Outaouais Gourmet Way a culinary road trip

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by admin on July 29, 2010

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Farm, restaurant taste trail includes 36 destinations in four geographical circuits

The arched gateway to Ranch Panoramique opens up a view back in time, with bison grunting as they roam about and a wagon awaiting passengers for a ride over the 45 acres of pasture to see the 34 great beasts up close and personal.

Philippe Duguay, the owner of the Wakefield farm, welcomed all passengers aboard, while his father, Gerard Duguay, hopped on to drive the tractor pulling the wagon he had made.

A bison at Ranch Panoramique.

A bison at Ranch Panoramique.

The bison, Philippe Duguay said, were at first very curious about the visitors that started coming last month, but have since become familiar with them.

“They’re fascinated by the animals,” he said, this time referring to the visitors.

He recites a detailed history of not only the ranch he had purchased in 1999, but also of the attraction itself, the bison. Its meat, he said, has significantly less fat and more iron than beef.

Perhaps the highlight of the tour was the wagon stopping in the pasture, and our watching in amazement as the impressive bulls and cows wandered over to have their great heads patted on their great by Gerard Duguay, much to the amusement to his grandsons, Jeremy and Yoan.

Philippe Duguay quite accurately likened the experience to a Quebecois version of a safari. But the Ranch Panoramique excursion usually concludes with a sampling of the lean bison burgers.

This is just one of the local food enterprises that has chosen to expand its focus on agro-tourism and join hands with a new food initiative, Outaouais Gourmet Way, that introduces visitors to the rich culinary wealth of the region.

“We have to make tourist know that they don’t have to travel far to see marvelous things,” said project manager, Jean-François Patry, “The Ranch Panoramique in Wakefield is a perfect example. At 30 minutes from downtown, few people know that you can go and ride a trolley among buffalo. It’s quite an experience.”

The brainchild of the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Outaouais Tourism was launched July 15, offering a total of 36 destinations to savour in the region.

The tasty trail takes the visitors through four geographical circuits, which include both primary (producers and farmers) and associate (restaurant) members.

“The promotion of local produce and fare to tourist serves many goals,” Patry explained. “First and most importantly is the sustainability of local enterprises. Buying local products is the first and most important thing that we can do to support our producer.

“Doing so, we contribute to upscale the quality and diversity of local products. Each time a tourist discover a new product or visit a producer, he becomes an ambassador of our region.”

Les Fougeres co-owner Jennifer Warren-Part couldn’t agree more. Her Chelsea restaurant is one of the associate members on the northern circuit. As she enthusiastically explained, the promotion of local produce is a great way to taste the region, all the while supporting one another’s culinary pursuits.

“It’s a fantastic overture for tourists and people who live here (into the region),” she said, “a really neat window into . . . the terroir,” as she put it.

Le Fougeres already supports many of the local producers, including Juniper Farms for its produce, along with beef, pork and chicken. The salads then, are garnished with petals and herbs from the colourful garden at the rear of the restaurant.

Eating local, however, and supporting the producers in the area is not simply an altruistic approach. Les Fougeres, said Warren-Part explained, was established 17 years ago and built its reputation on the quality of its food, and it just so happens that the best quality of products also are local.

“It’s more of a delight to know that your food is healthy and delicious” she said, noting that the attention to where the food comes from seems to be more and more pronounced in today’s society.

“I think it’s a nice project for all of us,” said Christelle Blain, co-owner of L’Orée Du Bois in Chelsea, an associate member of the project. The restaurant already supports a number of local producers and this serves as an extension of an existing approach, she said.

To learn more about about the program and its tasty routes that open up the region to the palate, visit www.outaouaisgourmetway.com.