Thursday 24 April 2014

“Enders Game” has an unexpected ending

Reviewed by Nancy Snipper

An intense sci-fi film with an unusual plot. Enders Wiggin has been chosen as a leader to fight off another attack from a formidable enemy of insect form – bee-like creatures led by a Queen bee.
But what Enders discovers is the final “graduation” simulation battle exercise he endures with his team is the real thing. This lie fueled his fury and so he goes to the planet he has just destroyed with his team to face the Queen leader. He promises he will find another place for her soon-to-be new generation to live. He feels so sad that he attacked first especially as he saw in that supposed simulation that the enemy appeared but did not attack first.

This film is a study in the fine line between peace and war strategies. The special effects were riveting. An unusual film based on the worldwide best seller, the director Gavin Hood went for the cerebral aspects of the book rather than special effects for the sake of sensation.

(This film was viewed, compliments of Le SuperClub Videotron, 5000, rue Wellington, in Verdun,  Quebec.)
(Ce film a été visionné, avec les compliments de Le SuperClub Videotron, 5000, rue Wellington, à Verdun, Québec.)

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Auberge des Gallant Country Inn

Everyone’s darling for romance, relaxation and fabulous food

                                                              by Nancy Snipper

It’s nearly impossible to find that perfect getaway – one that fills to the brim your personal bucket list, but if you love discovering hidden treasures in places of uncompromising beauty – then head towards Mont Rigaud’s greatest hospitality gem: Auberge des Gallant. Ranked within the elite group of Champêtre Hotels/Resorts, this unique four-season country inn offers immeasurable rewards. Yes, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but the good news is, it’s only 50 minutes from Montreal (almost all highway), and just over an hour from Ottawa. 

                                 Once there, you’ll instantly begin to unwind. 

A peaceful cocoon
Nestling on 400 acres of wooded mountain land, the inn enthrals with its surrounding natural wonders. Gardens, ponds, streams, secretive pathways and trees, sweetened by birdsong greet all guests every day. 

Every morning, I would open the sliding glass doors of my spacious bedroom, step outside onto the room’s private walk out - coffee in hand – and watch the birds dart about. Gazing into the gorgeous horizon became my daily ritual. Rooms on the second floor have balconies. No view is compromised.

The cedar façade of Auberge des Gallant blends in beautifully with the landscape. 

On April 12th, 2012, a fire destroyed all existing guest rooms. However, this inn – once a century-old farmhouse is fated for longevity. Thanks to Linda Gallant’s tasteful vision, perseverance and talents - (she owns the inn with her husband Gérard who bought it in 1972) – all the guest rooms were flawlessly rebuilt. The expansion of a new wing made it possible to add more. Now 41 rooms - all designed in a calming contemporary style feature comfort and understated luxury. There’s even a fireplace, oodles of accessories, and the floors have special hyper-allergic tiles!

Linda knew where to draw the line. She ensured the integrity and character of the inn’s older areas were preserved – the reception, dining and hearth areas. This appealing contrast between the old and new occurred each time I left my room. Entering that Victorian area was like time traveling. The vintage décor, fireplace and furniture cast a nostalgic spell over me; I had the best of both worlds.

The Gallant Sugar Shack
A quintessential Quebec tradition that the Gallant family shares with thousands of sugaring off enthusiasts is the family’s enormous sugar shack. It s walls were built from the maple trees that fell during the 1998 ice storm. 

Linda pointed out that the Auberge des Gallant’s location enjoys an enviable micro-climate which allows the family to be the first in the province to tap the 10,000 maple trees that stride their vast terrain.   The sugaring off starts at the end of February and lasts until April end. Steven Gallant, one of three sons, is the maple expert and oversees all forest operations. He’s the ‘family tree man” – so to speak. 

                   All Gallant maple products use only 100% pure maple syrup.

I feasted on a traditional sugar shack meal, but this one was gourmet delicious. Neil Gallant, Gérard’s son is the Executive Chef of the Auberge, and Michael, another brother helps prepare the food and maple taffy.   Together with Chef Linda Del Rosario, they make maple-sugar magic. It filtered into almost every dish - the tortière, beans, even the amazing coleslaw dressing.

The desserts were astounding: 

Maple sugar pie, sugar cake topped with a creamy maple icing, apple crepe soaking in caramelized maple. 

                      Even the poor man’s pudding cake was rich in maple flavour. 

My sweet tooth ached for more. I dipped my stick of maple taffy into snow set on a table just outside the restaurant. 

A horse-drawn wagon takes visitors back and forth between the inn and the sugar shack though they are within walking distance. No wonder people climb aboard: it’s hard to walk back after so much eating!

Easter brunch feast
Every Sunday, Auberge des Gallant serves up a brilliant brunch, and on special occasions, the brunch becomes a humongous, sumptuous affair. Fortunately, I was there during Easter. What I witnessed was exceptional. Over 400 people gathered around the three banquet tables during the two reserved seating times, yet I never felt hemmed in.

                                          The choices were staggering.

Cold platters included over 30 dishes: poached and smoked salmon, jumbo shrimp, clam chowder, mussels, devil’s eggs, a multitude of salads, regional cheeses, veggies and more. 

The middle table offered eggs Benedict, sausages, roast beef, lasagne, mini pancakes. The line-up of tureen-filled dishes seemed endless. The desserts were sinfully addictive – a sweet feast beyond imagination.  White chocolate lemon cheese cake, the army of tarts, mini fruit mousses, sugar pies, pecan pies and many maple creations – they were all irresistible. There was even a chocolate syrup swirl machine set up at the fresh fruit table – just to tempt those of us on a diet. Too bad Henry the Eighth couldn’t attend.

A magnificent dinner
Aside from these special feasts, the inn's dining room offers stunning menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a wine list featuring 270 kinds from almost every country and at every price. 

I opted for a dinner that represented the quality and creative talents of Gallant gourmet greatness. Neil, together with sommelier Thomas Le Guilly and Maitre d’ Mario Menard, have won countless prestigious awards. The Neige Superstar, an aperitif of pear and apple ciders with a star of anise floating inside won top awards in a contest created by Hôtellerie Champêtre which involved creating a drink made from a special apple from Hemmingford, Quebec. Auberge des Gallant beat out 20 other hotels, and now this delicate drink is exclusive to the inn.

The lamb shank I ordered was out of this world. The cooking reduction technique created tenderness and delicate flavouring. 

 This main course was paired with a tangy Shiraz 2006 Raices from Spain. The crispy, onion and ginger jumbo shrimp was my awesome appetizer. It was complemented by a glass of white refreshingly flavored Bordeaux. I chose the maple crème brulée for dessert. It was heavenly.

Into the forest
So much eating necessitates exercise. The outdoors beckoned me. Right on the premises is L’Escapade, a 25-kilometre network of walking trails. Deer, ducks, wild turkeys and Canadian geese can be seen here. 

I spent three hours trying to walk off half of the meal. It was a truly enjoyable way to trick myself into thinking  I had shed a pound. Instead, I felt stiff the next morning.

Spa time
The two words I have to say about this serene spot located on the second floor is: “go there”! The spa is quiet and unpretentious.  All kinds of facial and corporal renewal therapies are offered using 100% natural products. There are eight different kinds of massages. Optional exfoliants listed are a strawberry smoothie, margarita lime, even a chocolate one!

Massotherapist, Véronique Bélanger gave me the most sublime Swedish massage – even adding extra time to my 50 minutes of heaven. She was determined I not leave with knots still lingering in my shoulder blades. She used a tapping technique for each trouble spot. She tapped away for 15 minutes, but she still had the energy to give me a full body massage. 
     Her gentle manner lulled me into a state of great relaxation. My aches were gone.



Wedding bells and conferences
This year, Auberge des Gallant will host over 100 weddings. The grounds are spectacular - perfectly suited for such a romantic and momentous day in one’s life. 

There are a variety of weddings packages. The simple No Stress one got my attention. Pizzazz picks up in the Vegas Style Package. It offers lots of pampering, including makeup application for both bride and groom, a massage, an event planner, a wedding officiant and witness – not to mention oodles of romantic perks. 


  Of course the gourmet food and wines can be enjoyed right on the premises. By the way, there’s a helicopter landing pad for those arriving by air, but as Linda says: 

                                      “Each guest is equally important.”

Because the inn has five gleaming white conference rooms, including two grand salons, the sky’s the limit for event planning. 

Three of the rooms are cozy and charming. But all rooms come with a fireplace and TV. Sweet private sitting areas off hallways are demurely romantic. The one near the entrance was my favorite. It was cozy and utterly charming. I could see myself hosting a tea party there. The huge pub-style room downstairs was perfect for casual birthday parties.

Whether you want a big wedding, a small reception or a brain-storming business meeting - whatever you plan - you will not be sitting in a cold barren room around some impersonal round table – that’s the Gallant guarantee.

Auberge des Gallant is pet friendly. Leashes are provided. I fell in love with their dog, Roscoe, a lab mix who loves to hang out with the gang, accompany you to the pond or wait for you to throw him a stick. In winter, the Auberge can fit you out with snowshoes. Auberge des Gallant my favorite place for respite and remarkable food.
                                     I could have stayed on and on.

For all information, including directions, services and facilities, room and meal rates, plus all packages, please consult Auberge des Gallant’s extremely comprehensive website at