The Ottawa River cuts a dramatic swath between the cities of Ottawa and Quebec. Jill and I cross the river and journey to the Quebec side and in short time we have left the city. It is a brilliantly sunny day. We are treated to rolling hills and greenery. These are the Gatineau Hills, part of an extensive national park area that is dotted with lakes, trails and summer cottages. Most people greet us first in French. The village of Chelsea is a quaint collection of eclectic shops and eateries.
Jill has chosen a picturesque lunch spot. Restaurant Les Fougeres is neatly trimmed in scrubbed white clapboard and the sign is framed by a cluster of wandering sunflowers. There is an expansive garden out back and a shop adjacent to the restaurant that offers cookware and specialty food. The interior of the restaurant evokes a country home in Provence. The walls are a sunny buttercup yellow, and there is rustic furniture, crisp white tablecloths, and colorful bouquets of wildflowers in small vases on each table.
The host greets us in French and whisks us to a nearby table. The menu is a charming minuet of fresh flavors and radiant colors. I order the appetizer Basil and Parmigiano Reggiano Mousse served with cherry tomatoes and toasted focaccia. The host describes it as “Summer on a Plate.” Indeed, the generous dollop of mousse tastes like a sun drenched herb garden and the tomatoes are lush, sweet and savory.
Jill selects Wild Mushroom and Brie Pie and I can’t resist the Caribou and Cranberry Tourtiere. Yes, a genuine Canadian Tourtiere, the traditional meat pie of the French Canadians! The caribou is rich, gamey and exotic with tart undertones of cranberry, cloaked in a golden flakey crust. The host pours us a lively dry rose wine from France.
Jill declines dessert, but I must try the creamy yellow Tarte au Citron. Every mouthful is bright, lemony and dazzling.
After lunch, we stroll in the garden, and enjoy the eye-catching array of summer flowers. In the afternoon, my immersion course in Canadian history continues with a visit to Kingsmere, the rambling country retreat of William Lyon MacKenzie King, the tenth Prime Minister of Canada who served for over 21 years. Intent on scoring well on my upcoming quiz on Canadian facts, I note that MacKenzie King was 5 foot 6, was a bachelor and his dog was named Pat.
In the evening, we attend a lovely dinner party with close friends of Jill. There is no cognac, but bubbly champagne flows freely as does the gossip.
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