fig. a: actual map used to get to PDC Sugar Shack
By now, if you've been keeping up with the sugar shacking scene here in Quebec, as I'm sure you have been, the basic outline of this story is probably familiar to you:
1. Earlier this year, Martin Picard & the rest of the gang at Montreal's Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon took the next logical step in their 10-year plan and bought a nice chunk of land outside of Mirabel that came complete with an extensive sugar bush and a sugar shack.
2. There they went ahead and opened their latest venture, Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon.
3. In typical fashion, they took the classic cabane à sucre menu, and turned it on its porky little ear.
4. Crowds have come flocking and Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, which was originally meant to be something of a lark, a respite for Au Pied de Cochon's weary équipe and their loved ones, has been fully booked for weeks now.
Sensing that Quebec was more than ready for an upstart sugar shack (we certainly were), "...an endless banquet" went ahead and made a reservation for opening night, way back in March. The thing is, opening night got bumped. That's right, a couple of days before we got a polite phone call informing us that they'd had to roll back the opening by a night, and, unfortunately, the next night was out of the question for us. And by the time we got around to calling back and trying to rebook, they were totally complet--right into May. So we put ourselves on the waiting list and said our prayers.
And--wouldn't you know it--a few weeks later we actually got a call back. Some poor suckers had bowed out and suddenly we found ourselves with a reservation for three at the bar, which just happens to be our preferred way of dining at Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon.
From the moment we got to Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon's location in St-Benoît de Mirabel, we loved the look of the place. No sleigh rides, no petting zoo, no period costumes, and, this being a rather balmy late-April evening, no snow. Just a simple sugar shack, a street hockey court, and some tractors.
fig. b: Hockey Night in Canada
And this ain't no vanity project either. Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon is an honest-to-goodness sugar shack sitting on a heavily forested parcel of land. Why buy gallons and gallons of maple syrup if you can make almost 550 gallons of your own? Why buy firewood for your famous wood-burning oven if you can chop your own? And wouldn't it be nice to raise 50 free-range pigs that actually lived free-range lives? Yes, it would. That's the idea, anyway. In the meantime, the team at Au Pied de Cochon has a big ole wood-burning evaporator, and they know how to use it.
fig. c: the evaporator
And the food? Well, the rumors are true. The meal is stupendous. Three massive courses, and all three are totally mental. Three and a half, if you order an extra tourtière with real ketchup aux fruits, and our advice to you is that you'd be a fool to miss out.
1. omelet with scallops and sea bass
2. tourtière with real ketchup aux fruits
3. buckwheat ployes with cretons and house-cured gravlax
4. salad with oreilles de crisse, ham, hazelnuts and a mustard vinaigrette
5. tempura-fried lobster maki with foie gras
6. maple-glazed magret de canard with a luscious polenta and brussels sprouts
7. and the house banana split with maple barbe à papa, maple sponge toffee, maple-glazed peanuts, and maple ice cream was certainly the most dramatic of the three (!) desserts, but our favorite was the somewhat more subdued maple baked Alaska.
And that's only about 60% of the set menu. And that's their toned-down menu. They started off serving five totally mental courses (!).
Like I said, the rumors are true. This time the sugar shock lasted two days.
Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon, 11382 rang de la Fresnière, St-Benoît de Mirabel, (450) 258-1732
prices are $45 for adults, $15 for kids under the age of 12, and little piggies under the age of 2 EAT FREE.