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Mar 16, 2009 02:17 PM

Quebec City Report

My wife and I just returned from an impromptu weekend in Quebec City and we wanted to post some of our experiences, since it is very difficult to get reports from locals in a city that is almost exclusively French-speaking.

First, thank you to everyone who recommended Toast. We pegged it for our one upscale meal, and in almost every way it was a success. We opted for four courses for $75 per person, which turned out to be a bit too much food, but we could not decide between cheese and desert. For starters, we had the pork belly and the poached lobster and mushroom risotto. Both of these offerings were superb. The pork belly provided three distinct textures: crispy skin, a layer of fat, and the actual pork meat: getting all three textures on the fork, along with the homemade mustard, made for a bite of pure perfection. The lobster perhaps was not as perfectly cooked as some I've had (I live in Maine!), but the risotto was absurdly flavorful.

Entrees were a cassoulet and rabbit stuffed with blood sausage. The cassoulet had three kinds of pork, with rib meat, two small pieces of loin, and little pork and fois gras sausage. The sausages and rib meat were divine, though the loin was less exciting. The rabbit also quite good, though the texture of the blood sausage was not what we were expecting (it was our first time eating it). We had a small accompaniment of seared fois gras that was perfectly executed.

Lobster, pork, pork, more pork, rabbit, and fois gras, and by this point we were close to our richness limit.

The cheese course followed. The standout was an oven baked chevre drizzled with truffle oil on olive crostinis. Wow. I wish we were still hungry enough to do it justice.

Dessert followed. A maple souffle was a nicely executed expression of the local flavors of syrup season. Creme brulee was good but not memorable.

All in all, a fantastic meal for under $200 Canadian. (we only had glasses of wine).

Breakfast was a simple affair at Le Pain Beni: bread pudding, french toast, eggs, bacon, excellent maple syrup and jams. Nothing too memorable but good.

We had two different crepe lunches, the first day at Le Casse-Crepe Breton on rue St. Jean, and the next day at Le Petit Chateau in the Frontenac. Of these two, I preferred Le Casse-Crepe Breton. We had an apple and swiss crepe that was very good, and a butter and sugar crepe that I happily drizzled with creme fraiche. It was hard not to retreat to the hotel room for a food-coma nap after that, but we pressed on to hike down to the old town and the St. Lawrence to take in the architecture (no fenicular for us!). The crepes at Le Petit Chateau were a bit overpriced, but still decent: much darker than Le Casse-Crepe Breton, and since I am not an expert, i cannot really say which were more authentic.

One of the standouts for us was a trip to a little chocolate shop outside the walls of on Rue St. Jean called Erico Chocolate Frais. My wife was blown away by some of the chocolates, especially a pistacchio and spicy szechuan truffle that actually tasted like szechuan peppercorns!

Our horse-cab driver recommended the Poutine at Ashton. That turned out to be the lowlight of the trip: very mediocre poutine, not even up to New Jersey diner standards. That was a disappointment, as it was the only poutine we had on the trip. I did not find a place in QC serving fresh montreal style bagels, something which I guess will have to wait until our trip to Montreal!

Finally, we picked up some cheese to bring home from a wonderful specialty food store on Rue St. Jean in the new city. I can't quite remember the name, but the standout was a goat cheese wrapped in a black wax called "chevre negre."

All in all, we had a wonderful time in QC. Good reporting is essential, because there are certainly plenty of touristy traps that don't have to worry about repeat business (we were warned by CH to avoid Le Anciens Canadien, which a local recommended to us). It is such a beautiful little city: I won't demean it with the old "it's like Paris you can drive to" cliche, as it is really its own wonderfully unique place with a charm that is as much "new world" Quebecois as "old world" French.

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  1. glad you had a great visit. - QC is a wonderful place Weve enjoyed our visits to Le Anciens Canadiens - for real French Canadian dishes in a pleasant atmosphere and at a reasonable price.. Im sure it would have been markedly better than that poutine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Thanks for the contrasting viewpoint on Anciens Canadiens. It certainly is a fascinating looking building!

      1. re: jen kalb

        I've also enjoyed lunch at Les Anciens Canadiens. Pea soup, a generous portion of tourtiere, sugar pie desert, plus a glass of beer for $15.

        Chez Ashton is vile fast food. That I have friends who grew up in Quebec (City) who've told me it's the best poutine leads me to conclude that somehow they haven't got any that's half-decent.

        Mind you, the best poutine I've found anywhere in the province -and I've travelled quite a bit, with poutine as my go-to comfort food- doesn't compare with the poutine from most any chip stand in Ottawa (which also have the best fries and pogos in the world. The best chip stand in Ottawa, if anyone's looking, is either S & G on Carling, near/at? Broadview, or M & G's at Bank & Sunnyside).
        That's right, Ontario has better poutine than Quebec.

        ...actually, I have a friend in Quebec who's said that Ashton is their best _and_ that it's garbage, and that the poutine is better in Ottawa, haha.

        1. re: Shattered

          I guess QC just isn't a poutine town! good crepes though ;)

          Anyway, being in Maine, I can get Poutine at Duckfat in portland made with duck gravy. Que sublimo!

      2. We also love, love Quebec city! Just came back from a ski and food trip! We where staying at Auberge Place d'Armes following a recommendation of National Georgraphic Traveler! Awesome and yes the breakfast was good and surprising included in the room rate.
        First dinner recommonded by our concierge an amazing italian restaurant El Michelangelo this very charming place is a MUST in the region of Quebec.
        The service was awesome, the food surpassed our very high expectations. We went to the Michelangelo for Valentine's day and we were not disapointed at all with every aspect of our meal. The waiters were professional and always available for us. Also, their suggestions for wine and sides were very good. We have the best veal I ever had and their pasta where to die for. This is one of those places that you will remember for a long time. They will make your evening taste a lot like Italia!
        Lunch on the ski slopes -nothing to write...
        Second night dinner: a new steak and ribs restaurant Côte à Côte in the lower town near the ferry. The beef so tender and sides fabulous and don't miss the ribs
        Lunch at Brynd another new restaurant of smoked meat. If you like pastrami you will be blow up by the home cured smoked meat and those fries with their flavorful mayonnaise. Really better than poutine
        Third night dinner: our hotel restaurant Le Pain Béni, the smoked duck tartlet with fig was delicious as well as the foie gras. Main course caramelized sweetbreads with honey and soya, sautéed scallop, and mashed potatoes with crab, wow! and for my wife sautéed black bass with almonds and a kind of nutmeg, chanterelles and wild rice au foie gras at that point they offered us a sherbet and we took a brake... and only a dessert for 2 but what a dessert a variation on apple caramelized apple pie with cinnamon, apple ice cream and its apple fritter. The wine pairing advice from the waiter was great.
        During the evening we had a chat with our neighbours about food and they discourage us to eat next evening Aux Anciens Canadiens supposed to be a tourist trap. So we went to the Continental a minute away from the hotel. Great french old style restaurant. Very nice setting, so professional service and real classic french food.
        We love Quebec!

        2 Replies
        1. re: whitestoneny

          We also stayed at Place D'Armes. Wonderful staff, very nice breakfast, and they let us bring our little red spaniel Gatsby. When we arrived they had a little dog bed, dog toys, and food and water dishes in the room. So wonderful!

          1. re: tamerlanenj

            Next time, try the restaurant their lunch menu is the best price/quality their clients are mostly locals and you have to reserve. Dinner, my review I think is accurate, real good!
            Try Michelangelo it is the owner of the Inn that recommend it and really it was fantastic!

        2. Yes indeed, for montreal style bagels are easier found in Montreal! :) I actullay never tasted "real" bagel untill I moved to Montreal a couple of years ago. Those were intruduced by the Jewish community , which is bigger in Montreal than in Quebec City... same goes for the Smoked meat.

          As for poutine, I would have to say that Ashton's also my favorite... but I guess it's because it's the one that I'm used too, and reminds me more of my childhood!!! I like their sauce, their fries, the cheese... but I can understand that you don't fall in love with it, basically it's fat on top of fat on top of more fat !!! (and salt!)

          Erico chocolat is one of the best chocolaterie of Quebec city - another one that I really like (loooved the caramel fleur de sel chocolates!!!) is Champagne, in St-Roch
          Another small little French place that is always good: Café Bistro du Cap. Nothing really fancy, but constant good cuisine. (ok, I worked there, I'm biaised a bit! but I ate there almost everyday, and it was always really good!) It is on Sault-au-Matelot street, in the lower part of the city close to the River....
          I also see Les Anciens canadiens as a tourist trap... but I guess that's because as a local I wouldn't go there!!! But probably one of the few place to taste traditional food...

          1. Quebec is my hometown and I must say that I agree - Ashton's poutine isn't the best. When I lived in Quebec, my fave poutines were from La Friterie (there's some in malls and one on Cartier) and from Le Buffet du Nord in Duberger. I now live in Gatineau and have found what I think is the best poutine - at Lou Lou Patate.

            Oh and as for bagels "montreal style" there's a bagel shop, where they bake their own fresh, on Maguire in Sillery.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sarah2747

              There is also some good smoked meat on Maguire's. Brynne's smoked meat is good old fashioned. There is another Joes Smoked Meat from Baie St-Paul now has a resto in Quebec. They offer Lesters smoked meat and it's refreshingly yummy. Bagels in Quebec City are all imports from Montreal. Mainly Issacs Bagels. We used to walk to Issacs and buy a dozen for $1.00 from the counter and they were still warm. They put them in paper bags and the walk back home we would eat 1/2. So at least 2 dozen were required....

              1. re: execk2

                Not all the bagels sold in Quebec comes from montreal.... they are two bagels factory one also on Maguire's street, near Brynd's, Bagel traditionnel and another one one Cremazie street near Cartier called la Fabrique du Bagel. Brynd's has open a new location near the train station and there is also la Fabrique du Smoke meat on Raoul Jobin street in St-Roch.