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January 16, 2019

EASTERN TOWNSHIPS OF QUEBEC

A question about Quebec cuisine was posed to a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” contestant regarding a staple called “poutine” as to what brown gravy and fresh cheese curds was placed atop. Despite calling a friend and “double dipping” he passed up the idea that it was over French Fries. Bye, bye, contestant. Perhaps he should have popped over the Vermont border into the Eastern Townships.

When it comes to the province of Quebec most tourists find themselves in the larger cities of Montreal and Quebec City ignoring the offerings of the “outskirted” areas such as the Eastern Townships located east of Montreal and near the U.S. borders. Follow a Townships Tour Trail beginning with Auberge & Spa West Broome, in Lac-Brome.

Lac-Brome is located between Sutton, Knowlton and Bromont, which is close to the Vermont border. The Auberge rests in a valley with a “country” setting. Cozy rooms are a draw for me as well as having a 19th Century Farmhouse restaurant with savory food and regional wines. Duck confit was my entrée choice and would not be the last of the duck choices. Being in Quebec I had a maple syrup dressing on my salad. The spa was full service with an indoor pool of salts, rather than chlorine. www.awb.ca

Stanbridge was the next destination where we visited the Musee Missisquoi, three 19th Century buildings housing the history of the pioneers featuring over 12,000 historic objects. The main building is the Cornell Mill abutting the old Bill’s Barn. A few blocks down is Hodges General Store. Contents for these buildings would do well in an antiques store.

It’s off to the town of Knowlton, best not viewed after 5p.m. on a Monday. Historic town, for sure, with many shops, a theatre and another museum, The Brome County Historical Society with five buildings, one that includes a World War II Fokker DVII Plane.

Joie de Lavende, a lavender farm, is located in walking distance of downtown. Worth the walk, you get to roam a bit of the fields and pick your own bouquet or buy various lavender products. If you’re lucky, the ducks will emerge from the lake and allow you to feed them. These are not the ilk of ducks that the waiter will serve you.

Speaking of which I had lunch at Le Relais in Auberge Knowlton, the longest continuously operating hotel in the Eastern Townships. Since the restaurant and the area are known for serving Lac Brome ducks, I thought I’d have the breast in an orange sauce. A dish of various cold local delicacies is offered and not to be passed up. www.aubergeknowlton.ca.

If you just can’t get enough duck, there’s always Canards Lac Brome Ducks in Knowlton or the annual Duck Festival held at Coldbrook Park.

Time for a wine tasting at Vignoble de L’Orpailleur in Dunham. Aside from some regular wines, I got a taste of one called Vin de glace, a very fruity Ice Wine. Just outside the tasting room I snuck a small bunch of grapes from a hanging vine. Pretty good if you peel it and spit out the seeds. www.orpailleur.ca

Back to Knowlton to check in at Auberge Lakeview Inn, which despite the name did not have a view of any lake. Gas lamps and raised tin ceilings lend to rooms with various antiques. Another award winning dining delight also noted for their duck…and so I had duck confit, after the spicy corn and crab chowder. Great dessert of pear pouched in wine and cherries in Kirsch and marscapone. www.aubergelakeviewinn.com

On to Saint-Benoit-du-Lac for a tour of the monastery. One long wall is filled with information amount the history, rules, how to become a monk (vs. how to be Monk) and the products that they make. I bought some cheese curds. You many have the opportunity to sit in on a chanting. www.st-benoit-du-lac.com An old fashioned English Tea time at Uplands Cultural and Heritage Centre to take in local history with cultural and artistic traditions. They exhibit the works of local and regional artists, offer workshops, activities, concerts and display a collection of antiques. Loved the little sandwiches and sweet things. For $12 High Tea, you get tea, quiche, spinach turnover, 2 scones, strawberry jam, Devonshire style cream, cucumber sandwich, 2 pastries and chocolate. www.uplands.ca

We are on to Sherbrooke to first learn about Old Sherbrooke from “Senator Howard”, who not only spews the history but also gives us a tour of Parc du Domaine Howard. September is the time for guided tours of the pavilions and late October sports floral exhibits in the greenhouses. Check out a rarely blooming plant, the Queen-of the Night that exudes fragrance more heady than jasmine. As for large town of Sherbrooke, there is a great deal to take in, especially the murals.

The 12-acre Lake Massawippi takes me to Auberge Ripplecove, a true getawayfromitall. Totally modernized, but with an old fashioned coziness. Having a spa just adds to the amenities. It’s not uncommon to have the auberge room rate include dinner and breakfast. My three course dinner: trout, salmon and sturgeon with a seaweed salad; beef tenderloin with corn and fingerling potatoes; Township’s Maple Crème Brulee. www.ripplecove.com A surprise visit was to Ulverton Wollen Mill, which seemed so out of the way. Here lies the first textile industry in Canada. I got see exactly how wool is made and able to buy both products made on and off the premises. There is a great hiking trail, sheep to feed or pet and lunch to boot. Not gourmet but quite delicious. Well known for a Sunday Brunch. www.moulin.ca.

Departing the area, I stopped at a fast food joint as famous for their poutine as a Wendy’s for their burgers. Although poutine is commonly topped with fresh cheese curds and gravy, places may offer adding on anything from smoked meats with mustard to caviar and an Italian version of a tomato sauce vs. a chicken or veal gravy.

For further information on the Eastern Townships, go to www.easterntownships.org. You can also listen to an archived interview from 9/18/2008 on Whirl With Merle at www.blogtalkradio.com. This Thursday I’ll be talking about “green” products and my experience of the JPD program with the NY Sharks.

February 19, 2009 - Queens Times

 


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