Every spring our family likes to go out to a "Cabane à Sucre" (sugar shack) and enjoy the sweet tastes of the season! This year we decided to try the Erabliere La Grillade in Granby Quebec, which is half way between Montreal and Magog Qc. The place is just off the highway, so access is easy. With its big orange roof it is hard to miss!
The prices are about average for what you might expect to pay for this kind of outing/meal. You pay upon entry and get tickets for the sugar on snow, which you do in another part of the building from the main dining hall. Tip is not included for your server, and you will have to pay extra for any beverages other than what comes with your meal package - coffee, tea, water, or milk.
The dining hall is very large and rustic in style, with long tables. The servers all dress in white blouses and red check long skirts with white aprons - quite cute! You are seated with you family, alongside other families. Each family group is initially served cold water ( served in an old-fashioned glass mild bottle) and a basket of white buns with butter and creton (head cheese). The buns are not "home-made", but come in individual plastic wrappers. They were reasonably fresh. Service was very quick. Before we had time to get through buttering the buns we were served a large bowl of pea soup, from which you could laddle out individual portions. All portions of the meal were "all you could eat", so if you emptied the soup bowl and wanted more it was quickly refilled. Also served was a bowl of creamy coleslaw and pickled beets - the only veggies you will get with your meal. A soon as we finished the soup, which was a bit bland but otherwise fine, the main course arrived. It consisted of small sausages in maple syrup, 2 types of ham (reg and smoked - the smoked was to die for!), 2" high egg omelet, "Oreilles de Crisse" (which is fried salted pig's jowls aka pork rinds) of which I am not fan, baked beans, and potato homefries. Not the healthiest meal - hence why most people make it a once annual outing! Of course there were bottles of maple syrup on the table, to drizzle over your eggs and ham, or on whatever suited you best. All was very tasty! And for dessert - homemade sugared donuts, small maple sugar pie tarts, and these puffy crepes that were just divine. Coffee and tea were served throughout the meal, and the kids had unlimited 2% milk served from more of the old-fashioned milk bottles. After your meal you could wander over to the hall where the sugar on snow is served. The hall is kept cool so that the snow in the trough doesn't melt. There was a little TV showing a bilingual (french and english) documentary on how maple syrup in made and a behind the scenes about the meal you just consumed. For instance, each of those fluffy omelets contains 18 eggs! The sugar on snow is also "all you can eat", however at this point even the sweetest tooth has pretty much hit its limit.
Afterward you can partake in the dancing that is held in a third hall - there is a fairly large dance floor, a DJ, and lights. Outside there are free horse-drawn wagon rides on the weekends.
For anyone visiting Quebec in the spring, a sugar shack outing is a cultural "must do". Check the website for the dates - most sugar shacks run for only a few months. In 2011 it is from March 5th through April 25th. The dining fare is pretty much the same, so the ambience is what typically sets the meal off. Anyone who is a diabetic should certainly give it a pass, or dine with extreme caution! Kids love it, and it is a nice casual dining experience for the whole family.
In comparison to most sugar shacks, the Erabliere La Grillade rates high for service and family ambience, and about average for food quality and price. I'd go again, and would not hesitate to bring visiting guests with me to enjoy a bit of Quebec culture.
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