Update: Auberge Georgeville closed on October 12, 2009. It is now a vacation rental home, wedding venue and ski chalet in the Quebec Eastern Townships. Called The Old Mansion House, the rental property has room for 20 people in eight bedrooms.
It's not every day that a chef is invited to prepare a meal at the James Beard House in New York City. Steven Beyrouty, chef and co-owner of Auberge Georgeville, in Quebec, has earned the honor twice.
|Steven Beyrouty and Megan Seline|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
Cooking dinner at the James Beard House is the culinary equivalent of a Broadway performance with all the noteworthy critics in attendance. Its members include top chefs and a host of dignitaries, food writers and prominent New Yorkers.
All 81 places at Steven Beyrouty's last James Beard dinner sold out. Fortunately, epicures don't have to make James Beard House reservations to enjoy Beyrouty's mouthwatering cuisine. "Most of the dishes came from our regular menus," he says. Auberge Georgeville offers a frequently changing five-course gourmet menu with numerous choices.
How to get to Auberge Georgeville
Located in Quebec's Eastern Townships, Auberge Georgeville is only one hour and 15 minutes from Montreal. Driving directions: Follow Highway 10 east from Montreal, then Highway 247 south through Magog to Georgeville. From Boston, take I-91 north through Vermont into Quebec.
Steven and his wife, Megan Seline, purchased the Victorian inn in 1996."It's Quebec's oldest hotel in continuous operation," she says.
"Stagecoaches stopped here during journeys between Boston and Montreal. Guests also arrived from Newport, Vermont, by ferry along Lake Memphremagog."
The lake is 27 miles (44 kilometers) long. Memphremagog means 'long and wide sheet of water,' in the language of the Abenaki Indians, a hunter-gather tribe which once inhabited the area. Local rumors claim that a Loch Ness-like monster, called Memphre, lives in the water. The ice cream-pink (it's impossible not to think of the inn and food simultaneously) inn sits on a hill overlooking the eastern shores of the lake.
It's difficult to choose from the selection of hors d'oeuvres, soups, appetizers, main courses and desserts. Our dinner began with Nunavik caribou mousse on toast and a flavorful organic tomato and herb soup.
Twin tartlets of Warwick Lake Trout and Cookshire goat cheese followed. A galette of roasted curried couscous and fresh dill garnished one, while sesame-cooked Canadian wild rice with hazelnuts adorned the other, along with pearls of salmon roe. Surrounding pools of Gaspé crayfish bisque, with hints of vintage Armagnac and lemongrass, added color and contrast.
A cotton candy-colored granité of pink grapefruit with rosemary cleansed our palates before the plat de résistance: perfectly spiced Coaticook lamb loin with green and pink peppercorns and fresh mint.
Fresh vegetables, most of them organic, accompanied each entrée — Turkish eggplant, dragon tongue beans, grilled chocolate peppers, yellow beets and plum carrots, which look like little pumpkins. A panache of greens drizzled with Eastern Townships maple syrup and Meaux mustard vinaigrette was an equally imaginative salad course.
We'd return to Auberge Georgeville again just to dine on the delicate phyllo baluchon of ermite cheese. Deliriously good, it floated adrift in a reduction of maple syrup and vintage balsamic vinegar, garnished with roasted pistachios.
Dessert was a frozen Vahlrona chocolate mousse, shaped like an inverted cone. It was adroitly paired with espresso English custard, toasted almond biscotti and whimsical chocolate-dusted meringue mushrooms.
We had no room for the homemade chocolate pistachio truffles served at the end of the meal, so Beyrouty wrapped them in a foil swan so we could enjoy the decadent melt-in-your-mouth treats later.
The meal exceeded our expectations. Our only regret was not photographing each attractively plated and garnished dish.
The sommelier invites guests into the wine cellar to select their wines. Auberge Georgeville boasts an outstanding collection of California wines. Steven Beyrouty is a member of the California Wine Institute. He visits the California wine region every year to select memorable wines to import for his restaurant.
Auberge Georgeville's cellar boasts nearly 500 types of wine. It has won several consecutive Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.
There are three dining rooms. Bartlett prints, depicting Eastern Township scenes, decorate a room seating 20. The James Beard Room is ideal for small groups. Guests in the 14-seat dining room enjoy their meals by a crackling fire. Soft music fills the air, a ceiling fan slowly turns above, and light from small oil lamps flickers on lace curtains. Wall-mounted photos depict the inn over the years since it was built in 1889.
|Former Auberge Georgeville, now The Mansion|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
While Steven Beyrouty excels in the kitchen, Megan Seline's expertise is the cozy ambience that radiates throughout the wonderfully smoke-free hotel. She personally decorated the eleven charming rooms, junior suites and executive suite, all with private washrooms. The large Dolloff Suite, with its queen-size bed, antique bathroom, fireplace, living room, writing room and private entrance is especially popular.
Original paintings by local artists decorate the inn. They're all for sale. Although guests won't find Jacuzzis or king-size beds in their rooms, they will find fine English toiletries in the washrooms, free sherry in the lounge and complimentary afternoon tea and sweets in the salon or on the wraparound veranda.
With its white wicker furniture and hanging flower baskets, the veranda is a popular spot for breakfast during the summer. A buffet offers fresh fruit and juices, yogurt, homemade granola, cheeses, muffins, scones and buttery croissants.
The granola is so popular that Steven Beyrouty packages it in boxes "to go." Hot dishes from the kitchen include a smoked Atlantic salmon and scallion omelet and an Eastern Townships omelet accented with St. Benoît cheese and local strawberry preserves.
Things to do near Georgeville
After breakfast, guests can play board games in the lobby, or curl up with good books in front of a cheerful fire. The receptionist can arrange in-room massages.
There's plenty to do outside the inn, as well, even though the population of Georgeville is just over 1,000. A short stroll brings you into Georgeville, where you can shop for antiques or visit the General Store. In summer, you can swim in the lake or play croquet, badminton or horseshoes. Auberge Georgeville offers complimentary bikes for exploring the back roads.
In fall, the burgundy and bronze foliage invites hikers and bikers, while winter entices cross-country skiers with 30 miles (48 kilometers) of trails. Guests can skate on the inn's private rink, or explore the Bird Trail on snowshoes. (Skates and snowshoes are complimentary.)
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
Eastern Townships attractions
Staff can arrange tennis or a round of golf. Sherbrooke Country Club is only 40 minutes from Auberge Georgeville and Newport Country Club is just a half-hour drive away in Vermont.
Other things to see in the Eastern Townships include the Lavender Farm in Fitch Bay, the Verger Apple Orchard in Magog and Verger Stevens in Stanstead, where you can pick your own apples and raspberries.
At the Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey, visitors can listen to Gregorian chants during vespers and shop for cheese and apple cider made by Benedictine monks.
Vignoble Le Cep D'Argent Winery is only 30 minutes from Auberge Georgeville, in Magog. Visitors can tour the winery, learn how to make wine and sample the vintages. Domaine Felibre, in Stanstead, 40 minutes away, makes apple cider and wild cherry liqueur.
To work up an appetite for Steven Beyrouty's five-course dinner, guests can explore the Memphremagog labyrinth at Magog Beach, tour the underground Capelton copper mine in North Hatley or hike in Coaticook Gorge Park, home to the world's longest suspended footbridge.
Auberge Georgeville may be a hidden gem, but it hasn't gone unnoticed. Its many dining room and cuisine accolades include awards from Les Grands Prix du Tourisme Québécois, the Quebec Government and AAA/CAA, which gave Auberge Georgeville its Four Diamond Culinary Award for several years in a row.
The inn has also received several hotel awards, including the Romantic Rooms award from Waverly and an Excellence in Guest Services Award from the Chamber of Commerce.
In the meantime, personal service continues to be the trademark of Quebec's oldest operating hotel. Beyrouty accommodates special requests for five-course vegetarian menus. "And yes," he says, "it would be my pleasure to recreate the full James Beard menu for a small group of six or more, with two or three days notice."
Quebec Eastern Townships: www.easterntownships.org