It’s sugar shack season again in Quebec, one of my favourite times of the year, when indulging in everything maple is enthusiastically encouraged. I am not originally from Quebec but I am fiercely proud of my adopted province’s sweet heritage and will happily partake in anything maple anytime. Last year I managed to make it to 4 cabanes à sucre before my liver cried mercy. This year, I have gone to two so far and it’s only the beginning of the season!
Maple season started with a bang this year with chef Laurent Godbout’s Erablière Shefford in the Eastern Townships, about an hour and 20 minutes east of Montreal. All around the woods outside, hundreds of metal buckets dot the surrounding trees patiently waiting to fill up with precious maple sap. Dark fire pits welcome visitors right before you cross the threshold of the big airy shack. What looks like a very traditional sugar shack from the outside is actually a playful mix of conventional and modern elements once you step inside. Metal bull skulls adorn one wall of the large room while log bits are used in a decorative manner as a wink to the traditional construction methods of log sugar shacks. Long communal tables are lined up throughout the room ready to seat groups of happy maple seekers.
I was invited to try out the Shefford sugar shack along with a few other bloggers last Sunday night. A more “traditional” menu of 18 courses for $22 and a “reinvented” one of 11 fancier courses for 45$ are available at the Shefford shack. We were served the “reinvented menu” with a few dishes from the traditional menu to taste. Both menus are served family-style and are best shared with a group of friends.
Everyone was in agreement that everything served that night was absolutely delicious. Traditional enough to jog waves of nostalgia in the minds of my pure laine friends around the table and yet reinvented in such playful ways, like the log dotted with evergreen fronds and delicious little creton cones or the addictive, thinly-sliced pork rinds. A few of the savoury dishes that stood out for me were the terrine of foie gras and ham served with a baked bean spread and the pea and smoked duck soup served with maple whipped cream that was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, both of these dishes were not photogenic enough for my camera but you can see photos of them here.
The most playful part of the evening was of course, reserved for the desserts. A “tree” of maple cotton candy was followed by a cast-iron pot of choux à la crème, an apple pie served in a large mason jar and a deep-fried ice-cream-stuffed rolled crêpe. My favourite dessert though was simply maple taffee served in an apple slush cone instead of the traditional rolling of the taffee in snow. The contrast of flavours and textures – sour and sweet, grainy and smooth – are just brilliant and a perfect finale to the meal.
The evening ended with all of us gathered around the fire pit outside roasting the homemade maple marshmallows and filling our lungs with fresh country air. There might even have been some dancing around the fire. Now doesn’t that sound just perfect?
Tip: The front part of the Shefford sugar shack is occupied by a small display of delicious maple-derived items such as caramels, dressings, marinades and homemade marshmallows, so don’t forget to pick something up on your way out. Trust me when I say that you will be grateful for that unbelievably delicious maple salted caramel spread on your toast the next morning!
275, Chemin Brandrick
Shefford, Quebec J2M 2A5
450 777 7128
Fridays: 5pm to 9pm
Saturdays: 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 9pm
Sundays: 11am to 3pm
If you’d like to dine at the Shefford sugar shack during the week, you will need to make reservations (minimum number of people required)
Open until the end of April.
This meal was offered courtesy of the Shefford sugar shack.