Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter maple syrup and cider ice wine on this fine Monday

Another brilliant day here in the Montreal countryside. I awoke to the lovely smell of porridge as Steve was slaving away in the kitchen preparing a morning feast for us and the soon arriving Isa and Owuo duo. My uncle Steve makes a fabulous oatmeal with gogi berries, flax seeds, chopped nuts and a few other unnamed goodies but my cousin Nicho added Tahini?! a crazy strange injection for a breakfast bowl but hey, he has been all over the world so who am I to judge!!

We were then kicked out of the house as Steve and Helene wanted to hide some eggs for an adult easter egg hunt! Splendid idea so we complied and set off for a trek through the local trails along the lakeshore forest. A beautiful hike was had discussing music (Isa and Owuo have a deep knowledge of all things music) and we snuck in a few photos on the way. When we returned the eggs were hidden and we were given our rules and hints and began our search. For whatever reason I knew there would be one hidden high for me (my height is always a source of ridicule and conversation) so I searched high and took down a beauty egg! There were only 8 eggs in total for us 5 to find and a healthy competition began between Isa and her older brother Nicho but they were both beaten out by Natalia as she slid in low for the last one. We suckled on the gourmet chocolate on the lakeshore picnic table and then cleaned the lawn, made a burn pile and then snacked over some music and good conversation.

Lunch was then served and Owuo hit us with another hilarious eating habit. Apparently he eats everything on the table or at least puts it all on the same dish! We were making open faced sandwiches with gourmet cheese, lettuce, hummus and a peanut butter for plain bread but he threw it all on the same slice! I looked over and saw him spreading peanut butter on top of his lettuce which was on top of cheddar and the look on my face caused a fair bit of hysteria between Steve and I! After a good chuckle and some new music we all went off to taste some maple syrup and explore one of the local syrup farms.

Such a neat operation and one with rich and backbreaking history. Technology has allowed them to collect all the maple water from the trees through a complex series of vacuumed tubes which run to massive collection tanks. I am sure this is quite the process to maintain and set up, however, I can imagine it is nothing like the olden days when they had thousands of hanging buckets all over the property and collected them in waist deep snow with the assistance of horses. I also had no idea how little maple syrup can be made from the maple water. A tiny chunk (the size of a mars bar) of maple sugar is extracted from 60 gallons of the maple water!

After a lovely walk, the grandmother of the operation poured thick syrup onto snow and we downed a few sticks worth. The local kids were all over it and must have had 10 servings while I barely managed to down 3 due to its decadence.

We then resigned, slightly tired from the sugar high but spontaneously decided to go to a winery/orchard to do some taste testing. A lovely suggestion and we drove through some of the beautiful Frelighsburg region. Winding roads, rolling hills and aged orchard trees draped the countryside for miles and we pulled into the most elevated winery. Sadly it was closed but we moved on. One we had passed earlier was open so we returned without expectations and it was BEAUTIFUL! A gorgeous place with vintage but newly restored rock work and a lovely fountain out front. We entered and the cavern (which they used as the tasting room) smelt rich and the walls were decorated with all sorts of local and international recognition awards. Christian, the owner who assisted us, poured some lovely Cider ice wine and we cherished every drop in our little "degustation" glasses. Christian's wife had made some world class chocolate brownies especially for easter guests so we dined on those while wetting our lips with their wineries sweet cider nectar.

I was a bit shocked at first as the prices were considerably higher than the one we visited previously. Christian then expanded on his passionate operation and their noble philosophy which compelled me to purchase a bottle of his limited and unique stock. It turns out he invented Cider ice wine and their winery is one of the most pure around, using no pesticides, herbicides or chemicals. They depend on no machinery (not even weed eaters for the lawn) and strictly use animal power to cultivate and move their produce. Having the inventor of Cider ice wine present to you their product leaves no excuse not to buy a bottle!

We had another spectacular day in calming country and I was able to explore some fabulous french canadian traditions.

Thanks to Steve and Helene for being so creative during my stay and tonight's Thai feast will certainly be a majestic wrap to a most restful yet plentiful weekend.


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