It’s a sweet time of year to be living in Montreal. One by one sugar shacks of all shapes, sizes and menus are popping up like early spring flowers. Each one offers their distinct take on the traditional meal that Quebec is known for worldwide. While some are just ok, others really excel at standing out and providing an exceptional experience. Chef à l’érable is one of these cabane a sucre experiences you absolutely must try. Last week I attended the media preview of the second edition of Chef à l’érable. Located at Scena on the quays of the Old Port, the brunch was at capacity with people huddled up family-style a la cabane à sucre. For the second year in a row the event’s highly anticipated menu was prepared by local celebrity chef, Laurent Godbout (L’Épicier, pictured below). The space was wonderfully transformed from its normally sleek architectural look to a modern chalet concept featuring rocking chairs, large family-style wood tables and even a hanging moose-head. The food was extraordinary and a celebrated step away from what we have come to know as “traditional” sugar shack grub. We started with a savory potato and leek chowder, complete with pickled mustard seeds and maple. The soup was a hearty yet delicious start to the meal with large chunks of potato and ham throughout. Next up we were served a selection of pickled vegetables in maple vinegar, maple wood smoked trout in mini cones, oreilles de crises (fried rashers), a wonderful maple flavoured ham sausage pogo and finally a kale and frisee salad with marcona almonds, apples, raisins and a maple buttermilk vinaigrette. For the third course we were served a tourtiere (a little dry but well spiced, thought highly anticipated, my least favorite of the day) followed by a succulent cabbage torte with bacon and mushrooms, ravigote sauce and maple vinegar. Also on the menu for the third course was a sliced black pudding with poached eggs, tomato, a béarnaise sauce and maple sponge toffee. Loosening our belts we continued with a mouthwatering maple braised beef macreuse (my favorite of the lot) that was so tender it fell apart with the touch of a fork. This was served with creamy mashed potatoes with ham gravy, cheese curds, vegetable crumble and parsley oil. This cabane a sucre took the traditional concept and blew it out of the park with a gastronomic twist. Of course we couldn’t get out of there without having dessert. On the menu (and on our plates) they feature a giant puff pastry with diced caramelized apples, maple whipped cream and warm caramel. It’s a big dessert so it’s best to share. We also got to try the orange flavored Jell-O shots with a citrus and a maple liqueur and finally the pineapple poutine. It featured French-fry cut pineapple and fleur de sel caramel sauce. It was a decadent finish to a wonderful meal. Before heading out we all gathered around a large wooden basin where we sampled the chef à l’érable take on maple taffy on snow. They change it up by spreading the gooey goodness over iced milk.
Chef à l’érable runs with tradition while making their take the sugar shack experience something truly unique. The second edition of the maple infused meal runs from March 6th to April 12th. For more information on Scena and chef à l’érable, visit their website here!
Photo credit: Savitri Bastiani