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Superb knife and fork adventures in Quebec City

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

Because we were such a large group, the chef prepared a special multi-course menu offering a flavorful overview of their culinary flair. We started out with deep-fried mozzarella in an onion crust with a yellow beetroot salad, lemon emulsion, Israeli couscous and basil-now that's what I call a starter! That taste explosion was followed by a butter-poached lobster risotto with a brown poultry jus and cream, Matake mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes and parmesan topped with a fresh lobster claw out of the shell, followed by a grilled filet with oxtail ragout and sweet green peas and lovage (a little-known herb that is like a combination of celery and anise) and kohlrabi (a vegetable similar to broccoli stems).

For dessert-as if we weren't already under the table in a wonderful, gastronomic coma-they served an indescribable, flourless chocolate biscuit with brown butter ice cream and "Carre aux dates," hot orange oatmeal biscuits with dates seared in brown butter, rosemary and homemade ice cream. And every course, as you might imagine, was expertly paired with a variety of wines from Argentina, Chile and Italy.

There's not much more to say other than a "Toast" to the chef indeed!"

LE D'ORLEANS

A culinary adventure in Quebec City would not be complete without a visit to le d'Orleans (Orleans Island). Situated between the Appalachian Mountains and Laurentian Plateau, with stunning views of the majestic St. Lawrence estuary and surrounding natural landscapes, the island is just a short drive from the city. It is described by the locals as The "microcosm of traditional Quebec," and "The birthplace of Francophones [primarily French-speaking people] in America."

For centuries it has been a big draw for every population, beginning with the early Native Americans for its lush soil, wild game and plethora of fish. Its extensive horticultural diversity and long-standing agricultural practices are still alive today and play an essential role in the economy here.

In each of the six parishes-Sainte-Petronille, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Laurent, Sainte-Famille, Saint-Jean, Saint-Francois and Saint-Jean-visitors will find a bevy of roadside stands and mom-and-pop shops offering the freshest local produce, which the denizens here cultivate into excellent regional specialties, including wines and liqueurs, terrines, pies, breads, fruit butters and compotes, confits and ptes, sauces, spice blends-you name it and you can enjoy it here.

There's so much to enjoy here that it would take an entire feature just to touch the tip of the iceberg. However, I must save my enthusiasm for one last toodle around Quebec City, one of the most fascinating cities in North America.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

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