We were lucky enough to have been sort of "in the right place at the right time" the inaugural year of Au Pied De Cochon's sugar shack and got ourselves a reservation. It was, to say the least, a very memorable meal. On our way home that night there was serious conversation about whether to find a hotel to stop at rather than try to drive back to Montreal on such a full stomach. We were for lack of a better word, "drunk" on food. The next year we missed the boat and completely forgot to call or e-mail for a reservation, by the time we remembered we were far too late. We promised ourselves that in 2011 it wouldn't happen again. So back in October 2010 we e-mailed requesting a reservation for 2 to be sure we weren't late to the party, to our dismay we never heard back. Then, 5 months later our foodie prayers were answered. Our version of a small miracle occurs when we get a random call from an area code 450 phone number on a saturday evening, its Cabane À Sucre Au Pied De Cochon letting us know that we were the next call back on the reserve waiting list in case others had cancelled. We were offered a Friday 8:30 PM reservation and we gladly accepted it in a heartbeat.
Upon arrival we are seated in traditional cabane à sucre fashion at a communal long table with benches in a wide open dining room (if you are not a large enough party of people to fill a full table of 8 expect to sit along side strangers, embrace the atmosphere, have a good time with it.) Our waiter arrives and explains that it's a 54$ pp. fixed price 12 course menu with one optional course ( tourtière full-20$ 1/2-10$) to make it 13 courses. We opt for the additional course and it's off to the races, let the gluttony begin.
Course 1 is freshly shucked oysters (may we add that the oyster shucker was wearing a really cool raccoon hat) topped with maple syrup, mandarin gelée and lime juice served on a bead of rock salt on a sliced cross-section of a maple tree. They were briny and slightly sweet, a fantastic way to kick start your appetite. Next were the appetizers , courses 2 through 5 all served simultaneously. A sterling example of a classic french canadian pea soup with generous pieces of foie gras stirred into it. Maple smoked sturgeon served with ployes, a small green herb salad, sour cream, and pickled onion this dish turned out to be one of the stand-out favorites of the night. A sushi maki roll that could only come out of this kitchen made with salmon gravlax, lettuce, rice and cretons, wrapped in nori, served with a tasty wasabi infused dipping sauce. And finally a salad of romaine lettuce, walnuts, cubed cheddar cheese and ham tossed in a dijon maple vinaigrette and topped with oreilles de crisse which are a Quebecois cabane à sucre staple : deep fat fried pieces of pig skin.
Prix Fixe Menu - 54$
Oysters, Mandarin Gelée, Maple Syrup, Lime Juice
Maple Smoked Sturgeon, Ployes, Sour Cream, Herb Salad, Pickled Onion
Sushi Maki, Salmon Gravlax, Cretons, Lettuce, Wasabi Dipping Sauce
Salad - Romaine, Cheddar & Ham Cubes, Oreilles De Crisse, Walnuts, Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
Pea Soup with Foie Gras
Next was the optional course of tourtière. Tourtière is a traditional french canadian meat pie, this one was not made exclusively of ground meat there were also pieces of pulled meat in it. It tasted lightly of clove and nutmeg and the pie crust was incredibly tender and flaky, not the type of crust you push to the side of your plate. A lot of people eat their tourtière with ketchup so they offered their own home made tomato ketchup, which was terrific.
Tourtière & House Ketchup (Xtra Course Full-20$ 1/2-10$)
At this point any human being short of a lumberjack does not rationally require any more calories but this is no place for people without outrageous appetites; we haven't even had our mains yet! So, here we go again. Our mains arrive and they are quite the spectacle to behold. A lobster omelette soufflé the size of a whole cast iron pan, served in the pan itself with the lobster body sticking out of it. The omelette was fluffy and full of lobster pieces topped with potato and even more lobster claw pieces. A smoked pork shoulder served in an enamel cooking dish slathered in maple syrup with batonettes of carrot and rutabaga, it tasted fantastic and there was no question that it had been smoked because the smokey flavor was front and forward. Finally a whole chicken served intact with its feet and head hanging out of the dish. It was served in a pool of a maple beer sauce, fried gnocchi and seared pieces of foie gras. The chicken was moist and tender, the sauce was outrageous, the foie gras was welcomed with open arms but to be honest the gnocchi were slightly sticky and gluey. After you've finished what you can manage to eat from your bevy of mains your server arrives with silver take-out trays and encourage the various members of your party to take home with you what you have inevitably been unable to shovel in your now maple syrup covered face, then tells you to "save a little room for dessert". Is this some sort of cruel joke? But no, it is not.
Lobster Egg Souflée, Potatoes
Smoked Pork Shoulder, Maple Syrup, Carrot, Rutabaga
Chicken, Beer & Maple Sauce, Gnocchi, Foie Gras
Desserts arrive once you signal to your waiter that you feel in some pitiful capacity capable of eating even more food but it's all just so good that it would take more willpower than certainly either one of us have to stop now. Desserts are a wonderful sticky, sweet apple tart-tatin with vanilla ice cream, a full bowl sized dome of maple walnut ice cream that was so light it tasted like frozen whipped cream turned upside down and covered in melted chocolate, sweet pancakes deep fried in duck fat with crispy edges like funnel cake, and of course, what would cabane à sucre be without tire d'erable? Hot maple syrup poured directly on snow so that it seizes into a taffy like consistency with a good old popsicle stick to wrap it around.
Apple Tart-Tatin, Vanilla Ice Cream
Sweet Pancakes Fried in Duck Fat
Chocolate Covered Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Dome
In our estimation there is no one better than Chef Martin Picard and his staff to have taken on the challenge of producing a successful upscale version of the Quebecois cabane à sucre experience. The Au Pied De Cochon brand has become a protector, collector and purveyor of Quebec food culture and traditional recipes so it only seems natural for them to have made this expansion of their foie gras empire seem so logical. This is certainly not the cabane à sucre you remember traveling to with your classmates on school field trips in yellow buses. But, at the same time it doesn't stray so far from those same memories you have that it becomes forced or unfamiliar. Leaving hungry is impossible and the dinner is a marathon so if you're lucky enough to get yourself a reservation the best advice we have is to pace yourself, seriously. And don't forget to pick up a take-home tourtière on your way out either. Already can't wait for next year, hope to see you all there, but judging by the exloding popularity in combination with the scarcity of seats in the short season they are open... maybe not so many of you that we have trouble getting ourselves in!
Cabane À Sucre Au Pied De Cochon11382 Rang De La Fresnière
St-Benoît De Mirabel, QC