Wednesday, May 20, 2015

La Tablée des Pionniers

I know maple season is over, but that doesn't mean I can't share with you guys an amazing experience I had at Louis-François Marcotte's sugar shack, la Tablée des Pionniers. Located only 45 minutes away from Montreal, in St-Faustin, distance is not a reason to not give it a try.

Because the place is so popular, booking is mandatory there. Victor called a few weeks in advance for a spot for six persons (the two Victors, Hong, Paul, Yvan, and me). We wanted to go for brunch, around 11am, but there was no more room and so we went for a late lunch at 2:30pm. Since I am constantly hungry throughout the day I decided to have breakfast that day which I, seriously, should not have had. The guys cheated and basically starved themselves to save some room.

After walking around the site and following Jack the Dog showing us around, we entered the actual log cabin and got overwhelmed by the amount of people and the delicious smells of plates full of meaty and maple goodness scattered all over the place.

We waited a bit while our table was getting cleared. We sat down and our waitress, Elisabeth, greeted us with a big smile and lots of energy. She handed us the menu and the drinks list. Three menus are available : 30$, 40$, and 50$ (per person). We went for the 40$ one. Elisabeth explained the portions were quite generous and that we would have enough food leftover to bring home for a week. Really? Challenge accepted.

While we waited for our food (and because the guys were starving) we started a raid on the pickles and beets on the table. We kept looking at the plates coming to the other tables with such envy the (not so long) wait started getting the best of us.

When the soup came we started wiggling on our benches like little kids. Served in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, it's made with split pea, savoy cabbage, and bacon. It also came with a good amount of herb sour cream to mix with.

May I say it was the best split pea soup I have had in my life? I will never look at split pea soup the same way again. It felt good not to gulp on that thick mixture they usually serve you at sugar shacks but instead to enjoy a delicious broth in which you have actual veggies floating.

After we were done with the soup, we received at once the pâté and the salad.

Right there is some delicious pulled piglet with mushroom in a golden crusty puff pastry. Are you drooling yet?

Though the ratio of pastry to filling was 1:1 it didn't feel like there was too much puff pastry because it was light and airy, crispy outside and cooked perfectly inside (Amen for not soggy pastry). The meat was tender and delicious, but perhaps we would have liked a little more meat. You know, because gainz.

That was probably the healtiest part of the meal : a salad made of a mix of arugula, iceberg, crispy pork rinds (aka bacon), topped with a maple and shallot vinaigrette. A few pieces of radish, nuts, and more yumminess were also added to the mix.

The salad was fresh and delicious. The different textures were really interesting (instead of shredding the iceberg they cut it into chunks) as well as the flavor pairings. The bacon was quite crunchy, its smokiness contrasting with the sweetness of the maple vinaigrette, and the spiciness of the radish gave an extra touch of life and excitement. Yes, I got excited over salad.

Now prepare yourself for some next level stuff. When the next two plates arrived I actually said "God. This is. So. Beautiful." Have a look at the souffléd omelette with cheese curds and the plate of braised bacon, homemade sausages, and piglet jambonneau.

I told you it was beautiful.

That stuff was not only amazing to look at but the smell was out of this world. The omelette was sweet and fluffy. It was also quite hot (I learned it the hard way but whatever it was totally worth it). Hong even started scraping the crusted egg on the cast iron (which Elisabeth totally caught us doing but we were like f- it it's too late).

The plate of meat came with Boston lettuce leaves to make little wraps. I can't even describe the stuffs that went into my mouth. Every bite was just so sinful. Juicy. Tender. Flavorful. Perfect balance of seasoning. No no you have to have it yourself to understand.

The tricky part though was sharing the piglet foot. The guys managed to somewhat separate it in equal portions and were nice enough to leave me most of the skin. The skin was actually quite crispy, borderline tough like leather. So if you don't want to eat it it's fine but hey, we said we were going to scrape clean everything.

Next up is another beautiful stack of meat : the smoker piece and root vegetables.

Topped with a fresh red coleslaw were six delicious smoked baby back ribs, six succulent smoked chicken thighs, stacked over potato wedges, carrots, and parsnips soaked in fat. The meat was falling off the bones. Honestly, I think I'm gonna turn down rotisserie chicken from now on and convert myself to smoked chicken. We licked the bones clean.

As a joke, when Elisabeth came to clear the table, Hong asked "So, erm, can we have the bones to take out?" She said "Yes sure" but we bursted of laughter. She said that despite this being a weird request some people actually do bring the bones home.

And last but not least, along with a good cup of coffee, we had bread pudding topped with adorable mini crêpes with maple butter.

At that point I was already regretting wearing jeans that day. The dessert helped ending the lunch on a good note. Not too sweet, somewhat light for what it is. It was also topped with little bits of maple sugar. We did add a bit of maple syrup to help gulping it down. But obviously there's no such thing as too much maple.

We left the table a bit after 5pm. After we paid we headed outside to have some tire sur la neige (maple taffy). The syrup they use is slighty thinner than what I'm used to, so you do have to wait a little longer for it to harden. I think we went in and out the little cabin something like four times. We fooled around a bit with Jack (Elisabeth told us if she didn't find him she'd know we would have kidnapped him) and then headed back to Montreal, all quite full.

I think you already guessed what my verdict is. Truthfully I give a solid 9/10 for everything. The food, the staff, the ambiance, the service. But mostly the food. I usually respect other people's diets, but if you don't eat pork, or are a vegetarian, or have celiac disease, or have diabetes ... I am so so so sorry for you. I'm not joking.

So if you're looking for an amazing place to try during maple season, you totally have to give la Tablée des Pionniers a try. If you don't you're totally missing on something incredible.

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