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Exploring Quebec’s Boreal Cuisine: A Fusion of French Flair, Local Traditions

Barbara Angelakis
Barbara Angelakis is travel & culture editor at LuxuryWeb Magazine.
Published: February 20, 2024
This type of cuisine, named after Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, celebrates the conifer-dominated landscapes and their indigenous plants, berries, and ferns unique to Quebec. (Image: Barbara Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

Published with permission from LuxuryWeb Magazine

Quebec City, renowned for its unique blend of historical charm, local craftsmanship, and stunning landscapes, also boasts an innovative culinary scene that has captured my interest since my early travel days.

On a recent journey, courtesy of an invitation from Destination Québec Cite, we had the pleasure of meeting a group of young, talented chefs who are masters of boreal cuisine — a style deeply rooted in the natural abundance of Quebec’s northern forests. This cuisine, named after Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, celebrates the conifer-dominated landscapes and their indigenous plants, berries, and ferns unique to Quebec.

The essence of Nordic cuisine, which includes protein-rich lean fish like cod and omega-3 fatty acid-packed varieties such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout, is well represented in Quebec. The cuisine also incorporates game meat known for its high protein and low saturated fat content, alongside locally sourced vegetables and berries rich in antioxidants and vitamins B and C — a delightful combination of healthful and delicious ingredients.

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(Image: Barbara Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

Boreal cuisine’s roots trace back to the era of New France, before the British conquest in the mid-18th century, when French cooking staples became scarce. Native peoples introduced French settlers to the forest’s bounty, teaching them about local animals and the best ways to prepare indigenous products. After the British takeover, boreal cuisine evolved into a distinct culinary tradition in Quebec, emphasizing locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

The chefs we met shared that boreal cuisine is a dynamic, creative endeavor that requires ongoing experimentation with seasonal ingredients. This process often involves finding nutritional and flavorful substitutes for non-native items like lemons and olive oil. Embracing this culinary challenge, chefs are constantly exploring new ingredients, celebrating the joy of discovery and the benefits of local sourcing.

My culinary adventure began at Chez Boulay Bistro, where Chef Jean-Luc Boulay and Arnaud Marchand craft a menu that highlights the best of regional, seasonal ingredients. The bistro’s ambiance, with its traditional French aesthetic, open kitchen, and friendly staff, set the stage for an extraordinary dining experience.

(Image: Barbara Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

The dishes, from the delicate nougat of Foie Gras to the innovative Jerusalem artichoke Patia, were a testament to the chefs’ skill and the rich palette of boreal cuisine. Despite a less thrilling dessert selection, the meal was memorable for its exquisite flavors and presentation.

Chef Dereck McCann at Le Vivoir Restaurant within Le Monastère des Augustines offers another impressive take on boreal cuisine. His hands-on approach ensures guests enjoy meals that are not only delicious but also informative about the health benefits of the ingredients used. The chef’s commitment to freshness and quality is evident in his relationships with local suppliers, and his menu selections, from organic mushroom ravioli to fresh octopus, showcase the versatility and richness of boreal ingredients.

(Image: Barbara Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

A visit to the First Nations Wendake Hotel-Musee Premieres Nations introduced us to Restaurat La Traite and Chef Marc de Passorio’s interpretation of boreal cuisine. After an enchanting Sound and Light show, we enjoyed a late dinner that reflected Chef de Passorio’s classical training and his passion for boreal cooking. The dishes, including Oushata Salmon and Deer medallion, highlighted his ability to blend unusual ingredients into extraordinary culinary creations.

These experiences underscored the depth and diversity of Quebec’s boreal cuisine, a culinary tradition that seamlessly blends French influences with the rich natural resources of the region. It’s a testament to the creativity and resilience of its people, offering a unique taste of Quebec’s cultural and natural heritage.

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