Manoir Hovey

DINE and Destinations - - QUEBEC -

An im­pres­sive his­tory gives way to a bril­liant present. It hap­pened after the tur­moil of the Amer­i­can Civil War that wealthy South­ern­ers made their way to North Hat­ley, and built sum­mer man­sions on the west side of Lake Mas­saw­ippi. The most splen­did of all, on North Hat­ley’s prime site was “The Birches” built in 1898 as a sum­mer home by Henry Atkin­son, owner of Ge­or­gia Power in At­lanta. In 1950, it was con­verted to an inn, and in 1979, its present own­ers, Kathryn and Stephen Stafford, pur­chased the prop­erty. Manoir Hovey, win­ner of a dozen pres­ti­gious hos­pi­tal­ity awards, stands alone in its charm and el­e­gance. Obliv­i­ous to the sea­sons, it of­fers kayaks, ca­noes, pad­dle­boats, ten­nis and pri­vate beaches in the sum­mer, and snow­shoe­ing trails in win­ter. All equip­ment is sup­plied. I came to Manoir Hovey on a whim, in the mid­dle of a strin­gent and suc­cess­ful weight-loss diet. Dis­ci­pline and a fierce de­sire to shed 15 pounds al­lowed me to view the glo­ri­ous gas­tron­omy served to my table­mates with­out feel­ing dis­en­fran­chised. Chef Roland Me­nard (a 30-year vet­eran at Manoir Hovey, and the win­ner of top hon­ours at the Que­bec Grand Prix de Tourism) and chef Fran­cis Wolf (who trained at New York’s top ta­bles) are both masters of mod­ern Que­bec cui­sine, en­hanced by a 700-la­bel wine list. My di­etary re­quire­ments were re­solved with ex­treme fi­nesse. They know that first we eat with our eyes, and their pre­sen­ta­tions of sim­ple dishes al­lowed me to feel to­tal equal­ity with my gor­man­diz­ing friends. Sprightly gar­den salad (sans an oily dress­ing) seemed freshly plucked from green­house trays. My fish en­trée was so aro­matic with fresh herbs and lemon zest that the lack of but­ter and cream went un­no­ticed. My mea­ger ra­tion of a few ounces of fruit was pre­sented in four gob­lets, each with a dif­fer­ent brightly coloured diced fruit. In fact, some din­ing mates cast en­vi­ous glances at my dessert. In win­ter, the soft white blan­ket of snow calls for co­coon­ing in my se­ri­ously com­fort­able sur­round­ings, but show me a vil­lage with stylish bou­tiques, art gal­leries and an­tique stores, and weather does not hold me back. A few hours later, car­ry­ing my pre­cious pur­chases of an­tique teacups and saucers, I re­turn to Manoir Hovey. Staff is trained to the tips of their pol­ished shoes, and wel­come us back as if we are hon­oured guests. Soon, the time for strin­gent di­et­ing will arise again, and you can be sure I will head for Manoir Hovey.

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