En caravane, allons à la cabane! (II)

Mrs.Waffle has made it a yearly tradition – a Sugar Shack trip, with friends and family. And this year would be a special trip, as it would be the Waffle Jr.’s first trip to la Cabane.

Mel got really excited when she heard that la Sucrerie du Terroir was opening for the season, despite it still being winter. She plotted with Miriam an early yearly trip to her favorite Sugar Shack in the Outaouais region. We’d been there two years in a row already, and there was no avoiding a tree-peat. Especially since la Sucrerie now has an Online Reservations Tool, making it even easier to book your spot.

Mel really, really didn’t want to miss it. So she booked the first spot available on the first day la Sucrerie was open. And so there was 8 of us who made the journey to Val-des-Monts for an early sweet breakfast – despite my half-hearted protests about the selected time of day, the cold temperature and mostly about getting served last year’s Maple Syrup’s production – no way you could get 2o11 vintage at this time of the year. ”I like my syrup aged”, Miriam deadpanned. I simply couldn’t win this argument.

So we made the journey to the 190 acre property in Val-des-Monts. The “Sucrerie du terroir” is a trip to the old traditions. And this year, the owners have made some changes, moving the actual sugar house where the sap is boiled up the hill by the shack. They also included a traditional, outdoor boiler system, showing how it was first down, with cauldron over a fire. They certainly did improve on the rustic, old time decor.

As we settled at our table, we couldn’t help but noticed that we were alone. We were the first and only customers of 2011! The official opening was set for the evening, with musicians and everything – a big party. So I guess we were their soft opening.

Moving buildings is not the only change la Sucrerie has made this year. Their menu has changed too. Oh, nothing too drastic, but still, worth pointing out.

The big change is their sausages. Gone are the industrial-made, pork and beef in a tube. Not that they were bad, but they’ve decided to go rustic and introduced their very own Country style sausages, or, as they call them in french, their Pitounes aux fines herbes (Pitounes meaning logs).

Kudos to la Sucrerie du terroir. These skinless sausage were dense, meaty, with a very earthy flavour. The fat content was minimal, leaving all the room for the meat to express itself. They were quite tender, and if they weren’t very juicy, they were not dry either. It is always a challenge to jump from commercial-made to house-made products – there are costs and time involved that sometimes make people go the easy way. But it was worth it – these Herby Logs are a nice improvement on their previous sausages, and they are served on a mini-horse sleigh, just to remind us of where we are.

And, of course, it was all you can eat.

Now, according to the owner, this was the only culinary adjustment they made this year. However, and perhaps because we were the only ones there, we got the best meal I’ve had of my three visits. Being able to take their time in the kitchen, not having to rush out food to 100+ guests, it certainly paid off. (For us, that is!)

For instance, the Omelette was an even better master piece than usual. They just outdid themselves.

Oven baked in a cast iron pan, served hot and steamy, it was oh, so fluffy, so puffy. Like eating an eggy cloud.

And, of course, it was all you can eat – although we ate only one.

The ham was also more interesting this year. No, they haven’t moved to an all-natural, slowly smoked ham – it is still a pre-cooked maply version.

However, the slices were thicker, it was a better quality and the ham was baked with lots and lots of cloves, an ingredient that was not discernible in years past. But this time, it was there in force. No fooling around, we got cloves, lots of it!

There was no avoiding it. They were not used sparingly. And with a healthy helping of sweet and dark maple syrup, it made for a pretty good spicy piece of ham. You had to have the syrup though – the taste of cloves without the sweetie goodness would have been like a punch in the mouth. All you can eat, of course.

In fact, as per usual, everything is all you can eat. Fruit salad, french toasts, pancakes, omelette, roasted potatoes, sausages, bacon rinds (oreilles de “crisse”!), maple ham, baked beans and of course their famous maple mousse small tarts (a new crust this year, home made) all of that for a mere 26$. Alright, it’s not that cheap. But it is a unique and fun experience. And it is cheaper for kids. And it is all you can eat!

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