The cabane a sucre, or sugar shack, is an important part of Quebec culture. Personally, I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. You haven’t lived until you have poured hot maple syrup onto snow, wrapped it around a stick, and sucked on it until your teeth feel like they are going to fall out.
Pair this experience with Quebec’s award winning chef’s penchant for food that will kill you, and magic is made.
Martin Picard, owner of Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon restaurant and host of Food Network’s The Wild Chef, is ignoring the popular movement towards healthier eating… and is adored for it. His restaurant is always packed (reservations are a MUST for dinner) and his sugar shack has become a legend.
The Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre
Reservations are made by e-mail only, 4 months in advance. The season runs from the last weekend of February to mid-April, on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. There are four sittings per day, 2 at lunch and 2 for supper. Rumour has it that within one hour of opening the reservation line, 1000 requests were made.
Although my first attempt (last year) to participate in this elite epicurean activity was a complete failure, I was able to secure 12 spots for the 2012 season. And those spots weren’t cheap! $57 per adult ($20 for children under the age of 12) not including drinks, taxes or tip. The food sure did make it worth it though.
Here’s the 2012 menu!
- Terrine of cretons, brain, veal sweetbread, foie gras, blood sausage and tongue
- Maple marinated herring with scalloped potatoes
- Fried swordfish cake
- Lobster and smoked meat omelette
- Barbecue pork flank and rump of suckling pig served on cabbage and potatoes boiled in maple water
- Foie gras vol-au-vent, Béchamel sauce and cheese, with apple and watercress salad
- Roast duck with maple mustard dipping sauce
- Beans with cottage cheese and duck legs
- Maple eclairs
- “La tire” in delicious ice cream, served with mini cornets
- Maples brioches
- Pancakes fried in duck fat
A Traditional Sugar Shack
The maple syrup season brings hope. It signals the mid point of a long winter, and the beginning of the end of snow. Maple syrup comes from maple trees (surprise!) whose leaf is featured on our national flag. In Quebec, we take maple syrup very seriously.
Sap is extracted from the trees, collected in tin pails, boiled down into syrup, and the bottled/canned and sold. The sugar shack makes a family experience out of it, where large log cabins are turned into dining halls, folk music is played, and all food is eaten with maple syrup.
This experience usually costs about $25, +/- $10 depending on the quality. You can expect a range of: pancakes, omellettes, pork rinds, TONS of bacon, ham, baked beans, potatoes, cretons, sugar pie and of course maple taffy (a.k.a. la tire). Everything is served family style and is covered with fresh maple syrup.
The shacks usually offer family activities (horse drawn carriage rides, petting zoos, bonfires and sometimes even magic shows), and can turn into a full-swing, foot-stomping Quebec folk party at night. Learn more about the Quebec Cabane a Sucre experience here.