by Morri Mostow

Tantalizing new menu at La Belle Escapade

It’s been a beautiful adventure, a “belle escapade” indeed, for husband-and-wife innkeepers Yves Cardinal and Carole Villeneuve. Despite a quiet winter due to poor weather, business has been brisk since the former Montrealers bought, restored and opened their charming four-bedroom B&B, La Belle Escapade, 15 months ago. Villeneuve is particularly pleased that their elegant, 24-seat dining room has developed a loyal following among local residents, who return regularly to sample the healthy, gourmet four-course table d’hôte, whose every dish (except the terrine de canard) is prepared by chef Cardinal and from ingredients bought almost exclusively from local Townships suppliers. This is now unequivocably one of the finest, most delightful restaurants in Knowlton. The atmosphere is tranquil and serene, a combination of subdued lighting and music, warm wood and antiques, and a blue-and-white décor with an old-style feel.


Cardinal, whose passion is cooking, describes his style as “refined home cooking.” But it’s certainly not what you’ll find in most people’s homes. For summer, he has modified the menu, with these latest additions: a surprisingly refreshing hot cucumber soup; trout, prepared with fresh herbs; chicken tandoori brochettes; and venison served en médaillon with a pepper and red gooseberry glaze. Cardinal is also trying out other game meats like bison and caribou, so you may find these delicacies on the menu later in the year. Two very popular dishes have endured — the divine pork médaillons, glazed with a light rosemary, port and balsamic sauce; and the Brome Lake Duck breast smothered in lichees, cognac and mandarin-orange liqueur. Loyal patrons have also insisted on keeping Cardinal’s cheesecake, a light but sinfully rich dessert whose recipe is a preciously guarded secret. The new menu will remain in effect until the Brome Lake Duckfest (September 28 to October 27).


Cardinal is now hard at work on his special Duckfest menus. This year’s Duckfest theme is China, to celebrate the origin of duck cuisine. La Belle Escapade, which is on the official Duckfest restaurant circuit, will offer several gastronomic duck menus starting at $30 for a four-course meal. For out-of-town visitors, Villeneuve bundles these menus in attractively priced packages that include room and breakfast.


La Belle Escapade, 562 Knowlton Road, Knowlton. Tel: (450) 243-5532.


A treat from head to toe

Hair stylist Ardrea Rzyzora and reflexologist Mary Harvey have teamed up at a new Knowlton salon called Aurea. Opened in July, the duo have transformed the downstairs of a small house into a harmonious, relaxing space by the river, with lots of wood and plants. The atmosphere reflects their philosophy: to take a holistic, natural approach to beauty.

“Treating the head and the feet is a very nurturing experience,” says Harvey, a certified reflexologist and actress who moved to Sutton two years ago following the birth of her second child. “Even the most nervous and tense customers fall into a deep, relaxing doze during the one-hour treatment. Reflexology works the reflex points in the feet but benefits the entire body.”

Stylist Andrea Rzyzora, who uses only natural Aveda haircare products, wants her salon to offer something more gratifying and less superficial than simply “great hair. Beauty comes from feeling good about yourself.” A Knowlton native, she recently returned from a two-year stint in a New York City hair salon, where she perfected her coloring technique. “For me, the best hair colour doesn’t look coloured at all. “Making people feel good and pampering them includes alternate therapies like reflexology and interior care, not make-up and nails.”

It’s a formula that has satisfied clients raving about her salon. Jodi Mallinson, owner of the Knowlton designer boutique, Hurricane Grace, loved the 10-minute head massage Rzyzora gave her in the old-fashioned bathtub she uses as a sink. (The oldstyle barber’s chair tilts back over the tub.) “I have friends from Montreal who now drive out to Aurea to have their hair and feet done because they love the whole experience. You walk out of there feeling renewed.”

As a special treat, customers can make an appointment for the first week of October or the first week of December to have their hair cut by Coro, a Barcelona native who worked in the same New York City hair salon as Rzyzora. Coro is an itinerant stylist, who travels to clients all over the world. In New York, he and Rzyzora worked as team: she did the colour, Coro, the cuts. “I’m sure local people will love his sense of style!” says Rzyzora.

Aurea Salon de Coiffure, 231 Knowlton Road, Knowlton. Tel: (450) 242-2356. Open for Hair appointments Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and for reflexology sessions on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (mornings only).


Knowlton boutique focuses on Canadian fashion designers

New fall lines are packing the racks at Sandila, a Knowlton boutique specializing in classic, contemporary clothing — “sporty chic,” says owner Pam Paterson — for women 30 and up. Now in its third year, Sandila has built a loyal clientele of women — from across the Townships and the country — who return season after season to buy their new outfits.

What they find are creations from some of Canada’s most interesting designers, each item handpicked by Paterson to suit her clients’ tastes, which run to natural fibres and easy, classic lines that look stylish in town or country.

“From Day One, I decided to stock only Canadian fashions to support the industry,” explains Paterson, who began her working career as a trained goldsmith. “There are some wonderful designers in Canada and their clothing is extremely good value for the money.”

Customers will find Montreal designer Eric Alexandre’s new line of soft suiting, jackets, skirts, pants and sweaters; mix-and-max cotton pants, blouses and sweaters from Vancouver’s Mac & Jac; machine-washable and dryable knit sweaters and skirts from Parkhurst, an old, established Toronto firm; and a new line of washable suede pants and skirts from Elements, in Montreal. These suede items go beautifully with the textured jackets and pullovers from Tib Design. Paterson tracked down the designer at his Laval studio and is now one of the half dozen retailers in Canada that carry Tib Design’s unusual but beautiful items.

Sandila also carries all the necessary accessories, including tights and knee highs by Hue; boots and shoes from Elle (in sizes from 6 to 10, with special orders for larger or smaller sizes), a new line launched two years ago by a division of Elle magazine; and sterling silver jewelry from Bali and Nepal. Later in the season, party dresses for the holiday season will appear on the racks.

Sandila, 17 Lakeside Road, Knowlton. Tel: (450) 243-1832. Open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesdays from November through May.)