After months of living under the snow and with limited amounts of sunlight, it’s finally time for longer days and higher temperatures. With gorgeous days comes the need to get out of the city and enjoy the fresh air among trees. So this past weekend I headed out to Rigaud, a small town just about 70 km west from Montreal, to experience my first visit to a cabane à sucre (sugar shack) at the Sucrerie de la Montagne. It was also a chance to enjoy the last of snow before spring moves swiftly in… Apparently.
The erabliere Sucrerie de la Montagne sits atop Mont Rigaud in the midst of a maple forest, and it’s been designated a Quebec Heritage site. Spring is the season for sugaring off and here they produce maple syrup the old-fashioned way. There are metal buckets hanging all over the trees, getting filled with the sap that will then be heated up in a traditional wood-fired evaporator and converted into the most delicious maple syrup.
Last Sunday, as I was on my way to the restaurant, I stopped to take a photo of one of the working horses which was enjoying a day off. When suddenly a pit bull broke into the horse’s pen and started to tease the massive horse around. The horse was definitely not amused at this intrusion and began charging at the pesky little creature that was ruining his Sunday afternoon. The girlfriend of the dog’s owner was screaming hysterically for him to go get his dog; but the boy was way too intimidated by the huge horse to dare go any closer. An anonymous dude with a touch for animals saved the day by grabbing the dog and returning it to his owner.
The Sucrerie de la Montagne is a full on family business, all fashioned in the most traditional way. There is not only the maple syrup production; they also have the restaurant and provide accommodation services, plus they operate a gift store. Before getting into the dinning hall, you must purchase a ticket at the teller ($31 CAD + taxes per person; but there are times when it’s less, check here).
Once inside, you are greeted by the cozy atmosphere in the main hall. The place is huge and they can accommodate over 500 people at a time, in all of their three reception halls. There is also live music and there were lots of children clapping and rocking to the tunes. After you seat down at your table, all the deliciousness is brought right to you! It all starts with a hearty pea soup and some farm style bread. That’s just to warm you up and get you ready for what comes next…
Then, you get to sample all the goodies… Top row, from left to right: omelette soufflé, the fluffiest eggs you’ll ever taste!; meat pie from the Beauce region; some delicious country-style sausages; maple smoked ham, so tasty! Second row: crispy pork rinds and mashed potatoes. And lastly, some traditional meat balls stew plus the wood-fired baked beans (not in the photo, but also deliciously maple flavoured). Everything was very nicely done and tasty.
Any drinks besides water, coffee and tea are not included in the price. I ordered some red wine at 7$/glass that was not really to my liking, so I’d choose something else next time. The meal ends with fabulous desserts: sugar pie and pancakes! The sugar pie is super sweet and can be too much to handle; but the pancakes… oh, the pancakes! They were probably the best pancakes I’ve had in my life; made out of some wholesome mix and topped with golden maple syrup…
As if all that was not enough to fill up your belly, you get outside and you have to try the maple taffy on snow. They boil the maple sap to a certain point; then they pour it over snow and pick it with a wooden stick. I loved the mix of sticky maple with the cold and wet snow!
To finish up a perfect spring day, you can get on board and go for a ride on a horse-drawn wagon. And to bring home a little taste of this sweet paradise you can also get some goodies at the gift store. To add to my gift bag, I got a 250 ml bottle of pure maple syrup for just $9.50 CAD.
Sucrerie de la Montagne
300 Chemin St-Georges
CP 1540 Rigaud QC
Tel: 450 451 0831