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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pied du Cochon Sugar Shack

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In Quebec during the maple syrup season families traditionally go to sugar shacks to eat endless amounts of traditional foods such as pea soup, smoked ham and maple syrup pie. This year the food bloggers group to which I belong decided to go Pied du Cochon’s Sugar Shack. Martin Picard’s take on a sugar shack menu is decidedly more decadent than a traditional place and if I have to beg, borrow or steal I need to find someway to go next year. 3 hours worth of non-stop good food had me in foodie heaven.

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Like all sugar shacks the seating was fairly rustic. We all sat at long picnic tables and the food was passed around family style. It was nice in a big group but it must be a bit awkward if you’re sitting with complete strangers.

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Our sitting was at noon and I arrived just in time. I was so worried that I was going to miss the first course but I got there as everyone was ordering coffee and tea. Since I saw that they had Kusmi tea which is excellent, I decided to have some.

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I picked the sweet love tea which is a blend of black China tea, ginseng and liquorice roots, spices, guarana seed and pink pepper.

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It was really good. I need to buy some for the house.

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We had bottles of maple syrup on the table to pour over our food since most sugar shacks have pretty much everything from sausages to dessert drenched in syrup but strangely enough it went pretty much untouched throughout the whole meal.

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To start off with we had a traditional tourtiere, which is a savoury meat pie accompanied by a home made tomato ketchup.

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We had one pie for the entire table of roughly 15 people so we each had a small slice but since there was so much food yet to come it was more than enough. As you can see from the pictures there were generous chunks of meat in the filling. The home made ketchup was a bit plain, it was diced tomatoes with onions and some seasoning but it did a nice job of cutting through the richness of the meat and the pastry.

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Up next was the pea soup with chunks of Foie Gras. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. Pea soup is traditionally peasant food so I loved how they took something so humble and added such a decadent ingredient.

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The chunks of Foie Gras were pretty generous and went surprisingly well with the peas.

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Up next was some salmon gravlax.

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We also received some buckwheat pancakes to eat with them.

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The salmon was really fresh and of great quality but it tasted very plain, almost like sashimi from a Japanese restaurant.

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Next up was a salad of mixed greens with chunks of ham and cheddar topped with pork rinds.

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I had one bite of the pork rinds and then proceeded to pick them off my salad. They were very puffy and crisp so I would image if they’re your thing that you would love them. The salad was strangely enough, one of the few items other than the desserts that actually had maple syrup. The dressing was a tangy maple syrup mix which tasted amazing. For me the salad was one of my favourite parts of the meal.

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There was also cretons which is a ground pork spread.

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Usually you eat this spread on toast. I thought that this was just ok. It was very grainy and a little bland.

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These were chicken feet cooked in barbeque sauce. Ok, I have to confess I didn’t even try them or think about trying them. The thought of eating chicken feet freaks me out, I was afraid I was going to end up swallowing and chicken foot nail and the thought of that makes me shudder. Those who were more adventurous than me and gave them a go said that they were good.

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This was an omelette with smoked mackerel and other mixed seafood. I didn’t catch the description of everything that was in there since the waiter was talking at the other end of the table. This was good but it tasted almost like an egg custard rather than an omelette.

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This was one of my favourite parts of the meal, lobster and pork meat stuffed in a cabbage with French lentils. There were nice chunks of lobster meat and the sauce was very rich.

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There was also a chicken cooked in maple syrup with maple syrup baked beans. This was good, the chicken was moist and tasted as though it had been brined and the maple beans were not cloyingly sweet which was good.

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This was beef tongue with celeriac slaw. The slaw was good, it was tossed in a creamy sauce but I just couldn’t bring myself to try the tongue. Especially since you could see all the little taste buds poking up.

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Finally, we got to the best part. Dessert! This was maple taffy which I absolutely love even though it is so simple. It is made by boiling maple syrup and then pouring it on fresh snow, or in this case ice chips. A popsicle stick is then twirled around in the syrup to pick up the taffy.

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I think I did a pretty good job of getting all the taffy.

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These were pancakes absolutely drenched in maple syrup. They were very eggy and puffy which made me wonder if they were actually just fried egg whites

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This was a banana split with maple ice cream, maple cotton candy, chocolate sauce and chunks of maple sugar. The combo of the chocolate sauce with the ice cream and the maple cotton candy was really good and a lot of fun but the bananas weren’t ripe enough and I just ate around them.

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Last but not least was maple mille feuille. I could have sat down and eaten this whole thing by myself or at least eaten the filling. It was delicious although the actually puff pastry was a tad over cooked.

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There were food items to take home but at that point I was so full that I didn’t want to think about eating anything else. It actually took me 24 hours to eat anything after that massive pig out.

All in all the food was delicious and well worth the 50 dollar price tag. I thought the chicken feet were an odd addition to the menu though and I’m willing to bet that they went mostly untouched at most of the tables. The one thing I was slightly annoyed at was the fact that coffee and tea were not on the drink menu so everyone assumed that it was included in the price but it was extra. Other than that I have very few qualms.

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From the outside the sugar shack looks very rustic which belies the gourmet cooking within.

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The sugar shack was really in the middle of nowhere though. There are just open fields all around. I couldn’t even get cell phone reception it was so far. I had to ask the waitress if I could use their landline to call my husband so he could pick me up. I had a great time and hopefully I will be back again next year!

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