Foodie feast in French

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walking through Quebec City to my first foodie experience

walking through Quebec City to my first foodie experience – actually it is a mural that I passed 

The prospect of eating my way around a new town has always struck me as very appealing and what better way of doing so than joining a food tour, usually an excellent introduction to local food culture. As my tour on this sunny afternoon was also taking in parts of Québec City, one of the prettiest cities in North America, I was definitely sold and the fact that we were visiting half a dozen establishments in 2 ½ hours, made it sound even more irresistible.

Tours Voir have their home inside the local tourist office in the Old Town, right opposite well-known landmark Château Frontenac, Québec City’s towering grand hotel, dating back over a hundred years. I was secretly hoping we’d be starting our feeding frenzy within its elegant walls, but no such luck. After admiring the outside of said building, myself and the tour group instead wandered down Rue Saint-Louis, past boutiques with quirky names the likes of “Cool-as-a-Moose”, among others. Our guides, one Quebecois and one Brit, living over here, walked us through the Old Town and the remnants of the former Scottish quarters, down to the Saint-Jean District.

maple syrup - an adornment at breakfast and more thoughout the day

maple syrup – an adornment at breakfast and more thoughout the day

There was plenty of Quebecois history and interesting facts included along the way, but personally I was getting peckish, having skipped lunch for the full flavour of the tour. Just as I was considering nibbling on one of the guides, we made our first stop, La Cremaillère , a French restaurant with Italian influences and a long-runner with 40 years under its belt. So established were they that the owner seemed to have little time for passing ruffians on a food tour, but the salmon tartare proved exceedingly delicious and all was forgiven. The restaurant also doubles as something of an art gallery and is worth a visit for the diverse paintings adorning the walls of its two floors.

Appetite thus whetted, we reached Rue Saint-Jean and our next stop, which instantly felt more Quebecois than the first. Les Delices d’Erable, or Maple Delights, a café, shop and mini-museum, specialises in Québec Province maple products, from the ubiquitous syrup, to butter, sweets, cakes and tea. While the ground floor caters to the frivolous pursuits of snacking and shopping, upstairs’ museum is dedicated to explaining the whole process of making maple products. 80% of them hail from Québec Province, I was told during the 20-minute, informative presentation and there’s plenty of “maple memorabilia” on display, such as age-old snowshoes used to reach the maples in winter. Afterwards we were treated to a sampling session of clear, medium and amber syrups, maple butter and maple tea. So far, so tasty.

Next up on the food agenda was Patriarche,  a 5-diamond restaurant, specialising in Quebecois and French tasting menus, with a particular focus on Quebecois wines. Knowing next to nothing about Québec’s different wines, I was amazed to find there are 45 vineyards across different parts of the province – way more than I’d envisaged. Patriarche uses all local produce and their tasting menus include wine pairing with local wines. Our own tasting took place inside their wine cellar, with wall-to-wall bottles, some 2,500 of them in total, and I was rather sorry we only got to try the one, a baco noir (a hybrid red grape) from St Eustace, near Montreal. This was accompanied by a delicious red deer and foie gras terrine.

maplesyruptastingAMI was just getting used to a bit of posh when this was swiftly swapped for a bit of rough; the Ninkasi beer joint. From refined elegance to semi-scruffy in no time and before long I had the locally-brewed Blanche de Chambly blonde beer in my hand – rather wasted on me, as I’m not a beer drinker, but those who were seemed to enjoy it. The bar, although slightly rough around the edges, was friendly and easy-going, just preparing for a live set and open mic in the evening.

Four stops completed and I found myself feeling slightly tipsy – I hadn’t counted on quite so much booze being included in an afternoon tour and there was more to come. Further up the street in the Saint-Jean District we reached Le Moine Echanson, a wine bar with an emphasis on French food and wines. Here we were given a strong, sweet cider (hic!) and a tasty chunk of walnut bread topped with a local smoked cheese and apple syrup. An unusual mix of French and Quebecois in a rustic setting, where I wouldn’t have been surprised to see sawdust on the floor, amongst the wooden furniture.

Still tipsy, but less hungry, I could just about muster up the energy for one more place, this one right across the road. Breton-influenced Le Billig turned out to make excellent crepes and, as it happened, cheese and ham crepes go really well together with sparkling cider, also locally made – a delicious treat. Suitably stuffed and merry, I could only conclude that Québec City is every bit as French and every bit as foodie as I had hoped. People know and love their food in this city and eating out doesn’t break the bank. Fantastic foodie bliss!

evening in Quebec and another restaurant beckons

evening in Quebec and another bar/restaurant beckons

For further information about Quebec, click here.

Getting there:

There are no direct flights from the UK to Québec City, but Air Canada, Air Transat and British Airways fly to Montreal, a short domestic flight or a 2-3-hour train/car journey away. A number of international carriers including KLM, Lufthansa and Air France also fly to Montreal via respective hubs.

First UK Rights

Images and story ©  Anna Maria Espsäter

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