“The stone house la maison de Pierre, as they call it, a large mansion built of stone by a former agent of the Northwest Hudson Bay Company, who lived there with his family, servants, horses and hounds and gave hospitable dinners in those days when it was the fashion for the host to do so…” William Cullen Bryant
Today the Ermatinger home as well as the Francis H. Clergue block house, is part of Sault Ste. Marie’s most notable National Historic Sites. In the heart of downtown Sault Ste. Marie, overlooking the St. Marys River, it’s a property of historical significance. The City of Sault Ste. Marie has not only preserved this precious piece of property but has enhanced it and has made it accessible to everyone to enjoy a piece of our past.
With two stone homes and an interactive Heritage Discovery Centre, Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site has become a must-see attraction when travelling to the Sault or by rediscovering, with local residents.
While there are an endless number of historical stories and interesting information about the site, along with a fully stocked unique gift shop, I was most intrigued by their culinary programs. I was welcomed to the site by William Hollingshead, Heritage Programmer, who gave me the inside scoop about the what is offered through the programs.
Group of Seven Dinner Theatre
A fun evening in partnership with Theatre in Motion where a theatrical production, “Moments in Algoma” is performed by a one man show. The production is inspired by letters and reflections of the members of the Group of Seven painters during their first visits to Algoma in 1918. The three-course dinner, served next to the hearth in the Ermatinger Old Stone House, is themed to a “boxcar” menu and even the servers are well versed with stories and tales about the group and their years painting in the Agawa Canyon and along the north shore of Lake Superior. Authentic food like what the painters would have eaten. i.e. fried onions, baked bread, stew and dumplings, pastries on a painter’s palate are the kind of menu items served during this unique evening.
William told me that the dinner is offered in summer and fall, with some dates open to the public. The Group of Seven dinner theatre program is now in it’s second year and has proven to be very popular, receiving rave reviews.
Heritage Culinary Experiences
For a truly unique dining experience the summer kitchen is a perfect setting for guests to gather and enjoy one of the heritage meals, much like Mr. Ermatinger was known for many years ago. The set menus developed by Chef Alma Kasch, include high tea, breakfast, lunch, or a “Voyageur Dinner” are offered anytime of year.
William pointed out that anyone can book, but there must be minimum of ten people and can accommodate up to thirty-six guests. These experiences have been popular for birthdays, Christmas parties, business meetings, wedding parties, and more. They don’t take drop ins, but 2 – 3 families can get together and book an event.
They have been offering these unique culinary experiences for 6 years now with no signs of slowing down. People love them and there is always a pleasant surprise from many diners that it’s offered locally, William mentioned. The staff wear period costumes and the food is served on the blue willow pattern dishes, which is an historical pattern. All of this adds to the cultural experience.
The food served, is sourced from the gardens as much as possible when in season, it’s also sourced from local (Algoma) farms and they’re always looking for more opportunities to source locally. While the premise is not licensed to serve alcohol, they can and do get special occasion permits depending on group (i.e. wedding).
I am told that the heritage culinary experiences are very well received with non-stop bookings and has increased visitation for the museum as well as bring in needed revenue.
A key ingredient to the culinary experiences is the heritage gardens on the grounds surrounding this historic site. The gardens produce herbs and period plants and vegetables, as well as berries and flowers along with an orchard of apple trees. As mentioned, the food grown is used wherever needed in the kitchens.
Other events throughout the year include “Friday by the Fire” lunches and dinners, “Lilac & Lavender Victorian High Tea”, “Clergue Days & Strawberry Social”, “Blueberry Festival the Pim Family Party” and “Christmas Victorian Teas”. There is no shortage of many types of culinary experiences with a heritage twist. For dates and times, check the web site or follow on Facebook or Twitter.
What a wonderful asset this vibrant, beautiful and busy historical site Sault Ste. Marie has in it’s midst. If you haven’t been, go, you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t been in a while, visit and rediscover the “Old Stone House”. There is always something fresh and new happening there.
All photo credits: Ermatinger Clergue National Historical Site.
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