Sweet escape

Renée Lavallée goes back to her roots, teams up with Acadian Maple and taps into the richest all-you-can-eat brunch around.

The Feisty Chef’s brunch menu is stacked.
The Feisty Chef’s brunch menu is stacked.

It's not exactly what you'd call a crazy little shack and I'm not even sure that it's beyond any tracks, but at Acadian Maple this month, you're going to find a meal that's fit for a sugar shack.

For 30 years, Brian Allaway and his family have been tapping trees and making maple syrup. They've come a long way from their early days of boiling sap over a toasty open fire to the current sticky success of Acadian Maple: now they process almost a quarter- million pounds of syrup every year. To put it simply, their syrup is selling like hotcakes.

Though sugar season is brief---just a few months in the late winter and early spring---maple syrup is available year round. Tucking into a pile of fresh, hot pancakes, however, is extra delightful in the winter. And with Pancake Tuesday just around the corner, there is no better excuse to start stacking up.

The shelves at Acadian Maple's store in Upper Tantallon are filled with maple leaf- shaped bottles, that gleam with a watery copper sheen as the sun shines through the syrup that lines the windows. The store is littered with jars of jams and butters, and bags of sugars, cookies and every maple confection you can think of.

For the next couple of months, you'll find chef Renée Lavallée, the Feisty Chef, behind the store's tasting bar, where a small kitchen staff is overseeing a series of maple brunches. A presentation room with a wall of windows overlooking the processing plant is turned into a small dining room jammed with a handful of long wooden tables and hot trays full of breakfast goodies.

Lavallée is no stranger to maple dinners--- she has collaborated with Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown on some of its chef's nights. The pancake house at Sugar Moon is a popular destination for a tasty maple brunch on a cold winter weekend, but it's a bit of a hike for Haligonians. Thankfully, last winter Acadian Maple teamed up with Lavallée to bring pancake breakfasts a little closer to town.

The breakfasts at Acadian Maple are made up of small, fluffy pancakes, a dense maple-scrambled egg, maple-baked beans, Oultons' thick bacon and some plump sausage patties from Cavicchi's Meats. There is even a maple coffee available, and some maple sugar to sweeten it up with. The only thing missing is an insulin shot at the end of the meal.

"I grew up in rural Quebec, so going to the sugar shack---cabane à sucre---was something that I had always done," says Lavallée. "Smelling the bacon and sausage, flipping the pancakes, making the beans: these all remind me of when I was a kid and the happy and warm glow I would feel when knowing we were heading to the sugar shack for a maple-based meal."

Lavallée adds even more of a personal touch to the meal with a small bowl of pudding chomeur for dessert. The simple French-Canadian cake is cooked in maple syrup, giving it a pudding-like quality.

"The chomeur and the maple-scrambled eggs are things my grandparents and parents cooked up for me and taught me," says Lavallée. And the beans are "an old family recipe that has morphed into my maple beans. Can't beat a bowl of these beans!"

The all-you-can eat maple brunches are taking place every Saturday and Sunday in February and March from 10am to 2pm at Acadian Maple's Tantallon location. Tickets are $19.95 for adults and $10.95 for children.

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