Liv­ing Well in la belle Provence

DINE and Destinations - - QUEBEC - By Sara Wax­man

Loung­ing un­der the stars in the per­co­lat­ing ef­fer­ves­cence of a huge, heated ther­mal pool, we are pro­tected from the el­e­ments by walls of nat­u­ral rocks and boul­ders at Spa East­man. There is wind and frost in the air, and a few hardy snowflakes blow about in the ris­ing steam. At the crest of the em­bank­ment, a mas­sive bon­fire warms us and sends woodsy fra­grance our way. Magnificent. If only for this, it was worth the drive on the long and wind­ing road that brought us here from Mon­treal.

The next morn­ing at break­fast, I have an ex­cit­ing rev­e­la­tion. It comes in the sim­ple form of poached eggs with spinach and brioche-style ka­mut bread, softly cloaked in lus­cious hol­landaise sauce. The sur­prise is in the pu­rity of or­ganic eggs and home­grown spinach, gluten-free bread and dairy-free hol­landaise. The taste? Fan­tas­tic. I can hardly wait for to­mor­row morn­ing to have the same, or maybe a buck­wheat crepe with fruit, mo­lasses and cream of soy with almonds

In­spired, I am ready for a short hike on a woodsy trail, to breathe deeply and clear the lungs of city sludge. I can fill the hours be­tween the highly an­tic­i­pated meals with the as­sis­tance of ki­ne­si­ol­o­gists who eval­u­ate and rec­om­mend Pi­lates classes, car­dio-box­ing, zumba, es­sen­tric work­outs, or sim­ply ex­plor­ing the ther­mother­apy tech­niques of con­trast­ing hot and cold baths and the in­frared sauna for which Spa East­man is renowned.

Lunch is a splen­did buf­fet of veg­eta­bles, fruits, sprouts and shakes made of de­lec­ta­ble—and some­times sur­pris­ing—in­gre­di­ents. An ar­ray of oils, dress­ings, condi­ments and good-for-you herbs sparkle in their glass bot­tles. It is not un­til after din­ner when I have the op­por­tu­nity to speak to the kitchen al­chemists. Their sig­na­ture din­ner en­trée, duck ma­gret with Sichuan pep­per, parsnip purée, con­fit of shal­lots, and a salad of sun­choke, brus­sels sprout and hazel­nut is a tri­umph. There is not a ne­far­i­ous in­gre­di­ent on the plate. Striped bass comes part­nered with cau­li­flower and hemp cous­cous, and two purées—beet and creamy or­ange peel—and to driz­zle to your lik­ing, raw fen­nel oil. Plus, there is a veg­e­tar­ian menu that could set a ve­gan’s heart aflut­ter.

Award-win­ning chef Kevin Belisle spe­cial­ized in or­ganic veg­e­tar­ian-based meals at a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant in France be­fore he be­gan col­lab­o­rat­ing with French-trained chef and nu­trither­a­pist, Jean-marc En­der­lin. Their goal: to es­tab­lish guide­lines en­sur­ing that the kitchen of­fers meals that are hy­po­toxic—in other words, dishes that have no short or long-term side ef­fects such as heart­burn and fa­tigue. “Our dis­tinc­tive menus of­fer­ing meals that are health­ful, as well as de­li­cious, is what makes me truly proud,” says Belisle. And we are the lucky ben­e­fi­cia­ries of their craft.

Jo­ce­lyna Dubuc, proud owner of Spa East­man, sips her favourite green smoothie and tells me that in 1977, she held her first re­treat on this farm near Mon­treal, which later be­came the spa. Her pi­o­neer­ing vi­sion drafted a place where life could be en­joyed nat­u­rally and mind­fully. To­day, al­most two decades later, the con­cept of well­ness, detox, ex­er­cise and nu­tri­tion are all parts of main­stream so­ci­ety. Come here with your al­ler­gies, rheumatic aches and pains, in­flam­ma­tions, di­a­betic symp­toms and cor­ti­sol de­fi­cien­cies. You might miss them, since you may well go home with­out them. Well­ness hap­pens nat­u­rally here.­

Spa East­man

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