Monthly Archives: September 2013

2013
09/02

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A GASTRONOMIC WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE: Arrows Restaurant Strikes Its Target as a Garden of Eden Dining Experience

A GASTRONOMIC WILLIAM TELL OVERTUREArrows Restaurant, Ogunquit, Maine

Arrows Restaurant Strikes Its Target as a Garden of Eden Dining Experience

By J. R. Rosenthal

Dateline: Ogunquit & Cape Neddick, ME–After enjoying a two-pound lobster at the Perkins Cove Lobster Pound—heavy emphasis on champing down on the tail-meat produced by a female lobster, there’s little hope of enjoying the next dinner with equal satisfaction. The Ogunquit/York/Wells triad of beach towns offers superb dining options, but for a lobster purist there is little else of true meaning after taking apart fresh-from-the-Atlantic lobster tail meat and going gonzo with the drawn butter.

Arrows Restaurant, tucked away in a residential area about 2 miles south of the traffic snarls of downtown Ogunquit, is the answer to the quandary of where can a foodie dine that will stand up to the perfect steamed lobster. In fact, Arrows is manna from heaven for anyone visiting this scenic, overpopulated section of Southern Coastal Maine.

Chef/owners Clark Frazier and Mark Gaier, along with executive chef Lee Frank, produce a dining experience (Arrows received the James Beard Award for Best Chefs of the Northeast in 2010) on par with the finest restaurants in France or Napa Valley. The dining room, beautifully decorated with color-splash paintings, overlooks the ample gardens that grow almost everything served in this comfortable indoor space.Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 5.26.54 PM

Imagine a sprig of fresh lavender absorbing the nutrients from the Maine soil. Master chefs/artists Frazier and Gaier pluck that lavender from their backyard garden and transform it into a house-made lavender ice cream that’s served with fresh lemon doughnuts and Maine blackberries. This type of culinary whimsy is what’s found in abundance on a menu that changes with the seasons and the flux of temperature that dictates the many of the flavor profiles that denote these amazing dishes.

 

Cocktails, Starters and Salads:  The bar is one of the highlights of the sensory experience. Walk into Arrows through the classic Maine-style foyer, angle to the right, and the bar welcomes with special cocktails such as the Blue Honey Bee: Maine vodka, fresh blueberries and honey. In summer, with the garden of delights brimming over with fresh mint, the Mint Juleps are incomparable.

Before ordering the three-course dinner (appetizer, salad and entrée), start with a Grand Lobster Tower composed of a fresh lobster-crab parfait, mango, oysters, lemon prawn brochette, mussels and cracked lobster. In the spirit of the Old Style appetizer carts found at banquets and weddings, Arrows chefs create small plate items that are exquisite in flavors, textures and colors. Solid choices: Deviled Eggs with Truffle, House-Pickled Vegetables and House Smoked Salmon with lemon-horseradish cream and toast points.

The best appetizer is the Maine Lobster Gratin with creamed endive, gruyere and toasted walnuts. This spunky dish debunks the credo that fish and cheese don’t work well together. The subtle flavors of the delicate lobster blend with the creamy endive and pungent gruyere. The Bacon, Artichoke and Sweetbread Brochette with Green Sauce has enough complexity to intrigue the most sophisticated palette: the smoky nuances of the pork belly add depth to a garden-fresh green sauce, spiked with just enough citrus to balance out the richness of the sweetbreads. And, to present the wonders of the garden, the chefs kicked off the spring/summer menu with a delightful salad with local warm green and smokehouse bacon.

 

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 5.26.45 PMThe Main Event and Endgame Doughnuts: Arrows is widely known for its superb duck dishes—a change of pace from the daily dose of lobster one consumes while traveling through coastal Maine. The Peking Duck is a triumph, with its crispy skin the star of the plate; and the chefs also turn out an Aromatic Duck smoked in banana leaves and served with a curry and mango-onion relish. The Grilled Tenderloin, USDA Prime-quality beef that cuts with a fork, is grilled and served with oxtail pate, root vegetable sauce and crisp onions. The Lamb Shank is braised in the house-smoker and served with oranges and prunes, and “En Fuego” offers a Grilled Brochette of Maine Shrimp and Cold Cakes served with clams, fresh lemon and Ancho Chili sauce. The oxtail pate is so complex and rich that it could almost stand alone as an appetizer– if served with brioche; the Ancho Chili sauce transformed the Maine shrimp into a Mexican-Maine fusion of fantastic flavors.

Dessert is not included in the three-course special ($79 per person at this writing), but the Coffee and Doughnuts (perfectly-crispy doughnuts served with espresso ice cream) or the Lemon Doughnuts with lavender ice cream and blackberries are probably the two best desserts served in the USA today.

IF YOU GO: Arrows Restaurant

37 Ogunquit RoadScreen shot 2013-09-02 at 5.26.31 PM

Cape Neddick, ME 03902

Reservations are Required

Attire is Business Casual

Dinner is served Wednesday-Sunday

Phone: 207-361-1100

www.arrowsrestaurant.com

                                                                             #

 

 

2013
09/02

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Lodges Are Meant For Relaxation in Beautiful Surroundings, But In the Gaspé You Are Often Too Busy To Notice

Lodges Are Meant For Relaxation in Beautiful Surroundings, But In the Gaspé You Are Often Too Busy To Notice

Welcome to the Chic-Chocs Lodge

Welcome to the Chic-Chocs Lodge

 

By Steve Bergsman

Photos by the author

 

I love lodges. These isolated accommodations, often found in high mountains or deep forests, manage to be rustic and luxurious, serving basic foods as well as epicurean delights.  I’ve never been to a lodge where the rooms were outstanding, but I’ve also never been to a lodge that disappointed me.

 

Some are grand palaces of log-built construction; some are smaller, almost villa-sized. The one thing they all seem to have is a central fireplace, often surrounded by comfy seating for late drinks and chats, and a large, main room that converts to a dining hall.

To me they are the epitome of leisure. I can always visualize myself sitting on an Adirondack chair and staring off into the woods, or the mountains, or a nearby stream I can hear rushing by.

However, once you actually arrive at the lodge, you realize your visualization is more a fantasy because the lodge staff really, really wants you to be active.

The mountainous, forested interior of the Gaspé Peninsula

The mountainous, forested interior of the Gaspé Peninsula

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Auberge de Montagne des Chic-Chocs deep in the forested mountains of Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula.

The Gaspé peninsula is the eastern tip of Québec.  It extends along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, north of New Brunswick province. Except among the Québecois, it’s still a bit of an unknown locale for North Americans. Most of its better-known locales are along the settled lands of the coast, including the small cities of Gaspé and Percé, but about eight years ago, the provincial government decided to lure tourists to the remote interior by building the Chic-Chocs lodge high on a ridge overlooking a mountain valley and a beautiful waterfall.

There is nothing near to it except wilderness, and you can’t even drive yourself there. You leave your vehicle at the coastal city of Cap Chat and then board a small jitney, whose experienced driver will take you on the 90-minute ride over an unpaved road higher and higher into the mountains.

If you’re a bit restless after the long drive there’s a short trail that begins outside the lodge, which you can follow along the ridgeline where there are a number of stops to view grand mountain and valley vistas. By the time you’re done with your walk – an introduction to the Chic-Chocs’ quickly changing elevations – it’s time for dinner.

Hiking near Chic-Chocs Lodge

Hiking near Chic-Chocs Lodge

I suppose I could have relaxed, enjoyed the clear mountain air and sat on my butt for my days at the lodge, but things quickly shifted into high gear.

I’d been in training for a marathon and asked if it was safe to do an early morning jog back along the road. The guides were not very enthusiastic about me running by myself, so one of the guides suggested we do a trail run instead.

Jean-François, a young, lean, trail-running enthusiast, met me at eight a.m.  Although I had already done my stretches, he introduced me to a new set of exercises to stretch my muscles.  With that done, I was hoping to do an easy warm-up on the road before plunging into the woods. That didn’t happen. Jean-François led me onto a narrow, relatively undeveloped path and voila we were in the thick of the forest.

Trail running is different from most similar exercises because you really have to pay attention to the ground immediately in front of you. The ground is not even, but crisscrossed with roots and rocks, and you can go from hard clear spacing to soft mud to foliage coverage to felled trees in seconds. We were going downhill at a steady pace, while Jean-François kept passing back to me tidbits of information such as, “It’s OK to trip, but stay low in the run and you won’t fall.”

I chugged on until finally we came to the road, which was safer but all uphill. The run was only 30 minutes, but I felt every last step.

After breakfast, the guests were offered two hikes, a long 3.5-hour trip that would include a good climb, or a 2-hour hike with a good chance of seeing moose. The latter was actually called a moose hunt. After the run, I decided I would opt for this shorter-duration jaunt.

Pierre, who led my second expedition into the forest, was a naturalist, a kind of moose whisperer, knowing the haunts and habits of the big mammal. He might also have been responsible for putting out the salt licks, including one by the hotel, which attract the moose. Indeed, later that night a mama moose and her young calf wandered near the hotel to take a lick, but as of  that morning none of us had yet seen a moose in the Gaspé, so we were very excited.

A perfect view, outside Chic-Chocs Lodge

A perfect view, outside Chic-Chocs Lodge

There is always a good chance of seeing a moose because the number of the animals per square mile in the Gaspé is extremely high. It’s also quite high for another big mammal, the black bear.  We wouldn’t be so excited to see that one.

Our little expedition wandered through the forest, down a slope — and sure enough, standing about 30 yards away, silent as a ghost, was a large, 600 pound cow moose.  We went quiet and still. The moose was relatively incautious, more content on eating than noticing potential predators, and at one point wandered to within 20 yards of us.

That happened too quickly, so Pierre pushed us on through the forest, eventually coming to the bottom of a valley and a large lake.  An abandoned beaver dam was the only noticeable feature. The beavers, said Pierre, had moved to another lake. As for us, we moved along as well, wandering through the forest and not seeing another moose, so we headed back to the lodge for lunch.

I suppose après-lunch would have been a good time for restful moments, gazing into the countryside … but no, that wasn’t to be. Jean-François and Pierre had better plans for everyone.  They offered a choice: another 3-hour jaunt to the waterfall on the other side of the valley, or a trek the new beaver lake where there were kayaks.

I had noticed the resort also had a stable of mountain bikes, so I asked if, instead of a hike, I could go mountain biking. I guess they trusted me to be in the forest alone (with a walkie-talkie), so that would be my next activity.

Pierre drew me a map. I would bike back down the dirt road for about three miles (5 km), at which point I would see a marker indicating a lake nearby.  At that point I would drop the bike and hike for about five or 10 minutes through the forest to arrive at water’s edge and a waiting kayak.

Eastern Goldfinches in the Chic-Chocs

Eastern Goldfinches in the Chic-Chocs

It sounded like a plan. Off I went. Since the lodge was near a mountain peak, heading away from the hotel meant the road steeply descended. I decided I wouldn’t go too fast since I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t want to be rocketing at 20-30 miles per hour and bump into something big like a bear or moose. That turned out to be a smart decision, because halfway to my goal I saw a moose coming through a bog and about to cross my path.  I stopped 30 yards from the moose, who sensed something amiss and saw me in the road. We did a stare-down for about 30 seconds, until he got spooked and took off at a gallop back into the forest. I continued on, eventually arriving at the lake, where waiting for me (and anyone else, I guess) was a kayak, paddle and flotation vests.

The lake wasn’t large, and it didn’t take much for me paddle across. There was no noticeable wildlife about, but the trout in the lake were jumping. After circumnavigating the waterway, I headed back to the shore, ditched the kayak, hiked back to the road and got on the bike once more.

By this time it was late afternoon, I was exhausted and I had three miles of nothing but ascending road ahead. It was brutal.  I have to admit that I just couldn’t fight my way up some of the inclines, and had to get off the bike and push.

The temperature was in the 70s, but the humidity was about 90 percent and I was sweating profusely with my water running low. Then up ahead I could see the lodge. Yippee!

Moose on the loose in the mountains of the Gaspé

Moose on the loose in the mountains of the Gaspé

The first thing I did after replenishing my fluids was sit in the hot tub. I couldn’t believe it,. I was actually relaxing.

And I deserved it. If there was such a thing as a lodge quadrathlon – trail running, hiking, mountain-biking and kayaking – I had completed it and earned the right to sit in the tub with a cold beer in my hand.

 

 

 

IF YOU GO:

 

Getting There:

From New England, it’s possible to drive through Maine to Québec or New Brunswick and then to the Gaspé Peninsula. However, I flew, catching a Delta flight from Detroit to Montreal and then an Air Canada plane to Gaspé. On the return, I flew from Mont-Joli back to Montreal. http://www.aircanada.com

 

Kayak an isolated mountain lake, Gaspé peninsula

Kayak an isolated mountain lake, Gaspé peninsula

Where to  Stay:

 

In Percé, at the beautifully located Auberge Les Trois Soeurs (www.Quebecmaritime.ca/3soeurs); in Gaspé, at the bed & breakfast with fine dining, La Maison William Wakeham (www.maisonwakeham.ca); and in the mountains at Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge (http://www.Quebecmaritime.ca/en/company/chic-chocs-mountain-lodge).

When flying, you might need to overnight in Montreal, so I would recommend the Marriott at the airport (http://www.marriott.com). If you plan on staying in Montreal, try the Auberge du vieux port in the old city (http://www.aubergeduvieuxport.com).

 

A fireplace and cozy seating -- a sign of a good lodge

2013
09/02

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Action-packed Days in Quebec’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue Region

Action-packed Days in Quebec’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue Region

Kayaking along the wooded shores of Lac des Quinze

Kayaking along the wooded shores of Lac des Quinze

By Bill Scheller
Photos by the author

“The shaman turned the Algonquin warriors into crows, so they could fly over their approaching Mohawk enemies and see how many there were.”

We were sitting around a fire lit with flint and steel. Two big canvas tepees, where we would sleep that night on fragrant pine boughs, towered in the shadows. The storyteller was André Mowatt, a guide with Abitibiwinni, an outdoor adventure service based in the small First Nations community of Pikogan, Quebec. In the last glint of twilight on the Harricana River, gathered close around the fire, we could vividly conjure the warrior-crows, the demonic man-eating Windigo, and all the characters and creatures in André’s store of Algonquin legend. The spirits, it was easy to imagine, had indeed prepared a lake of grease, and the bear, arriving and immersing first, got the greatest share. The beaver was second.

I arrived at this legend-rich fireside at the end of four remarkable days of backcountry adventure in a part of Quebec I had scarcely known at all, familiar as I’d been mainly with the areas along New England’s borders and the shores of the St. Lawrence River. I had joined a small group determined to sample as much as possible of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, where the boreal forest begins to take over from the farms and mixed hardwoods of southern Quebec.

An al fresco dinner after a day's kayaking

An al fresco dinner after a day’s kayaking

The trip began with a small urban surprise, given that the views during the hour-and-a-half flight from Montreal encompassed a seemingly endless expanse of lakes and woodland. Rouyn-Noranda, a city of 41,000 located some 400 miles (650 km) northwest of the metropolis, grew up only within the past century, as a center for smelting copper from surrounding mines (gold mining now looms large in the region’s economy), but has achieved a cultural sophistication out of all proportion to its remote location. Over a flight of samples from a local microbrewery at a sidewalk café, and, later, dinner at a chic bistro, our hosts told us that the city hosts important festivals dedicated to international cinema and to emerging music. Perhaps just as telling, as a hallmark of civilization, is the presence of a sumptuous boulangerie , Le St-Honore, established by a baker from France itself. “He decided,” reported a local, “that we needed his perfect croissants.”

An after-dinner walk around Rouyn-Noranda’s Osisko Lake – one of 22,000 in Abitibi-Témiscamingue — was a gentle prelude to the four strenuous days ahead. Early the next morning, we headed to the outlying town of Remigny, and the narrow waist of Lac des Quinze, where our sea kayaks were waiting.

The low-profile craft were perfect for slicing into the light chop as the lake broadened. With us were two guides with more than a few paddling miles behind them: Diane Moreau had been part of a nine-person team that canoed the early 19th-century fur traders’ route from Montreal to Winnipeg, a three-month journey chronicled in the Québec television series “Expedition Nor-Ouest.” France Lemire works with the regional tourism bureau to travel and map canoe and kayak routes; after guiding our trip, she and Diane would be off on a two-week paddling expedition for just that purpose.

“The route we’re on now,” Diane told me as we made our way south toward a hairpin bend and into an arm of the big lake, “was part of the voyageurs’ route in this part of Quebec.” Those dauntless adventurers would have a long way to go to reach the trunk lines of the fur trade. We were paddling a mere 10 miles (15 km), with only a couple of short portages – but our well-worked arms and shoulders and the empty, heavily wooded shorelines were a good reminder of the rigorous and lonely lives of the traders who plied Canada’s river highways. Over our entire course on Lac des Quinze, the only people we saw were four fishermen in a rowboat. Not a single outboard disturbed the primeval quiet.

Along the trail from Angliers to Ville-Marie

Along the trail from Angliers to Ville-Marie

At a portage where Lac des Quinze meets narrow Lac Lebret, we spent the night in a pair of rustic cabins maintained by Remigny-based Aventures Obikoba. The accommodations were basic – bunk beds, a woodstove, and a candle – but dinner, arranged privately by our guides and prepared by a local woman — could have passed muster in Montreal. We enjoyed trout stuffed with figs, honey, and green onions, wrapped in prosciutto and cooked over an open fire; lettuce dressed only with heavy cream; and a dessert of molten local blueberries with a fluffy cake topping.

We rolled out of our bunks the next morning to find the cook fire going again, with French toast sputtering in a big iron pan. We needed the sustenance, for the activité du jour was a 28-mile (45 km) bicycle ride along a trail converted from an old railroad right-of-way, part of Québec’s extensive “Route Verte” of bikeways. Our route took us from Angliers, a town farther south on Lac des Quinze, and though a wonderfully diverse landscape that emphasized the pivotal location of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region on the map of Québec. “Abitibi,” in the Algonquin language, means “where the waters meet,” and, indeed, here is the divide between the James Bay and St. Lawrence River watersheds. Vegetation and land use change here too; now we were cycling south through a different environment than the deep spruce forests just a little way to the north, and passing dairy farms and fields of bright yellow canola interspersed with mixed-growth forest reminiscent of New England.

Hélene Lessard offers a taste of her Cru du Clocher cheddar

Hélene Lessard offers a taste of her Cru du Clocher cheddar

We stopped for a trailside lunch, and learned from our guides that the delicious cheese curds they had packed along were made at a small fromagerie in Lorrainville, just off our route. Could we take a short detour to visit the cheesemaker? Of course – she was just a cell call and a few miles away. We pedaled into Lorrainville and met Hélene Lessard, who with her husband Christian Barrette runs Le Fromage au Village. Hélene had samples of all her cheeses ready, and offered them with the enthusiasm of a woman who truly loves her work. Using milk from three local farms, the pair and their few employees craft a dozen varieties of cheese, the standout among which was Le Cru du Clocher, a raw-milk cheddar, aged two years, with a good sharp bite. (After flying back to Montreal, I made sure to scout some out at the Atwater Market.)

Our bike trip ended at Ville-Marie, on the shores of Lac Témiscamingue. Voted in 2012 by readers of Montreal’s La Presse newspaper as “the most beautiful village in Québec,” Ville-Marie is the starting point of the Route Verte, which incorporates less-traveled public highways as well as bicycle-only trails. Just outside of town is the sprawling La Bannik resort, our night’s destination after dropping off our bikes.

Our accommodations at La Bannik were quite a bit beyond bunk beds and a woodstove: luxurious cabins feature full kitchens, gas fireplaces, and private outdoor hot tubs. On the terrace of the resort’s lakeside restaurant, where we dined after a visit to Parks Canada’s adjacent Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site and its re-creation of a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post, I enjoyed shrimp risotto with chorizo – further proof, if I still needed it, that 400 miles northwest of Montreal is not 400 miles from civilization.

Starting point of the Route Verte, Ville-Marie

Starting point of the Route Verte, Ville-Marie

Still, wilderness is always at hand in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Our next day’s foray took us to Aiguebelle National Park (actually a Quebec park, “national” being the province’s preferred term), a 1,000-sq.-mi.-plus (nearly 2,700 km) forest fastness studded with clear blue lakes. A knowledgeable guide led us on a pair of hikes along the park’s two most geologically interesting lakes, long, narrow Lac Sault and Lac La Haie. “These are fault lakes,” she explained, “following a rift formation that splits volcanic rock 2.7 billion years old.” The lakes also figure in the region’s sharp watershed divide: Sault’s waters empty into the Ruisseau River on their way to James Bay, while La Haie connects with waterways leading down to the St. Lawrence.

On our hikes, we made use of two of the park’s most striking manmade phenomena. Descending toward Lac Sault, we clambered down a tightly coiled outdoor staircase, and we crossed Lac La Haie by way of a gently bouncing pedestrian suspension bridge. Boarding a nine-passenger, 26-foot “rabaska” canoe, we later paddled beneath the bridge and the sheer cliffs it connects, listening as fledgling peregrine falcons squawked on their rocky ledge, and watching one of the parent birds soar overhead.

Aiguebelle rangers like to boast that their park has “a lake for every cabin,” and, with 13 cabins (both rustic and fully equipped), that leaves a lot of lakes left over. Our “Vice-Roi” cabin, on Lac Matissard, was a cozy, wood-heated retreat where we ate and drank more than a few bottles of wine around a big kitchen table until midnight. Another hour and another bottle or two might have been in order – after all, the loons were still up, down at the lake – but we had another busy day ahead.

Models of Hudson's Bay Company canoes at Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site, Ville-Marie

Models of Hudson’s Bay Company canoes at Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site, Ville-Marie

The Harricana River begins at Lac Blouin, near the Abitibi-Témiscamingue city of Val d’Or, and flows over a 330-mile (532 km) course to James Bay. But it also flows through history, especially the history of the Algonquin people. “In our language, it means ‘the main road’,” says Benoit Croteau, who runs the Abitibiwinni outfitting and guide service and directs social and economic development services for the Algonquin community of Pikogan. “Until about 1950,” he adds, “it was our main road.”

Pikogan (“our house” in Algonquin) straddles the Harricana, and serves as the locale for the two tepees that Benoit has set up on the riverbank. The traditional shelters are available for Abitibiwinni’s canoeing clientele, which Benoit guides along the old “main street.” Our trip, on this last day in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, would take us along a roughly 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the river, smooth water except for a single run of rapids, between Pikogan and St. Maurice.

The placid, pre-rapids ride took us along wooded shorelines, with the occasional glimpse of a farm. At one point, a chorus of high-pitched yelps and howls met us as we rounded a bend. “Wolves,” a couple of us said, remembering that the big canids are common in this region. But the sounds turned out to be from the wolves’ tamer relatives, as Benoit remembered that we were passing the property of a man who kept packs of sled dogs.

Spiral staircase, Aiguebelle National Park

Spiral staircase, Aiguebelle National Park

None of us, in our three two-person canoes, were old hands at rapids, but Benoit, in his single-seat whitewater Maserati of a canoe, was a different story. He was somewhat concerned about low water in the relatively shallow series of fast riffles we were about to encounter about three quarters of the way through the trip, and hopped out on shore, just before the water gained velocity, to check things out. “It looks OK,” he said when he returned. Clustered in a little cove, we treaded water with our paddles as we listened. “Just remember – you want to either go faster than the water, or slower – never at the same speed. And don’t forget, the strongest stroke in a canoe is the backward paddle.”

And if worse came to worst? “If you go in, just lie on your back with your feet in the air and go with the flow. It’s only water.”

We all went with the flow, in our canoes and not in the water. Soon, after passing beneath a handsome red covered bridge, we reached our take-out spot and caught our ride back to Pikogan.

At Pikogan, we joined Benoit’s colleague André Mowatt for a tour of the village and its museum and cultural center, where we learned of the profound effects of the fur trade, the missionaries, and the Canadian government upon the traditional Algonquin way of life. One of his people’s greatest tragedies, according to André, was the forced boarding schooling of young Native Canadians that lasted into the 1960s. At the schools, the children were forbidden to use their own language. “By the time we went home, we couldn’t even communicate with our parents,” he told us.

But André kept his native tongue. The first time I heard Algonquin spoken was when he answered his cell phone.

Suspension footbridge across Lac Sault, Aiguebelle National Park

Suspension footbridge across Lac LaHaie, Aiguebelle National Park

That was on the way to dinner, at the Pikogan community center. The menu? Moose stew, prepared by an elderly townswoman whose grandson had shot the main ingredient. It was served with traditional bannock bread, not baked, as it usually is, but deep-fried into pillowy puffs ideal for sopping up moose gravy. It reminded me of nothing so much as zeppoli, the Italian staple of church fairs.

And so to the fireside, and the tepees. As night fell along the Harricana, and André spoke of the old times and the old legends, the Windigo stalked the woods again, and the warriors were transformed into crows.

IF YOU GO:

Air Canada flies from Montreal to Rouyn-Noranda:
www.aircanada.com

Tourism information for the region:
www.tourisme-abitibi-temiscamingue.org

Aventures Obikoba (canoe, kayak, and cabin reservations on Lac des Quinze):
www.aventuresobikoba.com

Aiguebelle National Park:
www.sepac.com/pq/aig

La Bannik resort:
www.bannik.ca

Benoit Croteau leads a canoe trip down the Harricana River

Benoit Croteau leads a canoe trip down the Harricana River

Abitibiwinni (Harricana River guided canoeing):
www.abitibiwinni.com

 

Tepees on the banks of the Harricana River, Pikogan

Tepees on the banks of the Harricana River, Pikogan