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Canadian East Eats: Quebec City

 

From the get-go Quebec City charmed me with its historic beauty, while the kids were captivated by the constant entertainment in this tourist hub. Founded over 400 years ago by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, the walled fortress and historic Old City is quite unique for North America.

On our way into town we stopped at the 100th anniversary of Expo Quebec – Quebec’s annual agricultural festival. The kids had a blast with the carnival rides and games. We also learned a bit about how the agricultural community works to maintain their ecological surroundings and preserve the precious soil and land.
We stayed at the stunning Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Nestled atop the walled city of Old Quebec, the hotel itself is one of the main tourist attractions. The kids were so excited to be staying in the ‘castle on the hill’. There we met up with Executive Chef Jean Soulard who showed us his rooftop herb garden, chicken coop and bee hives. Fairmont hotels have been championing culinary tourism for years. In Quebec, Chef Soulard reflects both the culture and produce of the province on his guests’ plates. He can also call upon his rooftop garden for herbs, edible flowers, honey, or eggs to spruce up any dish.
I kept the kids up late to see Cirque du Soleil’s Les Chemins Invisibles – a nightly show that takes place under a highway overpass into town and is free as a giveback by Cirque to the city where it all began. In typical Cirque fashion, they magically transform the urban surroundings into a circus show that the kids loved.
For brunch the kids insisted we stay in the Fairmont and eat at the cafe. Josh brought the Chef’s honey he had received the night before, and the waiters had a blast pretending they were going to steal it each time they passed our table.
We spent the morning wandering the streets and exploring Old Quebec. The streets are filled with performers and artists that kept the kids delighted despite the hike down the hill and back up again.
In the afternoon we met up with our guide Carol from Tours Voir Québec for a food tour of St-Jean District. While not all of the food was kid-appropriate, and there was quite a bit of walking involved, stops at the maple syrup museum and chocolate shop kept the kids happy participants.
In the evening we walked along Grande Allée, enjoying the buzz and commotion of all the restaurants and cafes. We decided to have a picnic dinner in the park and then wander our way back to the hotel to watch the buskers who perform by the statue of Champlain until well into the wee hours of the morning. Street performers are prevalent throughout the old city and really make every turn a delight.
The following day we hopped in the car and headed over to the island of Île d’Orléans, a small agricultural gem in the St Lawrence river. Quebecers are fiercely proud of their locally produced food and drink, and slogans such as “Terroir D’ici” (Go Local) proudly appear on signs, labels and menus throughout Quebec. We drove from one end of the small island and back down the other side.
Dozens of road-side fruit and vegetable stands, as well as specialty shops line the main road. We stopped in at a few and marveled at the homemade berry products in Les Saveurs de l’Isle d’Orléans, and the artisan cheeses sold by staff in 17th century period costume at Les Fromages de l’Isle d’Orléans. The kids had a great time checking out Poissonnerie Joseph Paquet, a local fisherman who smokes fish on sight and sells his catch from his small roadside cabin.

At the Au Goût D’Autrefois duck and goose farm passers-by can purchase all manners of fowl or stop in for a meal in their rustic dining room.

I would love to have had more time on the island to explore all of the small stands and farms. It is really an incredible microcosm of Quebec’s agricultural bounty. People were so warm ans welcoming at each store we stopped at.
Overall, we had such a fantastic time in Quebec City. The kids had a blast everywhere we went, and staying in the Chateau Frontenac was a real treat for them.
If you’re looking for a Quebec City inspired recipe I’d suggest you check out these Pan-Roasted Lamb Chops with Red Wine-Black Currant Sauce and Wine-Simmered Vegetables.
And our trip next moves east to New Brunswick…