Category Archives: Quebec

Certified Village Cafes of the Eastern Townships

An hour outside of Montreal, visitors to the beautiful four-season vacation area of the Eastern Townships (Cantons-de-l’Est) can join the locals for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just coffee at a new association of local cafes that have been certified for serving quality, healthy meals using local ingredients and products. Strict criteria state the cafes cannot be part of a chain, must be central to community life and often feature the cafe owner behind the counter.

Local village café owners invite visitors to their fine restaurants to enjoy coffee (often organic and sometimes free trade) along with meals prepared using top quality local ingredients as well as locally-produced specialty products for take out, often available frozen for quick make-at-home meals.

This newly created, select group of local cafes is similar to the Cafes de pays found all over rural France.  These cafes also serve as meeting places that are known to be friendly, welcoming and down-to-earth. The owners of these cafés, which are centrally located in the towns and villages of the  Eastern Townships are proud to share their diverse flavours and their beautiful surroundings. The cafes are often located near scenic viewpoints such as alongside lakes and rivers.

Musee-du-Chocolate
Musee-du-Chocolate

An example of a village cafe which produces a specialty product is the one located in the Chocolate Museum in Bromont, founded in 1993. While enjoying such local dishes as salmon pie, chicken crepes or baked beans served with a fresh vegetable salad topped with a home made chocolate and balsamic dressing, visitors can also learn about the history of chocolate and enjoy a wide selection of hand made chocolates and chocolate desserts served with a rich cup of milk or dark hot chocolate.

Cafe de Saveurs
Cafe de Saveurs

Some of these small establishments like Cafe Saveurs et Gourmandises also hold liquor licenses and offer local beers and wines. Sitting on the bank of Lake Massawippi in North Hatley, Saveurs et Gourmandises, specializes in homemade delicacies including a perfectly-sized cake-style chocolate brownie filled with walnuts. For lunch, their hearty French onion soup topped with a generous helping of melted cheese is a great place to start followed by a fillet of salmon sandwich or a warm cheese and ham on a fresh croissant. Their six varieties of pizza are popular too.

Other village cafes in the region specialize in maple syrup products or multiple varieties of homemade bread while still others grew out of central food markets. Some serve as local co-ops and a few feature exhibits by local artists.

Whatever their origins or focus, the village cafes, a prime feature of everyday life in the community, are a great place to experience the Eastern Townships like a local.

Golf Mont Tremblant

Montreal’s playground, Mont Tremblant, is a 1.5-hour drive northwest of Montreal. In winter, it’s a top ski destination. But the rest of the year finds these same mountains and pristine forests transformed into great golf tracks.

Here, golfers can enjoy championship golf experiences, thanks to the topography of the Canadian Shield, which provides dramatic elevation changes in a beautiful setting unlike any other courses in North America.

The wide variation within the landscape ensures that no two holes are ever the same. With the elevation changes and steep climbs, golf carts are mandatory. They allow golfers to store up their energy for the various challenges presented on these tricky courses.

Many of these spectacular holes find golfers teeing off from a plateau sculpted into the mountainside, high above a tiny green that provides the ultimate thrill in golf.

The most impressive of these elevation changes for some heart-stopping tee shots can be found at Le Geant course, designed by Thomas McBroom, a leading Canadian golf architect.

Le Geant fairway and green
Le Geant fairway and green

The real danger playing these beautiful holes is the temptation to play from the very back tees, which will skew your score unfavorably but will add extra thrills. Your biggest challenge is keeping your eye on the ball instead of the spectacular scenery provided by the surrounding Laurentian Mountains.

Golfers can experience similar views on Le Geant’s sister course: Le Diable. In addition to imposing red-sand bunkers and long, narrow fairways, the course includes several holes with fairway waste bunkers that look more intimidating than they actually play.

This 7,056-yard course, designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry in 1998, offers a true test of driving precision. As an added bonus, both Le Diable and Le Geant courses play for as little as $50 after 5 p.m.

Le Maitre 18th green
Le Maitre 18th green

Two other championship courses in the region that deserve a mention include Le Maitre, whose designers include Fred Couples, and La Bete – designed by Graham Cooke. Cooke provided five sets of tees, making the course accessible to both novice and expert golfers.

The par-72 course plays from 5,150 to 6,825 yards. If you choose to play from the tips, you’ll see why they named the course La Bete (“The Beast”).

Both these tracks feature the variety of holes and elevation changes enjoyed at Le Geant and Le Diable, along with excellent dining and drinking facilities often found in Quebec. Head to the patio at Le Maitre for lunch and dinner, best savored on a large patio overlooking the wide expanse of golf course down below.

La Bete, situated along the Diable River, runs nearly 7,000 yards. For lighter fare and good micro-brews at excellent prices,summer check out La Bete’s quiet back patio overlooking the 9th hole viewed through a crop of tall alders.

La Bete Golf Course
La Bete Golf Course

Keep in mind this 19th hole closes fairly early in the afternoon.

A 10-minute drive away, Le Grand Lodge offers golf packages for these four courses.

Le Grand Lodge Mont Tremblant
Le Grand Lodge Mont Tremblant

Their bountiful breakfast buffet ensures golfers are properly fueled for a challenging day on the course. A rich, multi-course dinner offers good value gourmet dining.

The dining room and patio overlook pretty Lac Ouimet, perfect for a post-round dip. In the evening, you can enjoy a complimentary campfire on the beach – complete with marshmallows and roasting sticks.

A free shuttle service running every half hour will take you to nearby Mont Tremblant Village for dinner, drinks or evening entertainment, including a 10-day annual summer blues festival. Plentiful dining options range from a good brew pub – Microbrasserie La Diable – to Asian cuisine at O-Wok.

Chateau Beauvallon Mont Tremblant
Chateau Beauvallon Mont Tremblant

Nearby, Chateau Beauvallon offers similar accommodations, though more upgraded. The lake, however, is replaced by a busy outdoor pool.

It also features premium dining in the form of Prime Steak Sushi Bar for fans of sushi fusion and beef dishes, along with other choices. Free shuttle service to Mont Tremblant Village is also included, as is a substantial buffet breakfast.

Previously published on USA Today 10 Best