Québecois cuisine is the ultimate fusion: New World ingredients used by chefs trained in Old World techniques. This matchup of North American and French influences produces a vibrant restaurant scene.
Prime example? Maple syrup, definitely not common in France, turns up in many dishes in Québec City eateries.
Whether you’re headed north for Québec’s Winter Carnival (now through February 16, 2014) — or some other time of year — here are some places to try:
*Aux Anciens Canadiens, 34 Rue Saint Louis (Old Town), Québec City (pictured, at left) — built in 1675, the Maison Jacquet is the oldest house in Québec. A restaurant since 1966, it specializes in traditional cuisine (yes, poutine is on the menu). I always try to get there during the dinner special (last February, it was less than $20 Canadian for a three-course meal plus a glass of wine or beer). The classic main course to order is the Québec meat pie and, no matter what time you dine, opt for the maple syrup pie for dessert.
*Chez Boulay, 1110 Rue Saint-Jean (Old Town), Québec City — This chic bistro is a local favorite. It’s packed at lunch, for which the menu “changes everyday: to the rhythm of the seasons, the produce we receive daily and according to the ideas of our chefs”. You’re as likely to find New World ingredients such as bison and hake as Old World preparations like potatoes gratinée and mushroom risotto. (At right, below: lamb banquette)
*Château Frontenac, 1 rue des Carrières (Old Town), Québec City — OK, so you have to eat here at least once: if only to check out the hotel built as one of a series of “château” style hotels for the Canadian Pacific Railway company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now part of the Fairmont chain, it retains all the glitz and glamor of its early days (the Sunday brunch is a wonder to behold). Because the hotel is in the midst of major refurbishment, some restaurants may not be open — check the website for the days you’re planning to visit.
*Café de la Paix, 44 Rue des Jardins (Old Town), Québec City — Established in the early ’50s (and with a décor to match), is a convenient stop for lunch or dinner. Main courses range from the expected (salmon) to the unexpected (quail with cranberry). Their French onion soup gets consistently rave reviews, although non-French-speaking Americans sometimes cringe at what seems to be second-class service.
*Manoir St-Castin, 99 Du Tour-du-Lac Road, Lac-Beauport, Québec — Outside the city, this country-estate-style hotel has a restaurant with a great view of Lake Beauport. I had a delectable soup (photo, left): cream of parsnip with maple syrup and coriander, plus quail with a cedar sauce.
Quebec City has also caught the Parisian macaroon trend. What’s different here? One of the flavors available is maple syrup. I bought my macaron érable at the Café-Boulangerie Paillard, 1097 rue Saint-Jean (Old Town), Québec City, and there’s another shop at 5401 boulevard des Galeries, Québec.
(Photos ©2013 by Susan McKee)