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Eastern Townships report (long)

I spend the last week-end in the Eastern Townships, with our base being in Ayer's Cliff (lovely B&B). Here's a little summary..

We tried the Wood's snack bar poutine on the first night, since it's located in Ayer's Cliff, as recommended by a post on this site; it has a green pepper sauce which is interesting. I'm not a huge poutine fan (I eat one every 5 years or so!), so I can hardly compare, but it had a good amount of cheese curds (Coaticook ones I suppose, they're very close), and fries were good. Gravy felt a little heavy for me. My Wood burger had a surprising distinct McDo aroma, perhaps coming from the mayo type sauce??. Much better bread and meat patty at least, quite tasty in fact :) Cheap place, where locals line up, worth a stop if you're in the mood for greasy classics :-).

The next day, we went to Plaisir Gourmand for dinner, between Ayer's Cliff and Massawippi, http://www.plaisirgourmand.com/. It seats about 30 people, in a lovely old house, with the owners living upstairs. A friendly golden retriever and her puppy greated us when we stopped by earlier that day to make a reservation, which I found pretty cute! Appetizing menu with a lot of local produce; they change it every season. Foie gras au torchon was OK, but overwhelmed by the other flavors in the plate. But the thyme/(green?) apple compote that came with it in a tiny jar was amazing! Gravlax of local trout (truite des bobines) with caviar was excellent, and it's smoked and marinated on site. As mains, we chose the lamb shank and red deer tenderloin with port sauce. Both arrived hot in warmed plates (nice touch), with a pretty presentation. Lamb was very tasty, silky and almost falling apart - generous serving. Red deer was requested medium/bloody (medium saignant) and was slight underdone, but still good.
For dessert, both the lemon mousse and carrot cake were great. Lemon mousse was creamy, refreshing and tart, with toasted meringue and red fruits; the carrot cake was very moist with a delicious cream cheese frosting. The chocolate mi-cuit and crème brulée duo that we saw going to other tables seemed like a solid choice too, and a huge portion!
The table d'hôte was about 40$ each, with a mise-en bouche, app, main and dessert. Quite reasonable for the quality of the food. We had a glass of local cider with the apps and one of Chateau la Bellevue red wine (a bit too chilled but it warmed up), which went well with the red meats. But then I saw that this wine is under 15$ at the SAQ, and one glass was charged 10$. I don't remember which year it was, but such a markup is quite steep!!
Anyhow, a very plesant place that's not snobbish at all, and more affordable than Ripplecove and other high-end options in the area.

During the week-end, we of course went to the Laiterie Coaticook to get an ice cream fix (they have over a dozen choices that are not available elsewhere). 2 huge scoops in a wafer cone for about 3$ - so big it served as our lunch!! We tried maple / caramel, cherry cheese cake, double chocolate and a mix of vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet. Yum!! You can see part of the plant from the ice cream counter (glass wall), and get cheeses there as well. Their ice cream is one of the few (or only one?) commercially made in QC with real milk and cream, not modified milk ingredients, and is really delicious.

We picked up a few cheeses from the Station in Compton; http://www.fromagerielastation.com/, super friendly service, with a taste of everything. We already knew their products but got to taste 2 "special" cheeses which are trials not meant for mass production; aged Alfred and Comptomme (up to 2 years), quite surprising with hints of blue cheese almost for the oldest one.

We made another stop at la Beurrerie du Patrimoine (aka Ferme Groleau), where we missed the week-end once a day tour (10h30), but chatted for at least an hour in the small shop with both owners and another visitor. They are very proud of their products, rightly so. The cottage cheese is out of this world; nothing like the over salted grainy stuff made of lactoserum we're used to. Their 45% fat cream à l'ancienne and butter are also great picks, but wouldn't have survived the ride home, so I only took their Caprice d'Or cheese (3/4 cow milk, 1/3 goat milk). Their products are found all over Mtl and the province in specialized stores, the list is on their web site (although currently being updated from what I can see, http://www.fermegroleau.com).

Last but not least, we discovered a tiny "charcuterie", nested in a small general store near Fitch Bay, "Marché Gaudreau" on the 247/Chemin des cantons (right next to the Witch house, no kidding!).
836 chemin Sheldon
Canton Stanstead, QC J1X 3W4
(819) 876-5568

It's the 4rth generation of butchers (father and son), and we were offered great ham and a pork "smokemeat " to taste that were very good. The highlight was their delicious sausages; they usually made 20 varieties at a time (twice a week), but about 5 were available that day. We tried the "feu de camp" (it does have a campfire taste!), the basil/tomato and wine/herbs. They're very moist and don't shrink (ie no added fat), and were clearly a notch over our usual Walters, which can be drier sometimes.

I really need a bigger cooler for our next trip!!

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  1. Thanks for this excellent report! I am earmarking this one, as we are going out to the Eastern townships soon. I am going to have to try that cottage cheese, I have really enjoyed some of their other products, including their lovely butter. And the sausage place sounds like a great find.

    1. The ferme Groleau website says it's under construction. Do you know some of the shops that carry their products?

      4 Replies
      1. re: hungryann

        I too was surprised that the web site was unavailable completely, as it was up and running last Friday .

        Anyhow, sure spots are Qui lait Cru (JTM), Marché des Saveurs, the street-level cheese shop at Atwater (Gille's), Hamel, etc... they have numerous other retail spots, carefully picked based on the way they maintain their milk products counter (constant Temp being most important). The family still does the deliveries to most places!

        They also mentioned the Rachelle Bery stores (not sure all locations carry them) + smaller places on Van Horne, Sherbrooke and others, but I unfortunately cannot be more precise. I'll check the web site and post an update when it's back up again.

        I'm sure there's foodies out there who can share their spots in the meantime!!

        By the way, here's a little blurb on their cottage cheese (French) :
        http://www.radio-canada.ca/actualite/...

          1. re: hungryann

            Well, the new web site is up and running, but the list of distributors is no longer on-line; we have to contact them to know which is the closest retail spot. I don't really understand the reason behind this, as it seems much simpler to me to keep one updated list available to all. Anyhow, I just sent them an email to get the Montreal list, and will post whatever info I get on CH.

            As a side note, I spotted the cottage cheese in 200 and 400g formats at the big Rachelle Bery on St-laurent, with the other dairy products. Between 5 and 8 $ if I recall right.

            1. re: Chocolatine

              Here's the reply:
              Qui lait cru!?! + au marche des saveurs - JTM
              Cheese shop at Maisonneuve market
              Fromagerie du marché - Atwater (lower level, Gille Jourdenais' shop)
              Aliments Naturels A votre santé, 5126 Sherbrooke West corner Vendome
              Arhoma Ontario corner Maisonneuve ?? not sure where that would be, perhaps near St-Urbain where Ontario and Maisonneuve almost cross? Not sure if it would rather be this http://www.arhoma.ca/
              Valmont 1 and 2
              Équimonde on Sherbrooke -?

      2. Very nice report! I'm going to have to look out for that cottage cheese - it really sounds amazing.

        1. Here is a link to all good things in the region : www.produitsdelaferme.com
          (organic bluberries, organic vegtable farms, organic beef...

          )

          Also, in Compton, a couple of good bakeries: 'Bio-Bon' and 'les Miettes'

          +++ www.comptonales.com 26-27 septembre 2009 & 4 octobre (Festin des Grâces
          )(from their website)
          "À la fois une célébration gastronomique et un événement photo, Les Comptonales sont un rendez-vous annuel qui célèbre l’excellence des produits et du savoir-faire des artisans de Compton dans la Vallée de la Coaticook."

          1. [This is my fist post ever.] It's funny - my husband, my two kids, and I were on vacation last week in the province of Quebec and spent a couple days in the Eastern Townships.

            We had a great dinner at Tartanizza in Sutton, pizza, salad, and an asparagus appetizer. We also had great pizza there on our first trip to Sutton, in January 2009. I would definitely recommend Tartanizza.

            On the way to the copper mine in Waterville, we had a decent lunch at North Hatley Cafe in North Hatley. It was nothing to make a special trip for, but it was pretty good. It suited our purposes; it cost $35 or $40 for the family, and it was an pleasant envirtonment you one where I wasn't worried that my squirmy four-year-old would damange anything.

            I'll write about the Montreal and Vermont portions of my trip in another thread.

            I appreciate all the info I have gotton on the Chowhound boards. I always research on Chowhound before taking a trip.

            1. I asked at Hamel and paradis de fromage at atwater market and they had never heard of this cheese producer. Hamel even looked on their computer, but no go. Is the cheese known under other names?

              1 Reply
              1. re: williej

                Did you try the lower level Fromagerie du marché, just after the pizza place? I know for sure they at least have the full fat cream there. Otherwise, I saw the milk and cream at Qui lait cru (JTM) 2 weeks ago, at the right of the cash register. Not sure about the butter or cheeses at any of these places, I haven't actively searched for them yet... our cheese drawer is still pretty full! :-)

                Possible names would be Beurrerie du Patrimoine, L'Économusée du Beurre, ferme Groleau... the firm cheese I picked up at the farm is called Caprice d'Or, and the co name on the packet is Beurrerie du Patrimoine.

              2. It was fair weekend in Ayer's Cliff. Just another chance to scoff down more Wood's poutine. Yeah!

                1. Just wanted to add that this was our first trip to the area last weekend, and we had a great brunch at the Musée du chocolat in Bromont. Everything was really delicious, especially the crèpe au canard and the absolute best hot chocolate we had ever tasted (remember, it is a musée du chocolat!). And great prices too, considering that it's a fine little resto in a tourist destination.

                  Just don't eat on the terrasse--too many bees drove everyone back in.

                  1. Hello,
                    Any suggestions for a bakery where we can order a 50th wedding anniversary cake?

                    Thanks,
                    Gates

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: gateso

                      In what city? You might want to start a new thread for this so your question doesn't get lost here.