great pics.
Paul E. Smith
I have to 2nd lleechef on this one. While foie gras has been banned in California, it is alive and well in Nevada. Well, not really alive.
Really terrific report. Wow, what a meal. I was raised on meat and potatoes so I’m not sure what I would make of the foods but I’d love an opportunity to at least try a few bites and, at any rate, reading about it is fascinating. All the time I was thinking ‘how in the world did they manage to eat all that?’. Then at the very bottom when you said you ate only about a third of each, I was enlightened. Boy, even then, I think I’d be stuffed for the day.
You have to realize I was raised on word play. When you mentioned a ‘french speaking Iowa’ I thought just the people or the whole ground too. Also, the stuffed coyotes… Now I know what they do with the coyote visitors after a meal. What about everyone else?
See you managed to entertain me in two ways today and I appreciate it.[:D][:o)][}:)][lol]
Maple, Foie Gras, and Excess in Quebec
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