As the newest member of a group of Montreal food writers and bloggers (Uh-huh... me... Andrea... a "food blogger"... huh? Actually... it helps that I'm tight with one of the groups founders... but hey - whatever works!) I had the opportunity to jump in on a reservation that was made MONTHS ago for 25 of us to check out Martin Picard's new sugar shack - a spin off of his original and decadent restaurant Au Pied de Cochon which is located in the heart of Montreal's ever trendy plateau.
Not only is a sugar shack meal/outing an annual tradition for most people living in Quebec, maple syrup has this amazing quality - it makes anything and everything taste that much better. We are big fans of maple syrup in our house. BIG. FANS. So although I'm not used to eating things like chicken feet (yes. chicken feet) and cow tongue (!) I was up for the full and genuine "experience" of Au Pied de Cochon and I went it with the motto "try everything once". I have to add here that Brandon (who is not so adventurous when it comes to food) totally impressed me by going in with the same motto!
So... It was a beautiful but chilly March day. Reservations were for 11 a.m. and we arrived with some time to spare. The location was charming, a much smaller venue than I'm used to, rustic and in need of a little TLC. The service was excellent - absolutely no complaints, there was no rushing us in and out, but it was definitely not slow. The food was... interesting, unique, decadent (a little scary at times) and so completely different from what I'm used to.
We started with coffee. I had a regular one, but Danny's was much prettier to photograph! The waitress explained that there would be 3 rounds of food. I'm not sure that the "rounds" fall into the typical categories but each round was bigger and better than the last (dessert was incredible!). Everything was served typical sugar-shack style (or dim sum if you've never experienced a sugar-shack meal) with a couple of main dishes for everyone at the table to share.
I was so glad to see the eggs come to the table. Eggs are after all a necessary component of any sugar shack meal. They taste so good drenched in maple syrup! I wasn't, however, expecting my eggs to be "fishy" and unfortunately the smoked sturgeon kind of took over the flavour of the omelet. With that said, I still had seconds of this particular dish so I must have like it!
Beef tongue served with celeriac remoulade
This was one of the "huh?" dishes on the menu. While I didn't think twice about trying the chicken claws, this one was harder for me. I reminded myself that it was about the "experience" and that my motto was to try everything at least once. Still I was hesitant. Until Brandon went and tried it first. Sigh. What choice did I have if even he was willing to step out of his food comfort zone? The result? If one could get past the fact that they were eating tongue, the meat was incredibly tender and very tasty. I'm serious. With that said, I still only had a few bites. That's all I could stomach.
Maple lacquered roasted chicken with beans
This dish was a big hit at our table. The beans melted in your mouth, the chicken was divine.
So simple, yet so good. (& yes I had seconds of this one too!)
Cabbage head stuffed with porc, foie gras AND lobster.
(above picture by pretexte.ca)
The presentation of this dish elicited the response "what is that?" from both Brandon and I. While he refused to try this one (a long time hater of cole-slaw he really wasn't down with eating cabbage no matter what it was paired with, no matter how decadent). Decadent seems to be the best way to describe this one. The word everyone is using. And I have to admit that I liked it. A lot. I would have liked it even more without the big chunks of foie gras. I'm officially not a fan of foie gras.
Also known as "meat pie", this is a traditional Quebec dish. I've had it more times than I can remember but never (EVER) have I tasted such incredibly mouthwatering, delicious, YUMMY tourtiere. I'm not kidding.
I'm totally kicking myself for not buying an extra one to bring home!
...as if I wasn't already bursting at the seems and unbuckling my belt...
This final round (DESSERT) was the best round of all - making the $49/pp brunch well worth the $ and trip!
Tire a l'erable (Maple Taffy) served on ice
This is an absolute must for all visits to the sugar shack. The syrup is boiled and then poured on ice to chill and harden, then everyone digs in with popsicle sticks and rolls up a nice big ball of taffy to suck on. Extremely sweet. Incredibly good. It's a one-time a year kind of treat in my books.
Fried pancakes drenched in maple syrup
These were incredible - moist, light and fluffy on the inside, a little crispy and drenched in maple syrup on the outside. They reminded me doughnuts, really really good doughnuts.
Unfortunately they were served sparingly with only enough for one per person... so we ordered a second round at our table.
Somehow I missed trying the mille-feuilles. That won't happen next time as they were a big favorite for others in our group.
Maple ice-cream banana split
with with maple cotton candy AND maple marshmallows
Do I really have to say anything here? Don't the title and picture speak for themselves? Ymmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about this dessert. First - the ice cream was amazing. Second - the chocolate sauce was perfect. The bananas cut the super sweet taste just enough. I think I even heard someone say - "this is like heaven on a fork" :-)