Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter - Sugar Shack Time!

There is this great tradition in Quebec, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s called Sugaring Off. Since 90% of Quebec is rural, the province is probably your number 1 producer of pure maple syrup. The time to collect maple sap from the sugar bush (forest of maple trees) is when the sap in the trees thaw, which is around March and April here in Canada. So every Quebecer at one time or another during the two months makes their way to their favourite Cabane a Sucre, or Sugar Shack. Each place serves their own maple syrup from their harvest along with a crazy amount of traditional Québécois food.

This Easter there was no beautiful ham or roast beef, no gravy, no Yorkshire pudding (of which my mom makes the best!) and no wonderfully mashed potatoes. This year my parents and my brother packed up the house and drove up to Montreal for the long weekend. Once here we have all proceeded to stuff our faces with everything from Shish Taouk from Boustan's, steamies from La Belle Provence, breakfast at St. Viateur Bagels(one of the best Montréal bagel places in the world) another mound of French toast, eggs Florentine, bacon, ham and sausage breakfast at Cafe Orange, dinner at a tiny dinner that only 13 people can fit in and is known as one of the greatest poutine places in Montréal (guess what we had?), and finally a wonderful dinner at Taverne, where dessert was none other than a maple chocolate bread pudding and mascarpone maple walnut cheesecake.

As if that wasn’t enough we ran into a store that sells only Brome Lake duck… in all of its many forms. My brother went crazy with joy and had a duck poutine made with duck gravy, duck confit, fries and squeaky cheese curds. You can tell that the cheese curds are fresh because when you eat them they sound like two balloons making love.

Now you would think that we would never want to see Québécois cuisine for at least a little while, but you would be wrong. This Easter we picked up Ian and piled into the car for a 45 minute drive into the Laurentians. We ended up at the ‘Cabane a Sucre Constantine’ which was a massive place, much bigger than most family run places, but we didn't have reservations and we were only there for one thing... the brunch. The event (yes this was definitely an event) started off with creton, fresh breads, coleslaw and four different preserves, pickles, pickled beets, pickled onions, and a very traditional melange of tomatoes and vegetables that they call Ketchup, but is definitely not of the Heinz family. Then came the pea soup, known to keep French Canadian lumberjacks warm. Next they brought out this HUGE fluffy omelette made of at least 10-15 eggs that our family shared topped with maple ham and craquelins. On the side we had maple sausage, maple baked beans, and some simple potatoes. Then you were supposed to drizzle maple syrup all over everything, so I did, I didn’t want to disappoint. Finally for dessert we had a Tarte au Syrup d'érable (maple syrup tart), crêpes with maple syrup and pouding au chômeur which I still am not sure as to its contents, basically I just think it's like a sponge cake baked with maple syrup then covered in more syrup. Needless to say we were stuffed.

After the brunch Ian and I took a stroll down to the tire d'érable hut, a place where they boil down maple syrup until it is very thick, then they drizzle it on snow and when it’s cold you roll it up with a stick and eat it. Brilliant eh!
It’s huge here, so I just wanted to show another picture of when Ian and I had it in Quebec City.

So that was my weekend, I hope you all had a great Easter and I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s holidays. Oh, and I'm sorry about this month, exams are starting and even if I do bake or cook, it's in between studying so Ian hasn't been around to take pictures. Booerns. But come April 29th at 10pm I will be freeeeeee and Coco Bean will resume its normal posting.


Junglefrog said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful easter over there!! Maple syrup in snow... Interesting! Kind of like an instant made icecream I guess! We have been to Canada once only during the millenium thing from 1999 to 2000 and I do remember seeing maple syrup everywhere (probably also in the tourist stores...:) and I don't actually think you can buy it easily here. I'm sure we can find it somewhere though... :)
What exams are you taking right now?

Ian said...

Hi Junglefrog :D
Christie is just so busy with school, she is studying all day and all night for her exams (she is currently finishing her University degree in Microbiology). The Easter was alot of fun though, we put Maple Syrup on everything we ate heheh, it was really nice to have a little escape from all the things that have been keeping us so busy.

As far a the availibility of Maple Syrup, it is just so good that it should be availible everywhere in the world at any time of year :P We are lucky to be living in the region of the world where the production is the highest :D

♥peachkins♥ said...

wow.this is cool..