Friday, April 10, 2009

sugar shock

Sure, there were inevitable effects of consuming roughly a gallon of maple syrup and maple syrup products (from fèves au lard, to tire d'érable, to roughly eight cups of maple syrup-sweetened coffee), but the real shock came from finding ourselves at a sugar shack that actually serves good food in a low-key, honest-to-goodness, relatively kitsch-free atmosphere.

For a couple of years now, we'd been hearing that Rigaud's Sucrerie de la Montagne was a cut above. An enthusiastic review in The New York Times earlier this year seemed to confirm these reports. So we rounded up a gang of sugar-shack seekers and checked things out for ourselves. And, I have to say, we were impressed. The meal wasn't absolutely perfect--we had quibbles with the quality of the ham, the pie crust used for both the tourtière and the tarte au sucre, etc., and we still believe that if you want a truly exceptional sugar shack meal, DIY is the way to go*--but it was much better than average, they served some ultra-traditional dishes that I hadn't seen at sugar shacks before (like ragoût de boulettes), and the overall experience (location, aura, music, service, ambiance) was the best we've encountered, and that's something that's hard to duplicate at home.

In brief:

We liked the look of the place from the moment we set eyes on it.

barn fig. a: barn

Sucrerie de la Montagne is so close to Montreal, too. You barely leave the island and you're already there. It's possibly even a little too close. Rang St-Georges is pretty developed. But turn in to Sucrerie de la Montagne's parking lot, and suddenly the modern world fades into the distance a little.

horses & cart fig. b: cart & horses

It was almost worth going for the cart ride alone. The cart driver was a true prince. Great personality and a beautiful accent.

Michelle felt a little sorry for the horses, though, because of the way they got stuck with their hooves in a puddle while I took a picture of them. She decided to join them, in a show of solidarity. So I took a picture of her, too.

michelle fig. c: Michelle

Sucrerie de la Montagne doubles as an auberge--they've got a couple of rustic cabins that you can rent out all year long--at pretty reasonable rates, too. We've already made tentative plans to return mid-winter next year. Do a little snowshoeing, read some books by the fireplace, and emerge every now and then to eat a hearty québécois meal--who can argue with that? All of the accommodations were nice, but this cabin was our favorite.

cabin fig. d: cabin

Sucrerie de la Montagne is a fairly old-school sucrerie. The evaporator was running on firewood, and when you headed into the woods, it was sap buckets as far as the eye could see, not that space-age plastic tubing you see at most sucreries these days.

woods fig. e: sugar bush & sap buckets

We were happy to see that the buckets were from our friends at D & G.

D & G fig. f: bucket by D & G

Inside, the vibe was vintage, through and through.

horse & sleigh fig. g: horse & sleigh

The sucrerie itself was a grand old structure, with one main dining hall, and one set of smaller dining rooms, each one with their own band. Our party of nine got seated at a long table in the main dining hall, and not long afterwards the first course (pea soup) was served, the band (Les Cornus) got fired up, the kids started dancing, and the next thing we knew, we were off.

grub fig. h: the spread

Sugaring-off season is short, so if you'd like to take in a traditional sugar shack meal at Sucrerie de la Montagne, you gotta act fast.

Sucrerie de la Montagne, 300 Rang St-Georges, Rigaud, QC, (450) 451-0831


* Then again, we haven't tried Au Pied de Cochon's brand-new sugar shack yet, but we've heard nothing but raves. We're slated to go later this month, before the season is over. You can expect a full report.

1 comment:

Leigh said...

As an Englishman, this is truly something I find alien, the maple syrup/sugar thing. It's pretty eye-opening, and something I hope to smaple someday. Nice post!