Louise Bessette
Sponsor Content

Twelve cultural and culinary adventures in Laval, the Laurentians and Authentic Québec

Farm tours, fine dining and monk-made capers are all on offer in this part of the province

There’s so much growing in the rich, verdant agricultural land of Laval, the Laurentians, and Lanaudière-Mauricie, Authentic Québec: berries, apples, pears and squash are just a slice of the bounty visitors can pick for themselves. Add artisanal charcuterie, cheeses, mushrooms and preserves, microbrews, wineries and cider houses, and you’ve got all the fixings for memories to last through the seasons. So, say Bonjour to your next love story: with Québec.

Laval

Cross the Rivière des Prairies into Laval from Montréal by public transit, car or Bixi bike rental and discover the energy of the third largest city in Québec. Laval was once all forest: now urban and rural living cohabit with ease, and there’s something for everyone. With 30 per cent of its land agricultural territory, there are countless local flavours and flowers to explore in the region’s 50-plus farm stands and 800-plus restaurants.

1. Pick-your-own produce

Ferme Forget

An island of expansive flavours with an agricultural history dating back hundreds of years, Laval is surrounded by nature, with lush countryside only minutes from its centre. Design your own gourmet tour to pick strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, apples (17 varieties and counting), tomatoes, onions, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers and squash. Flowers more your thing? Tulips, sunflowers and gladiola are yours for the picking, too. Hop from one farm to another to discover the potato doughnuts that folks have loved for a century at Marineau’s, also home to ice cream, jams, honey, and fruit ketchup; or try apple pies derived from the 10,000-plus trees at the equally historic Gibouleau’s.

2. Dining for all tastes

Le Boating Club

For the foodie, Laval’s culinary scene surely won’t disappoint. Start your day with the terrific croissants, pastries and breads at La Bête à Pain, a modern bakery and contemporary lunch spot featuring traditional sourdoughs while you contemplate your next meal. From the convivial to the chic and everything in between, sample an endless list of wines at Oregon Bar à vin, be one with the bistro vibe at Chez Lionel or experience the region’s riverside heritage at the Boating Club. Restaurant Calvi’s indulgent Greek plates are sure to shine, while Jack Le Coq’s fun fried chicken is the perfect crowd-pleasing takeout meal.

3. Lavish local wines and microbrewery beers

Château Taillefer Lafon

Summer is the perfect time to discover Laval’s wines and microbrewery beers. Château Taillefer Lafon is the first vineyard in Québec authorized to use that designation, and when you see the estate on the lush grounds of the winery, you, too, will be transported. Reserve a tasting tour to learn more about the Château, which took root more than 20 years ago in the boutique for chardonnays, ciders, rieslings and bubbles. If beer is more your brew, the relaxed family vibe of microbrewery Les Insulaires is sure to please –especially some of its special offerings, like the sour made from Québec haskap berries or the Russian Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels with black and sour cherries and vanilla.

4. Try the rich regional tastes of chef Richard Bastien

Richard Bastien

“My parents were gardeners, and I also often accompanied my father to the market. Contact with nature, vegetables and livestock certainly inspired my career choice,” says Laval chef Richard Bastien. The chef, who opened his renowned fine-dining restaurant Le Mitoyen in a gracious historic home in Sainte-Dorothée, Laval in 1977, has obtained accolades far and wide for his gourmet cuisine. Rooted in French technique, enhanced by his Québécois family recipes, and inspired by the region’s proteins and produce, Bastien has cooked at the James Beard Foundation, won numerous awards nationally and internationally, and remains one of the country’s most original and creative chefs. No trip to Laval is complete without tasting his food.

THE LAURENTIANS

In a gastronomy-focused province proud of its traditions, the Laurentians offers a glimpse into what makes the region’s producers really tick. On the 226-kilometre Chemin du Terroir, you’ll meet the men and women who invest their passion and knowledge into their fields and yields. This signposted tourist route features everything from artisanal butchers and delis to beekeepers and North America’s oldest water-driven flour mill, still in operation. Walk through orchards (picking as you go), visit vineyards and microbreweries, and learn about maple syrup production. Take the time for some rustic relaxation and enjoy the local flavours, to the delight of your senses.

1. Cidrerie Lacroix’s apples and offerings won’t disappoint

Cidrerie Lacroix

Five generations of Lacroix have put their heart and soul into planting, tending, and cultivating their orchard of 7000 trees since 1879. This Laurentians flagship in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac is a must-visit for apple lovers (it’s home to more than 20 varieties!) and cider lovers alike. Pick your own or just wander in the orchard, enjoy its new gourmet restaurant – taste the apple-braised bacon, buttermilk pancakes with apple ribbons for breakfast, duck confit with plums from the orchard and tarte tatin with honeycrisp apples for dessert, all while enjoying ciders like Lacroix Cidre de Glace ice cider and Feu Sacré fire cider. Finish off with a visit to the boutique, where you’ll find sparkling juices, apple-infused baked goods and gift sets to bring home.

2. Sample family brews at Microbrasserie Route 8

Microbrasserie Route 8 / Tourisme Laurentides

The funky vintage truck that graces the labels of Microbrasserie Route 8’s artisanal beers has its own story that the Constantin family will tell you with a smile. Now a fourth-generation enterprise in Saint-Eustache, these folks have been passionate about food and drink for over 80 years, starting with a sugar shack and now focused on their microbrewery operation. The family offers seven varieties of beer with Québec-style flavours, including blond, white, apple, IPA, sour, maple, russet and stout. Taste the different varieties before choosing your favourite from the boutique, and then head down the highway toward your next destination.

3. Pick pumpkins and squash at Centre d’interprétation de la courge

Centre d'interprétation de la courge / Tourisme Laurentides

Get behind a wheelbarrow to pick your own at the Centre d’interprétation de la courge in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, where squash and pumpkins are on the menu. Whether or not getting out in the fields is your thing (you can always find the squash of your dreams in the boutique), this is the place to learn about, taste, and enjoy sipping a pumpkin spiced coffee outdoors while gazing at fields with 40 varieties of squash. Picnic tables, a playground and a microbrewery make this a spot ideal for a fall pilgrimage.

4. Splash into the scenery at the Rivière du Chêne Winery

VIGNOBLE RIVIÈRE DU CHÊNE / TOURISME LAURENTIDES

From April to December, the Rivière du Chêne Winery is an ideal – and idyllic – spot to discover the character of the Laurentians while learning about the winery's varietals and eco-responsible cultivation techniques. Tasting, of course, is part of the experience, and the guided tour is a terrific way to spend your visit. Whether you enjoy a meal in the winery’s bistro overlooking the vines, take advantage of the boutique’s picnic basket full of local sausages, pâtés, croutons, chocolates and wine (with glasses). Or bring your own basket, get ready to help harvest grapes, or just enjoy ambling amid the vines. This is one experience you won’t want to miss.

AUTHENTIC QUÉBEC

It’s a stellar road trip, traveling between Montréal and Québec City, along the St. Lawrence and St.Maurice Rivers. You’ll glimpse some of our more than 30,000 lakes and rivers while traversing over 52,000 square kilometers of forest. This soothing landscape immerses visitors in a natural environment away from it all, while happily close to the fabulous breweries, distilleries, wineries and fine dining the area is also known for. The Lanaudière-Mauricie regions – Authentic Québec – bring you close to its people, with national parks, forest lodges, resorts and country inns to rest, recharge, and really fall in love with the region.

1. Diverse food and landscapes abound with Goûtez Lanaudière

La belle excuse / TDL

Goûtez Lanaudière – a program designed to help you taste your way through the beautiful countryside – offers six gourmet travel routes through a food-lover’s paradise. Touring some of the most beautiful scenery of the region, you’ll be weaving through valleys or rivers, farmlands and backroads to the local growers who transform the bounty of their fields with gusto. The Goûtez Lanaudière seal showcases delicious regional products at certified retailers and restaurants. From traditional maple syrups and classic preserves to kombucha, kir and fire cider – a rare local product made by concentrating the sugars and flavours of apples with heat – discover the vast culinary wealth of the region on one of these one-of-a-kind food tours.

2. Step into the Abbaye Val Notre-Dame Gourmet Boutique

Abbaye Val Notre-Dame / Gaëlle Leroyer

Discovering the grounds of the Val Notre Dame Abbey is its own reward, with nine different gentle hiking paths in the woods of this historic site in Saint-Jean-de-Matha, in the heart of the Lanaudière region. The Abbey is both a recreational and gourmet destination supporting a community of monks with gourmet finds produced both within the monastery’s community and throughout the region. The shop is filled with chocolates, caramels, jams and cakes to reward a sweet tooth; while those with savoury aspirations will want to try the monks’ own capers made from daisy blossoms, fir syrup, pickles and preserves, and a myriad of dried mushroom products, from local matsutake to lobster mushrooms and chaga herbal tea.

3. Au Bout du Monde Eco-Café experiments with environmentalism

Éco-café Au Bout du Monde / le Baluchon éco-villégiature.

If you’re looking for local flavours paired with eco-friendly practices, coffee roaster and bakery Au Bout du Monde Eco-Café at the Baluchon Eco Resort is the place to go. Pizza and poutine topped with locally-sourced ingredients are served on plates made from palm leaves, which are then composted. There’s a lot of creativity here: the café was created from objects and mechanical parts from a local sawmill, with displays of old texts and images that recount the history of the region. You might feel the café is out of this world, even though the name means “the end of the earth.”

4. Trois-Rivières: A dining destination

Épi, Buvette de quartier / Jeff Frenette

The second oldest French city in North America, Trois-Rivières is the perfect stop between Montréal and Québec City. Named for the three channels at the mouth of the Saint-Maurice River, this port city has a lot of great food on offer. The Auberge du Lac Saint-Pierre is an elegant option, featuring local meats and fine wines; Le Buck - Pub Gastronomique is a merger between beloved Trou du Diable microbrewery and caterer Le Buck, situated in a building dated back to the late 1700s. For vegetarians and vegans, Café Frida will charm with its creative takes on classics, like pizza pockets and burgers; for lovers of the finer things, Duplex Café is a beloved option for its coffee and privately-imported wines. And the Sea Shack au bord du lac is always a good bet for fried shrimp and smoked trout sandwiches.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Bonjour Québec. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

CREDITS: Concept and oversight by JESSICA ROBINSON; Editing by Audrey Carleton; Art direction, design and development by AASHISH ARORA; Project management by JANINE COLE

More stories from the Globe and Mail