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!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mac + Cheese Week 2016

Hey guys!

Mac + Cheese Week 2017 should be right around the corner now ... but that doesn't mean we can't talk about the 2016 edition and what I have had the chance to try.

I know, sounds like a lame excuse to write about a year later, but I have been so busy writing for other blogs. Since respecting deadlines for others is a very important value to my eyes, well, I ended up neglecting my personal blog.

First off, happy new year 2017! With all the food festivals that are being held right now and that are coming right at our faces in the weeks I will get to talk about a lot of food!

Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the concept yet, it's basically restaurants of Montreal that come up with a special mac and cheese for a limited time. Last year for Mac and Cheese week I went out twice. One night, I was accompanied by Kenly and Rio and we went to three different places all located in the heart of Downtown Montreal.

First stop was Wienstein & Gavino's known for its Italian cuisine, variety of dishes, and atmosphere.

As we sat down and looked at the menu for entrées we were given a plate of pesto and a halfway sliced baguette still slightly warm. If you haven't been there before, be careful.


This thing is dangerous. I remember once stuffing myself with so much bread and pesto that when my plate of seafood and lobster risotto came I couldn't eat it (which is probably one of the most expensive items on the menu).

We weren't sure how much mac and cheese we would eat in total so we ordered some fried calamari with diablo sauce.


The breading on the calamari was light and well seasoned, it held on well to the meat, and the diablo sauce was a very nice touch. I find that marinara isn't spicy enough and you need some spice with seafood (except for lobster, that's not necessary). I was happy with that choice because a lot of restaurants don't get it right, but there they do.

Our second entrée was the grilled octopus on Calabrian nduja-cannellini bean ragoût.


We really liked the presentation and the smell that came out of it. Slightly spicy (because of the nduja sauce) and lemony, it was a very nice mix of flavors. However the portion was relatively small to be shared between three persons.

Then came the real reason why we were here. The pear and gorgonzola Mac and Cheese.


Gorgonzola and pear usually go well together, whether as an entrée or even in a sandwich. However I wasn't sure how this mix cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella, Gorgonzola (or blue cheese), with walnuts, pear, and onion, served with penne was going to turn out.


First of all the plate was big. Good thing we shared. The smell was very cheesy but not in a bad smelly way. The walnuts gave it a very nice crunch, and the texture of the sauce was just right, gooey inside and gratiné on top but nothing runny. I love cheese and I thought this combination, with the pear, tasted delicious. It was quite rich and fatty though and at the end of it we were a bit tired of eating it. I think this can be perfect as an entrée but if you want to eat the whole thing make sure you really love cheese and pasta.

We asked for our bill fast and jumped to our second stop, Reuben's, who has quite a good reputation for a deli. They are known for their meats, and mostly their smoked meat.

So we had to go for something we wouldn't find elsewhere : fried smoked meat wontons served with Sriracha mayonnaise.



Made with smoked meat, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, they were piping hot when they arrived. Crispy outside yet oozy inside, they were a very special experience in themselves. I really liked the texture, but I found the mix inside a little too salty to my liking. However they were perfectly executed despite rising a bit our cholesterol level.

The mac they served was topped with their signature smoked meat.


Made with a mix of Velveeta cheese, Monterey jack, and cheddar, then broiled lightly into a skillet, we were expecting a bit more ooze. However it was a very good ratio, not too cheesy neither dry. The presentation was impeccable. The portion was unfortunately rather small but would have been perfect for just one person. The seasoning wasn't very present in the pasta and sauce because of the smoked meat that was already very flavorful on its own. However it couldn't cling to the sauce and pasta and since the pieces were rather small bits I think eating it with a spoon would have been more appropriate.

As soon as we were finished we ran to Deville Dinerbar for more cholesterol. Sorry, I meant mac and cheese.


We thought Deville was going to offer a special Mac and cheese dish they usually don't have on their menu ... but no, it was their mac and cheese wontons which they always have on the menu ... Oh well. We went for it anyway.


It's served with a cold marinara sauce on the side.



The wonton was crispy and actually delicious. The mac inside is made with cheddar, and the recipe isn't over the top. However, with the marinara sauce, it just seemed like a very good match. But truthfully you can get that anytime, don't go there just because it's Mac and cheese week.

Despite all the food we had already had, we were hungry for some more. Or thought we were hungry for some more. We asked for ahi tuna tacos.



The whole thing is special. First, the quality of the fish. It was good, but sliced much thinner than I'm used to. Then, the taco shell is actually a fried wonton wrapper. The filling is an Asian coleslaw, and it's served with a lime and wasabi aioli. Wow. It was good. I wish there were more fish but the textures and flavors were just so great together. It made me want to ask for more.

We also had some chips and Kopanisti dip.



The chips were thick cut with a hint of truffle and Parmesan. The dip was quite thick, made with feta cheese and red peppers. The flavors all went very well together. It was very rich and maybe a bit too much for us as the end of the day. We didn't realize the portion would be so generous but we really liked it. If you get this as an entrée make sure you share it because you won't have room for whatever else you ordered.

The second night I went out I took my friend Élise with me. I let her choose places she hadn't been to before.

Our first stop was Pub Brewskey located right in the Old Port.


Small place stuck in what looks like a basement, they actually have a nice selection of beers and cocktails. Very cozy, it's the perfect spot to bring a friend, or two, or three ... but careful, they may not have enough chairs for you! We had to sit at the bar, which we were absolutely fine with.

So we asked for their Black n Mac.


This beautiful thing was made with sausage from Ça Va Barder (special recipe using Brewskey La Underground IPA and smoked cheese curds), Brewskey Imperial Steam Stout cheese sauce, panko, Guinness cheese gratin, and jerky bacon.

Deer god. That thing was good. Every bite was a party in our mouth. No need to say more.

Our second stop was Fortune, located a few steps away from the Petite Italie.


This little taqueria was offering a roasted squash and jalapeño mac and cheese topped with buttermilk biscuit and queso fresco.

The idea was really interesting but to that point it felt more like a macaroni salad than an actual mac and cheese. I'm sorry. There was no ooze, no gooeyness, no sauciness. Also the portion was quite small and even on its own it wouldn't have been enough for one person. We had hopes for that one but it didn't meet our expectations.

And so that's it for today folks. Hopefully the 2017 edition will get even better and more diversified. My wishlist for this year : restaurants serving actual mac and cheese (on its own or in something) that is usually not on their menu. I mean, it's Mac and cheese week, isn't it?

Until next time!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...