Vacationing for a few months in Montreal, we plan to make the most of every festival, concert or attraction the city has to offer. With Montreal as our home base, there are many beautiful towns we can drive to in Quebec or Ontario within a few hours, and I would love to share those with you.
It’s certainly a change to live in the city and to be able to walk everywhere or hop the metro, after spending most of our lives jumping in the car to drive to work, shopping, or for a coffee. Living downtown, we are getting more exercise and that’s great, and hopefully a justifiable excuse to try a lot of local Québécois specialities…over and over again.
So yesterday, John offered a field trip in the car. Yes! Excited as a Jack Russell when he hears the leash, I immediately responded in the affirmative. John had planned a surprise trip to a historic Québécois sugar shack. I imagined a family entertainment type maple syrup tapping activity, filled with kids, pumpkins and caramel apples. Aux contraire. This French Canadian maple grove is so much more. Sucrerie de la Montagne is about an hours drive west of downtown Montreal near Rigaud, Quebec. The literal translation is candy mountain so I knew good things were in store.
Per their advertisement, La Sucrerie is designated an official “Site du Patrimoine Québécois” or Québec Heritage site. The sugar shack is located in the middle of a 120-acre forest of century-old maples atop Mont Rigaud and transports visitors back in time to a momentary glimpse of life as it was for Québec and Canadian pioneers.
Although the Sucrerie de la Montagne sign was missing at the road, we knew we had arrived when we saw two huge Belgian horses being harnessed to a wagon.
Walking up the main path towards delicious smoky fire smells, we passed a number of rustic wooden cabins that we later found were rentable accommodations, as well as a few cabins designated as general store, sucrerie and boulangerie. Things were looking even better!
Soon we found ourselves in front of a smokey fire pit across from the main barn. I can imagine it packed with visitors on a crisp afternoon, sitting around the fire drinking hot toddies and watching the brilliant leaves fall.
We explored the outbuildings and met the baker in the boulangerie as he was getting ready to fire up the wood stoves to bake fresh country bread. Once inside the main barn, we found ourselves in a homey reception area filled with authentic wood stoves, a huge rustic bar, and old family photos. We were greeted by Stefan, son of Pierre Faucher. Stefan, like his father, has impressive hair and beard, and dresses as a traditional Québécois pioneer. He is friendly, attentive and an all around fantastic host, checking each table numerous times to make sure diners are happy and well fed, making suggestions, and later providing entertainment and tours.
The first order of business for us was lunch. The Sucrerie offers a traditional hearty Québécois menu. We had not fasted in preparation or cut a few cords of wood to work up a lumberjack’s appetite, so we chose a few items à la carte at Stefan’s suggestion. We enjoyed the Mountaineer’s pea soup, fresh bread, pancakes (similar to crepes and perfect for soaking up their thick maple syrup), crispy back bacon, maple bière…and SUGAR pie – oh my! Everything we had was fresh, delicious and mighty tasty. We know that we will be back to try the rest of the menu. It was just that good.
Relaxing near a toasty fire, we leisurely enjoyed our feast, which was modest in comparison to the tables next to us. A group of tourists filling five large pine tables dined on the entire family style menu which included country potatoes, sausages, meatballs, tourtière meat pie, maple smoked ham, baked beans, soufflé omelet, tea and coffee in addition to our à la carte menu and local beers. Luckily they came on a bus so they could nap on the way to their next destination!
Lunch time entertainment was provided by a folk-singer accompanied by a guitar with a banjo sound. He sang traditional French songs that the other patrons knew and they all sang along. After dessert, Stefan brought out wooden spoons for everyone to play along with the music – great fun.
After lunch we explored the other two attached dining rooms which are 100 year old barns, each with wood stoves and more family memorabilia and press clippings, and then wandered outside to talk to Pierre and Loup Loup the pet wolf.
Pierre is quite a character and has had an interesting life of adventure. If you get the opportunity to engage with him or Stefan, don’t pass it up. Pierre is a Canadian treasure and public figure based on all of the news clippings and plaques on display. Internationally recognized by media and food critics, the Government of Canada awarded La Sucrerie de la Montagne the Tourism Ambassador certificate.
Pierre bought the sucrerie in 1978 and with his family, has operated and expanded it since then. They offer a traditional Québecois feast using Pierre’s mother’s recipes 364 days a year. As you would expect, there are hayrides and sleigh rides, weddings and corporate events, school visits, maple taffy on snow tastings, festival of colors in the fall, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and a wonderful feeling of history and family – besides the great food of course.
After thanking Pierre for his hospitality and bidding au revoir to Loup Loup, we stopped by the general store to find a few souvenirs of our visit. There were artisanal crafts on display, but we made sure to stock up on their specialty: pure maple syrup and maple pearls.
We will be back soon I hope. C’est tout!