Food & Drink | Travelier + Manoir Hovey

The Quality of the Ingredients is Part of the Recipe

Manoir Hovey's Le Hatley Restaurant is dedicated to offering farmhouse-inspired gastronomy driven by sustainability, diversity and creativity.

By Doug Wallace   |   November 11, 2021




  Manoir Hovey
Chef Alexandre Vachon in one of the many gardens at Manoir Hovey.

“It tastes like molasses, but not as sweet. It’s a caramelized flavour with a savoury side to it.”

Chef Alexandre Vachon is talking about birch syrup, which he has started to make in the kitchens at Manoir Hovey, an exclusive country retreat in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and home to the elegant Le Hatley Restaurant. Explaining that it takes 100 litres of birch sap to make one litre of syrup, he is also articulating the approach of his style of cooking, one that appreciates the importance of good ingredients. In fact, Vachon's whole culinary philosophy celebrates the ingredients that are abundant in the Quebec region's rivers, lakes, forest and fields. 

“The point of our cuisine is a fine, root-driven cuisine,” Vachon says. “Every season has its ingredients and everything possible is local. We have so many farmers and smaller producers who take pride in their product.” He regularly takes members of his team to visit these suppliers, so they can see where all the ingredients come from. “It’s nice to go and visit,” he says, “so that they can see and respect the work that goes into producing the food—and learn not to waste it, too.”

The focus on ingredients extends to even the most simple of things. “Like bread for example, we try to get the best raw ingredients, the best flour available,” Vachon says. “We’re also starting to make our own butter, trying to do everything on our own. We just go with the flow of what Mother Nature gives to us.”

This self-made tenet spills over into preserves as well, along with all things flavourful. “We grow our own garlic, which gives us plenty of that for the winter,” Vachon says. “I’m also thinking of doing horseradish or wasabi in the garden at some point. The more local and raw ingredients, the better.”

The property maintains a chef garden and a beehive for honey, managed by the resort sommelier Jérôme Dubois. 

READ MORE ABOUT THE MANOIR'S APICULTURE ADVENTURES.

Chef Vachon grew up on a farm in St. Albert, Ontario, a small town near Ottawa, and uses that experience to his advantage in the same way he leverages his other experience, working with the best—Hilton in Gatineau, Fairmont in Lake Louise, a stint at the Ritz-Carlton with Daniel Boulud in Montreal. He has been with Manoir Hovey since 2018.

Vachon readily points out that one of the mandates of Relais & Châteaux is to ensure their restaurants reflect the area in which they’re situated. “They are very terroir-driven,” he says. “They want you to represent your surroundings. This is why we get staff from all around the world—they want to know what’s happening in Quebec.”

Brainstorming dishes, given the ingredients of the season, is an on-going pastime, keeping everyone in the kitchen at Manoir Hovey on their toes. “With produce, my philosophy is that everyone gets a small project—tomorrow you're going to try this with that product, and you're going to do that,” Vachon says. “And then something clicks and they feel a part of the process—like, ‘I made that on the menu.’”

When pressed for new food ideas, trends on the rise, the chef points immediately to sustainable seafood: “Coquillage—shellfish,” he says unreservedly. Everything from the ocean that grows faster, regenerating quickly—clams and mussels, really all seafood is going to be a big thing for a few years.”

And his best home-chef tip? “Ice cubes,” Vachon says. “We put many things into the freezer, making little mis en place cubes—ramps, chicken glaze, veal jus. Freeze it now, enjoy it later.”

Garlic Raviolo
By Chef Alexandre Vachon

SERVES 6

Difficulty: Medium
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Rest time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Garlic Milk Foam
A quart of milk, Chef Vachon uses La Pinte milk from Ayers Cliff
10 poached garlic cloves
100 g of taliah or parmesan crust
1 teaspoon soy lecithin
1 pinch of salt

Wild Garlid Leaf Purée
Use the 10 cloves of garlic used for the garlic milk
50 g of grated taliah or parmesan cheese
70 g blanched wild garlic leafs
1 drizzle of olive oil
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of sumac

Pasta
500 g (3 cups) unbleached flour
15 egg yolks
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Stuffing
500 g (3 cups) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 chopped Spanish onion
3 cloves of chopped wild garlic
50 g roasted black walnut
2 pinches of black garlic powder

DIRECTIONS 

1. For the garlic milk foam: In a saucepan, heat milk, raw wild garlic and taliah crusts until it simmers, let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves with a skimmer. Add the soy lecithin to the hot milk, whisk vigorously and set aside.

2. For the wild garlic leaf purée: In a skillet, sauté the spinach in a little olive oil. In a food processor, blend the garlic cloves previously cooked in milk with the wild garlic purée, grated taliah, salt and sumac.

3. For the pasta: In a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook attachment, place the flour, add the yolks and olive oil one by one until the dough is smooth. Finish by kneading by hand for about five minutes to obtain a soft, elastic and non-sticky dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place for 30 minutes.

4. For the stuffing: In a frying pan with a little olive oil, sweat the chopped wild garlic and onion, garlic flower, black garlic powder and roasted walnuts. In a bowl, mix the cheese and onion preparation, season to taste.

5. Roll the dough in a rolling mill or spread it thinly with a rolling pin. With a round cookie cutter, cut out your pasta one by one. Place them on a previously floured baking sheet. Keep the dough covered with saran wrap so that it doesn't dry out and sprinkle it with flour to prevent it from sticking.

6. Work with two sheets of dough at a time keeping the others covered. Place 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of stuffing in the centre of the pasta dough. Using the back of a spoon, make a small well on each pile of stuffing and gently place an egg yolk. Lightly moisten the outline of each pile of stuffing with a brush and cover with the second sheet of dough to close the raviolo. Using your fingers, remove the air pockets and seal.

7. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook one raviolo at a time for three minutes or until it rises to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the raviolo so as not to pierce it.

8. To plate, pour the wild garlic leaf purée into the bottom of a plate before placing one raviolo on each plate. Using a hand blender, emulsify the garlic milk to create a light froth and place gently on top.


Doug Wallace
travelrighttoday  Website

Doug is executive editor of Travelier. He is also a travel copywriter and media consultant. You will find him beside buffet tables, on massage tables and table-hopping around the world, eating, spa-going and napping, of course. (Photo: Luis Mora)




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