On our recent trip, we spent a few days in Montreal with Toby’s parents. It was great to see them and we were greeted on our arrival with homemade shrimp and pork wontons – love them! My mother-in-law was kind enough to make them again later in the week and walk me through making them, so watch for a future blog post on those!
Toby and I had planned to use this trip up north as an opportunity to take our first overnight trip away from Oliver since he was born early last year so we picked Quebec, which is about a 3 hour drive from Montreal. Quebec is often referred to as the most European city in North America and after this trip, I can clearly see why. The old part of the city is filled with cobblestone streets, old world architecture, quaint storefront signage and, of course, French-speakers as French is commonly spoken throughout Quebec.
When deciding what to do on our trip, we planned our stay in Quebec around meals and filled the rest of the time in walking around and exploring the city, with a little shopping added in too. I’ve laid out below the highlights of our get away, most of which revolve around food (pretty obvious why I write a food blog, huh?)
Picnicking on the edge of the St. Lawrence
After checking in to our hotel, Toby and I made a bee line for the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, a farmer’s market located by the St. Lawrence River. We decided to explore the market, pick up a few things from the various vendors to put together a picnic lunch which we could eat outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. And, man, did we luck out on our selection! We found a selection of cured meats, including coppa, lonzo, salami and proscuitto, two creamy cheeses, a freshly baked soft baguette and perfectly sweet and beautifully red strawberries. We splayed everything out on a picnic table and dug right in.
Sunset ferry ride
After lunch, we wanted to burn off some of those calories so we walked around the old city, popping in to stores to do some window shopping, but mostly just walking up and down the old streets. The edge of the city along the riverbank is quite steep so we had plenty of hills to navigate. We took the funicular down to the water’s edge and boarded a ferry in the late afternoon. The ferry took us across the St. Lawrence River, offering spectacular views of the famous Chateau Frontenac and the fortress walls around city. We ended up timing our return trip just in time for a beautiful sunset ride back across the river.
As night time set in, we made a quick visit back to our hotel for a little primping before heading out to dinner. Since we had stuffed ourselves silly earlier in the day at the market, we didn’t quite have an appetite for a full chef’s tasting menu, so we opted for the Flavors Menu, which offered 3 courses, plus two amuse bouches and a couple additional sweet treats to end the meal. It was a really great meal from start to finish and every plate was beautifully presented. One of the amuse bouches mimicked the look of an egg yolk, but was made from bell peppers and chorizo. I love how molecular gastronomy works and would be interested to experiment with that at one point.
My one big surprise came when I selected the local turnip dish over the mushroom dish for the first course. I’m not so much a fan of mushrooms, so this decision seemed like the lesser of two evils, because really, how good could a dish of turnips be, right? Oh man, even as I’m writing this post, I wish I had that beautiful plate of turnips in front of me. The turnips were prepared six ways and the whole ensemble was delectable. This dish has me inspired to try to use turnips more often this winter!
After a walk along the walls surrounding the old city in the morning, we went back to out hotel for some more primping and to check out of our hotel. Since we had a couple hours before our lunch reservation at Le Continential, we decided to check out the bar at the Chateau Frontenac. The hotel is stunningly beautiful with gorgeous bars. We made fast friends with the bartender, Sebastian, and had some really cool craft cocktails. I’m kind of a sucker for any cocktail made with jam, so I was immediately drawn to the vodka cocktail with a cranberry and pink peppercorn jam and lime juice – which was amazing. I love watching bartenders make specialty drinks, especially when they add creative touches to make the drink spectacular. As he was filling the glass with crushed ice, he added some to a lemon squeezer and crushed it again. He set that aside while he made the drink and then opened up the lemon squeezer to reveal a perfectly formed ice bowl, to which he added blueberries and topped the drink as a garnish. It was an awesome new trick to add to our cocktail skills!
After we finished our first drinks, we asked Sebastian to create another drink for us to share and he made a cocktail using a house made apple shrub. Shrubs are vinegar-based fruit syrups and previously I’ve come across shrub recipes in preserving books, but have not yet made any, so this inspired me to try out some of those recipes. Sebastian made the cocktail with the apple shrub, ginger ale and El Dorado rum. We both loved the drink.
Classic French Table Service
We finally extracted ourselves from the bar at Chateau Frontenac for our lunch reservation across the street at Le Continental. Le Continental was featured on the Quebec episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain as a restaurant that focuses on classic French cuisine and is known for their table side service. It was such a treat to enjoy table side service, which is pretty uncommon these days! We shared the Caesar salad for two (although when you see how much olive oil goes in to the dressing, it makes you rethink watching your food being made), but it was so delicious! Toby ordered the shrimp flambe so we could watch that being made, while I have always wanted to try dover sole meunière, so I decided that would be a perfect choice. The dover sole was prepared in the kitchen, but was deboned and sauced table side, and the fish had the perfect texture and a light taste. Unfortunately, we were too stuffed to order a flambe dessert, but all of the food was delicious and it was great to have the classic French cuisine experience!