Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anniversary Trip - Part Trois: Quebec

We arrived in a sunny Quebec after a very boring road trip on the autoroute. On the way we did, indeed, stop at Tim Horton's to have lunch and a doughnut. Word to the wise - all of the traffic signs are in French. We rented a large studio apartment on rue St. Pierre in the Vieux Port section through rentalo.com. Very reasonale rates. Rue St. Pierre is paved with cobblestones and houses a number of art galleries and restaurants, as well as a furrier. We stayed on the third floor of the middle building:



Another word to the wise (or to the out of shape) - the old part of Quebec is made up of the port which is at the river level and the old city which is at the top of a very steep hill. We climbed and gasped a great deal and then climbed the three flights of stairs to our apartment at the end of each day. Of course, with all of the multi-course meals we had, we needed the exercise.

Most of the old city contains shops catering to tourists, but it is well worth checking out the Inuit art gallery. The dancing bear sculptures were our favorites. Le Petit Champlain is the famous Quebec shopping quarter...


If shopping is not your bag, just walk and sightsee...


But, we can't forget the food! First of all, everywhere we ate we had delicious food. And we also had great service (with one notable exception). If the weather is decent make sure you eat outside. There are lots of options for al fresco dining. On our first evening we decided to go Italian with Restaurant Gambrinus. Our table was under an awning and we had a great view of Chateau Frontenac and the street where the clip-clop of horse and carriage accompanied our meal. The penne with a spicy red sauce was filling and unpretentious. The wine was decent but pricey (most wine in Canada is more than one would shell out in the US).

The next morning we picked up coffee and toast and proceeded to visit the fort. Of course, we took the long way around. We ambled along the St Laurent until the found THE STAIRS. These stairs led to the fort. It is our firm belief that we when we arrived at the top we had climbed a mountain. For lunch we headed back to the old city and settled upon L'Entrecote Saint-Jean. The host seated us at a cozy table for two by the window facing the street. All of the large windows were open, thus, we felt like we were dining in the open air. We started with a demi-litre of Montepulciano. A light Italian red wine - a good choice after our "mountain climb." My husband ordered the Plat du jour (or table d'hote) consisting of soup for the first course, shrimp with a white wine sauce and rice for the second course, and profiterolles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. I ordered duck confit (cuisse canard) and a cafe au lait for dessert. Wait service in Quebec is very similar to wait service in Paris. A lot of attention to detail, ensuring all parties are served at the same time, replacing utensils after each course, refilling wine glasses if the volume has been reduced by half. We were also encouraged to take our time and enjoy the meal (which we did). And this restaurant also ensured that we had a great table with a street/people-watching view...


L'Entrecote Saint-Jean gave us a wonderful lunch experience for our 20th anniversary. For the big anniversary night, we had decided to splurge on Restaurant Le Champlain at Chateau Frontenac. I'll relate our experience here in a separate post.

Another great place for lunch is Portofino - Bistro Italiano. Do not judge the place by the brochure picture. The picture is so cheesy that I never would have considered the place. Thank goodness we were in the mood for pizza and happened upon it in the Old City (the cheesy brochure maps out 6 other Portofinos in Quebec). We ordered Italian wine, a Montepulciano, I believe - they have an extensive list. And we split a sausage pizza. Simple fare, yet, delicious. Very thin crust, copious amounts of cheese and thick slabs of wonderful sausage (not the non-flavored stuff that we usually get at home). The pizza was baked in a wood-fired oven. And, as usual, the service was excellent...even in a pizza joint!

For the evening we went traditional and ate in the "Oldest House" in Quebec - Aux Anciens Canadians. The place is indeed geared for tourists with 17th century costumed waitstaff and ye olde colonial decor. The restaurant is rather large and accomodates large tourist/school groups on the upper floors. But the food was decent and reminded my husband and me of Botin's in Madrid (the oldest restaurant in the Madrid serving traditional food). For the wine we selected a 1999 Chassagne-Montrachet. Once again a lovely Burgundy. If we were not imbibing Italian wines we seemed drawn to the Pinot Noir nectar. Upon a lengthy discussion of our menu options we went for the Table D'Hote. Lots of restaurants here have table d'hote for both lunch and dinner which is a multi-course special. We began with a pureed root vegetable soup. For the second course (or entree) I opted for a salad with chives and creme fraiche; my husband selected the traditional pot of baked beans. For the main course it was grilled turkey fillets with a hazelnut sauce for me and chicken in a flaky pastry served with a cream sauce for him. Nothing knock your socks off, but, still, very good, and a decent change from the dinner fare we had consumed the past week. For dessert hubby had vanilla ice cream with a mixed fruit sauce and I had the baked custard with maple syrup. And please note, that no mention of dessert was made until after we had finished our wine (I hate being rushed into selecting dessert if our bottle of wine has not been finished). Coffee after dinner was included as well as a traditional shooter send-off - a small shot of vodka with cranberry juice. Vive la tradition! And here is a shot of the restaurant...


For our final evening in Quebec, we did a 180 and ate at the modern comteporary Restaurant Toast (non-smoking establishment) housed in the Hotel Le Priori in the Old Port. We were seated by the window that housed a dozen red votive candles. Our view consisted of cobblestone streets and paintings from the art gallery across from the restaurant. Very romantic. The wine was Chateau Ermitage from the south of France and for staters we shared an Italian-style antipasto with proscuitto and fresh mozzarella. My husband ordered the Thon Rouge (rare tuna) and I had the pork tenderloin. For enders it was a Chocolate Obsession and Creme Brulee. As usual, the food was great, service was spectacular. A nice way to say Au Revoir to Quebec.

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