Maples, sugar shacks, and sweet delights
The maple. Its leaf is THE symbol most associated with Canada and it is in Québec that 90% of the country’s maple syrup, representing a whopping 70% of the world’s production, is made. Impressive, isn’t it? And of course, the Outaouais plays its part!
We might not have had the harshest of winters but hearing the birds chirp and finding maple sap in buckets is always a cheerful moment reminding us that spring is just around the corner. We like heading deep in the forest to a wooden shack whose chimney releases this sweet, sweet perfume bringing fiddlers, feet stompers and flanel shirts to mind. We also forgive ourselves for the moment of weakness we are about to experience before the mountains of syrup-soaked food that will deliver the final blow to whatever was left of our New Year’s resolutions, knowing full well that soul-searching and re-examining one’s life choices is inevitable. This is the ensuing walk in the woods’ purpose: to put body and mind at peace. Because let’s be honest; life is simply better with a little maple syrup in your veins.
So. Where is one to go to celebrate maple and the spring bounty in the Outaouais? Read on to find out!
« Honey, get the buckets! The trees are leaking again! »
February 20 is the official beginning of sugar shack season at Domaine du cerf (page in French only). Set in beautiful Blue Sea, you will enjoy quite the feast. They also have animals to visit and slopes to go sliding so make it your first destination.
The next week-end, on February 27 and 28, we move to the east where Cabane à sucre Brazeau (French only) and its neighbour Chez Ti-Mousse (French only) await. These shacks are big so they’re perfect for large groups. Reserve your table at Brazeau ahead of time if you’re going on the week-end but Ti-Mousse doesn’t take reservations so it’s first come first served. If there’s a wait, go take a peek at their kitchen of yesteryear to see how they cooked in the good ol’days!
The 27 also marks the opening of Domaine de l’Ange-Gardien. After a (huge) great meal, go tubing or take a sleighride! You're about 20 minutes from downtown, which is awesome!
On the 28, Vignoble de Chelsea invites you for the opening of its second sugar shack season. After a good meal, go see the animals at the little farm. Pretend it’s for the kids if you like but anyone who’s been on the internet in the last few years knows that adults have a sweet spot for their fluffy and feathered friends. A musician is there on Friday and Saturday night to liven up the place.
In March, L’Ange-Gardien is where it’s happening with the opening of Le Palais Gommé (literally The Sticky Palate) on the 5, where you're guaranteed to loosen your belt a few notches afterwards.
This year again, Destination rue Principale in Aylmer invites you for La principale se sucre le bec (contact them for english version) on March 19 and 20 (program is coming soon!). The businesses of Principale Street offer you maple treats and animation all along this charming street. Like we needed another reason to visit Old-Aylmer!
Oh maple! How inspiring you are!
Sugar shacks are not the only ones celebrating the joys of maple syrup production. Fine restaurants throughout the region are inspired by it year after year and the tradition is alive and well this year again.
Among them is Le Rituel who, starting on February 26, will offer its sugar shack menu on Friday evenings and in a brunch version on Saturdays and Sundays in its superb rural setting (online soon). The two menus are equally mouth-watering and we understand if you feel like you have to try both. I mean, maple cotton candy on a fine dining menu? What’s not to love? Of course, you’re invited to savour taffy on snow by a bonfire outside to complete the experience.
L’Orée du bois is also one of these institutions that celebrates the collecting of the sap with a special menu. The Sunday brunch for March and April constitutes l’Orée du bois’ own special take on the old classics you’d find at a sugar shack and it is glorious.
Don’t miss the special menu offered at Faimont Le Château Montebello from March 31 to April 17 (online soon). It is known to be quite decadent so treat your belly during those dates. They also have a sugar shack in the lobby that will be serving taffy on snow and other maple delights.
Did you know that maple is also used in body treatments? The spa at the Château uses B. Karmins products that are maple-based, and they have beautiful packages to put yourself back on tracks after a season of over-indulgence.
So dear readers, let yourselves be tempted. Sugar shack season doesn’t last long so give in to this little pleasure. Bon appétit and let the maples flow!
Remember to visit www.outaouaistourism.com to plan a memorable stay in the Outaouais!