No offense to the chocolate lovers in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but Québec might really be the sweetest place on Earth. The Canadian province produces about 75 percent of the world’s maple syrup and maintains an emergency reserve (for surprise pancake surpluses?) of about 46 million pounds.
The value of the ooey-gooey stuff is approximately 25 times the price of oil, earning it the nickname “liquid gold.” It’s so valuable that (literal) sticky-fingered thieves occasionally swipe it. In a 2011 incident, $18 million worth of maple syrup was stolen from a warehouse.
To get a taste for yourself while visiting Québec City and the surrounding region, here’s what to do:
Canada boasts some unique local grub -- poutine, Canadian bacon, BeaverTails (flattened donuts without a hole), and maple sugar pie. The latter, a staple of Québécois and French-Canadian cuisine, typically consists of a filling made of eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, maple syrup, and walnuts. Québec City eatery Aux Anciens Canadiens, located in the Petit Champlain neighborhood, is considered one of the best spots for a sugar rush.
The Maple Gourmet Road, an initiative from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, highlights restaurants, shops, and chefs throughout the region. The businesses and restaurants are selected based on certain criteria, including the ways in which they use and transform syrup. Some key stops along the road in Québec City include chocolate shop Érico, Chez Boulay Bistro, and grocer Maison J. A. Moisan.
During the “sugaring-off season,” which varies every year but occurs somewhere between late February and early May, syrup fans gather in the Beauce region of Québec, located about 75 miles south of Québec City, for the Festival Beauceron de l’Érable. Festival-goers take part in a range of activities that celebrate maple products – including a variety tastings. The next festival begins April 1, 2017.
Known as cabanes à sucre, these rustic log cabins give new meaning to the phrase, “home sweet home.” In addition to a host of maple products, sugar shacks also serve homemade maple taffy, which is made by pouring molten syrup onto clean, white snow to create gooey candy on a stick. Many shacks are open all year, but several temporary ones pop up during the prime sugaring months of March and April. Seasonal favorites in Québec City include Cabane à Sucre de la Commission de la Capitale Nationale on the Plains of Abraham and Érablière Chemin du Roy in St-Augustin-de-Desmaures.
The Le Spa du Manoir, located at the Hotel Manoir Victoria in old Québec City, offers a full menu of services, including signature treatments using products made with local, organic maple sugar, such as the maple body scrub ($65 for 45 minutes). Believed to boost the immune system, maple syrup is also believed to contain anti-aging properties, while sugar is a natural exfoliant.