Quebec City: Canadian Culinary Legacy

What is it about Québec City?

Like most questions in life, you simply must ask a trusted source for an answer.

old quebec city mural

the past comes alive

The city that sits formidably on the St. Lawrence is a beautifully balanced atmosphere of colonial France and the earliest of Canadiana best represented in its architecture, ambiance, and attitude. However, the unschooled visitor hoping to explore the city’s gastronomic culture can become inundated by the anti-culinary: nominal theme restaurants, fast food chains, and steakhouse-style caverns characteristic of any tourist locale. They can be more detrimental than you think because their superficiality and availability strip away the very fabric of what is the true experience of travel – especially here.

Advice to avoid these traps – that are easy to fall into – include casually planning your gastronomic destinations in advance with the help of: trusted guidebooks (i.e. Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet: consulting a selection will offer diverse and distinctive stops); asking questions and participating in customer reviewed and travel-oriented web communities (i.e. Travelpod, TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Urbanspoon); and more challenging, but most rewarding – sourcing out someone – even via modern social networking – that is or has experienced your particular destination intimately.

In the case of my recent trip to Québec City, I enlisted help from my social communities. LinkedIn and Facebook connections provided antidotal, candid and relevant suggestions for pubs and nightlife. However, it was a Twitter message from Daniel Lafleur of Tawse winery in Niagara, Ontario – who lived in Québec City for thirty years and whom, incidentally, I have never personally met – that inspired the planning and execution of an entire foodie adventure – with just one email.

Quebec honey at market

locally yours, everyday

Knowing that I was interested in the culinary culture of Québec from the outset, by the introductory tweet I posted, Daniel’s recommendations guided me from L’Inox – a fantastically chic and affordable pub that brews their beers in house and serves them with sinful Québec cheeses, like: Douanier, Le Baluchon, and Pied-du-Vent on the Grand Allée Est – to the breathtaking Montmorency Falls and then across the river to vineyards, farms, and chocolate shops of the picturesque Ile d’Orléans, a now-preserved historical and agricultural legacy of a landscape twenty minutes outside the city that is a must for any – and especially – culinary tourists.

garlic at Quebec market

garlic braids for everyone!

Perhaps the greatest inspiration from Daniel, although one I had visited before, was the Marche du Vieux Port on the banks of the river where Québec’s (and Canada’s) early modern history began over four hundred years ago. It’s is a sensory explosion of colours, scents, flavours, and people that truly represent what this city and surrounding countryside have to offer. Vendors set up shop daily, and year-round to sell their magnificent local wares. So, with his recommendations and a quest-like fervor in me, I was motivated to speak freely, intimately – and in French – with the varying purveyors and producers of ice and sparkling ciders, wines; duck; honey; cheese; garlic; cranberries and Québec craft beer – which I admittedly had shied away from during a previous visit. A thoroughly rewarding experience ensued, and I most certainly was quite the sight and garnered lots of attention on my departure carrying ¾ of a case of beer and wine; a backpack stuffed full of the aforementioned delicacies, and camera up the steep stonewalled streets to Hotel Clarendon, the oldest operating hotel in the city.

Rose port from Gaspe

the best local port-style wines

I did, of course, not make it to all of my mentor’s suggestions, and purposefully left out fine dinner options as they were outside the intention of my trip-come-quest. Therefore, post-market and with my newfound local bravado, I explored a brunch destination new to me, Restaurant L’Échaudé that knocked my socks off! My selection featured local foie gras and mushrooms on a salted bun topped with poached egg and a side salad adorned with colourful violet petals. A glass of rosé was a necessity to wash it down. Mais, bien sur!

"Chateau Frontenac"

the past comes alive, here

As the memories unfurl from only two weeks ago, I savour them like the duck tartare and escargots I had on my first night at the Clarendon’s in-house bistro, Le Charles Baillairgé, sitting across from my Mom who joined me on this excursion. The weather made our alternative dinner plans impossible that evening; but in retrospect I am so glad. We felt among friends with the staff; enjoyed the food and wine immensely; and felt completely at home as we moved the short distance from the dining room to the lounge for jazz and cocktails.

It is not often, nor with even each trip, that one can find a piece of ‘home’ hundreds or thousands of miles away – and it is an emotion; a sentiment rather than a more tangible souvenir like a T-shirt. No matter how fleeting – it’s definitely worth it.

Québec City has nurtured its legacy and perfected it; for they know what they have, and how to best put it to use. Daniel knows this and I believe he wanted me to understand it, too. As Canadians we owe it to ourselves to visit and pay homage to the foundations of not only our culinary tradition; but that of this country’s earliest heritage and culture, as well.

After all, it’s only a tweet, and a flight away.

About 

From Toronto, Ontario

I was born in Oakville, Ontario; but moved three hours north to the Bruce Peninsula at a young age where my parents still farm beef cattle in the rolling hills - off the Lake Huron shoreline – today. Always a ‘self-starter’, my first job was as a rabbit farmer, an enterprise began with my father at age ten to supplement my weakness for Archie comic books.

Later, while working toward my degree in History and English Literature at Wilfrid Laurier University, I discovered my passionate quest to inform on my regional agriculture. Coupled with a natural affinity for conversation – these qualities developed into a part-time career in the hospitality industry. Following graduation, I traveled to Western Europe and spent an entire summer soaking in the food, wine, beer, and lifestyle of the Continent. It was in Epernay, France – the heart of the Champagne region - that my obsession with history and gastronomy peaked - standing in the caves of Moet & Chandon recalling Winston Churchill’s World War I era quote: “Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne”.
Upon returning to Canada, I wanted to foster such recognition of quality and passion in our own domestic food and beverage industry. So I, first, began by managing a bistro in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District. Along with the responsibilities of beverage management, I also took on staff development. Frustrated by my young staff’s general lack of confidence and knowledge in wine and premium beverage, I started hosting tastings and wine tours to Niagara for my employees – as well as other connections in the industry.

The tours to Niagara’s appellations were a hit - and two years later I launched WineNot Ontario; a blog and wine tour company based on the needs of the restaurant industry with respect to our local Ontario product. Recently, I have returned for graduate education at the University of Toronto for web marketing and e-commerce where I refined my previous skills to now offer content creation and management; social media strategy, and communications for the hospitality and lifestyle industry.

My interest in Canada’s burgeoning beer, food, and wine culture, therefore, brings my love of agriculture, gastronomy, web content and social media together, here, on Foodie.ca.

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6 Responses

  1. Stephanie Whitaker says:

    You’re detailed descriptions of Quebec make me feel like I’m there, dining and chatting with you.

  2. Lafleurfan says:

    Now this writer sounds like an up and comer…..great article! Go Habs go.

  3. Alana Miranda28 says:

    Interested to find out if Martin Picard’s Au Pied du Couchon was on your list of culinary delights to check out…let me know! Thanks

    • K. McCarron says:

      Absolutely!!….M. Picard and I share a mutual obsession with duck fat; and maple syrup…he is a true and unique Canadian talent. I will be posting from my recent visit to Montreal soon; but so glad you enjoyed this piece on Quebec City. Thks 🙂

  4. Jsvenningson says:

    Thanks for the link Kaylea! I finally remembered to look you articles up (sorry, school keeps me busy) it was having that drink with you in Port Hope and I hope to see you again in April 🙂

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