Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tasty Québec Eats

In July, I spent five days in lovely Québec City with my family. The culinary pickings in Québec are lush, especially in the neighbourhoods of Vieux-Québec and the Lower Town, where we spent the majority of our time. We stayed close to Rue Saint Louis, which is lined with delightful little restaurants crammed into centuries-old townhouses. I've managed to scrape together a few recommendations, should you find yourself in this part of la belle province in the near future.

L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean, 1080 Rue Saint-Jean: Located on the bustling Rue Saint-Jean, L'Entrecôte was the only restaurant we could find which was still serving food at 10 PM on a Sunday night, and the only one with available tables. Once we had been seated at our table (complete with a white linen tablecloth) in the gorgeous (and oh-so-Parisian!) dining room, I had a sense that they were pushing closing time back for our benefit. I started with a beer, a pint of Belle Guelle Blanc on the recommendation of one of my cousins, and I could not have been more satisfied. I'm no beer connoisseur (beer drinker, yes,) but it was a light, almost fruity beer that was extremely drinkable. I then went with the croque-monsieur for dinner, and I have no regrets with respect to this choice. It was incredible. Every element of the dish was in perfect tune, and an exquisitely flavoured and perfectly satisfying sandwich was the result. Very tasty matchstick fries and a side salad rounded out the plate. A tad on the pricey side, but most of the food in Québec tends towards expensive anyway (by the measure of a Winnipeg girl, mind you,) so be prepared. Our friendly, attentive server was kindly indulgent of our mediocre French, and at the end of the evening, our entire party was satisfied. It was the perfect meal to introduce us to the charms of Québec.

Café Bistro L'Omelette, 66 Rue Saint-Louis: We ended up having both breakfast and dinner at this restaurant, and my recommendation goes to the breakfast. Dinner was fine, but nothing to write home about. I had croque-monsieur and poutine, and I've definitely had better of both elsewhere. Breakfast, on the other hand, was fantastic. I had the Québec breakfast platter, which consisted of eggs, bacon, toast, breakfast potatoes, fèves au lard (baked beans,) and tourtière, a classic of French-Canadiana. L'Omelette's tourtière is a thing of beauty - tender pieces of slow-cooked stewing beef in a rich, dark gravy, baked in a tender, flavourful pastry crust. My portion was reasonable, but I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I could happily have eaten the entire pie. L'Omelette definitely wins on portion size, family-friendliness, tourist-friendliness, location, and budget eats. If you're taking the kids to Québec, you will want to visit this restaurant more than once. Staff are extremely tolerant of English speakers, especially if you make even the clumsiest effort of attempting some French.

Bistrot Pape Georges, 88 Rue du Cul-de-Sac:

A cozy bistro in the heart of Quartier Petit-Champlain, this gem specializes in wine, cheese, and local beer. We stopped here for lunch on their patio, and I'm very glad we did. I had two glasses of fruity, refreshing sangria, and a baguette with goat cheese (see above - the menu said goat cheese but I wondered if it was perhaps goat brie, because it had the flavour of goat cheese but the creamy texture and appearance of brie,) apples, carmelised pearl onions, and the fattest, tastiest green olive I think I've ever eaten. It was served with taco chips and a light dip similar to a good tzatziki sauce. The staff was fun and engaging, and we ended up chatting with several other tables of hungry travellers. The location and atmosphere are unbeatable. If you like wine, beer, or cheese, and you don't hate freedom and rainbows and puppies, you must stop here.

That was my all too brief trip to Québec. I cannot recommend it enough, and I badly want to go back. There are so many restaurants, bistros, cafés, pubs, bars, and pâtisseries left to explore! So much eating and drinking to do, and so little time.

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