Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hôtel Rive Gauche



 where sophistication and nature blend beautifully
 
 
 
by Nancy Snipper
 
Although the stunning setting of  Hôtel  Rive Gauche does not stand alongside the Seine River in Paris, it offers a similar inspirational scene with Mont Saint-Hilaire in view. Right outside Hotel Rive Gauche’s doors is the remarkable lovely Richelieu River. Its gentle water rolls right past the hotel’s Beloeil location, making its endless journey from Quebec towards Vermont in the USA.

 


A splendid tapestry of pastoral beauty along its banks features all kinds of trees and gardens with big birds flying overhead. Directly outside the hotel is a bike path. Just follow the birds as they lead you to historic countryside villages and that dot the length of the river announcing its presence in the Montérégie region.  
All this you can enjoy just across from Hôtel Rive Gauche, for it has claimed a prized spot on the river. From every one of its 22 rooms, guests can gaze out from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Step outside into the back garden or walk along the water. Verdant beauty awaits you – a perfect match for Hôtel Rive Gauche!

 



What is so utterly appealing about Hôtel Rive Gauche’s low-key, modern interior - the tasteful vision of its legendary designer - Jean-Pierre Viau - is that it attractively replicates nearby nature. Earth-tone colours of green, brown and grey blend harmoniously together. 

 

The décor in all the bedrooms (one executive suite, four suites and seventeen regular) are neither pretentious nor overdone.  

 





At every corner, your eye delights to various touches of Canadiana - paintings that highlight a sled and snow shoe, a moose, black and white photos of the river and landscapes scenes.  The feeling is relaxing and reassuring. It speaks class without shouting it in your ear. 
All the furniture is in wood; the walls are richly enhanced with textured tree-bark wall paper, and swatches of brown suede wrap around Le Coureur des Bois’ huge vertical beams - the star restaurant of Hôtel Rive Gauche.

 
 
 
 


 
 
 Even the menu covers are made of wood with the restaurant’s name beautifully embossed on each of the three front covers. A series of white birch logs standing vertically boldly accent the entrance to Le Coureur des Bois – as if to say, everything you taste in here is natural, unique and memorable!

 


Speaking of the eternal, it’s time to talk about the chef and the cuisine served inside Hotel Rive Gauche. Le Coureur des Bois is one of the hotel’s hottest coups. I never wanted to leave Hôtel Rive Gauche in search any other restaurant, because the very best Quebec chef works right inside. His name is Jean-François Méthot. People from all corners of the globe come to meet and enjoy the original feasts prepared by this gourmet god.

 
Chef Jean-François Méthot




I cannot rave enough about him, but before I tempt you with the food I ate during my 3-night stay, suffice it to say, that Chef Méthot is the recipient of Quebec’s highest award – le Prix Renault in 2002 in honour of the legendary chef Renault Cyr. Le Coureur des Bois is a Relais Chateau darling, and it won the Award for Excellence 2012 from Wine Spectator As one repeat guest told me: “I live in this restaurant. I won’t go anywhere else to eat in Beloeil or beyond. He always uses our local products too, and he is a genius at knowing how to cook them. He keeps outdoing himself.”

 


Jean-François had me at the very first bite (Below are photos of some of his iconic dishes. I talk about what I tasted as well.) Two of his appetizers featured maple syrup glazed salmon, pickled fennel and celery root with quince marmalade; and the other was an escabache of Mahi Mahi where the fish is cooked in vinegar, white wine and cider.  On my God! More please more! I am not a fan of blood pudding, but Jean-François turned me into a convert. His delicate blood pudding was so subtle in taste – akin to putting your tongue on caviar. It came with pan seared U10 sea scallops, pine nuts and King mushroom vinaigrette.

 




Still I wanted more, so I braved myself for smoked duck breast, duck confit spring roll and foie gras “á la fleur de del". This also featured micro greens with maple vinaigrette. What delicious joy! His vegetables are star attractions in themselves – perfectly cooked and never swimming in soggy water or butter. I loved his baby bok choy and purple Bordeaux carrots – a single one will do you mam to make you happy! The string bean presentation consists of about 10 sliver thin, short string beans wrapped together in a shred of the string. How quaint!  Little potatoes and baby onions accompanied the inimitable duck confit blended with melted zephyr cheese. His combinations are exceptional! I found myself having the insane urge to quack for another helping.
Many of his accents often hide beneath a piece of tender bison, just as his beet puree  used in several of his meat dishes, or artichoke puree used for his unbeatable ravioli stuffed with braised deer, shitake and Saint-Ours oyster mushroom. In several delectable dishes, I enjoyed caramelized creamy dollops from the Cretan apple-like fruit Koing. These little sauces suddenly appear like colour swatches or smudges on an artist’s palette under the food. Now that’s creative! Either inside or under the layered edible number you eat, there are always a few surprises to tease your taste buds and dazzle your eyes. In fact, everything on the plate is so colourful, but the way it is presented is misleading, for as I mentioned, what one doesn’t always see some tiny tasty treasure is lurking underneath. The layered duck tartiflette and whiskey “Coureur des Bois” sauce that came with the bison was so delectable, I wanted to eat bison over and over again as long is it was prepared by Chef Méthot. 
By the way, the wine menu comprised 24 pages with wines from all over the world whose prices ranged anywhere from $30 to $20,400! That one is a 1996 Burgundy, but I won’t tell you from which estate. You’ll just have to go there and ask to see the bottle!

 




Desserts were to die for. His chocolate concoctions were divine. His white chocolate topped with strawberry – one of his classic stellar numbers was addictive, and his caramelized apple tart topped with rosemary ice cream was godly. 
 








As for breakfast, the variety was vast. In one dish, eggs were demurely placed on top of tiny little English muffins and there was some duck and gourmet cheese in-between.  The three breakfasts I had were so beautiful to behold and equally wonderful to eat. They sat on my plate like still life photos of art, coming to life as I cut into them. 
Not surprisingly, the hotel and restaurant make a wonderful pair with special appeal for those seeking conference accommodations. Nine conference rooms can handle meetings of 30 to 300 people; Get ready for action! This hotel is a mecca for executives on the move, but many stay on after the meetings end. Hôtel Rive Gauche hosts weddings, receptions, small gatherings and all kinds of groups in need of an attractive environment that has all the amenities and technology to handle all kinds of gatherings. Standing by is Chef Méhot and his eager team; they can feed everyone. 
But lets face it, every hotel needs a friendly staff that puts you instantly at ease, caters to your every desire, greets you with sincere smiles, chatter and helpful suggestions. Hôtel Rive Gauche does this in spades. It has the most enthusiastic group of professionals I have ever experienced, and as a guest journalist of 6 European countries, I can tell you straight out, I have never been made to feel so welcome. Everyone is accessible. There is never a long line-up at the reception or grumpy staff. Everyone just loves working at Hôtel Rive Gauche, and you know why, because they understand the travelers, their wants, questions and feelings of displacement. They also understand how to run a business successfully without ever losing sight of how important people are.
I already miss the fabulous hospitality of those laughing waiters: Stéphane, Louis-Denis, Fred, Vanessa and the other gals at the front desk, along with my favourite all-time hotel director, Marie-Josée Denis, and of course, the 8th wonder of the world, Chef Jean-François Méthot and cuisine whiz team.

 
Front desk team and waiters

Chef Jean-François Méthot and Marie-Josée Denis, Director of Hôtel Rive Gauche Refuge Urbain

Chef Jean-François Méthot (3rd from left) with le Coureurs des Bois team

Hôtel Rive Gauche is located at 1810 rue Richelieu, Beloeil, Quebec, J3G 4S4. For reservations, call 1-866-943-7925, or email them at info@hotelrivegauche.ca.
                      
Mont Saint-Hilaire

During your stay at Hôtel Rive Gauche, you won’t want to miss Mont-Saint Hilaire. It’s only 8 minutes away by car, and as a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve, it is well worth exploring. The area boasts 200 different bird species, including peregrine falcons 850 distinct plants and mosses. As the oldest and smallest biosphere in Canada, it attracts thousands of visitors a year. McGill University has a research centre there focussing on the water and its changes, as new elements are introduced. Their centre is over at the beautiful Lac Hertel. It’s only .5 kilometres away from the welcome centre. Trails are as short as that one and as long as “Boucle Mauve”. These trails - 8 in all - offer a 25-kilometer-long network of paths; they are a nature lover’s dream.
I decided to climb to the summit of Mont Saint-Hilaire (425 meters high) and I must say the last part presented a huge boulder that I could barely push myself up on, nor get down from, but typical to the area everybody pitched in to help me. I made it, and it was worth it. The panoramic view was outstanding: Beloeil, St Hyacinthe, the river and valleys, and all in between rounded out the scene.


  
The address is 422 chemin des Moulin Mont Saint-Hilaire (Quebec) J3G 4S6. For more information, call (450) 467-1755 or visit http://www.centrenature.qc.ca/  
 
Also near Hôtel Rive Gauche is a place you might want to check out the feast of candy and chocolates piled ceiling high in this colourful place. It’s La Cabosse d’Or (973 Ch. Ozias-Leduc in Otterburn Park) and when you enter its museum room to gaze at its awards, you may wonder why the entrance is selling those high heeled shoes that are on display in the glass showcase. In fact, they are life-size shoes made of chocolate!  
 


 
Finally, after so much feasting and hiking, you may need to treat yourself to a spa paradise, so I urge you to visit Spa Mont-St-Hilaire, and sign up for a day of treatments. CLICK HERE  to read my article.