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Food

First Date Series: Haute cuisine meets cabane à sucre

Posted by Tara / March 25, 2011

20110323-La Cabane seating.jpgThe First Date Series takes a look at restaurants in Montreal where you might want to go (or not go) on a first date. In Part 3, we check out La Cabane, an urban take on sugar shacking in the Old Port.

Most of the time, first dates are more fun if you do something unorthodox, something out of the ordinary, outside the box if you will. In Québec, there are just a few weeks each year when that activity might be sugar shacking (or "sugaring off" -- completely accurate, if only with slight innuendo). La Cabane is a fairly cosmopolitan interpretation of the traditional sugar shack, and if nothing else, the site of a memorable first date.

Travelling off-island on a first date can be a risky endeavour; awkward conversation in the car, and no chance of escape in the case of a dud date. La Cabane, located on an Old Port quay, has solved that dilemma. For six weeks a year, the Pavillion Jacques Cartier transforms into a gourmet and sophisticated sugar shack (just what you'd expect from a rural idea being co-opted for city living). A rustic-looking iron fireplace surrounded by wooden benches is set up just outside the pavilion, whose façade looks more like the Science Centre than a restaurant serving countryside-inspired meals.La Cabane ExteriorInside the warehouse-style space, long wooden tables are arranged in rows à la sugar shack. Various nature-inspired artwork, furniture, and installations made by local talent create an interesting urban-rural hybrid feel. The music blends old and new, too: a fiddler playing traditional Québecois tunes, backed by a DJ.
La Cabane ChairLa Cabane Light Installation.jpgIn the spirit of the sugar shack dining experience, my date and I sat across from each other at a long table, firmly sandwiched between two groups of rowdy people. Maybe not ideal for a first date, so we took our pre-meal drinks (a maple syrup mojito, chosen from a menu of various syrup-y cocktails) in the couch lounge.La Cabane Couch areaJust like at Mémère's house, the menu is set and everyone eats at the same time. Beginning with smooth devilled eggs, a maple foie gras, and a coarse beet-topped terrine made of game, each component of the meal was explained by a very passionate waiter

And just like at a real sugar shack, most of the courses are served on one dish to be shared, a nice way to get close and cozy with your date (among seventeen others).20110323-La Cabane Eggs.jpgNext came the soup, which was the highlight of the meal: squash soup topped with a hearty chunk of salmon cooked in duck fat, with maple-marinated onions. Like nothing I'd seen before, at a sugar shack or elsewhere, this was an innovative take on squash soup.La Cabane soupThe main course consisted of maple-braised turkey atop maple-baked beans mixed with carrots and onion. And then, la pièce de résistance: the oreilles de crisse. Deep fried, smoked pork jowl. Yum.-La Cabane DindeThere's no argument that ample amounts of dessert were served at this meal. Mini-maple ice cream sandwiches arrived alongside soft maple cakes. Chocolate lovers were not forgotten, too: the meal ended with a glass jar of chocolate mousse, topped with crunchy maple salt pieces and whipped cream. 20110323-La Cabane Dessert.jpgI'm not going to lie, there was a lot of food. Maybe more food that I'd normally choose (or want) to eat on a first date. But it was oh-so-good, and we both left feeling satisfied, not overly stuffed.

La Cabane is a fun and trendy place with outstanding food. Unfortunately, it's a way pricier than your average sugar shack (which might set you back $20 or smoething), but this is an entirely different affair. Here, urban culinary art meets long-standing rural tradition. And you don't even have to leave town! A first date will be impressed by La Cabane. I know I was.

La Cabane is located in the Jacques-Cartier Pavillion in the Quays of the Old Port and runs until April 15. Seatings are at 6pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 11h30 on Sunday morning. Reservations are necessary, and the meal is paid up front at $55 per person.

Photo from La Cabane on Facebook.

Check out some of our other First Date ideas like the Griffintown Cafe or Bocata.

Do you have suggestions for other fun first date places that Midnight Poutine should consider? Leave a comment below!

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