Cross-Canada Cooks: Quebec
Québécois-Style Pea Soup <br />Photography by Jim Norton Credits: Québécois-Style Pea Soup <br />Photography by Jim Norton
Cross-Canada Cooks: Quebec
Area: Land and freshwater area total 1,542,056 square kilometres; it’s Canada’s largest province by area.
Location: Quebec is bordered on the southwest by Ontario, on the west by Hudson Bay, on the north by Hudson Strait, on the northeast by Labrador, and on the southeast by New Brunswick and the United States.
Capital City: Quebec City
Largest City: Montreal
History: One of the four original provinces, Quebec entered Confederation on July 1, 1867.
Main Industries: Trade, health care, manufacturing, services, construction, agriculture, forestry and mining
Quebec’s liquid gold: Maple Syrup
Quebec is responsible for more than 90 per cent of Canada’s total maple syrup production. With 10,000-plus producers across the province, it’s no surprise that Quebec’s culinary culture is steeped in the sweet stuff.
The custom of tapping maple trees, collecting their sap and boiling it down into syrup goes back hundreds of years to aboriginal communities, where the syrup was prized for its energy-giving properties and sweetness. When European colonists arrived, they learned the ropes and a widespread passion for maple syrup flourished.
Other varieties of maple trees make edible sap, but the sugar maple is the one most commonly tapped. In the past, taps hammered into trees dripped sap into wooden buckets, and iron cauldrons of sap were boiled over wood fires. While some cabanes à sucre, or sugar shacks, preserve these traditional methods, today’s producers use high-tech gravity tubing and pumping systems, feeding the sap right back to the shack. The technology may have changed, but the traditions of the sugar shack are the same as always. March and April bring perfect temperatures for sap flow and mark the time for "sugaring off." Maple syrup lovers flock to sugaring areas to take part in the process, enjoy the pristine settings and, most important, to feast.
Traditional sugar shack meals include homestyle dishes, such as pancakes, pea soup, eggs and baked beans. And don’t forget la tire: fresh, hot maple syrup poured on snow and pulled or twirled onto a stick to be enjoyed as sweet taffy. There might be no better way to appreciate the flavour of maple syrup. For a directory of sugar shacks in Quebec, visit bonjourquebec.com.
Page 1 of 7: Discover ice cider and Quebec's food routes on page 2.
Local & tasty: Quebec ice cider
One of Quebec’s most celebrated culinary creations is cidre de glace, or ice cider. This rich, amber-coloured syrupy beverage celebrates frigid winter temperatures and French-Canadian ingenuity, and has garnered a worldwide reputation.
To make ice cider, apples are left to freeze on tree branches late into fall. After the fruit is picked, the frozen nectar is separated from the ice and fermented. The result? A crisp, golden cider that comes in dry, sweet and even sparkling varieties.
Like ice wine, the flavour of ice cider varies depending on apple variety, aging, fermenting conditions and even the style of the cider maker. But one flavour shines through in every bottle: apple.
Ice cider is available in Quebec directly from producers or at liquor stores (SAQs). In other provinces, check with local liquor retailers.
Quebec's delicious food routes
Quebec is bursting at the seams with culinary tourism. What better way to explore the province's cuisine than by cruising along one of the many designated food trails? Whether you’re driving or cycling, these routes will lead you to discover some of the best tastes Quebec has to offer.
• Circuit du Paysan – Almost 200 kilometers long, this circular trail guides you through Quebec back country to experience harmonious links between present and past food culture, with fine foods to taste around every corner. Local businesspeople are passionate about their crafts, and you’ll meet farmers, livestock breeders, wine and cider makers all along the way.
• The Wine Route – By car or by bike, Quebec’s wine route takes you on an adventure. You’ll discover fantastic wines, tasty local produce, excellent restaurants and a celebration of culture.
• The Cider Route – Travelling this route will lead you to meet people who have mastered the art of turning the humble apple into delicious cider. From sparkling to still to iced, there’s a cider along this route for every taste.
• La Route des Fromages – This route is a cheese lover’s paradise. Whether you prefer goat, sheep or cow’s milk cheeses, you’ll find many palate-tempting examples waiting for you along the way. Maps are available by region or for the entire province. Each regional map has a listing of local dairies including address and phone number, to help you plan your tour.
• Maple Gourmet Road – Follow this route to taste the best of Quebec maple syrup, from the fine liquid itself to stunning creations made with it, including ice cream and chocolate. It’s most fun to travel in the spring during sugaring-off season, but the route has much to offer year-round.
Page 2 of 7: Discover what Canada is doing to protect the unique marine life in the St. Lawrence, and Quebec's food festivals on page 3.
Protecting St. Lawrence seafood
Well-stocked fisheries are a proud tradition in Quebec, and the industry still provides the livelihoods of many villages along the Gulf of St. Lawrence today. The blend of freshwater flowing from the St. Lawrence River and ocean water from the Gulf creates a unique environment in which marine life thrives. The area nurtures a vast array of delicious seafood, including crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops to halibut, cod, mackerel and herring.
In 2009 Exploramer, an aquarium on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, began the Smarter Seafood project, an initiative designed to protect the marine biodiversity of the St. Lawrence. It encourages restaurants and consumers to choose from a diverse selection of lesser-known, sustainable seafood in order to preserve the most popular and at-risk species in the St. Lawrence water system. In 2011, the program listed 20 plus species, and restaurants and fish markets across the province have begun to embrace the program.
Check out Exploramer's website for more information about the program and where to find Smarter Seafood in Quebec.
Quebec's food festivals
You’ll find festivals celebrating food culture in Quebec any month of the year. Below are a few highlights and festivals to check out:
Montreal en Lumière – This festival is your chance to eat, drink and be merry in the streets and in some of Montreal’s finest restaurants. Enjoy music, dance and theatre performances, excellent food and wine, and firework displays that light up the winter darkness.
Mondial de la Bière – This exciting tasting event showcases the best beers from around the province and the world.
Festival des Fromages Fins de Victoriaville – A celebration of cheese, including samples, chef competitions and workshops. Other local food products are also on scene to taste and enjoy.
Festival de la Truite Mouchetée – This is not only Quebec’s largest fishing tournament but also a culinary celebration of the speckled trout, a fine freshwater fish.
Festival de la Gibelotte – Come to Île de Sorel to celebrate the hometown of the famous fish-and-vegetable stew gibelotte.
Festival du Bleuet de Dolbeau-Mistassini – All the events at this festival celebrate the humble blueberry, including contests, great food and the baking of a giant blueberry pie.
Festival du Cochon de Sainte-Perpétue – Sample all kinds of pork dishes at this whole-hog festival.
Festival de la Galette de Sarrasin de Louiseville – This festival celebrates buckwheat and all the tasty foods made from it, including pasta, cakes, pancakes and breads – even beer.
Brome Lake Duck Festival – This annual celebration includes culinary demonstrations, a farmer’s market, music and displays by local artists and artisans. It’s a perfect way to discover the region famous for its delicious ducks.
Page 3 of 7: Discover Quebec's terroir cuisine and incredible microbrewed beers on page 4.
Quebec's terroir cuisine
Few Canadian provinces or territories can boast as intense a love affair with food as Quebec. With deep roots in French culinary traditions, Quebecers share the same passion and excitement about food as the people of France. From tiny, classy bistros in the cities to lavish country inns, fabulous Gallic cuisine abounds across the province.
While this love of traditional food is strong – think steak frites, steak tartare, foie gras and so on – bistros and inns across the province are making food that’s uniquely Québécois as well. Regional specialties, as well as local produce and ingredients, are cooked and served with pride.
To celebrate this local bounty, the Association de l’Agrotourisme et du Tourisme Gourmand du Québec is sponsoring an initiative called Terroir Cuisine, or Tables aux Saveurs du Terroir. The program highlights restaurants in the province that feature the ingredients and cuisine of Quebec. From classic dishes to inventive menus, these restaurants are putting Québécois – not just French – food on the map. Check out Terroir Cuisine's website for more information about participating restaurants.
Quebec's beer scene: A microbrewery renaissance
The beer scene in Quebec is undergoing a kind of renaissance. Microbreweries and brew pubs are popping up across the province, making fine examples of classic brews as well as unique, innovative styles and flavour combinations.
Here are some of our favourite breweries that are doing exciting things. Some of their products are available across the country – check with your local alcohol retailer or the breweries’ websites for availability – while others are worth the trip to Quebec to quench your thirst.
• Dieu du Ciel – This multiple award-winning brewer doesn’t shy away from pushing the flavour envelope, especially in its seasonal beers – try Equinoxe du Printemps, a maple Scotch ale featuring the province’s other liquid gold, maple syrup.
• Brasserie Dunham – One of Quebec’s newest microbreweries, Brasserie Dunham came onto the scene in 2010. Located in Dunham, in the Eastern Townships, it brews a mix of traditional English-style beer and hop-heavy ales inspired by the American West Coast. It also offers a few limited-run seasonal beers, including a rich barley wine.
• Brasserie McAuslan – Started in Montreal’s St-Henri district in 1989, McAuslan has become one of Quebec’s most recognized and celebrated microbreweries. Their classics include the award-winning St-Ambroise Pale Ale and St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. They also offer a wide range of year-round and seasonal products totally worth checking out.
• À La Fût – Located in one of the oldest buildings in the town of St-Tite, À la Fût offers a range of artisanal beers made with the highest quality local malt. Choose from nine varieties, including a light Czech-inspired pilsner and a heady Irish-style oatmeal stout.
• Hopfenstark – Classic year-round styles are complemented by a stunning array of unique seasonal brews. At the moment, these beers are available only in Quebec and at the brewpub in the Lanaudière region, outside Montreal, but plans to expand into other provinces are underway.
Page 4 of 7: Discover Quebec's farmer's markets and the best places to eat authentic poutine on page 5.
Quebec's farmer's markets
There’s no better way to explore and taste the culinary bounty of a province than to check out its farmer’s markets. Here are three highlights from across Quebec.
• Montreal Markets -- In 1993 the Corporation de Gestion des Marchés Publics de Montréal was founded to give Montrealers access to the freshest produce and best products. The organization includes four of Quebec’s most well-known markets: Atwater, Jean-Talon, Maisonneuve and Lachine. Located throughout the city, these public markets are open year-round and provide discerning shoppers with some of the best produce, meats, dairy, eggs, flowers, baked goods and wines the province has to offer.
• Lachute Farmers Market -- Part farmer’s market, part flea market, part horse auction, this year-round market offers some of the very best farm produce. Open Tuesdays and Sundays, the market is a one-stop shop for all your local produce needs for the week. Live music, horse auction viewing and a large antique mall are among the other reasons to visit.
• Le Marché du Vieux-Port -- Located in Quebec City in the historic Old Port district, this daily market is built on the site of the old Marché St-André (built in 1841) and is a throwback to the culinary roots and traditions of the area. Open year-round, the market bursts with the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, dairy products and maple syrup.
Poutine, s'il vous plaît
By Doug O'Neill
Poutine, that hearty Quebecois combo of french fries, gravy and cheese curds, rarely elicits a blasé response. People either dismiss the dish as artery-clogging, late-night street grub, or they’ll treat you to a beatific smile and recall the poutine of their youth.
The origins of poutine are unconfirmed, but one thing is certain -- the signature Quebecois staple has evolved since it first appeared in the 1950s.
What was perhaps the first one, served in a paper bag by restaurateur Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Que., circa 1957, consisted of just french fries and cheese. Fernand referred to it as poutine, or a “mess." It was similar to the dish of cheese, fries and sauce that Jean-Paul Roy served in his restaurant and christened “poutine” in 1964. Drummondville, where Roy’s restaurant was located, is now home to the annual Festival de la Poutine.
The classic Quebecois poutine of fries, gravy (often a peppery chicken-based velouté sauce) and cheese curds is still popular. But these days gourmet additions are everywhere, including ground beef and fried onions, barbecue sauce, shredded cabbage, mole sauce and even foie gras. Word has it that some Italian food lovers skip the gravy in favour of marinara sauce.
There are regional specialities, too: residents of Drummondville often add tomato purée, which produces a sweeter sauce than you’d find in a greasy spoon in downtown Montreal. Most recently, Quebec chef Chuck Hughes trumped popular TV personality Bobby Flay in the “Iron Chef America” battle with his winning recipe: lobster poutine. What’s next? On ne sait – jamais.
The best places to taste poutine in Quebec
• Resto La Banquise, Montreal: 28 different kinds of poutine on the menu;
• Smoke’s Poutinerie, Mont-Tremblant and Montreal: Try the chipotle pulled pork version;
• Chez Ashton, throughout Quebec: Poutine with sausage gets the thumbs-up;
• Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal: Poutine with foie gras – enough said;
Page 5 of 7: Discover some of Quebec's best cheeses and a simple French bistro menu on page 6.
5 of Quebec’s finest cheeses
Quebec is home to some of the finest cheesemakers in the country. With almost 500 varieties available, it’s hard to choose favourites. But Max Dubois, proprietor of l’Échoppe des Fromages in St-Lambert, Que., has done just that and selected five not-to-be-missed Quebec cheeses. Ask your local cheesemonger to get these or – better yet – plan a cheese-and-wine tour of Quebec for the ultimate experience.
La Tomme du Maréchal from Chèvrerie du Buckland
Raw goat milk semi-soft cheese from Buckland outside of Quebec City.
Tasting notes: Compact consistency with caramelized, dry hay, ferrous, mineral and goat flavours.
Caprice des Vents from Fromagerie La Germaine
Raw cow’s milk soft bloomy rind cheese from Ste-Édwidge in the Eastern Townships.
Tasting notes: Soft, sweet and sour, with notes of gentian, wild mushrooms and musk.
Le Gaulois from La Ferme Ducrêt
Raw cow’s milk soft bloomy-rind cheese from St-Basile-de-Portneuf.
Tasting notes: Earthy flavours, with notes of tanned leather and chlorophyll.
Louis d’Or from Fromagerie du Presbytère
Raw cow’s milk pressed cheese from Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick.
Tasting notes: Intense, with a fine grain, and roasted, maple sugar and walnut flavours.
Le Fleuron from Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
Pasteurized cow’s milk blue-veined cheese from Ste-Sophie.
Tasting notes: Soft texture with flowery, salty and dry mustard notes.
Visit Max's shop for more of his favourites with tasting notes, and for a look into his fantastic cheese shop.
Quebec bistro menu with Canadian Living recipes
Enjoy a classic French bistro dinner at home. This menu is perfect for a get-together of friends, especially when you take advantage of the handy make-aheads in two of the recipes. Simple steamed and buttered green beans are an easy side to serve with this homemade version of steak frites.
Endive Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese
Herb-roasted goat cheese spread over croutes is tastier by far than just plain croutons. You can prepare the cheese, wash the greens and bake the croutes ahead so assembly takes just minutes.
Bistro Steak on Garlic Croûtes
Simple skillet steaks served in a red wine, butter and shallot jus.
The Ultimate French Fry
No bistro steak would be complete without the frites!
Surprisingly easy to make, this classic will definitely impress. You can make just the profiteroles ahead, or make and fill them with ice cream, ready to pull from the freezer at a moment's notice.
Page 6 of 7: Discover Quebec's incredible food TV scene on page 8.
French food TV in Quebec
By Andrea Doucet Donida
Food television programming has become a worldwide phenomenon. Cooking and food-focused shows are now aired regularly, even in prime-time – an unimaginable idea just a few years ago.
But did you know that Quebec is a food television hotspot? The 2011–2012 French TV season boasts more than 35 different shows! And nothing reflects this boom more than the birth in 2010 of the first Quebecois food network, Zeste.
Télé-Quebec was the first to take risks on food shows in la belle province. One of the first shows, “Ciel mon Pinard,” featuring Daniel Pinard (from 1998 to 2000), broke new ground by highlighting the importance of ingredient quality and going behind the scenes to meet the people who were growing and producing local foods. This new perspective encouraged Quebecers to discover and celebrate the bounty of their province.
Josée di Stasio, another of Quebec’s home-grown food celebrities, got her debut co-hosting with Pinard. She went on to star in her own show, “À la di Stasio” and become one of Quebec’s best-loved television chefs. She showed viewers how to cook simply, without a brigade of sous chefs, while respecting and recognizing the importance of fresh ingredients.
At the launch of her 10th season, I asked Josée what she thought about Quebecois food TV. “Each [show] has its own approach,” she said. “What I love about cooking is that it becomes an excuse to meet others, to travel, to explore.... But what I appreciate most is when there is authenticity; this I find most interesting.”
Here’s just a taste of the programming you’ll find on Quebec food TV today:
• Competition shows -- This is probably the fastest growing category. The most popular ones are “Les Chefs!”, which follows aspiring professional chefs, and “Un Souper Presque Parfait,” a casual, funny reality show that focuses on everyday people cooking in their homes for strangers (it’s also a hit on Twitter).
• Recipe shows -- Many of these showcase well-known Quebec chefs, including Louis-François Marcotte, Vézina and Patrice Demers. Some hosts – such as Ricardo, Chuck Hughes and Stefano Faita – have made the jump to English TV, with shows on CBC-TV and the Food Network.
• Travel shows -- More and more of these are opening our palates to new tastes from around the globe. Favourites include “Mixeur” on TV5 Quebec and “Martin sur la route,” which features Martin Picard, Montreal’s biggest celebrity chef. New this year is “Mon Caravane au Canada” hosted by chef Danny St-Pierre, which explores Canada’s regional foods. “Chasseurs d’épices” features its hosts traveling the world in search of the best spices.
• Elemental shows -- Exploring the elements of food is a new field emanating from research into the science of food. . The show “Papilles” stars sommelier and author François Chartier and his partner, chef Stéphane Modat. Together, the duo explore the aromatic properties of food.
• Variety shows -- Morning shows, such as “La Cantine” and “Des Kiwis et des Hommes,” and the prime-time show “Kampai,” explore both healthy eating and sensual enjoyment of food.
The reason food shows have become so popular is not yet clear but in the words of Josée di Stasio, “there is something in the act of cooking that is so profoundly satisfying, it would be crazy to ignore it.” For more delicious inspiration, check your local listings for these stations, which carry a wide array of food shows: TéléQuebec, Zeste, Radio-Canada, V TV, TVA, Evasion, ART TV, TV5 Québec Canada, and Canal Vie.
Andrea Doucet Donida is a writer and blogger based in Montreal. She serves as a web marketing consultant to gastronomy leaders and writes and blogs in French for LE must alimentaire magazine, a specialized food magazine in Quebec.
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