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.
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!”
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 email@example.com.
- le d’Orleans: (418) 828-9411, www.iledorleans.com
- Quebec City Tourism: (877) 783-1608, (418) 641-6290, www.quebecregion.com
- Restaurant Toast!: (418) 692-1334, www.restauranttoast.com
- Table: (418) 647-2458, www.tablequebec.com/index-en.php
- Tourisme Quebec: (514) 873-7977, www.bonjourquebec.com