City Bites

IN DIGESTION: Does context matter? Musing over Martin Picard’s sugar shack dinner at Sala San Marco

Joan Culliton, Producer of the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival thanks Martin Picard and his team for "making her dream come true" and bringing the sugar shack experience to Ottawa.

When the folks at the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival announced, with little fanfare, that they had scored “rebel chef” Martin Picard for the opening “pop–up” event, I was impressed, excited…and terrified.

I was impressed that the celebrity chef-owner of the Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack was willing to do an event in the capital after foie gras protests led to the cancellation of his guest appearance at Winterlude in 2010. I was excited that I could finally experience some of what I’d heard and read about, including the drool-worthy recipes that circulated when his Sugar Shack book was released. And terrified that the essence of it would be lost in translation upon exporting Picard’s maple feast to Ottawa.

Would plucking something so unique out of its context create something as removed from the original as Aunt Jemima syrup is from real maple syrup? What large venue could come even close to creating the traditional, rustic feel of a genuine sugar shack? And would the capital’s more conservative dining public embrace the gluttony and decadence of an APDC meal or take one look at their deep-fried foie gras amuse-bouche and grab their MEC fleece jackets and run for the hills? In short: would it suck?