Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon 2016

Hey guys!

So I know the blog hasn't been getting much love in the past ... year. The usual reasons. I write for others, I am too busy with work and projects, moving in a new place, and more. I have to admit that keeping a blog alive and well is a lot of work. No wonder some people decide to make a living out of it! Who knows, maybe one day that option will be viable for me.

As you may know, maple season has been going strong for the past weeks. Unfortunately the month of May is peaking out, so that means the season is almost over. Speaking of maple, I have been seeing pictures of this year's Au Pied de Cochon's sugar shack. Some sort of Asian fusion was going on this year. From comments I heard, some people liked it, some didn't. In my opinion, even though a maple Asian fusion is totally doable (I do it often at home) I don't think it belongs in a sugar shack.

For my part though let me share with you the experience that I had last year. One of decadence that was absolutely worth the trouble and money.

Trouble I say? Yes, trouble. The Au Pied de Cochon's sugar shack is so popular that when the forms open on the website on the 1st of December, at exactly midnight, you have to make sure you are ready at your computer desk to fill in the form. The spots get filled very quickly and it's a first come first serve situation. They call you a few weeks later to confirm the date and party number. Also, no changes can be made. If a person is a no-show for some reason, you have to find someone willing to pay up to 80$ (with taxes and tips) to fill in for the empty spot. If you don't fill in the spot, half of their meal is charged on your credit card. We had that situation. Even though the person who couldn't attend anymore had a very good and legitimate question, finding someone available, willing to spend, and who would fit with the group, was harder than I thought. We did find someone a few days before the event, but everyone in the group had to ask around in their respective groups of friends.

So we get there. 13 of us if I remember well. As we get seated, one of the first things I did was order a stout. Even though we didn't have breakfast, it was almost noon. Also, I find that drinking alcohol helps getting food down, while drinking water fills me up fast (that's a tip right there for those of you who have trouble with portion control).

The conventional maple syrup was presented in a bottle with an interesting chart. In other sugar shacks we use it to sweeten our coffees before getting started with the food. They didn't serve coffee in the beginning for a good reason. They obviously didn't want to ruin the flavor of the first savory entrée.

This cake is not a cake. It is a tower of sweet and salty goodness with pâté and a foie gras core. Yes there is an entire fist of foie gras inside a pistachio and pâté cake. It was absolutely delicious. It also killed us. It was only the first round and it nearly knocked us down. We then realized we would not be able to complete our challenge of leaving nothing on the table.

Obviously the cake had to be eaten with at least a slice of pure homemade carbs.

Next up we had a delicious cream of wild mushrooms in a perfect dome of puff pastry.

The puff pastry had the perfect cracking sound and texture. When mixed with the soup you realize no bread is required. The soup was creamy and the bits of mushroom were generous. The butter from the puff pastry made the whole thing even more unhealthy yet delicious.

A visit to the sugar shack needs to have at least a cheesy souffléed omelette on the table. That one was covered with bechamel sauce as if that wasn't rich enough. It was very traditional but well executed.

The famous split pea and ham soup was also quite a surprise. Usually you have pieces of ham in a soup. This one was more like a mix of three different cuts and cooking styles (braised, roasted, and ham) on a purée of split peas. The pork really was the focus of the dish rather than the soup. The sprigs of fresh herb also added a lot of depth to the already smokey, salty, earthy flavors going on there.

The dish that probably surprised me the most was the whole trout. Compared to the ham and pea soup it tasted light and refreshing yet we didn't lose the flavor of the fish. What surprised me the most though was the execution. The fish was completely deboned and the flesh was holding onto place with a simple twine. I have no idea how they achieved this (did they debone the fish into two filets and then put them back together?) but it made it so much easier to eat.

Roasted root vegetables are also a staple in a traditional sugar shack experience. These were sweet, simple, and felt good after eating so much meat, carbs, and dairy. The roasted slivered almonds also added some extra texture to the crunchy vegetables.

The duck and pancakes were so delicious. Orange was the flavor holding them together, and I liked how they presented the sauce. The overall dish was also quite sweet. The duck was tender, while the pancakes were airy inside but crispy outside.

Dessert time had the biggest wow factor. First of all, the banana ice cream was so delicious. It really didn't need anything more. It tasted like pure banana and it felt so refreshing after all that rich food. Too bad it was the only thing we couldn't bring home.

That piece of wood came with maple ice and maple taffy sticks. We actually ate quite a lot of that snow to soothe our tired mouths.

That piece of wood was actually an opera cake concealed in chocolate that looked like tree bark. It was a very normal opera cake but it was also very spongy and relatively light for that type of cake.

And then a little black sista appeared on our table.

To reveal under her skirt a tart of nun's farts.

Simple, just sticky enough, crumbly enough, and once again very well executed. I hadn't had nun's farts in years so it felt good to end the meal with that.

Overall we got more than we expected for our money. We brought home so much leftover and had a bit of trouble getting up from our seats. The service was very fast paced : no table can go slower than others because of their tight schedule. At the end when it was time to pay it was a bit of an annoyance because the servers were not walking around with credit card machines. We had to do the line with everyone else and then hurry the hell up to get outside.

Even though the culinary experience was amazing, part of me did feel bad at the end because part of it felt like a waste. I enjoyed on the moment, but with a bit of pain towards the end and especially the day after. Also, unlike other sugar shacks, they do not serve maple taffy on ice outside, and they don't have animals to entertain you. So you come in for the food. And you leave because you ate the food.

The concept changes every year and from what I have seen I am glad I took that risk last year. So if you're willing to take this risk too, it's something I think you should do at least once, for the thrill, but also for the food.

Until next time!

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