Or, more accurately, a boatload of maple… Like most folks, we use our fair share of maple syrup on breakfasty things like waffles, pancakes, and French toast; I also love to use it in muffins and cupcakes and icings. On a savory note, I remember when my mom used to make chicken dipped in maple syrup and coated in crushed pecans. I even go so far as to whisk this stuff into my homemade maple mustard vinaigrette. I knew maple syrup was versatile; I had no idea how versatile until our recent trip to Quebec City.
It seems that Canadians love their maple–the leaf is right there on their national flag. We found maple around every corner of this quaint, 400 year-old city that felt like a little piece of Europe. In addition to a full breakfast every morning and cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres every evening, our hotel–Le Chateau Frontenac–served a nightly snack of cookies and the most amazing, melt-in-your-mouth, maple fudge. Maple candies showed up on our pillows after turndown service. A trip through the farmer’s market–Marche du Vieux-Port de Quebec–left our teeth aching. We saw far less produce and far more maple products than we could have imagined. Samples upon samples of maple syrup shots, maple syrup whipped into maple cream, maple cream stuffed into mini ice cream cones, maple cookies, and maple marshmallows: it was everywhere, in everything. And this had only been our second day in town.
Maple products lined the shelves of every tourist shop. The rest of our visit showed us how creative the Québécois got utilizing their seemingly national condiment. Throughout the town, even far from the touristy spots, we found maple beer on draft. On nearly every menu, there was a game option featuring erable–maple. I had a cloyingly sweet mushroom dish that featured none other than…yes, even on mushrooms! Their traditional Canadian pea soup had a sweetness to it that could only mean one thing. And those were the savory menu options. The dessert menus had pies and puddings and so many other things I would have liked to try, but by day 3, I couldn’t even bring myself to order their famous Sugar Pie; I was mapled out.
The exemption I made was for maple taffy. Cabanes a Sucre–Sugar Shacks–are all around Quebec and they serve all things maple. While visiting the Ice Hotel just outside the city, we got ourselves a treat. The cabane’s specialty taffy began by pouring hot maple syrup onto fresh snow; as soon as it began to set, it was wrapped around a giant popsicle stick until you had a wad of sticky maple goodness that you had to devour before it started to melt. That was fun. And messy. And so sweet, my maple meter was finally pegged.
So, despite my maple overload by the end of our trip, we did bring home some mapley things for when my aversion ceased. My son chose some maple cookies and, of course, the obligatory teeny jugs of syrup to be given as gifts. My pick? Maple cream, all the way. This stuff is from a dream. They heat 100% maple syrup, cool it down and stir it like mad for something like 30 minutes. The result is a thick and creamy “butter” that can–and should–go on just about anything. Pure maple syrup cream. It is fantastic.
Thankfully, three weeks post-trip, I am over my aversion and my teeth have stopped aching; we are back to syrup with our breakfast foods and with other random edibles. I am finding new things to top with maple cream–like a spoon. I just wish I had brought back a bigger tub of it; hooray for Internet shopping! Everything in moderation? I like to try and stick to that mindset, but it was a challenge in Quebec City where maple is king and the sweet tooth rules all.