Agrotourism in Rougemont, Quebec
Supporting local farmers and eating locally-grown food are things I love doing and advocating for, both because of the reduced environmental impact but also because I think local produce just tastes better. So when Melissa from ‘Round Table Tours, encouraged me to participate in their first Agrotourism trip, guided by nutritionist Julie Aubé, I leapt at the opportunity!
This trip was for food-affectionados who are curious about the stories behind our food. We were a group of about 20 people, and we explored an area of Quebec known as Rougemont, QC where we were shown the agricultural side of food and the stories behind what we eat.
Destination One: Mes Petits Caprices
I’m going to start this section with full disclosure: I love goat cheese. So when I met Charles, a handsome farmer who raises his two boys to help him tend to his goats and whose wife, Diane, assists with the making of the cheese, I could immediately see myself spending more than just an hour or two hanging out on their farm.
Located at the foot of Mont Saint-Hillaire, Mes Petits Caprices is a high quality artisanal goat cheese producer. What makes them unique is the fact they both produce the goat’s milk and the cheese, which is surprisingly rare in the cheese industry. The majority of cheese producers purchase their milk from a collective and forgo the effort it takes to raise the animals themselves. But for Mes Petites Caprices, raising their own goats ensures the utmost control over the quality of the product, but also a unique and delicious flavour profile that cannot be matched. I felt so lucky to have visited this farm, because aside from the picturesque setting and the playful goats, the products from this farm can only be purchased on site. I left with a small parcel and the intention of certainly going back!
Destination Two: Canards du Village
It all started with her great-grandfather. Jocelyne Ravenelle, a former physiotherapist, is the fourth generation to work on the family farm. And ever since she purchased the property back in the 1990’s and named it Canards du Village, she has never looked back.
Jocelyne raises Muskovy ducks on her heritage farm for meat (no force-feeding for foie gras), and her passion and excitement for her profession breathes life into her stories and her products. We tasted both the duck rillette (which is like a rustic paté) served with onion chutney on baguette, and a delicious dried duck sausage. I could certainly see why all of her four children want to get involved with the business- there is still so much potential, given they’ve barely scratched the surface of getting their product to populations outside Quebec.
Destination Three: Le Potager Mont-Rouge Halte gourmande
Our third destination, Le Potager Mont-Rouge, felt completely different than the first two. Upon arrival, we saw crowds of other people with bags of squash and apples. We saw blown-up bounce castles for children, a huge shop where you could buy various products made on site, and a large parking lot where guests could saddle up their cars with their freshly harvested produce. It was a pick-your-own farm. It immediately felt inauthentic to me, which it shouldn’t have, given there are so many farmers who turn towards pick-your-own fields as a suitable way to make their farms viable. This initial feeling, however, quickly dissipated when we met Philippe.
Philippe Beauregard, a young man with a wide-brimmed cowboy hat and an enthusiasm for crops, was the owner of the farm and our tour guide. He barely hesitated as he hopped directly into our van with us and directed our driver away from the crowds to where his prized possessions- his heritage tomato fields- were planted.
Philippe owns a unique micro-climate where quality soil plays a large role in the delicious, high-quality fruits and vegetables the farms produces. Boasting 65 varieties of tomatoes alone, this farm is one of the only ones in Quebec that also opens up their crops of vegetables for their consumers to pick. We tasted some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had, including a variety I had never heard of before: a peach tomato. With a slightly fuzzy skin like a peach, and a soft orange and yellow hued skin, it could easily be confused for a small peach.
We explored the small shop and each purchased a couple items- the just-pressed apple juice and freshly-baked apple bread for me- before climbing back onto the bus for our fourth and final destination.
Destination Four: Domaine Cartier-Potelle
Pulling onto the Domaine Cartier-Potelle estate immediately felt like we were entering exclusive property. Located on the southern side of the enchanting Mont Rougemont hill, this domain is a large apple orchard surrounding a rather modern-looking building. When we were greeted with a glass of apple cider mousseux (a sparkling wine), I was smitten! Carefully tending their apple trees, this farm strives to turn their tender apples into exceptionally delicious ciders including iced cider.
I am familiar with iced cider because I have lived in Ontario and Quebec my whole life (some of the best iced ciders in the world are made here) but I was astounded at the number of varieties they had! A total of six products (four of which are iced ciders) shows you just how even in such a niche market, gentle changes in method can result in drastic differences in taste. I was impressed with the knowledge and interest of the patrons of this estate, and even mentally noted that this would be a beautiful location for a private event of my own.
To celebrate our full day of farm visiting, we ended the evening with a delicious meal at the Domaine, featuring all the products we had discovered that day. With the menu by Michelin-star Chef Edgar Trudeau Ferrin from Beaver Hall and cider pairings by Sommelier Marie-Ève Laplante, we were certainly treated to a unique experience I won’t forget.
Pictured below are three highlights for me: artichoke cappuccino (soup with a cream mousse); a duck tourtiere with autumn vegetables; and for dessert, caramelized apples with a iced cider mousse and goats cheese ice. All paired beautifully with cider beverages from on site.
A great big thank you to Melissa and Julie for being such wonderful hosts and guides! This was such a fantastic experience, and I encourage anyone who is in the Montreal area to stay tuned for any future events such as this one.