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Superb knife and fork adventures in Quebec City

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 12/14/2011, 5:20 p.m.

As in many cities around the world, the farmer's market is where it all begins. The Marche du Vieux-Port de Quebec (Quebec Public Market) is no exception.

Being the foodie that I am, I started getting the shakes the moment I entered this expansive market situated in the heart of Quebec City's Old Port. From basic fruit and vegetable stands to more elaborate mini-store-fronts, the indoor market-which is open year-round-is brimming with the sights, sounds and aromas of fresh herbs, colorful produce, pungent meats and seafood, tasty wines, flaky pastries, fresh cheeses and savory spices and sauces, all fresh from the farm. This, in addition to a bevy of vendors selling multihued plants and flowers, fragrant body oils, lotions and soaps and craft and gift items, plus a restaurant and outdoor cafe with awe-inspiring views of the marina.

The market is every bit one of the city's culinary treasures, as are many of its outstanding restaurants all over the city that combine basic staples with imagination, expertise and love, transforming them into outstanding edible creations-truly a "farm to table" concept.

GREAT SPOTS TO CELEBRATE THE CHEF

Situated in the lobby level of the Hotel Pur, where we lodged during our stay, is Table, an exciting establishment with a sleek, voguish decor and a warm yet minimalist design concept, making all who enter feel like high-end foodies. Open from sun up until sundown and well after, they describe their menu as "hearty yet whimsical...with American influences and Asian inspirations," which appear in many of the savory ingredients in the dishes (think kimchi, creme fraiche, muesli, Japanese peppers, rosemary ham and Riopelle cheese, for example).

Other than the fantastic sample appetizers we enjoyed one night, I ate there for breakfast every day and absolutely loved their Oeufs Benedictine Pur (eggs Benedict), two poached eggs served over smoked salmon, creamed spinach and an English muffin with a lemon hollandaise, and Canard Confit & Pommes De Terre Rissolees (duck confit and potato hash), also served with a poached egg. Gaufres la Belge (Belgian waffles) with creme fraiche, Pain Challah Dore (challah French toast).

Other offerings like homemade chicken, apple and honey sausages, smoked bacon, and Thai basil smoothies were also on the menu. The presentation was every bit a part of the meal, often served in petite cast iron skillets and/or on Asian table boards with savory accoutrement such as fresh fruit jams and homemade butter.

One evening we delved into a gastronomic adventure at Restaurant Toast! Situated in the Old Port neighbourhood inside the Hotel Le Priori, Toast! is an extraordinary dining experience. The setting alone gets you in the mood for the delights to come in the inviting interior dining room with dramatic stone walls and doorways, beautiful hardwoods and warm diffused lighting, as well as in the sizeable, partially covered outdoor oasis that feels like sitting in a magical garden cave covered with forest-like attributes, including soaring bamboo and verdant ferns coupled with soft lighting, taupe-hued curtains and fans and heat lamps for comfort depending on the weather. The ambiance is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or with a few friends.