Cabane à Sucre - Pied de Cochon

Several weeks ago, three friends and I had the opportunity to visit the Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon. To read the comments on Internet forums you'd think it more likely to come across a spotted unicorn in your dining room than to score reservations to the Cabane. In reality, though, all you need to do is call well in advance. And by well in advance, we're talking about 6 months. So, if you want a table for next year, you'd better be getting your dialing finger ready sometime in the next few months.

And – unlike most things that are hyped up to be something they're not – in this case, it's well worth the wait.

The planets were so well aligned, in fact, that our reservation coincided exactly with my buddy Vahe's birthday, making for an easy, inexpensive and delicious birthday gift. We got into my lemon of a car, and drove the 30 minutes northwest of Laval, past the suburbia of St-Eustache, to the idyllic rural setting of St-Benoit-de-Mirabel. Unlike most “traditional” Cabanes, this one was much more lounge-like, smaller, intimate, and clean – make no mistake; this is a restaurant much more than it is a typical Cabane A Sucre. That doesn't bother me, but for the non-Quebeckers who come from out of town to get a “taste of Quebec”, it needs to be said that this is far from the traditional Cabane A Sucre experience.

Once inside, the hostess looked up our reservation and promptly assigned us to a table; actually, a double-table shared with a group of friendly seniors. The waitress came to our table and explained that there would be three courses, each with several plates of food to share between us. We also had a limitless supply of maple syrup and some of the best crepes I've ever had. We ordered beer – not a wimpy pint, but something larger that a pint, something... precious – and waited not-so-patiently for our food to arrive.

Lo and behold, arrive it did.

While I've never had a huge obsession with pea soup – really, who does? - I can claim with confidence that is the best pea soup I've ever tasted. While that's probably not a very bold statement, believe me when I say that this pea soup was incredible. It was just so... pea-y. And smooth. And fresh. Also, the chunks of Foie Gras floating around in it probably didn't hurt matters either.

The chicken feet looked... well, they looked like the feet of a chicken. Except removed from said chicken, cooked and covered in sauce. Against my expectations (I've never actually eaten chicken feet before) they were quite good; sort of like crispy chicken wings with very little meat on them.

Still in the first course, we were treated to another delicious dish composed of an omelet filled with shredded pork. The rest of its composition remains shrouded in mystery. This serving went particularly quickly, as was voted as “the most likely to cause a fist-fight at the table”. Whenever someone picked up the spatula to cut a piece off, we all discretely darted our eyes to the event to make sure that the person in question wasn't taking more than their fair share.

As if to lighten things up amidst all this high-fat, high-carb, high-sugar, high-sodium goodness, was a nice, light salad... with deep fried smoked pork jowls in lieu of croutons. Naturally.

The second course, though quite good, wasn't as well received as the first. The beef tongues weren't quite a hit, and only two of us attempted to throw down. The jury was still out, stuck somewhere between “feels like making out with a cow” and “feels like making out with a dead, rotting carcass of a cow”. The rest of the tongues remained on the table.

The lobster-cabbage concoction was also hit-or-miss; the rare chunks of lobster were delicious finds, but the soggy cabbage that surrounded it just wasn't very tasty, and was akin to blender-food. It sat on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes which went some distance to redeem it along with the lobster. The dish itself wasn't horrible, but compared to everything else we'd had there it wasn't anything special either.

Same could be said for the whole chicken with beans, which was good but not spectacular, probably due to lack-luster seasoning / under-flavoring. Note that this is completely relative to the other dishes we'd enjoyed so far; if I had been eating this chicken at home or elsewhere, I would've considered it more than passable. It's just difficult to stand it up against, for example, the aforementioned pork omelet.

The third – and final – course consisted of dessert. Considerable dessert. A heap of dessert. An amount of dessert that could not readily be recommended to the sick, elderly, pregnant, those who are nursing, or anyone who does not ardently wish to die from glucose poisoning.

Like the pea soup that came before it, the millefeuilles is a dessert that never really spoke to my primal urges. It just isn't very “sexy” as desserts go when compared to a cheesecake, a cannoli or a pouding chômeur, and it usually something you find bundled with those other miscellaneous pastries in a ready-made container at the supermarket. Well, let me tell you – really, let me – that this is the best millefeuilles I've ever had, bar none. The pastry sheets remained perfectly crispy while the cream fillings provided an excellent contrast to them. With just a hint of maple, the icing was, errr, the icing on the cake.

Then we had some ice cream. Maple ice cream, if memory serves. In the form of a banana split. Covered in chocolate coulis. Topped off with a tuft of cotton candy – maple, of course. Against all odds (or perhaps with them), it was amazing. I usually don't dig ice cream flavours other than banana – The Only Flavor That Matters (TM) – but maple plus chocolate plus cotton candy cannot realistically equal anything else than Nirvana, can it now?

Needless to say, you can't have a Cabane à Sucre without the Tire, the maple syrup sapped from the trees, made into a hard, chewy taffy and served on ice to offset the insanely sweet taste. I've never had tire that wasn't the epitome of deliciousness, and this was no exception. Nothing to see here, move along.

We topped off our dessert with more dessert. Naturally. Maple-flavoured cotton candy was taken home to be enjoyed, since trying to fit any more food into our bodies at that point would've been tantamount to physical and emotional suicide.

Finally, no Cabane à Sucre visit would be complete without a long walk in the forest, martial arts taunting, alternative rock band album cover posing, and gratuitous violence.

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