{Quebec} Maple Syrup Wonderland {Part 1}

CHATTER: SECOND POST OF EASTERN JOURNEY, CROSSING HUGE PACIFIC OCEAN, I’M FINALLY AT THE WONDERLAND 😀

Canada has many regional specialties, however, I think the most famous one is maple syrup. Regarding the website of Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers – FPAQ, Canada produces more than 70% of the world’s maple syrup, and over 90% of which is from Quebec. Over 7000 producers are member of FPAQ, and they produce more than 30 million liters (approximately equal with volume of 12 Olympic pools). Now you know a good example of “dominance” 😉

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Credit: finedininglovers.com

In my opinion, maple syrup is surely one of Canada’s national resources. FPAQ has a system of warehouses to reserve the syrup in Quebec, and they also control sales, quota system, promoting sales, marketing, impacting on world’s market…It is kind of OPEC with petroleum. Many producers are not member of this federation, because they don’t agree with regulations and limitations of FPAQ. Therefore, there are illegal dealers and a black market for this product as well! (Is it gold or diamond?!?) T__T

That’s it for introduction 😉 Next, I would like to share my experience at a sugar shack, called Erablière Charbonneau, near Montreal city. Beside cooking and food, there were activities in here, and I also heard stories and learned how to make the product.

>>>>> LET’S START <<<<<

Sugar shacks need large area to grow maple trees so they usually locate outside of cities. The distance from Concordia University to Erablière Charbonneau is about 60km. It was my first time so I was excited ^^~ especially after taking few times to agree time and date with my friend because of his busy schedule.

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Blue sky and yellow sunshine greeted us in the morning. I stayed up late the night before so I missed scenes on the road for my sleep (regretfully). I was waken up by sunlight bouncing off snow, and my shortsightedness eyes felt irritating. It took a min for me to realize surrounding mountains and trees. Plenty of cars in parking area made me feel happy, because it would be boring if you went to an unpopular sugar shack, right? 😉

This farm is quite big. As expected, all signboards here were in French (or French-Canadian, though I don’t really understand the difference). Most of trees here were maple trees, as a staff told me (I obviously could not recognize which ones were maple trees) ^^

A big wooden bear right in front of entrance door successfully caught my eyes, because it reminded me about Leo Di Caprio who (finally) won Oscar few days before 😀 Normally, I would associate with something else, but the bear who had been forgotten in Leo’s speech was a splendid joke, lol

We arrived earlier than usual lunch time. Only few tables in two dining rooms were occupied. Wooden house brought warm feeling, chandeliers were simple and classical, similar like Medieval ones I saw in movies, but they had cute Christmas trees and reindeers 😀 Moreover, I almost mistook all traditional snowshoes hung on the wall for a kind of sport racket 😀 Well, I only saw modern ones before 。(*^▽^*)ゞ

Most of tables are for groups, so we were arranged to sit at a table in the middle of dining room 😀 Easy for 360 degrees observation ^^~ After 30-45 mins, two dining rooms were quickly full of families and kids. My friend said it was spring break so many families took their kids to here. All of kids’ fun conversations distracted me from eating for a while, especially the “hurray”, “awesome” sound from the table next to us, whenever their favorite dishes were served 😀

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All-you-can-eat menu has about 20 Quebec dishes, and you can order more if you want. I don’t know about others but after trying all of them, I literally could not breath normally, therefore, ordering more was out of the question!

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Firstly, we were served two cups of delicious apple juice. I finally realized apple juice I had drank before was tasteless because of the freshness, natural sweetness of this one… Apples were taken from the orchard next door, which is also owned by Charbonneau family (this orchard and cider brewery is ideal for summer and autumn activities, though their dining and Breton crepe are available the whole year round)

Back to our table, we had a big bottle of maple syrup (the bottle could be bigger in other tables), a bottle of milk, salt, pepper, sugar and ketchup. Well, it seemed everything was ready for all-you-can-eat!

Four side dishes

  • Coleslaw: I often enjoy the creamy and light version, coleslaw here was a bit sourer and spicier for my taste.
  • Homemade marinades: I guess this one was suitable as “blazing BBQ marinade” than using it alone as side dish. I might not use it correctly, however, I ensured that it was too spicy and salty ^^~
  • Pickles: seriously salty 😦
  • Pickled beets: balanced taste for me, a bit sweet and sour. I didn’t eat beets a lot in Vietnam but this one was right after the coleslaw.
  • Pea soup: Tasty! It was ideal dish for winter, warmed up your body after few “slurp” 😀 However, my friend didn’t like it. I guessed he was not cold like me, so he couldn’t realize and appreciate this little pot 😉
  • Meatballs: viscous sauce, with light maple syrup flavor. Meatballs were leaner than I thought, well-marinated. The sauce was nice but a bit fatty.
  • Baked beans: I like beans but this one was weird so I only tried a small portion. It was salty, then sweet, and greasy as well. No matter what, it was not my type of dish 😦
  • Fried potatoes: not crispy style, it was slightly soft with butter-aromatic. I wonder if they put maple syrup as well.
  • Cretons (pork spread): it reminds me about pate, though I think it is tastier 😀
  • Maple sausages: meat was marinated with maple syrup and other spices. This dish was special. Why? I only concentrated on enjoying its delicious taste and completely forgot taking picture 😦
  • I had an idea after seeing the bread and cretons: making sandwich from ingredients on the table. The reason was because I did not really like taste of side dishes, therefore, I wanted to mix them with bread and pork spread to create something new and easier to eat (like Vietnamese banh mi). Coleslaw and cretons were two main ingredients, then I added marinades, or beets (which was sliced into small pieces). Surprisingly, it tasted much better 😀 My friend was curious but he didn’t want to try because “it looks like a mess” (huh…T___T). After all, he still liked it, didn’t he? Side dishes and cretons were finished in the blink of an eye 😉
  • Meat pie (tourtiere): Groups had normal round pie, but my table got two warm hand pies, which I specially love its shape 😀 The pie crust was quite crispy, the meat filling was also marinated with maple syrup I think, which enhanced the flavor. I was quite full when the pie came, but as usual, I couldn’t resist the temptation =)))
  • Ham: this one was yummy. It was not dry and I could literally felt flavors of spices in every fiber of it. My conclusion? Maple syrup would be great substitution for sugary part in marinade!!!
  • Pork rinds and crispy bacon. Crunchy pork rinds were great snack for my tummy during “take a rest” time. I did not like bacon so it was skipped (Yeah, I’m a member in this foodie world who don’t like Bacon)

DESSERT

  • As a self-proclaimed dessertholic, my meal cannot be done without dessert 😉 Surprisingly, I found a new love of my life…Maple Coulis! The mix of maple sugar, brown sugar, butter and milk is honey-colored, consistent, aromatic liquid, which became mouthwatering pair with crepe and pancake (^o^) I also brought one jar with me back for my sweet-tooth lust and used it deliberately =)))
  • Sugar pie và Pet de soeur: Sugar pie’s filling was light brown, smooth, and aromatic, however, it was super duper sweet! After first bite, I could not eat, and immediately order tea to smooth away the sweetness which made me goosebumps. Pet de soeur (sisters’ farts, euphemistically translated nun’s pastries or brown sugar rolls) was less sweet than sugar pie, but it was still much sweeter than average Asian delicate sweet taste 😀

PHEW, FINALLY, DONE! WRITING THIS POST WAS GREAT TORTURE FOR MY TUMMY, IT MADE ME HUNGRY AND DROVE ME CRAZILY BECAUSE I COULD NOT JUMP ON A PLANE AND FLY TO CANADA FOR ANOTHER ROUND AT SUGAR SHACK, LOL

Few comments after my enormous effort in trying all dishes =)))

  • Side dishes and pickles are salty harshly. The taste is totally different with Vietnamese Northern fermented food (e.g, fermented mustard greens), and it is even more harsh than our Central fermented food which are famous for its spiciness or saltiness.
  • These dishes are definitely not for low-calories dieters. It took few days for my heavy body to feel hungry again =))) Well, in exchange, I definitely got better cold endurance. However, I still spent one month to “feel sorry” for my belly size 😦
  • As mentioned above, add maple syrup in your marinade!
  • Discovery day! New favorite food: cretons, maple coulis and apple juice 😀
  • Splitting bills is not new to many countries, but I sill want to mention here, because in many Asian countries, it is not part of our culture 😉 We got two bills with exact same amount, and two small maple syrup candies. Each bill was 21.79 CAD. The candy was in maple leaf shape, quite cute, I hesitated to eat it a bit 😀
  • On their website, there is a discount coupon 3 CAD/person. You should print it out and give to staff here, discount will be applied.

TO BE CONTINUED…THE SECOND PART… 😉

Address: Erablière Charbonneau, 45 Chemin du Sous-Bois, Mont-Saint-Grégoire, QC J0J 1K0, Canada

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