I tend to studiously avoid restaurants and other services for which I can’t easily confirm a decent number of vegan options, and gauge a base level of knowledge on the part of the owner/staff about veganism. I made an exception to that rule recently, took a chance, and I’m glad I did.
I was in desperate need of a getaway, and as plans kept falling through and the date drawing near, I wasn’t sure what to do. My husband Yves, sensing my frustration, told me to leave it to him, that he would plan something for us. Now anyone who knows me knows that I have difficulty leaving that sort of thing to anyone, but I was running out of options.
He booked us a weekend stay at Auberge Sejour, a very non-vegan bed and breakfast and spa facility located less than an hour away from Ottawa (north-east of Buckingham QC). But not only was breakfast involved, the weekend package would also include ALL meals. It would be enough to strike terror into the heart of any vegan, most of whom have at some time or another found themselves with nothing to eat but iceberg lettuce or crackers.
But, Yves took the lead and with my assistance, did all the legwork to ensure that we would be well-fed vegan food for the entire duration of our stay. I was still nervous though, and stopped in at Auntie Loo’s on the way there just to make sure I had a few treats on hand during our time at the Auberge.
As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Its proprietors, Michel and Ellie, were more than happy to accommodate. In fact, we were the only guests at Auberge Sejour that weekend, which made it very easy. It might be a bit more complicated if there are other guests, and I’d recommend that both people in a couple sign on for the vegan experience, rather than expecting two separate meals.
Ellie admitted that she’d never had a request for vegan food before, but you wouldn’t have known it, because the food we ate at each meal was delicious, creative, and nutritious. Our first meal was dinner on Friday evening; a four course dinner served to us in the spacious dining room. The first course consisted of minestrone soup with orzo pasta, followed by a chef’s salad with Italian dressing. The third course was garlic bread, and whole grain spaghettini with spinach, steamed broccoli with roasted almonds. Dessert was surprisingly delicious; baked banana with maple syrup. After dinner we took advantage of their outdoor hot tub, where we took the opportunity to star gaze.
Both breakfasts we had at Auberge Sejour were pretty standard- cereal and soy milk, toast, juice, fresh fruit, coffee etc. Ellie purchased soy milk and vegan margarine just for the occasion. Lunch was the next opportunity for Ellie to demonstrate her creativity, and she did not disappoint. It consisted of vegan chili with bread, and barley stuffed cabbage rolls with tomato sauce. Carrot cake for dessert followed; I don’t like carrot cake, so Yves ate mine. But that was fine, because I was already stuffed.
After lunch we drove about 10 minutes to the nearby Forêt-la-Blanche Ecological Reserve, where we hiked and enjoyed the serenity of wild life for several hours (and collected some acorns for our foster squirrels). After a rejuvenating nap—we did a lot of napping—we headed downstairs for dinner.
This time, for our main course, Ellie had raided Chinatown. Our soup was potato leek, followed by a spinach salad, but the main course consisted of vegetable dumplings and dipping sauce, steamed baby bok choy and cauliflower, and a stir-fry of bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and asparagus. Dessert was silken tofu drenched in wild blueberry sauce. As someone who’s a bit neurotic about ensuring I consume ample servings of fruit and vegetables, I was impressed by the many varieties and methods that Ellie employed to work them into every course.
Once again wowed by our meal, we decided to take advantage of Michel’s talents– he is a masseuse. Yves and I took turns enjoying full-hour relaxation massages—a first for both of us. Guests at Auberge Sejour can take advantage of this service for a bargain rate of $40 per hour—about half the cost you would pay in Ottawa.
The next morning we decided to explore the Auberge’s sprawling wooded property, which includes a pond and a river. Among nature’s many delights, we found the world’s tiniest toad, and came within six feet of a beaver.
I have no complaints at all about my experience at Auberge Sejour; our two days there were among the most relaxing and wonderful days of my life, and I look forward to returning. Michel and Ellie, who are semi-retired, have set up a paradise (they also have a sauna) and are generous about sharing it with their guests. They have struck the right balance of attentiveness, without being intrusive, and are extremely welcoming. And Ellie is a highly skilled and adaptable cook, who embraced and made the most of her vegan challenge.
The most unbelievable part about the whole experience is that our two night stay, complete with two breakfasts, two dinners, and one lunch, was only $300 + tax. Not per person, total. It’s an oasis that’s just a stone’s throw from Ottawa, but which feels like a world away.
Auberge Sejour also offers banquet and conference facilities.
For more information, contact Michel or Ellie at: