I’m writing this post a little more than a week after my meal at the Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre. At this point, I finally fully digested the meal, and am over the epic food hangover and maple syrup overdose. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
It’s that time of the year again. The snow is melting, the weather is getting warmer, and most importantly, the Quebec maple trees are emitting delicious sap where the most prestigious sugary substance in the world can be found. For those of you who don’t know, maple syrup is my weakness. I can consume anything maple, but it’s gotta be the real stuff. That’s why on December 1st, 2011 at 12:00am on the nose, I sent an email to the APDC Cabane a Sucre hoping to get a reservation. Over the next couple months, I watched the tweets from others announcing they received the call back fr0m the restaurant. I kept asking myself “Where’s mine”? I must have sent the first reservation out of anybody. In fact, they received the maximum capacity’s worth of reservations in the first 12 hours. I would hate to go through all those emails, since this method is the only way to get one. If you call, they won’t answer. Just accept it. When you receive a callback, and “Cabane PDC” shows up in the call display on your phone, you drop everything and respond accordingly. Making sure you know exactly the reservation you want when they call is essential (number of people, time, date). I made a reservation for 15, and we were all hungry men, with a combined weight of over 1 ton. This meal is above any man and his ability to eat. If you need a refresher on what I consumed last year, here you go: Au Pied De Cochon Cabane A Sucre…I’m Still Full
We arrived promptly at 5:30pm on Sunday. The first thing I did was pour a little drizzle of maple syrup on a spoon and taste the sweetness. Ahhhh yes. It makes breathing a little easier. We poured our beer, ordered the tourtière in advance, and watched as our first course arrived. We began with creton, sweetbread, and boudin terrine with a light drizzle of maple mustard, served with sweet buckwheat pancakes, goat cheese, and small salad of fennel and pecans (yes, they have salad…but not that much of it). The terrine was phenomenal. The idea of boudin (blood sausage) and sweetbreads can make a few people squeamish, but the flavor is masked by the fantastic morsels of creton. I put some of the terrine on a little pancake, with a dollop of the goat cheese and some of the salad. What a great combination. The crisp and soft textures and slight acidity from the salad livens of the whole dish. Next, we had maple pickled herring with a maple mayonnaise, and pickled onions. This was just down right delicious. The sweet maple with the salty fish are a match made in heaven. Then we dove into the sturgeon sushi. Fried pieces of sturgeon were placed on sushi rice and nori, then topped with avocado and tomato, then with oreilles de crisse. And if that wasn’t enough, the entire dish was sprinkled with gold leaf for an extra touch of class. From top to bottom, the contrasts in textures, and flavors were brilliant. Who would think to combine fried sturgeon, sushi rice, and orielles de crisse? Martin Picard. That’s who. Finally, the tourtière arrived. The flaky crust, moist meat inside, and the homemade ketchup is classic satisfaction. Believe it or not, that’s the end of round 1.
The second course began with a lobster omelet souffle with mashed potatoes and smoked meat. Lobster and smoked meat? Fantastic! Before I walked in, I saw brisket cooking away on the large red smoker. I’m glad I saw it again, only about an hour or so later in this work of art. This dish was taken to the next level after I drizzled maple syrup on it. It’s traditional to add maple syrup on your eggs at a cabane a sucre, or at least that’s how I did it when I was 7 years old. Next came the heaviest, richest, and one of the most delicious things we ate: a vol-au-vent. A large, hollowed out round of puff pastry, filled with a whole lobe or two of foie gras, béchamel sauce, cheese, then topped with oreilles de crisse and a watercress and apple salad with maple dressing. Yes, another salad, which cut the richness of the foie gras quite well. This was the beginning of the end for me. It was fatty, smooth, creamy, rich, sweet, and wonderful. I saw one of my friends eyes roll back into their head after a bite. I couldn’t wait for what was coming next.
Act 3 began 2o minutes later. Gently, and I think strategically, placed in front of me was a duck body (breast, legs, wings), a large knife sticking out of it, with onion rings placed over the knife as if someone was playing a game of ring-toss, or that horseshoe game. Glistening in a sweet maple glaze, the duck was tender, the skin was nice and crispy, and those onion rings were awesome. A sign of a good onion ring is when you bite into it, and the entire onion doesn’t come out; the bite should go right through, which it did in this case. Bravo. With a little drizzle of more maple syrup, this dish was a real winner. Next, maple glazed pork with crackling skin, dumplings, and a little coleslaw, all doused in a maple sauce. The pork was tender and succulent, and the skin was so crisp I picked it up and ate it like a cracker. Loved the dumplings, and the coleslaw just tasted like sweet delicious maple goodness. Finally, a large le creuset honey-pot appeared with the classic fêves au lard inside. Or at least I thought it was the classic version. Then chef Picard’s genius hit me in the face with an insurmountable amount of duck confit sitting at the bottom awaiting to be discovered. The beans were absolutely ridiculously incredible. Consuming this with fall-off-the-bone duck confit was heavenly. Then, I went for a brisk walk since I forgot what fresh air felt like.
Mere moments after I returned to my seat, a gorgeous maple-vanilla ice cream sundae garnished with la tire (weakness alert!), bits of chocolate-covered maple toffee, and miniature maple and chocolate covered maple foam cones. I could live off la tire, and that maple toffee. After biting off the top of the little maple cones, is more of the awesome “la tire”. Then we received duck fat-fried pancakes soaking in maple syrup. Just as crazy-good as they were last year. Very happy they came back. After a long deep breath, I inhaled the maple eclairs with maple cotton candy. Light, fluffy, creamy, and sweet, these were simply wonderful, and a lot of fun to eat. My favorite dessert has to go to the maple glazed cinnamon buns. Still warm and soft from the oven the sweet buns with a thick sugary maple glaze took me to a new level of maple heaven. Wave the white flag…I surrender.
A little over a week later, I can remember every bite and every maple sugar crystal consumed. The family style meal is best shared with good friends, which makes this experience that much better. I loved the friendly staff, the cool country air, and everything else about the Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre. I bought the restaurant’s cookbook, which is really like a miniature encyclopedia. Everything I ate is in there. I swear I would teach a university class about maple syrup, and could use this cookbook as the textbook. The pictures are drool-worthy, the stories and other content are a joy to read, and the pastry chef is a real cutie. The best place to buy it is at Appetite for Books (388 Victoria, Westmount, QC, H3Z 2N4, (514) 369-2002).
December 1st, 2012 already has a gold star next to it so I can return in 2013.
Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre: 11382 Rang de la Fresnière, Mirabel, QC, J7N 2R9, (450) 258-1732