By Laura Byrne Paquet
Just because you’re heading to the country for a bit of rural R&R doesn’t mean you have to go without fancy mustards, artisanal sausages, or excellent cheeses. From dairies and duck farms to bistros and smokehouses, back roads are filled with destinations for the adventurous gourmet. Just one word of advice: call ahead, as hours (particularly for farm-based shops) change frequently.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll post listings for these small operations, many of which are seasonal. This week, we look at 10 restaurants that have become destinations for the foodie set.
We’d love to hear from you: do you have a favourite out-of-town eatery? Please share your finds in our comments section.
Sure, $42 seems like a hefty price for Sunday brunch. But you probably won’t need to eat again for another few days after dining at Aux Chantignoles, the Fairmont Le Château Montebello’s elegant restaurant overlooking the Ottawa River. The feast usually includes a hip of beef, seafood of all sorts, pasta, Quebec cheeses, a mountain of pastries, and breakfast fare such as bacon, sausages, and eggs. (The restaurant also serves lunch, dinner, and small breakfasts.) Perhaps less well known are the hotel’s barbecues, held daily throughout the summer on a riverside terrace. 392, rue Notre-Dame, Montebello, 819-423-6341, www.fairmont.com.
Menus change weekly at The Branch, a restaurant in downtown Kemptville that’s surprisingly easy to miss — even when I was looking for it, I accidentally drove by it three times. Once you find the narrow, charming space, full of local art and music, look for treats like Aunty’s Platter, a selection of local cheeses served with smoked sausage, walnuts, olives, chutney, hot grainy mustard, fruit, bread, and crackers. The emphasis here is strongly on organic local ingredients. For rib-sticking comfort food, try the all-you-can-eat Rubber Boots Buffet on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. 15 Clothier St. E., Kemptville, 613-258-3737, www.thebranchrestaurant.ca.
Paintings by local artists give the sun-filled front room a café ambience, while the darker back room, with its big televisions, has more of a traditional pub feel to it. Wherever you sit, you’ll have a nice range of dishes to choose from, including gluten-free items and 14 vegetarian choices. Chef Roger Weldon subscribes to locavore and slow food principles, and it shows: something as casual as a lunchtime sweet potato and black bean flauta ($9) is piping hot and subtly herbed, accompanied by a crisp side salad of field greens accented with julienned carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas, and arti-chokes. Definitely not your average pub. 151 Bridge St., Carleton Place, 613-253-7400, www.ballygiblins.ca.
Black Dog Bistro
This bistro/pub offers a nice selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and meat dishes, including pulled pork sandwiches, an Asian noodle salad with seared orange ginger scallops, and beef tenderloin garnished with bourbon-soaked sun-dried cherries. The decadent sweet potato fries, served with dijon mayo, are available as a side or as an appetizer on their own. Dessert includes “caketails” — alcoholic concoctions like a Coconut Cream Pie made with vanilla schnapps, coconut rum, and cream. Closed Sundays. 5540 Main St., Manotick, 613-692-3779, www.blackdogbistro.ca.
Run by husband-and-wife chefs Matthew and Jennifer Brearly, this restaurant celebrates local farmers. Not only are the sources of ingredients such as cheese and lamb listed on the menu, but producers are also featured on the website. Castlegarth even has its own farm — Matthew’s family raises organic beef, vegetables, and fruit on a 500-acre property nearby. The regularly changing menu features sophisticated dishes such as homemade bacon-wrapped venison terrine with tomato-apple chutney. Open for dinner only, Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations recommended. 90 Burnstown Rd., White Lake, 613-623-3472, www.castlegarth.ca.
Fall River Pub & Grill
Fifteen minutes west of Perth, this place offers something for just about everyone: a pub serving seafood, salads, wings, and pizza and a fine-dining restaurant with more exotic fare such as curry-infused rack of lamb and organic free-range duck baked with figs and apples. Between courses, waddle into the adjacent gift store to browse for jewellery, purses, books, and gourmet food items. 21980 Hwy. 7, Maberly, 613-268-2882, www.fallriverinc.com.
Looking to refuel elegantly after a strenuous hike through Gatineau Park? How about the 11-course tasting menu at Les Fougères? If that sounds like a bit much, don’t worry — there are also à la carte, table d’hôte, brunch, lunch, and children’s vegetarian menus. Don’t miss the adjacent shop, where you can buy goodies such as canapés, dumplings, soups, and chutneys to take home (mustard with wasabi, vermouth, tarragon, and black pepper, anyone?). 783, rte. 105, Chelsea, 819-827-8942 (restaurant), 819-827-2837 (store), www.fougeres.ca.
L’Orée du Bois
Owner/chef Guy Blain and his wife, Manon, opened this rustic yet stylish restaurant on the edge of Gatineau Park in 1978. These days some 30,000 diners a year beat a path to the turn-of-the-century farmhouse to nosh on such regional Quebec cuisine as wild boar rillettes with braised shallots in blueberry wine or Brome Lake duck confit with green and black peppercorn sauce. The table d’hôte is often a good value. 15, ch. Kingsmere, Chelsea, 819-827-0332, www.oreeduboisrestaurant.com.
The Stone Cellar
With its stone walls, wood floors, big fireplace, and white linen tablecloths, this two-storey restaurant — opened in 2008 — has a seasonal menu. Selections may include pork tenderloin glazed with Lanark County maple syrup, a sirloin burger with cranberry and melted brie, or a beet salad with black balsamic vinaigrette. 71 Gore St. E., Perth, 613-267-0200, www.thestonecellar.com.
The Swan at Carp
Beer connoisseurs of my acquaintance have been raving about this pub for years, with its wide range of brews on tap. Plan to arrive early on summer weekends if you want a seat on the popular patio. 108 Falldown Lane, Carp, 613-839-7926, www.theswanatcarp.ca.
From Food for Thought by Laura Byrne Paquet, first published in the Summer 2011 issue of Ottawa Magazine.