Montreal Weekender: September 16th through 18th, 2011

Many of Montreal’s notable gastronomic pleasures originate in the Eastern Townships, one of the richest agricultural areas in Quebec. Within an hour or two drive of Montreal, this destination is of major interest to many Montrealers, those of whom have country houses there. Due to the fact that the famous annual Brome Lake Duck Festival starts this weekend, we decided to focus this week’s Weekender strictly on a weekend in the Eastern Townships.

First and foremost, pre-trip make a reservation for your stay in Knolton at Auberge & Spa West Brome (pictured above), this is the ideal spot to set up camp for your adventures in the Townships. The townhouse-style guest suites of this country retreat cluster in three new buildings around the indoor pool and heated outdoor hot tub. Head out Friday afternoon to check in and relax. To get in the spirit for the Duck Festival, head to Auberge du Joli Vent for dinner. Chef Hans Christiner focuses his menu on Townships provender, tempting diners with game, fish, and hearty stews. But let’s face it, you are really there for the duck, so try one of his famous duck dishes. May we suggest his slice poached duck breast, tossed with apple slices, served on lettuce with an apple-cider vinaigrette…?

Saturday is your day at the Duck Festival. Knowlton, one of Quebec’s most beautiful villages, presents a festival jam-packed with culinary demonstrations, a farmer’s market, musicians, artists and artisans, and opportunities to sample the world-renowned Brome Lake duck. This will keep you busy all day, so don’t plan for anything else.

Saturday night, pick out a few of your favourite bottles of wine, and take a little drive and book yourself dinner in Compton at the local BYOB, Le Bocage. Current owner and chef Francois Dubois was a long time customer at Le Bocage before he finally realized his dreams in 1997 by buying the circa-1825 inn. People flock from all over for Dubois’ contemporary cooking, firmly rooted in the terroir of the Eastern Townships. His five-course menus offer two choices each among the appetizers, main courses and desserts. He’s known for his beautiful soup duos, so make sure to try that!

Sunday, check out and take a drive to Magog. Spend the morning and early afternoon noshing and puttering around Les Ami de la Terre Magog. When you’ve had your share of the market, gear up to head back to the city. On your way out of Magog, make sure you stop in at Chocolaterie Raphael for a quick espresso, some chocolate and maybe a pastry or two.