A Culinary Journey in the Eastern Townships
In the foothills of the Appalachians, Quebec's Eastern Townships are a lovely region of Victorian charm and picture-perfect villages, where mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers all come together to form breathtaking landscapes: the ancestral home of the Abenaki Indians, a haven for United Empire Loyalists, a place of welcome to the Irish, and the land of British and French colonization… Take to the road and explore the highways and byways of the Eastern Townships and discover immaculately-tended farms, green fields and enigmatic round barns.
As soon as you hear the grape harvest is underway, head out on the wine route through Dunham, Lower Canada's first township. Cultivating vineyards in Quebec is no small challenge, but at L'Orpailleur they turn a blind eye to the vagaries of climate to produce fine wines, including a uniquely delicious white. Visit the vineyards to learn what happens behind the scenes in the Quebec winemaking industry. Come and see where the wine is made and where the barrels are stored. Wine presses, hoes, bush hooks… objects that will give you some insight into centuries-old winemaking techniques from various regions of France. Before you leave, be sure to sample the poet's wine!
During the grape harvest, on weekends from September until Canadian Thanksgiving, you can watch the grape pickers at work and browse some of the regional products that are for sale at the vineyard's little public market.
Take a drive past Compton, renowned for its fruit trees and as the birthplace of former Canadian prime minister Louis St. Laurent. This country village is known mainly for its agricultural products and its orchards where you will find apples, pears and plums, all near a covered bridge, a water-powered saw mill and English-style homes that recall a bygone era.
Brome Lake ducks are well-known and grace many a fall table. These delicious birds are star attractions from September 28 until October 27, bringing together the region's finest chefs. Pass through the elegant Victorian village of Knowlton and admire the shops that remind visitors of Kennebunkport.
North Hatley, the jewel of the Eastern Townships, situated on the banks of Lake Massawippi and shielded by the mountains from the northwest winds, owes its grand houses and unique architecture to its first summer residents, aristocrats, barons of industry and great landowners who fled the American south during the Civil War. The builders of huge summer homes often containing more than 20 rooms, the new arrivals came to live on a grand scale with their maids, butlers and carriages, establishing tennis, yacht and golf clubs. Around 1900, the predominantly English-speaking "Canadian Establishment" began arriving at the village, creating a veritable paradise for the well-to-do and a fitting setting for art galleries, theatres and antique shops.
Don't miss trying the region's lamb, served in many country restaurants, as well as its famous apple and maple products. On highway 216 towards Stoke, explore the secret and mysterious world of bees, or press on towards the border town of Beebe Plain to sample some raspberry honey wine, and discover mead, the nectar of the gods, and its modern sparkling counterpart. In Stoke, you'll even find products made from roses.
Other tasty products you'll discover on Eastern Townships tables are cheeses and cider from St-Benoit-du-Lac, hydroponic greens from Le Campagnard in Sutton, regional spring lamb and milk-fed veal, and honey from Potton and Beebe. Meanwhile, in the woods there is a feast of mushrooms: milky mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelles…
Quebec's Eastern Townships: delicious at every turn
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