Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de CochonPosted By Jennifer Ho Mar 03 2013 · 1 comment · Dining Out, Events
As if the first time wasn’t enough, we headed back to Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon for Round 2: the winter edition themed around Quebec’s famous sugar shacks or cabanes à sucre, si tu préfères. As Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, it is no surprise that maple syrup is a major point of pride in both our economy and our cooking (does no one remember the $6 million pounds of maple syrup stolen last December?). Martin Picard is one of the chefs at the forefront of promoting maple syrup as a defining feature of Quebecois or Canadian cuisine – and not just as a topping or a glaze for breakfast foods. He takes it to a whole other level, as we’re about to see…
Making the snowy drive up to Mirabel, we went for the early seating this time, hoping the wait might a little shorter. It was. As usual, the place was packed. No surprises here – Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon often sells out all its seats within the first few hours it announces open season. We sent in our reservations the minute reservations became valid this season and only heard back about two months later, a solid testament to how popular this place is.
Most of us had fasted for the day in preparation for the feast we knew we were getting ourselves into. Having experienced the legend in person last October, we were ready to try the original version of the sugar shack. Settling in for the long haul, we rubbed our hands with excitement and looked around at our neighbours dishes to get an idea of what was to come. The smell of meat and maple in the air both heightened our anticipation and created a vague sense of premature drowsiness and sense of fullness before the meal even began. Luckily, before the latter started to sink in and do any sort of damage, our server popped over and explained the cocktails to us. We ordered a martini, a daiquiri and two stiff drinks all garnished with maple in one form or another. The martini had a stick of maple steeping in, another had a cube of maple jello in it.
Shortly after, the meal began. Beginning and ending the meal with dessert, we were greeted with a triple decker of stacked logs full of sweet treats. I’m talking maple cotton candy, caramel popcorn in paper triangles, maple madeleines, maple toffee cones, chocolate coated whippets with sprinkles on top, crème caramel and buttery, perfectly flaky almond croissants. We said “Oh my God”, did a once over of the precarious structure and started digging in. Funny what eating nothing all day then ingesting a huge amount of sugar does to you. You can only imagine…Then, we did the shots of Jack with maple syrup. Oh boy. If there was any doubt about what we were getting ourselves into, all traces of it vanished.
After asking for a tupperware and packing what we couldn’t finish of the desserts, a quartet of dishes: duck leg wrapped in salmon, crispy pig ear salad with chopped hearts, a crepe smothered with foie gras and a bacon, cheese and potato dish. The duck legs were my favourite – simple, flavourful, deep fried to maintain a crisp exterior and a warm, more tender interior. I liked the way the hearts and the pig ears were cooked. Paired with a couple handfuls of green leaves, this might have been the single healthiest dish we had all night. For me, the crepes and potato plates were overly salty and rich – every bite I took either had too much fat or foie gras for my taste.
Did you think that was it? No, that would be inappropriate. Think again. For the mains (I repeat, the mains), we had a whole chicken stuffed with lobster and foie gras as well as a huge quarter of a ham, surrounded by skinned potatoes and pineapples with a cherry on top. Can’t even describe the way this part of the meal went except that everyone took a turn walking around outside, undid a button or two and took a breather before sitting back down and even looking at the food again was possible. Having just a couple bites of each – that’s all I could manage at this point – the ham seemed to be pretty tender and juicy, with a hint of sweetness from the fruit. The chicken was nicely cooked as well – the foie gras and lobster tumbled out from the inside easily, but was again just a touch too salty.
Patting our bellies and panting a little bit, we welcomed dessert. The first came in a mysterious glass cover, smoke billowing about, trapped on the inside. As soon as the glass dome was lifted, an angel cake appeared. Slathered with a thick, gooey, white layer of whipped marshmallows, the inside revealed a sweet sponge cake. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cake but I did appreciate the beautiful presentation. I did, on the other hand, very much enjoy the maple-yogurt jello which was just a little sour as well as the soft serve ice cream served with four sticks of maple toffee. Sweet, but not overly sweet.
You’re here to get your hands dirty. Granted, it gets a little sloppy – but that’s the point. Everything is big, it’s obnoxious and it’s in your face. This is food that doesn’t back down. I respect that. Interestingly enough, Round 2 didn’t feel as intense as the first time we came. Maybe we’d been sufficiently desensitized – maybe there was less food (relative, of course) because for some reason, we mutually felt less overwhelmed as a collective. That might actually be a good thing.
You go for the experience – perhaps less so for the food itself. It is worthy to mention though, at the expense of repeating myself, that the prices at Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon are very reasonable, so much so it’s almost a steal. For the set meal that you see here, we paid $60 each.
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