I’m going to let you in on a not-so-well-kept secret. The best part of spring–maybe even more than its sign of winter’s end–is the maple syrup! Every year I look forward to the production of “liquid gold” at the local sugar shack or cabane à sucre. My family is a little maple syrup crazy–we pour (ahem, drizzle) it on the traditional pancakes and waffles but we also use it as an alternative to sugar in almost everything possible. Have you ever tried maple syrup-sweetened coffee? Mmmm. Luckily Quebec is the largest producer in the world!
This post should have appeared weeks ago but unfortunately we’ve had shoddy weekend weather. Quebec has countless sugar shacks around Montreal that participate in the annual sugaring off festivities; we decided to visit Cabane à Sucre Constantin this year. I encourage you to visit soon as they are closing April 28th, 2013. The season usually runs from February to April.
Located only 25 minutes from Montreal, Cabane à Sucre Constantin is in the lively town of St-Eustache. We arrived for the set breakfast at 10am and we were quickly seated and served. The reception/dining hall can accommodate a few hundred people so unless you are 30+ people, reservations are not necessary. It’s a very casual environment and you are seated at long tables beside other families in an open and boisterous room. The decor is dated but it adds to the appeal–it’s a farmhouse that serves traditional sugaring off cuisine!
The food is brought to you but it’s considered all-you-can-eat. You won’t need more than one serving of each course as the food is extremely filling. They start you off with a delicious pea soup–warm and bursting with flavor–and you are then served the main course of eggs, potatoes, ham and beans. I wasn’t a huge fan of the eggs or potatoes (both were tasteless) but the ham and beans were very good. The dessert was a sugar-rush of maple syrup deliciousness! I think my favorite was the “pouding chômeur” (roughly translated to a pudding for the unemployed or poor man’s pudding); it’s a bread-pudding (which acts like a sponge) completely drenched in maple syrup. They also offer pancakes, soft ice cream and sugar pie. I swear the whole group of people left the dining area high on a sugar buzz.
Included in your meal price, you also have access to a small doll museum, a puppet theater and one “tire sur la neige” maple taffy on a stick. We were too full for the maple taffy so we decided to wander around the grounds. For only $2 per person, you can visit a small but completely packed “zoo” full of exotic–or not–farm animals. My son was in heaven.
All the animals looked really healthy and all of them were clean. My only complaint would be that they stuffed so many animals into such a small area. The animals included parrots, reptiles, many types of birds and rodents and your typical barnyard animals like goats, pigs, sheep, ponies and even llamas. The owners allowed a few of the baby goats to roam freely through the area and my son was overjoyed when he fed them from his hand. Many of the animals seemed to be new mothers so we were lucky to see many babies.
Part of the price of admission included a one-man puppet show. It was very interactive and most of the play was song-based which encouraged audience participation. My son couldn’t keep his eyes off the show. At about 20 minutes, it was the perfect length for short attention spans.
The doll museum was neat. My husband is generally creeped out by dolls–especially old dolls with cracked faces and eyeballs rolling back in their heads–but it was still interesting to see dolls from 3-4 generations ago. Dolls, like all cultural artifacts, reflect the time in which they were made so it was fascinating to see how the dolls evolved through a century filled with war, depression, racism and progress (among so many other factors!).
At the end of our stay, we enjoyed the famous “tire” of maple taffy on snow and the inflated kid’s amusement area. They also offer horse-drawn carriage rides for $3/person, mini 4×4 rides for kids ($4) and a free visit of the grounds by foot.
Overall, I highly recommend Cabane à Sucre Constantin! Even if some of the food was a little bland, there was plenty of great-tasting alternatives. The atmosphere was very family friendly and the staff went out of their way to ensure a fun and safe visit for all.
Location: 1054 Arthur-Sauve Blvd. (Route 148), St-Eustache, Qc, J7R 4K3
Prices vary according to season and day/time. Check their website for prices: http://constantin.ca/cabane-a-sucre/tarifs-heures-douverture