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14 Aug, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Guided Tour: Erabliere Denis Charbonneau

Erablière Denis Charbonneau
Address: 45 Chemin du Sous Bous, Mont St. Grégoire (about 45 minutes from downtown). You can also get there by going to Vergers Denis Charbonneau, 575 rang de la Montagne, Mont St. Grégoire, and taking the free wagon ride to the cabane à sucre.
Phone: 450-347-9090 (cabane a sucre/sugar shack), 450-347-9184 (verger/orchard)
Websites (with maps): http://www.erablierecharbonneau.qc.ca/ http://www.vergersdc.qc.ca/
Cost: Traditional cabane à sucre menu on Saturdays and Sundays costs $23.95 per adult, free for children 3 and under; $4.75 for age 4 to 10, $10.50 for age 11 to 15. At the Verger (apple orchard), there is a crêpe restaurant where you can order à la carte.

Maple syrup is running and, from late February to the end of April, cabanes à sucres are calling. Having visited a few over the past few years, we were happy to find one that offers the option of NOT ordering the traditional cabane à sucre meal. Erablière Denis Charbonneau, at the foot of Mont. St. Grégoire, also has two beautiful play areas, wagon rides, farm animals to feed, pony rides and a nice, log cabin ambiance.

For anyone new to sugar shacks, they often charge more than $20 per adult for a typical cabane à sucre menu, which includes scrambled eggs, ham, pea soup, tourtière, sausages, baked beans, deep-fried pork jowls (oreilles de crisse), pancakes and maple pie. Now, douse it in maple syrup and wait for the food coma to set in.

The difference at Denis Charbonneau is that in addition to the cabane à sucre, the family runs a nearby apple orchard with its own crêpe restaurant. So, if you want the full-blown sugar shack meal, you can have it at the cabane, or you can take the free wagon ride to the orchard where you have the option of the cabane à sucre or the crêperie menu (there is even a salad on it). Our Breton-style crêpes (super thin, with various fillings) and the pea soup were delicious, and the meal cost about $30 for four.

Kids love the playgrounds and wagon rides
The highlights for the kids – especially on a beautiful, pre-spring day – were the two large play areas in the forest setting. The one on the cabane à sucre side has play equipment that’s fun because it follows the log-cabin theme of the cabane; this area is great for age two and up. Right next to it, you’ll notice many rope bridges and zip lines that are part of the Arbraska forest adventure attraction right next door.

The playground on the orchard side is geared more to toddlers, but was still lots of fun for our five-year-old. We spent more than hour visiting both playgrounds, doing the wagon ride, seeing the farm animals, and visiting the shop at the orchard (which is still selling crunchy apples, pies, jams, etc.) before having lunch at the orchard.

Cabane à sucre tips:

  • Consider inviting friends: Sugar shacks are all about communal eating, and the kids will have fun playing outside with their buddies.
  • Make a reservation: These places get incredibly busy, so call ahead to reserve, especially if you’re going as a group.
  • Wear boots and possibly bring a change of clothes: Spring thaw often makes these places muddy, and you know how much kids love mud.
  • Find one with family-friendly features: Sugar shacks vary widely in terms of style and activities; some are very basic, with cafeteria-style setups and no children’s activities, while others are full-service restaurants with lots of family-friendly features. Sucrerie de Bouvrette in St. Jérôme has a mini-train. For West Islanders, a popular choice is Sucrerie de La Montagne, which has a wagon ride and live traditional music (but no playground areas).
  • To find a Cabane à Sucre in your area, go to www.cabaneasucre.org

What’s your favourite Cabane à sucre? How do you feel about fried pork jowls (oreilles de crisse)?

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