Les Jardins de la Colline or the Secret Recipe for Happiness
As we head up the hill on boulevard Pierre-Laporte in Brigham, on the right side of the road, this small farm stand draws us in with its verdant flowery environment. However, it’s their sign that really convinces us to stop every time we pass by: “Ici, nous ne vendons que du bonheur,” here we sell only happiness!
These clever rascals! it’s impossible to resist as we enter Les Jardins de la Colline’s little shop. Invariably, they have us from the moment we smell all the aromas flowing out of their wide-open kitchen. For sure, at least one out two visitors will exclaim, “It really smells good here!” Your writer was able to experience it first-hand! More so, Sylvie Tremblay, the owner, exclaims: “We eat with our senses; might as well astound them!” This Farnham-born entrepreneur wouldn’t have it any other way. “I never wanted to have an ordinary business. I’ve always wanted to create a warm atmosphere here, where values of sharing, of human contact, and a family-type ambiance can be found,” explains Sylvie, herself from a family of nine children.
Sharing you say? Already this 62-year-old highly experienced cook is opening a jar of tomato confit for this writer to taste as she invites him to take a seat on a stool placed between the oven and the refrigerator. Her scullions are hard at work in the kitchen. Here, they’re preparing strawberry pies; There, lasagna with homemade sauce. The telephone rings for an umpteenth order. Really? Yes! Because this farm stand showcases the best products Brome-Missisquoi vegetable farmers and livestock breeders can provide. It’s no surprise that hordes of celebrities and even an ex-prime minister of Canada stop here to make their provisions on the way between their downtown Montreal apartments and their country homes in the Eastern Townships! Since 2001, for more than 60 hours per week, all year round, Sylvie and her team are at work here, at this gourmet stop.
The stream of customers and the constant flow of products constitute a promise of guaranteed freshness. On the main floor, we find all their fresh produce; fruits and vegetables are elegantly set on shelves, giving the impression of abundance beside the refrigerated counters overflowing with prepared meals, quiches, meat pies, desserts, pies and fruit cakes basted for a whole year with cognac! On the second floor, another Aladdin’s cave: here we discover, non-perishable products such as marinades, jams, sauces, pickles, different flavoured vinegar assortments and several types of ketchup, placed alongside big fridges, where we can select among all the cuts of meat provided by local breeders. “My cabbage, pepper and onion relish even pleases my 15-year-old son, Jacob!” enthuses this mother of four.
But all these aromas are taking this writer away from the present moment: Let’s get back to this tomato confit. “Taste this,” orders our true foodie! We blanched Italian tomatoes before roasting them, at low heat, in the oven on oil and herb basted baking sheets to have them partially dehydrate. It’s the third cooking process, inside a cauldron, with a hint of balsamic vinegar, that stews the tomatoes and brings out all their aromas, and…”
Sylvie Tremblay stops here: One must keep the recipe for happiness somewhat a secret!