Hello World! Or rather, if I were to be appropriately modest – Hello Papa, Mom, and the smattering of other lovely people that may end up reading this post 😉
I have been in hiding – or rather – I’ve been keeping busy hibernating and gestating, and thus have not been actively blogging over the past few months. Our baby girl is due TODAY (January 13th – when I wrote this post) and I am trying my best to keep busy and distracted from thinking about this very momentous and life-changing event every second of every passing day. As such, I felt it to be a fitting and appropriate time to return to my blog (not to mention probably one of the only periods in my life where I do not have work tasks or diaper changing/burping/feeding to tend to). That, and I’ve been perpetually haunted since our return from Quebec City in November 2014, by an entry on my iPhone’s “personal to do list” – an extensive bullet point involving detailed notes of our QC culinary impressions. You see, this bullet point was nestled among other to-do’s, such as “buy Christmas gift for ___”, “Order baby shower gift for ___”, “Apply for EI maternity/parental leave”, “Send files to the office”, “Follow-up on Ryan’s Life Insurance”, etcetera … which were only slightly more pressing than writing about food. That being said, as I have managed to tick off each to-do one by one since the start of my maternity leave (December 26, 2014) … here we are, 2.5 months later – ready to write!
My husband, Ryan, and I decided to go for a “babymoon” getaway to Quebec City when I was around 29/30 weeks pregnant. We felt it wasn’t too far to venture should anything happen, AND we also found a great deal (which, if you know us at all, is kind of our MO!) So after a painless drive (around 5 hours) and a few pit stops, we made it. I have to say Quebec City is beautiful; like a larger version of Old Montreal. Certainly different from anything (architecture-wise) that you might happen across in five hours by car on the West Coast. We checked in to the Delta Québec on Boulevard René Lévesque E, which is much nicer inside than outside. Our room was lovely with a view and there was also an outdoor pool (which, I’ll admit, I couldn’t quite grow the balls to use given the weather had dipped into the negative temperatures).
We spent three nights in Quebec City, and I can honestly say our time was evenly split between eating and sleeping … with walking coming in as a close second! Seriously. We slept a lot, and even took a siesta or two in the afternoons. When you are pregnant (and even it you aren’t) and you eat lots of heavy, delicious food and walk for a few hours in brisk weather, nothing quite beats a good nap. Also, hotel beds/pillows/black-out blinds are god’s gift to the world. Additionally, in preparation of our pending entry into parenthood, the message we kept hearing (in so many words) was to “enjoy your time together” and “enjoy your sleep.” Since Ryan and I enjoy sleeping, eating, and walking … This was the perfect trip. And it didn’t break the bank! So, onto the brief reviews of our various culinary endeavours.
Hobbit Bistro: Our first night we stumbled down the hill from our hotel onto Rue Saint-Jean (a cute and bustling street that is parallel Boulevard René Lévesque E). The ambience was nice – modern, and yet warm. The service was prompt and courteous. I ordered the red deer (venison) which came with roasted vegetables, and Ryan ordered the steak shoulder with frites and salad. Both of our meals were delicious. I would say the deer was even better than the steak (only because there were a few stringy steak bites, likely because it was very rare, which we both like – albeit a minute or two longer would have probably been just right). The frites and side salad were wonderful and fresh. The deer stew was superb; it was braised to perfection and the sauce/gravy had an incredible depth and was seasoned just right. The same can be said for the roasted side veggies. We would certainly go back, although given the plethora of places to eat in Quebec City, it wouldn’t be at the top of our list! Sorry, no photos (probably because we dove right into our meticulously presented dishes and made a mess of them before we had the chance to snap a shot … Just a guess, not that it happens often, of course …
Le Chic Shack: Our first full day in Quebec City, we wandered along the waterfront and weaved in and out of the walls surrounding the Old city. Having worked up an appetite, we decided to stop in to Le Chic Shack (which is on Rue du Fort, across from the famous and impressively regal Fairmont Frontenac). Ryan had read about the burgers here and I for one can’t pass up a good, juicy burger (and let’s not forget my obsession with frites). This place is very casual; you order your food/drink and then they bring it to your table as per the number you’ve been assigned. The prices were also reasonable, and you get a view of the hustle/bustle around the Frontenac. I ordered Le Robuste Bison burger (made with bison, roquefort cheese, madeira mushrooms, arugula, gentleman’s steak sauce, horseradish aioli. *NB: I subbed out the roquefort for a milder white cheese because I didn’t want it to overpower the delicate bison flavour). In my opinion, bison is a risky choice as it can be really dry if not prepared correctly (probably because it’s lean) – but I figured I’d take the risk, live on the edge, etc. Also, since Ryan was ordering a beef burger I know I could count on at least ONE bite of juicy meat (on that note, I could never marry someone who doesn’t enjoy sharing food as much as I do). He decided on Le Chic burger (comprised of beef, local cheddar, house pickles, bibb lettuce, tomato, chic sauce) and we shared a hefty portion of frites (do you like how I am trying to be French? I’ve never in my life called fries “frites” but figure, when blogging about Quebec City, it is kind of appropriate / necessary … Or maybe I’m just being a fool). Our burgers were AMAZING. AH-MAZING. SO BLOODY DELICIOUS (maybe not the best term to use when describing a tantalizing red-meat entree, but you get my point). I have never had such tender bison and Ryan’s beef was out of this world juicy too. Aside from the obvious star of the show (i.e. the meat), I have to say the sauces and buns were absolutely spot-on. I hate when you get those dry, tasteless, doughy, white buns and the ratio of gross-bun to semi-decent-burger is largely in favour of the bread. The ratio has to be even OR better yet, meat > bread. The buns from Le Chic Shack tasted home-made; a little bit sweet, toasted to perfection … and take a look at the ratio (below) – you can’t get any better than that! I don’t know what they put into the bibb, chic or gentleman’s steak sauce but whomever their sauce-mixer-extraordinaire is, certainly knows what he/she is doing. Neither burger was too saucy nor was it dry. You could taste the meat and the flavours complimented each other. The frites were also really good (though I like mine a little thicker) – Ryan loved them. We would 100% go back!
Le Lapin Sauté: We stumbled upon this place, which Ryan had heard of through the course of his “research” (best kind of research ever, in my opinion), as we meandered our way through the quaint corridors and cobblestone streets one evening. It is located in the Quartier Petit-Champlain, which is about the most charming little nook in the city. It is a pedestrian street and is lined with little shops and restaurants, no one like the other. Each storefront and restaurant is as picturesque as the next, and while you’d almost think you were on a movie set, it isn’t cheesy or staged looking (just ridiculously cute). There is live music on the street and everyone is strolling at a leisurely pace. Inside the Lapin Sauté you will find yourself at home, and I immediately got the sense that we were in a family-run, cozy, cottage-turned-restaurant (even though neither of these characteristics are likely to be accurate). Of course, given the name of the establishment you can imagine their main feature is rabbit. While I have tried everything from crocodile to frog legs to antelope to tripe, I had not ever eaten rabbit. We ordered the rabbit rillettes as an appetizer and then chose entrees of rabbit confit and duck sausage. Mine came with sauteed white beans (which I believe were cooked almost confit in rabbit fat – nom nom nom) and I can’t recall what Ryan’s came with, but the sides (or rather in this case, the foundation – whatever was situated under the meat) were really tasty. The portions were also massive, which is not something we expected. The appetizer would have been enough to eat for lunch (and I don’t eat small, dainty portions) and the mains were chock-full of meat. Ryan couldn’t finish his, nor could I. I would say that having now tried rabbit, it could be compared to a very moist piece of turkey (a blend of white and dark meat). Especially the way it was cooked here, it was incredibly moist and juicy – almost “rich” for a seemingly white-ish meat. I’d probably have rabbit again, although it wouldn’t be my top pick of non-red meat (i.e. I’d prefer duck) when eating out. The only down side of the whole experience was the speed of service; we were out of there too quickly in my opinion. I believe it was 50 minutes from start to finish (sitting down to getting the cheque). I always feel like if you are going to pay for a service and make it an experience (e.g. our “event” for the night) it’s nice to slow down the pace a bit. But in any case, I suppose that’s better than waiting for 1 hour for an appetizer and being so hungry you could gnaw off your arm …. Unfortunately, no photos. Sorry, I’ve failed you!
Le Billig Creperie-Bistro: On our last day, we just knew we had to find this creperie as the reviews were all but positive and, well, crepes are not something we make at home (the batter is so finicky and getting the right sauce is also an art in and of itself). Anyways, this quant and unassuming place is located on Rue Saint-Jean (again, one street over from our hotel – score!) and has an extensive crepe menu (sweet and savory). We went on a weekday morning (Monday) and there were only 2 servers in the place and a few tables; it felt cozy but was nice and bright with lots of windows and natural light. Now, I have to say, while I haven’t been to France, I have had crepes at top notch restaurants in Vancouver as well as Mont Tremblant. These pale in comparison so the deliciousness of Le Billig’s creation …. Honestly, the best crepe dough, filling, and side salad I could have ever asked for! Ryan chose the chorizo, egg and shallot combo (pictured on the left, below) and I chose the prawn, scallop, and mushroom in wine sauce (on the right). The portion was generous, and the amount of seafood in my crepe totally surprised me. There were at least 8-9 small scallops and a whole whack of prawns. The seafood was impeccably cooked – tender yet crunchy, and the sauce was to-die-for. Oh, and don’t get me started with the batter. It was honestly the perfect balance of crispy and soft; sweet, savory and spiced … I can’t even compare it to another crepe because it was almost as if a crepe and a dosa (South Indian crepe-like batter) merged and created the world’s best dough. I would go back just for the batter (and would also go back just for the filling, so … if that doesn’t tell you enough, I’m not sure what else to say!) Ryan really liked his as well and the egg was superb as was the chorizo. Our side salads had a beautiful home-made vinaigrette and fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes (the portion was plentiful too, which was nice to offset the richness of the crepe). Without a doubt, I would drive 5 hours to Quebec City just for this crepe. A MUST TRY!
Restaurant Légende: Ryan made reservations at this top notch restaurant for an early 30th birthday treat to me. It is located on Rue Saint-Paul and walkable from most parts of the “core” (about 15 minutes from our hotel). WOW, what an incredible experience this was. Legende is beautifully modern inside yet warm and inviting. The lighting and decor is simplistic, earthy, yet still somehow trendy. It’s got a bit of a lounge feel but also a rustic ambience. The service was incredible and the food; amazing. What I loved most is the option to get entrees in “appetizer” portions, which means you get a protein, side veggies and sauce as you would with an entree, just a smaller (half-sized) portion. This is ideal because you get to try a lot more food and still get the “wow” effect of an entree presentation rather than the simplicity of an appetizer.We ended up ordering 5 half plates, which included duck (bottom right), venison, lamb fries (bottom left), snow crab (top left), and pork belly (top right). *NB: Lamb fries (also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters) are not at all what they sound like – they are lamb testicles. And yes, we still tried them after being forewarned by the server after we placed our order. While I was craving lamb and fries … not necessarily testicles … we braved the unknown culinary terrain and chowed down on those lamb gonads like any good patron and adventurous foodie would. And they weren’t bad! That said, I wouldn’t order them again … something about knowing that I was eating lamb balls just didn’t do it for me. The dish itself was really good, nonetheless. On another note, the bread and butter were incredible – so simple, yet so good – and my rhubarb soda was delicious! I don’t even really like rhubarb but it was so authentic and a delightful change from water or pop. If you google this restaurant, you will see it is associated with La Tanière, and has also been nominated as one of Canada’s best new restaurants of 2014. See here: http://enroute.aircanada.com/canadas-best-new-restaurants-2014/legende/ Légende is basically the downtown offspring of La Tanière, which offers a 20-course, five-hour tasting menu, whereas Légende goes à la carte, with nearly every dish available in two sizes. Ryan and I loved all of the dishes but his favorite was the snow crab and my favorite was probably the pork belly. The proteins were impeccably prepared and the vegetables and sauces, as well as the presentation, were truly 5-star. Some photos below though lighting is not great. We highly recommend this restaurant for a true taste of Quebec; the place prides itself in scouring the local boreal forrest for ingredients and I would imagine you can’t get a meal more authentically Quebecois than you can here.
SUMMARY: Quebec city is a definite must for anyone who loves rich, sumptuous fare that is creatively thought out and brings together elements of flora and fauna from the local region. It’s also a beautiful, quaint city to wander through and offers lots of unique shopping and walking trails.