When my friend Doug first invited me to go to the sugar shack with a few other of his friends, I jumped in the air like a kid in a candy store. I haven’t been in a sugar shack in YEARS and my last experience, a few years ago, haven’t been that much fun because the place looked like a big open gymnasium with too many people and not enough love in the food. Although I love maple syrup, everything maple flavored and I would never refuse such invitation, I still expect a certain amount of love and “homey” feel in a place like a sugar shack.
If you never heard of a sugar shack before, well…. the first thing you have to know, it’s a Canadian thing. I don’t exactly know to explain it, but I’ll do my best… Think about a wood shack in the middle of the forest where we create maple syrup from the water coming from the maple trees. The owner of the sugar shack usually own a maple farm around his shack and bring back the water from his trees to make this liquid gold that we call maple syrup. In this same place, you have a mini restaurant, that present a variety of delicious maple flavored meals, from salty to sweet. You drink, you laugh, you eat… everybody is there to spend some family or friendly time, everybody is happy, it’s an amazing place with an amazing ora. Maybe one of my favorite places in the world because of the feeling you have when you’re in there, surrounded by the people you love, drinking, laughing, eating… like it was your last day on earth.
Outside, the March weather is still cold but not too intense so you can enjoy some fun time playing in the melting snow with the younger ones and eat some taffy on snow. Sometime, you can even visit the maple syrup “factory” and see the entire process from beginning to end of how we transform the precious maple water in to maple syrup. It’s actually quit simple and I have vivid memories of my grand father doing it in his kitchen while I was sitting close to him watching his every move, hoping some would just fall outside the pot so I can just eat it on the spot without him noticing it. Ahhh memories…
I didn’t know where my friend wanted to bring me but deep inside, I was hoping to go to the famous sugar shack “Au Pied de Cochon” owned by the famous chef Martin Picard that you might have seen on French or English tv in various shows. Martin bought this shack in 2009 and since the reviews have been very good and I always wanted to go there. What an amazing surprise when I realized that it was exactly where we were going! I think Doug might have read my mind without even realizing it. The second he told me that I might even have a chance to meet the big chef in person, I was even more excited! He was indeed right because I did had the chance to meet Martin Picard and you can see the proof by the photo above.
I got to admit that it took me a good hour and 1 maple martini before having enough courage to go ask him for a photo with me for this blog. I don’t usually get starstruck, I have met many mainstreams actors, producers, pornstars (obviously), tv and radio show hosts and more so it’s never something that happened to me. When you think about it, they are just human being like you and me and there is nothing to be nervous about just because they are a public figure. Last week end I realized that there is one type of celebrity that I’m nervous to meet and it’s chefs! Ok that might sound totally ridiculous for you guys but it’s true. I guess it’s because I’m an inspiring chef myself and I know I’m not even close to be up to part with mister Picard skills so I got nervous…. Anyways, the maple martini worked pretty decent because I went to see Marc and asked him to take a photo with me. I brievely told him that I had a food blog and wanted to make a review of his place but I don’t think he really understood me or even cared. Can you blame him? …not really. 🙂
After all, I might have looked like any other random girl coming to him asking for this same request that he’s used to perform like a circus freak. Don’t take me wrong he wasn’t rude at all and I’m sure once you know him he’s really sweet but I didn’t feel like sticking around at the bar with him and his friend like a stupid groupie so instead we exchanged a few smiles, took a photo and I went back to my place. Now who knows, maybe after he’ll read this text I’ll have the chance for a real conversation with him over a nice glass of wine in his first restaurant : Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal to make another review…. A girl can dream right? 😉
Ok so now let’s talk a little bit about the place itself. It was small, homey, smelled a little bit like wet dog (in a good way) because of the wood frame of the shack and everybody coming in and out of it with their wet boots and most probably the humidity of the maple syrup factory in the back. I personally loved the smell when I first came in… it reminded me of the authentic sugar shack that I used to go when I was young with my family. The music was actual and loud, just to put you in a joyful mood and prepare you for a good night. It was cramped, barely any place to move but just enough so we don’t step too much on each others feet. I have to say one thing tho, they might have over packed the tables even if it’s understanding since it’s a business after all and they want to fit as many people as they can due to an overload of reservations but I was sitting at the edge of the table and had the feet of the table between my leg the entire night. Good thing I’m small because it wasn’t that uncomfortable but if I would have been bigger, this could have been a problem. The manager of the place offered us to add a chair at the end of our table so I didn’t had to sit this way but if we would have added the chair, then all the waitresses and people passing by to get to their tables would have hit my chair the entire night. It’s not a big big deal but since this post is a review, I thought I’ll mention it.
Our waitress name that night was Florence. She was super sweet, relax and fun. I enjoyed the “uniform” that her and her co-workers were wearing. It was very typical Quebec lumber jack look with a little touch of sexiness. They all had a red and black plaid blouse exactly like the one Martin is wearing in our photo (exactly the same size to so it looked overly big on everybody except him), cute little shorts that were almost disappearing under their big plaid flannel shirt (leg fetish all the way) and some old and grungy ankle boots that looked like combat boots. Sound sexy right? 😉
Blame it on the fact that I work in the adult industry but I loved the outfit and I thought it was beyond sexy.
….the photo above is the maple martini I mentioned earlier. Martin posted the recipe for this drink on his tumblr and you can get it by clicking here. I drank 2 of these that night along with some maple flavored shots that you can see right below. I don’t have the exact recipe for this second shot but from their tumblr again, he said it’s a mix of maple syrup and gin. Another cool fact, those cute little shots were the “foundation”, if I can express myself this way, of the big tower I presented you in the first photo. It’s actually how we started our big dinner night, Florence brought this amazing 3 level tower to the table that was filled with maple cotton candy (one of my hit of the night as you can see by the photos), maple donuts, maple almond croissant, maple sponge taffy, homemade maple whippet cookies, maple filled cones, maple creme caramel, maple pop corn and those cute shots at the bottom holding the base of the tower. What a nice way to start the night and make sure it open your appetite. I was very pleased.
Then the menu got…. a bit of the weird side. It might just be my own little brain with my own little values that took a hit when I saw the second service because I was all confused by this type of dishes since it’s a bit far from the traditional sugar shack menu. Now from a carnivore point of you, it was pretty fun to discover new tastes and new textures. This second menu included brains, hearts, fat livers, fried lard, omelette, gizzards and I might miss a few thing…. It is just me but that’s kind of gruesome? lol
Don’t take me wrong, many of these specialties were weirdly delicious in my mouth and I’m always ready to try new things anyways but this was a little bit too much for me. I remember my mom making some amazing fat liver spread when I was younger that I LOVED with some baguette but the second I learned how those pore animals were treated so we can enjoy fat liver, it totally killed my appetite and since that day, I haven’t been able to eat some.
But since the goal of the night was to try new dishes, I gave it a shot anyways. I started with the Cecile omelette with fat livers on top because it was the only thing on the table that I was “used” to eat and it was AMAZING! So soft, tasty, sweet but a tiny bit salty at the same time. I was able to eat a few bites before my brain started remembering all the horrifying stories about animals in cages, stuffed with tubes in their mouth just so we can enjoy fat liver then I had to stop eating. I didn’t want to be insulting to the chef and still took the time to try it but it’s not my thing. My values seem to be controlling my mouth and I cant do anything about it.
I’ll be honest and say that I only tasted the gizzards after that and even tho it was tasty, the texture and the fact that I knew it was gizzards, totally killed the dish for me. Lucky for us, there was going to be another service.
When the third service arrived, I was a little bit more enthusiastic. We had maple and almond green beans, stuffed chicken with lobster, cotechino and fat liver plus a sauce to put on top that was amazing. The last but not the least, some pineapple ham with potatoes and that again was just beyond this world. Another meat that I don’t eat often but this ham was juicy, tasty and succulent. That’s a more traditional menu for a sugar shack and I was happy to see that the night was not going to be all hearts, brains and gizzards. After all, you never know with those big fancy chefs who want to pop out of the conventional menus and serve a sort of animal parts that we are not used to eat anymore like veal tongue etc…
My friends and I ate like pigs, we brought some back home and ate some the next day. My belly is happy, my cholesterol level is probably much higher than it was before my visit to the Pied de Cochon, I have to work out twice as much this week but it’s was well worth it.
My favorite part was the green beans with maple and almonds. I’m not usually a big fan of green beans but these were just too good. They were so good, that I will be trying it make my own version for this blog because you guys have to taste them. I think they even helped me make peace with green beans in general because I recently bought some and will do my best to include them as many time as I can in my daily life.
The forth service arrived with the deserts… and once again, Martin Picard’s menu was a hit with a angel food cake with meringue frosting, stuffed with pecan nuts and maple.
My favorite part of the desert service was the yogurt and maple jello presented in the photo above. I really enjoyed the mix of sourness from the yogurt (the white part) and the sweetness of the maple jello. Most people on the table didn’t enjoy it as much as me and it was perfect because I was able to finish it all 😛 hehe
To top our night we had the homemade maple ice cream with taffy in it that you can see in the last photo. Once again, it was delicious!
In conclusion, I had an amazing experience at the sugar shack “Au Pied de Cochon” and I’m glad I had the chance to meet mister Picard even tho I wished I was less nervous and took the time to have an actual discussion with him. I’ll try to be back next year and I totally recommend you to try it out if you have the chance to go to St-Benoit de Mirabel.
Just remember that you HAVE to make a reservation and you’ll need to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number included in the e-mail because only the reservations with phone numbers will be taken seriously. The shack will be open till May 5th so you might still have a chance to reserve a place. If not, don’t be sad and next year jump on your computer and start reserving your place as early as December first.
For more info I will invite you to visit the official website of the sugar shack – CLICK HERE