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Quebec City Report

tamerlanenj | Mar 16, 2009 02:17 PM

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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