Every year around this time there are more and more establishments tapping into an ever-growing maple fever. Restaurants across the city are marinating, coating, crumbling and baking maple into just about everything imaginable and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Last week we were invited to the prestigious Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel to get a first look at what their restaurant and chef will be offering during the months of March and April, Montreal’s official season of the sweet sap. Their restaurant, the aptly named Montrealais was decorated with massive wooden tables, plaid linens and pillows giving the normally sober restaurant a festive air. The setting was just right to celebrate the French-Canadian tradition of gathering with friends and family for a hearty meal.
We kicked the night off at le Voyageur lounge with Moët et Chandon and cocktails designed specifically for the event. I tried the delicious Cabane du Bas-Canada (a tangy concoction of Maker’s mark, lime juice, maple syrup, ginger beer and a lime wedge) while the Bacon N’Egg cocktail (Canadian Club, Talisker, maple syrup, lemon juice, egg white and bitters; bacon as a garnish) was also a big hit.
With the cocktails underway, we portaged our way over to Montrealais for the main draw, the food. Sébastien Giannini, executive chef for the hotel, designed the exclusive menu. Hailing from Toulon, Giannini was excited to prepare a meal founded in the traditions of Quebec culture. We got started with an amuse-bouche featuring a macaroon base topped with fois gras and a maple crumble.
Cappuccino was next on the menu but not just any ordinary cappuccino. We sipped on salsify and parsnip cappuccino with maple caramelized hazelnuts and cep mushroom power. It was a deliciously pleasant sip away from the ordinary. The next item on the menu was my favorite of the night. Served in a hot-out-of-the-oven ramekin we sampled a savoury deer pie with chervil, tarragon, parsley, vinegar, olive oil and capers sauce.
The next dish on the menu was a thinly sliced marinated salmon with maple syrup and Canadian whisky, served also with a light dill cream (as part of the table d’hote, you can choose either this or the deer pie). This was followed by a succulent pork chop, served with forest mushrooms, sautéed grenaille potatoes and girolle mushrooms.
Rounding out the meal, we were served an oven-cooked red snapper fillet, quinoa risotto flavored with maple water, black olives and a basil crumble. The meal offers something out of the ordinary for a variety of tastes.
No maple inspired menu would be complete without a dessert and we tried two. We began with a salted caramel delight with maple and sugar ice cream and then moved to a maple crème brulée, chocolate ice cream dumpling and candied orange zests.
The meal was delightful and could easily work as part of their regular menu. Under the guise of maple madness, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is bound to get their fair share of attention and it will be justly deserved.
For more on Maple Season at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, visit their website here!