Last Sunday, with a group of friends, we went to a Cabane à Sucre outside Montréal. Cabanes à Sucre or Sugar Shacks in English are popular traditional establishments in Québec where maple syrup and everything sweet are celebrated. It’s basically an institution and a must-stop for anyone visiting the Belle Province between October and April.
So following this long standing tradition, a friend had the fantastic idea to organize a trip to Mont-Saint-Grégoire, about 45 minutes’ drive from Montréal, to visit the Érablière Charbonneau before the Sugar shacks’ season ended. And it was also a great opportunity to celebrate the arrival of spring with friends. The Érablière Charbonneau is a family owned Sugar shack since 2004. It wasn’t my first time visiting this particular Sugar shack. I had been there before; I think 5 or 6 years ago with another group of friends. However, I didn’t mind returning there because I enjoyed my first time.
From the exterior and from the inside, the cabin looked like a traditional lodge, warm and welcoming. In the reception hall, we were greeted by a very nice lady who led us to our table. Then we were offered apple juice with cinnamon, made locally, bread and butter, pea soup, pickled beets and pickles as appetizers. Ordinarily, I’m not someone who enjoyed eating pickled beets; however I did enjoy munching on them while waiting for our orders to arrive. Since I don’t like eating pea soup, I didn’t have any, but my friend who tried it said it was good. So I trust her judgement on that.
Then it was time for dinner. It’s fair to note that everything, except the apple juice, was offered at will, which is nice, considering the price. The dishes offered in the sugar shack meal menu were baked beans, ham, crispy bacon, pork rinds, baked omelette, maple sausages (my sister found them too sweet, and I kind of agreed with her), coleslaw, tourtières (meat pies), meatball stew and fried potatoes. While I liked most of the dishes, I wasn’t particularly won over by the mini-tourtières. I don’t know exactly what type of spices they used, but I think it tasted like cinnamon. And I’m not a fan of cinnamon in savory dishes. It just left a weird after taste on my tongue, something I didn’t enjoy. But overall, it was a nicely prepared meal.
As for people who are vegans, except for the pickled vegetables (beets and pickles), coleslaw, fried potatoes and pea soup, I didn’t see anything vegan friendly on their menu. But I could be wrong. Most sugar shacks aren’t the most vegan friendly places, which is sad because everybody should able to enjoy this maple experience.
For dessert, we had Sugar pie, mini pancakes with maple coulis and pets de sœurs (translation: nun’s farts). Pets de sœurs are French-Canadian pastries made with leftover pie dough rolled and covered with butter and brown sugar. I did enjoy the selections of desserts offered, especially the maple coulis. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed it to the point of buying a jar of maple coulis at the Sugar shack store before we left.
Before leaving, we took a walk around the Sugar shack and saw some cute animals like an imperturbable llama, goat and sheep, and turkeys as well. Kids seem to like them, so don’t hesitate to bring kids with you. Then we took a ride on a tractor-train to get a tour of the orchards and Cider brewery Denis Charbonneau. At the Cider brewery shop, hot apple juice with cinnamon was offered to guests at will and I also used the opportunity to buy few bottles of sparkling ciders (the classic one and the strawberry & raspberry flavoured sparkling ciders).
It was a great experience and I would do it again.
Out of 5, I gave 4 stars to the Érablière Charbonneau.
While visiting the orchards and the cider brewery shop, it’s possible to enjoy a snack at the Crêperie by the orchard in a rustic and familial atmosphere.
There is a nice kid playground next to the Sugar shack, so it’s a very kid friendly place.