By my calendar there are only five days left until the start of spring. Winter’s reasserted itself in what some New Yorkers, myself included, deem a rather weak blizzard. Nevertheless there’s plenty of snow on the ground, which means two things: one, tromping around the park, something I’ve been doing for years; and two, making homemade maple taffy/snowcones, something I tried for the first time this past Sunday.
“Oh, you never had it?” Sarah Obraitis of M. Wells Steakhouse queried. “It will put you over the edge.” As if the smoked salmon, spit-roasted ham, pork and beans, and chef’s salad with maple chicharrons that were as part of the restaurant’s Sugar Shack menu hadn’t already pushed me over the brink of excess.
In a corner of the restaurant Hugue Dufour—clad in a classic Canadian red and black flannel—had set up a wash tub full of finely crushed ice. (At the time it was plenty cold outside, but there was no snow on the ground.) In one hand he held a pot of hot maple syrup and the other a ladle, which he used to pour streams of maple syrup onto the “snow.”
At maple sugaring festivals and at home one would use a popsicle stick to roll through the amber line of maple syrup and frost. At M. Wells, Dufour had pressed some tiny seafood forks into service. The result was a decadent, sticky treat: half sno-cone, half taffy and all maple. In Québec forming the treat is known as tire sur la neige or pulling through the snow.
I had three of the treats as a waiter buzzed around the room declaring, “Now you know why they have free dental care in Canada.” Should you wish to try this at home make sure to use hot syrup or check out this recipe.