Mini-getaway refuels culinary passion!
I was intrigued. An offer to spend a weekend with some clever, interesting people, embracing rustic pastimes as well as experiencing the latest in automotive technology – how could I say no? I know what you’re thinking – I’m a food blogger, right? So why did I think this was a good fit for me? The back to basics theme being promoted nationally by Ford Canada is one you might quickly recognize in my culinary adventures. I love exploring the roots of cuisine and many of the recipes and techniques I present here on the blog are precisely about getting back to basics. Whether it’s robust chicken stock (which apparently is now called bone broth; were my grandmother still alive, she’d snort in derision at the new appellation), deconstructed cabbage rolls or even vegetarian lasagne, I love looking at traditional foods and decoding or refreshing them a little for contemporary cooks.
Buckle up: this is going to be a long-ish post, but I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.
First up – why ‘back to basics’ for Ford? Ford Motor Company actually employs a futurist; her name is Sheryl Connelly and her job is to predict trends up to three years ahead of time. For her 2015 TrendBook, she sees us embracing technology more than ever, but also taking advantage of its ability to improve the quality of our lives (see the Active Park Assist below). As she explains, “Ford this year launched its ‘Pursuit of a Happy Commute’—a year-long program designed to help make the daily drive a happier and less stressful experience. By identifying ways to simplify and enhance the overall driving experience, Ford is reviving the joy of driving—making it a pleasant escape, rather than a necessary drive.”
The winter driving refresher we were offered at the beginning of our 30 hour Ford adventure yielded some important tips. I learned helpful things from professional race car driver and instructor Robin Buck, like turning off your traction control system if you get stuck in snow, to reduce spinning. As far as winter tires go, in our climate they’re a must-have, says Robin; he also told us that the average driver gets a flat tire every 80,000 km – have you beaten the odds, as I have?
As our group headed off to Mont Tremblant, I was in the midsize hybrid 2015 Ford Fusion Energi; it’s a comfortable car loaded with some advanced features including Active Park Assist. This technology uses a series of sensors to help you locate a suitable sized parking space and line your car up to prepare for parallel parking. The freaky part comes next: you put the car in reverse, take your HANDS OFF THE STEERING WHEEL (all caps because that’s what my brain was going through when I tried it out) and the car steers itself perfectly into the slot, with just a little help from your foot on the gas and brake. While I, as an urbanite, have learned to embrace parallel parking, I expect people who go to great lengths to avoid parallel parking (you know who you are) will love this technology and yes, I really can see it reviving the joy of driving for the parking-averse.
After having the parking technology completely blow my mind, I enjoyed getting behind the wheel of a snazzy 6 speed, manual transmission Mustang and taking it for a spin. I hadn’t driven standard in about 3 decades so I was a little nervous when JR Fortin, another race car driver/instructor, welcomed me into the vehicle. It turns out he must moonlight as a therapist because not only did he offer the perfect coaching for a successful session, he actually restored my confidence in that delicate clutch/gas/brake dance.
Autos aside, the rest of the back-to-basics program revolved around simple pleasures. The luxurious Hotel Quintessence on Lac Tremblant really knows how to pamper. Meals showcased Quebec foods, expertly prepared by Chef Georges Laurier’s kitchen (I still miss his Laurier sur Montcalm restaurant in Gatineau).
Sommelier Sophie Huberdeau also led us through a lovely wine tasting, pairing several exceptional bottles from their vast cellar with outstanding Quebec cheeses. Saturday evening ended with a very back-to-basics experience: making gourmet s’mores outdoors over a roaring fire while snow fell softly all around us.
It was perhaps the final two activities on Sunday morning which left the most profound impact on me. First was an extraordinary tea tasting with the knowledgeable and serene Marc-André Latour of L’essence du thé, who revealed so much about the ancient art of tea cultivation and brewing. I learned that it takes seven pounds of tea leaves to produce one pound of dried tea and that some truly lovely teas have kickass names like Black Dragon and Iron Goddess of Mercy. I also learned more about the ideal brewing proportions and temperatures. I am seriously rethinking my morning tea ritual now.
The last event was a very cold trip up to the summit of Mont Tremblant for a guided snowshoe excursion. As I took in the incomparable view from the top of the mountain and then traipsed along a trail lined by snow-laden trees sparkling in the morning sun, I reflected on how I want to incorporate the notion of getting back to basics and slowing down a little bit more in my life and my cooking. It’s good for the soul.
Disclaimer: I am grateful to have been the guest of Ford Canada on this excursion; opinions expressed are my own.