Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spring has sprung!

Once again it is that time of year. Some wait for the groundhog to see his shadow before they announce the arrival of spring. In Québec the tradition is to announce the first signs of spring when the sap of the maple trees start running!
What does this mean? Well for those who have never experienced a sugaring off party, this is a part of Québec culture that you should experience at least once in your lifetime! First imagine the hardships of winter (and believe me this year has been HARD), then imagine the joy of those first warm days of spring when the sun shines down on our faces and the temperature starts to creep above the freezing point. The snow starts to melt, the birds start returning from their trip south and the maple trees start awakening and the sap starts running!

We collect the maple water by taping a hole in the trunk of a maple tree, a spout is inserted and a bucket is placed beneath it to collect the maple water. We also use a tube system that is
connected to a pipeline that brings the water directly to the sugar shack to be boiled. We then put the water through a concentrator (osmoses) to separate the sweet water from the rest of the water (only 40% of the water will be boiled). We then boil the water in a huge boiler that will slowly raise the temperature of the water from 4 degrees Celsius to 118 degrees Celsius until the water turns into a syrup.

We celebrate the arrival of spring with sugaring off parties that are held in sugar shacks where a special menu of omelettes, beans, pork, pancakes and many other items are prepared and served with the finishing touch being the maple taffy served on snow.
This celebration only lasts for 8 weeks, from March 1st to the end of April, and it is a wonderful way to get together with friends and family and to stock up on this golden elixir called maple syrup.

Join us for a group dinner or just a weekend get a way with a loved one.

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Le printemps se pointe!

Ça se produit à chaque année, à cette même époque. Ailleurs, on surveille le moment où la marmotte s'éveille en espérant qu'elle aperçoive son ombre pour annoncer que le printemps arrive. Au Québec, c'est la première montée de sève dans les érables qui confirme que le printemps est aux portes.

De quoi s'agit-il? Si vous n'avez jamais fait l'expérience toute québécoise d'une sortie à la cabane à sucre, sachez que ça manque à votre culture et qu'il faut vivre l'aventure au moins une fois dans sa vie.
Imaginez. L'hiver est dur (surtout cette année, mes amis!). Puis, le soleil renaissant commence à vous caresser le visage, les températures franchissent peu à peu le zéro et continuent de monter. Quelle joie! La neige se met à fondre, les oiseaux reviennent de leur migration dans le Sud, les érables s'éveillent et la sève monte, monte, monte...

On sait quoi faire : on vrille un petit trou dans le tronc de chaque érable; on plante un bec dans le trou; on accroche un seau sous le bec; la sève coule dans le seau; c'est parti. À plus grande échelle, au lieu de seaux, un vaste réseau de tuyaux courant des arbres à la cabane recueille l'eau d'érable. À l'aide d'un concentrateur, on retire de la sève 60 % de l'eau. On chauffe ce concentré dans une immense cuve et on le bout jusqu'à ce que la température du liquide passe de 4 à 118 degrés Celsius. À cette température, la réduction qu'on obtient, c'est le précieux sirop.

Au Québec, l'arrivée du printemps se fête en tenant des parties de sucres dans les cabanes à sucre. On y mange selon un menu spécial qui comprend : omelettes, fèves au lard, porc, crêpes (tous parfumés à l'érable). Surtout, le clou de la partie de sucres c'est la dégustation de la tire d'érable, un épais caramel servi en ruban sur de la neige immaculée - pour le faire saisir - et qu'on enroule ensuite autour d'une cuiller, d'un bâton. Les sucres durent seulement du 1er mars à la fin d'avril et c'est l'occasion de faire la fête, familles et amis, et de constituer des réserves de sirop et de sucre d'érable pour le reste de l'année. Vive l'élixir doré!

Venez à la cabane pour les sucres, en bande. Ou venez pour weekend de douceurs à deux...

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I love Long Island!

Well here we are on Long Island about 200 meters from Louise's house. It was a little too cold to dip our feet in the water but we had a perfect view of the beach. What a great place to stay! On our way out we noticed open house signs and I was tempted to stop and visit some homes for sale!
We dined at the Pine Island Grill where Tommy and Dan took very good care of us. My sons, Neil and Steven had contacted the restaurant and had champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate for us. It was such a nice surprise that they would think of their mom on this special occasion. As a souvenir, I am sure I have a few extra pounds to remind me of this special event.

Check out the apple crumble pie from Geiser's! They are situated on 1st ave in NY city and have been there for 105 years! We could not help ourselves, but had to bring a pie for our brunch on Sunday morning.
I also have to correct yesterday's blog. I did not see Shampoo, I saw Hairspray at the theater on Broadway!!! Sorry about that guys!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

I love New York!!!

Well what a birthday I am having!
I was invited to fly to NYC with Lili, stay in Manhattan for two nights and spend the last night in Long Island at Louise's lovely new home.
I had nothing to think about or do. My job was to enjoy myself and boy, did I ever do that!!!
First we stopped for a quick lunch to catch up with our friends, then we had a nice dinner at Vice Versa near the theater where we went to see Hairspray!!! Well if you have seen the movie with John Travolta as the overweight mother, you have to see the play with George Wendt( Norm from Cheers) as the mother in the musical. I laughed and cheered so much. What a funny, lovely musical to see. Everyone was up on their feet cheering at the end.
The next day, NYC was hit with a snow storm that dropped 9 inches of fresh white snow on the streets. We loved it! We felt quite at home... so we joined Gerry and Louise and set out to visit the Metropolitan museum of fine Art. I think a few other people had the same idea... We had lunch in the private dinning room overlooking Central Park, since Louise is a sponsor of the museum. It sure is nice to have friends!
That evening I was treated to cooking lessons at Rustico cooking school where you get to eat the food that you have prepared. It was lovely seeing Dino and Micol once again. They are responsible for Lili and I meeting Louise and Gerry on our trip to Italy in 2006. Since then we have returned to Italy for more cooking lessons and we are planning another to France for next year. If ever you are in New York city, I highly recommend this as an evening of fun and getting to meet the locals. I also would not hesitate to recommend one of their trips to Italy!
Saturday, we set off for lunch at Fiorello's. This was the best of all the restaurants for authentic Italian cuisine. We sat at Louise's private table (...yes it is good to have friends in the right places...) and enjoyed some very nice Italian wine. The service was impeccable and we were truly spoiled in every way possible. This restaurant is a must if you enjoy genuine Italian menus.
After this we were headed out to Louise's new home in Long Island where Doctor Phil was waiting for us. Philip is Louise's (the blond in the picture) new husband. We all agree that he is a sweetheart and have decided that if he will have us again, we shall return for my birthday next year as well (and every other for that matter!).
Tomorrow I will tell you about the surprises that my sons had for me...
until next time!

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

What fun we had!

Another Romatic evening has come and gone. I was not fast enough to take a picture of the Maple Pavillon all dressed up for valentine's.
By the time I arrived, Guests were already seated so I did not want to disturb their intimacy by turning up the lights for pictures. I am really sorry I missed this because the place looked like a winter wonderland with everything in white and just the red roses on the tables for a dash of color. Julie our wedding planner did a spectacular job with the decorations.
Today Sunday we are removing everything since we have a press conference on Wednesday to announce the opening of the Sugar Shack for March 1st and the upcoming maple season.
The Gary Moffett trio were much apreciated and had people up and dancing by desert time. The combination of dinner at the pavillon and the live music was a winner and will be back next year since Valentine's is on a Saturday evening. I suggest that people reserve early since this will be a sell out well in advance!
For those following the hot water saga at the inn, we still have not repaired the tank but so far no complaints and we have not run out of hot water. I will keep you posted.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

What really goes on behind the scenes!

Ok, this week is really getting on our nerves. First we have another snow storm! Have stopped counting how many this year because I no longer know or care how many we have had. All I know is that we have gone through 3 maintenance guys in the past two months! We are pretty well equiped with snowblowers and tractors as you may have seen in earlier blogg's. But we still have to get the snow off the roofs everytime there is an accumulation so... we start with the sidewalks, parking lots, barn, and then we tackle the roofs.

We have the maple pavillion, the Auberge, the stables, the garages and of course a couple of houses that the staff use. So wednesday night just before valentine's we have a full house and wake up to... you guessed it a foot of new snow. The plow has not opened our road, staff cannot get in to work, Gerry is out plowing the snow and linda is working the reception, baking muffins and serving breakfast, yes all at the same time!

Ok we get through that, our group checks out and our romantic couples check in for Valentine's which will last until Monday!!! This is what we have worked so hard for! Happy people joining us for happy occasions. What can go wrong???

The hot water tank (Which is only two years old by the way) springs a leak. No problem we have two!!! Shut down the broken one which we are happy to learn is still on guarantee, and no one will notice right?

Wrong! now we have hot water in our toilets and cold water only in the sinks! Call the plumber again and we are now Friday evening once again with a full house. You all know how much a plumber costs, right? Well would'nt you know that the tank that sprung a leak is behind the tank that is fine, so we need to remove the good tank to get to the broken tank... this of course means sawing pipes and reinstalling everything once again. You do realise that the cost of labor is much more expensive thant the cost of the tank right??? well I am finding that out real fast! The tank is on waranty but the labour is at our expense!

Now back to the snow. Our ground floor is completly snowed in. the snow has completly covered the windows. the snow banks are over 6 feet tall all around the building because of the snow that we have had to remove from the roofs. I have a question. What is going to happen in the spring? We have never had so much snow since the Inn was built in 1988. will the drains really be able to handle so much run off? we are on the side of a mountain so you would think no problem, well we are not so sure about that. if it starts to thaw quickly, the streams and drains may still be frozen and if the water follows the path of least resistance...

Meanwhile I have a group that will be coming next Sunday to enjoy the pleasures of winter. They want to curl on our pond and ski in our trails. I have to call them and tell them that we have too much snow and that we cannot get to the pond and that we are so busy shoveling we cannot groom the ski trails. we have 4 guys on maintenance five days a week and we cannot keep up! They are announcing another foot of snow for Monday, followed by rain Tuesday and Wednesday... I wonder if I will still have maintenance employees next week???
Stay tuned...

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Valentine dinner & dancing

For the first time, the Maple Pavilion will be open to couples for dinner and dancing on Saturday, February 16th, for Valentine's Day dinner. This unique log cabin was built in 2000 after the ice storm of 1998, when we were without electricity for 24 days.
Auberge des Gallant is situated in the heart of a maple and cedar forest. Imagine 9 inches of ice on the branches... the damage was incredible to the forest and the sounds of the trees falling were similar to bombs going off every minute. We knew the first day that this was the worst ice storm and that our services would be needed. After the first 24 hours we started getting calls from families with young children that had no heat. Our rooms have fireplaces, hot water (propane) and we had lots of oil lamps for light.
Our kitchen, which also operates with propane gas, dinning room and a few bedrooms had a generator to supply us with enough electricity and heat in the common areas. We filled the rooms within 24 hours. After four days, we decided that we were not going to charge customers since we were now officialy designated a disaster zone and the provincial police were now contacting us with cases of elderly people needing shelter and not wanting to leave their homes without their precious pets. This is how we ended up with 119 adults and children as well as cats, dogs, birds and even rabbits. Thank goodness we have stables where the rabbits could stay with our horses and goat!
We bought a generator from Winnipeg (there were none to be found around here!!!) and were able to supply electricity to all the rooms after two weeks. This was a Godsend and helped us reduce the number of fireplaces burning wood which in itself was a firehazard after such continuous use.
The Inn also supplied the municipalities around us with food for their day shelters as well as over 100 cords of firewood since most homes were completely out of dry wood after such prolonged use of their fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
The experience is one we will forever remember. Yes we were completely exhausted physically and emotionally, but we were proud to have been there for those in need. Innkeeping comes with responsibility. You must not only be there when you feel like it and when it suits you. you must also be there in times of need. We could easily have closed down under the pretext of no electricity and taken off on vacation, but this would have meant no work for 40 employees and no services for people in need. We invested in our employees, customers as well as in our neighbours and at the end of the year, with all the expenses that staying open and offering our services cost us, it never showed on the bottom line.
Spring arrived early that year and with it the evidence of the damage to the forest. Large cedar and maple trees were felled everywhere. Complete trails no longer existed. A forest that took 25 years to groom was completely demolished within days. My husband was devastated.
For months we had a dozen men working at clearing the fallen trees. Hundreds of trees (we have 400 acres) of large straight trees were hauled in a clearing to make firewood. At one point when my husband took stock of the inventory, he told me that he could not in good conscience make firewood out of these trees but wanted instead to build a log cabin as a maple sugar shack.
This is how we ended up with our spectacular Maple Pavilion! It took two years to prepare the logs, and slowly put the cabin together. My husband estimated the cost of building at about 250,000$ since we had the wood... we would end up investing four times that amount to end up with a reception hall that would be booked a year and half in advance from the day it opened!
On March 1st we will be open for the sugaring off parties until April 30th, and then it is booked until the last week of October for wedding receptions. In November and December it is booked for company xmas parties.
It has been 10 years since the Iice storm. This year for the first time we think it would be fun to let couples experience an evening in this special building. Join me Saturday February 16th, for a romantic dinner and dancing with the Gary Moffett trio.

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Saint Valentin Unique

Pour la première fois, nous allons ouvrir le Pavillon de l'érable pour les réservations de deux personnes et plus! Nous avons pensé offrir un Souper avec danse samedi le 16 février, pour la Saint Valentin.
Nous aurons le Trio Gary Moffett qui nous jouera de la musique bien connu pour une soirée des plus romantique. Le décor féérique, fait du Pavillon de l'érable, l'endroit idéale pour ce nouveau concept.
le menu gastronomique inclus;
en amuse
Tartare de saumon fumé
en entrée
queue de homard at sa bisque, sur ravioli
salade mesclun
Potage Valentin
Caille farcie au gibier
filet de veau sauce forestière
Croustillant au chocolat
café, thé et mignardises
Faites vos réservations et joignez moi ce samedi pour la Saint Valentin!

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gallant Spa winter specials

I do not know about you, but I get very dry and itchy skin in winter. Just because I own a SPA does not mean that I get to enjoy free treatments very often. The problem is, they are often so busy that I have to give up my place to paying customers which is of course normal and to be expected.
Last Sunday, I booked myself in for a body scrub with the ISHI wine therapy grape must. What an incredible treatment that was! It scrubed away all the dead skin and rehydrated my skin for a smooth, velvetly feeling that lasted the week. Definitely a must for someone looking for some pampering. Check out our winter specials at under Health Center.
I will be away at the restaurant and hotel show at Place Bonaventure from Sunday to Tuesday. This event happens every year and gives us a chance to see what is new. I will also be meeting with the members of Hotellerie Champêtre for our bi-annual meeting where we will launch the new website and on-line reservation system. I hope you have a chance to check it out next time you are planning a stay in Québec.

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