St-Benoît de Mirabel, Québec
While there is a huge backlog of food posts (short trip to Saskatchewan, long trip to Hawaii, and regular eating in Montréal), I am breaking the chronological order of posts to write about our recent visit to Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon for their autumnal apple menu 'Tombe dans les pommes'. I thought a timely post was in order as the PDC site advertises there are tables available on Thursdays at 5:30 PM and 6 PM. So if you're interested, reserve RIGHT NOW!
Cabane à Sucre Au Pied De Cochon.
After reading about the first edition of Cabane aux Pommes on Shut up and eat, Elle was able to snag us a table on a Friday evening (we were also lucky enough to enjoy the sugar shack meal earlier in the year). Joining us for the fall feast were her hubbie D and our friend MJ.
We got there early and decided to walk up a trail to see the maple trees that produced the syrup we enjoyed earlier in the year. As we waited for a tractor to come down the trail, D pointed out that Martin Picard himself was driving the tractor. WHAAAT? Not only was he there, but actually doing work! (Personally, I'm on a roll with celebrity chefs appearing at restaurants recently. The other one involves an Iron Chef and will be coming up once I write my posts on Hawaii!)
Pumpkin patch in front of the Cabane.
Our group of four was seated with a group of 5, who seemed to already have demolished a jar of cornichons at the table. If we weren't so last minute, it would be really fun to organize a group of 10 to go to the cabane, and slightly less awkward.
To start out with, the girls ordered the specialty apple drinks while D preferred his beer. MJ and Elle ordered the apple slush made up of crushed ice, apple juice and spiced rum. They loved their sweetly spiced drink. I ordered the apple martini and it was way too strong for a lightweight like me.
The first set of dishes meant as starters quickly came out: la tête fromagée, squash soup and sheep yogurt. The now infamous tête fromagée was topped with head cheese and underneath it were two charcuterie maison, made with locally sourced pork: jambon vieilli similar to prosciutto and a bacon like one from the pork belly. The charcuterie was even better accompanyied by the apple mustard, the replenished cornichons, the homemade pickled eggplans and corn relish. I have a complete obsession with homemade pickles now!
One of our favourites of the night was the squash soup gratin with Gruyère and Emmenthal cheese, apple slices and topped with amaretti cookies. We were encouraged to add olive oil to our own bowls. The savouriness from the cheeses, the sweetness from the squash and the unexpected crunch from the amaretti worked so, so well together we couldn't get enough. I had a tiny second helping, even though I knew I would pay for it later.
Lastly came the caillé de brebis avec miel en rayon, brunoise de pommes, copeaux de terrine de foie gras et salade de pousses - a sheep's yogurt with apple brunoise, flaked foie gras terrine topped with a honeycomb. It paired well with the freshly made bread. Every one at the table was in love with the bread, airy on the inside and crusty on the outside. The bread also made for a perfect vehicle for the homemade apple butter.
Caillé de brebis.
As our group was small, we didn't get the show that is the pasta dish made in a large Parmesan wheel but we witnessed it numerous times at other neighbouring tables (including, I'm 85% sure, an old organic chemistry professor, Dr. Lysy?). The pasta, consisting of cavatelli and raviolis au foie de volailles liquide (liquified poultry liver), are added to the wheel, Parmesan cheese is grated in as seen below, sous vide foie gras is added to the pasta and mixed into the sauce.The pasta is then served in the omnipresent multicoloured Le Creuset pots.
Pasta tossed in a Parmesan wheel.
The liver ravioli was meant to be eaten in one bite, with the molten liver exploding in your mouth, reminiscent of the foie gras cromesquis served at the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. The sauce was sweetened with apple sauce and flavoured with rosemary. I made the mistake of going for a second ravioli, when one really was enough.
Cavatelli and liver ravioli, topped with foie gras.
The first main dish consisted of PDC's version of surf and turf. The surf consisted of warmed Malpeque oysters from PEI and the turf a beef shoulder with carrots, cepes mushrooms (we only found one!) and caramelized onions braised in white wine. The beef was fall of the bone tender.
Surf n Turf.
The salmon en papillote was stuffed with apples, basil, onion, garlic and lemon. The accompanying sauce was made up of braised endives, buccin (sea snails), clams, bacon, potatoes, cider and cream, and was very reminiscent of a clam chowder. Boston lettuce leaves were served on the side, to make lettuce wrapped beef or salmon rolls, at the diner's desire.
Salmon en papillote.
The final main, but definitely not the least, were eggplant pancakes with broccoli and hazelnut paste. The chef recommended topping an oyster with caramelized onions on the pancake. We unanimously loved this dish. It was very creative and unique, and the broccoli with hazelnut paste, similar to a peanut sauce, was completely addictive.
Eggplant pancakes with hazelnut broccoli.
As we were taking respite from food before dessert, the chef himself Martin Picard started to work the room. He talked to the diners at the bar first, and then went from table to table to say hello. He even graciously took individual pictures with the people from the table behind us, which might have gotten an eyeroll from me. PEOPLE: if the chef is nice enough to take pictures with you, just take one or two and let him move on! We mentioned to him that we saw him riding his tractor and he replied that's when he's at his most relaxed. I also showed him I was wearing sweatshorts (that Elle nicely cropped off) to comfortably stuff myself and he said that was a very good strategy!
With none other than Martin Picard.
Finally, when we didn't think we could eat much more, it was dessert time. Apple pie was served with marbled ice cream, consisting of apple sorbet and vanilla honey ice cream. A sticky toffee pudding, with a base of plums and apples, was cooked in and served from a can (like the duck in a can!). The pudding was then drizzled with a homemade caramel sauce.
Apple pie, ice cream and toffee pudding.
The final dessert and final dish of the night, were soufflés with caramelized apples and chocolate ganache at the bottom. I could barely eat, so honestly only had a few bites but it was delicious. The soufflé itself was light and airy, and all that one would want from a soufflé.
Everyone enjoyed our meal at the first Cabane aux Pommes and thought the $50 was well worth it. From our experience with Cabane à Sucre, we brought our own Tupperware to bring leftover food home.
Having gone to both, Elle and I agreed that if we had to choose, we preferred the fall edition of the cabane. For this year anyway. For me, I think I liked the addition of produce (the pickles, the squash soup and broccoli). For a locally focused menu, it makes sense that there is more produce on hand in the fall compared to the winter. I have a feeling that Chef Martin would rock a vegetarian meal. Maybe when hell freezes over. Elle liked the more simple menu compared to the over-the-top items in the winter.
[We weren't the only bloggers who got to enjoy this feast. Read about it on Montreal Breakfast Review, This is Why We're Fat and the aforementioned Shut up and Eat.]