Published with permission from LuxuryWeb.com
When it comes to Quebec tourism, I believe the slogan should be, “On mange bien ici,” meaning, “We eat well here!” The gastronomy in Quebec City reaches new heights with its exceptional cuisine. Local, seasonal ingredients of the utmost freshness are the backbone of Quebecoise kitchens, whether found in the comfort of home or in renowned restaurants.
Quebecoise cuisine has its roots in the late 16th century, blending the agricultural resources available to the early French settlers with the techniques of the First Nations tribes in the region. The result is a culinary tradition that showcases the abundant seafood, rivers, and game of Quebec. While spices from around the world find their way into Quebecoise dishes, the cooking techniques remain rooted in classic French cuisine, with a touch of indigenous ingredients and methods.
‘We eat well here’
Our love for the food in Quebec City led us to embark on a nine-hour journey each way, making the city our overnight destination for a delectable weekend of dining.
During our recent trip, we had the opportunity to explore innovative restaurant kitchens. Unlike the traditional French grandmother’s cooking we had experienced in the past, the dishes we encountered now resembled the molecular gastronomy that has captivated me in Europe, particularly in Spain, Italy, and Denmark.
Molecular cuisine harmoniously combines compatible ingredients, transforming them into exquisite dishes. This culinary discipline examines the metamorphosis of food in the kitchen, utilizing modern cooking methods such as sous-vide and incorporating foams, gels, emulsions, and other flavor enhancers. Interestingly, restaurants practicing molecular gastronomy abstain from placing salt or pepper shakers on the table, as the culinary creations that emerge from their kitchens are considered perfectly balanced.
However, rest assured that these dishes are anything but bland. The technique and ingredients employed in this avant-garde cuisine render additional seasonings such as salt or MSG unnecessary.
Each morning, at our home-away-from-home, the Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel, we indulged in a delightful table d’hôte breakfast. The continental buffet featured an array of freshly baked breads, muffins, and croissants, along with fresh yogurt, which I enjoyed drizzling with aromatic honey. The spread also included assorted cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, freshly squeezed juices, and more. Additionally, we could order eggs prepared in various styles, bacon, bread pudding, pain perdu (French Toast), and other tempting items from the à la carte menu.
Every meal we had was exceptional, and we were treated to a specially arranged lunch in a cozy alcove by the fireplace at the hotel’s bar. While the hotel currently offers only breakfast and dinner, this lunch gave us a taste of the kitchen’s creations. The three-course meal, prepared by Chez Muffy, the hotel’s restaurant, impressed us with its farmhouse and ocean-inspired courses. Chez Muffy is named after the owner’s mother, Muffy, who, at the age of 93, visits the hotel daily to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The executive co-chefs collaborate with the family’s organic farm to cultivate signature ingredients for Chez Muffy’s cuisine.
One of the highlights of our dining experiences was the snow crab appetizer, featuring daikon radish matchsticks sourced from the hotel’s garden, black and salmon caviar, a shoyu citric vinaigrette, and delicate Marigold flowers. Not only was it visually stunning, but it was also a dish that left a lasting impression. The main course, sirloin with bordelaise sauce, accompanied by caramelized onions filled with a different sauce, and roasted potato roulades, delighted our taste buds with its symphony of flavors.
Of course, the “Dessert Tidbits” were not to be overlooked, either. A plate adorned with petite pastry rondelles, luscious lemon cream topped with brown sugar, and an assortment of other delectable treats awaited us. A satisfying cup of coffee accompanied this delightful conclusion to our meal. The wine pairings were equally impressive, starting with a refreshing Grüner Veltliner from Slovenia and culminating in an exceptional Barbaresco that perfectly complemented the sirloin dish.
During our culinary escapades, I had the pleasure of conversing with Alex Bouchard, one of the executive co-chefs responsible for the hotel’s various dining establishments. It became evident that he possessed an intimate understanding of what it takes to maintain an exceptional kitchen. When asked about their culinary philosophy, he simply stated, “We want to make people happy.”
Yet, that was just one of the remarkable lunches we experienced. Another memorable occasion took place by a bubbling stream on a rural property in Saint-Laurent de l’Île d’Orléans. The chefs and staff of Tanière3, one of Quebec’s avant-garde restaurants, curated an unforgettable meal for us. It commenced with an enticing amuse bouche of freshly smoked duck breast, braised confit onions, and crusty farm bread, still warm from the morning’s baking.
Over the fire, a local hard cheese was melted, and its savory goodness was scraped onto fire-grilled toast before being adorned with slices of the smoked duck breast. It was pure ambrosia—a heavenly combination of flavors.
Presentation is key
The meal continued with a nest-shaped presentation, showcasing an egg filled with a creamy emulsion featuring morels and spinach.
The fish course delighted our palates with halibut accompanied by erythrone stems and leaves, day lily, and wild garlic. And then came the lamb chops, accompanied by Jerusalem artichokes and fiddlehead ferns, all harmoniously brought together by a Labrador tea sauce. To complement these incredible dishes, we savored a sparkling fruit-juice cocktail, reminiscent of a Bellini. True to their craft, the chefs even managed to enhance the already extraordinary flavors.
We also had the opportunity to explore the culinary offerings along Av. Maguire, the main street in a charming Quebec City neighborhood. Le Canard Goulu (The Greedy Duck) organized a delightful experience where we hopped from one restaurant or shop to another, sampling various delicacies. From a slice of torchon de foie gras nestled within a doughnut to fresh goat cheese beautifully presented in a jar, we indulged in a diverse range of flavors. Spinach-stuffed flaky dough, slices of pizza, and comforting bowls of onion soup were among the many delights we enjoyed during this gastronomic adventure.
And thus, the journey through Quebec City’s culinary landscape continued, each dinner deserving of its own tale. However, these accounts require more space to adequately capture the richness and depth of the dining experiences we encountered.
Innovation at its finest
From innovative dishes inspired by molecular gastronomy to traditional Quebecoise fare prepared with a modern twist, our taste buds were constantly delighted and surprised. The dedication to sourcing local, seasonal ingredients was evident in every bite, and the skillful execution of flavors and presentation left a lasting impression.
Quebec City truly lives up to its reputation as a culinary destination. The slogan “On mange bien ici” resonates with the essence of the city’s gastronomy. It is a testament to the exceptional food culture that awaits visitors, where every meal is a celebration of flavors, techniques, and the rich culinary heritage of Quebec.
So, if you find yourself in Quebec City, prepare to embark on a culinary adventure like no other. Indulge in the vibrant food scene, savor the innovative creations, and immerse yourself in the gastronomic wonders that await. Quebec City is a haven for food lovers, a place where eating well is not just a slogan but a way of life.
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