If you’re like many Ottawans, you grew up going to the sugar bush with your parents and siblings, eating maple taffy made on snow from syrup produced on-site and boiled down in a giant outdoor kettle. The sugar shack tradition is a proud one in our region, with many family-owned locations. Some offer pancake breakfasts, wagon rides, hot chocolate, and outdoor fire pits to warm up on cool spring days.
But I bet you’ve never been to one that serves foie gras lollipops and double-smoked bacon arancini (unless you’re one of the favoured few who’ve managed to score a reservation to the Cabane à Sucre PDC north of Montreal, run by Martin Picard of Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon restaurant).
Wannabe lumberjacks and gourmands, rejoice! Sugar Lumberfest is a one-day-only urban sugar shack and lumberjack games taking place at Lansdowne’s Horticulture Building on April 8. The event is being organized by Gatineau PR and event-planning firm Orkestra as part of the Ignite 150 series celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial year. When invited to participate in the 2017 celebrations and offered the March-April time slot, Marc-Étienne Bibeau of Orkestra says the first thing that came to mind was that it would be prime maple sugar season, and a plan was born.
“This event is one of a kind. Usually you have to drive far to attend a sugar shack event, but we’ve brought it to you right here in the city,” says Bibeau.
Chef Jean-Philippe Ménard of Le Rituel restaurant at Gatineau’s Le Sorcier golf club has built a decadent all-you-can-eat menu of modern takes on French-Canadian classics such as baked beans, smoked salmon, and several different takes on pork, from rillettes to confit shoulder and “oreilles de crisse” (pork rinds). And let’s not forget those foie gras lollipops I mentioned up top.
There will be three sittings throughout the day: one at the lunch hour, one at dinnertime, and a late-evening slot for the night owl crowd. A bunch of fun outdoor activities are included in the cost of a food ticket and will include a log toss, log-sawing, axe-throwing courtesy of BATL, and activities for kids as well (to help you work up an appetite or work off those calories afterward).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a sugar shack without some of that sweet, sweet snow taffy, which will also be available outside, as well as a hot chocolate bar (and a booze bar for the grownups).
One of the three seatings has already sold out, but not to worry: Orkestra are in talks with Lansdowne about a possible second edition of Sugar Lumberfest next spring.
Tickets cost $55 and admission includes an all-you-can-eat meal and access to the outdoor activity areas. Check out www.sugarlumberfest.com to view the menu and purchase tickets.