Tuesday 18 September 2012

Digesting the Charlevoix

To the northeast of Quebec City the St Lawrence River, already impressive on its path from Montreal, really opens up and lets itself go.

Broadening, it resembles more an estuary than a river, earning its alternative tag as the St Lawrence Seaway. And as it heads to the Atlantic it passes the Charlevoix region, framed by mountains to the west and the river to the east.

What's interesting is that the fertile Charlevoix was the result of a long-ago meteorite impact, hollowing out the earth in which its towns and greenery now lie. Once you realise this, you can clearly see the contours of the much-eroded crater on the horizon.

That's the macro picture. The micro includes a vast variety of tasty things to eat and drink, several of which I had the pleasure of consuming over the past few days.

For your foodie entertainment (for I suspect you love the foodstuffs when travelling as much as I do), here are a few pics I snapped along the way...

1. I was quite taken by the food at the Hotel La Ferme, the hotel operated by the Le Massif excursion train company at one of its destinations, Baie-St-Paul.

This was my dessert at dinner in its restaurant Les Labours, looking somewhat like an atomic symbol and described intriguingly as "L'extra carotte: biscuit de carotte, tube de crème brûlée au thym et sauce orange".

A tube fashioned from crème brûlée (it had the crunchy bits embedded along its length). What will those crazy food boffins think of next?

2. This was breakfast at the hotel the next morning - a kind of stack of soft brioche-like bread with ham, cheese, and scrambled egg on top of a pile of potatoes. It was like a croque madame that had gone rogue:

3. For lunch, here was Quebec's most infamous dish - poutine, composed of cheese curds, chips and gravy. I say infamous partly because it's impossible to take an attractive photo of it; and also because the concept of it always seems to surpass the actual taste, a kind of gluggy meld of salt and carbs probably best consumed when intoxicated.

Still, an authentic and unavoidable Quebec experience, and the mushrooms lifted this variant at l'Orange bistro in Baie-St-Paul:

4. Had to drop into a cidrerie, given the resurgence in popularity of cider in Australia. This place, Le Pednault, produces a number of beverages which are 80% cider and 20% juice. The most popular (not pictured below) is the pear version.

I was impressed with the prices of the large bottles - $16 including tax. That seems pretty reasonable compared to Australian equivalents at small breweries.

5. This was the homemade breakfast at the B&B, Manoir Hortensia at Saint-Irénée. It was fashioned from Charlevoix ingredients - muesli, apple, cheeses, banana bread, date and almond bread, and cherry jam from the tree in the middle of the accommodation's parking lot:

6. At Laiterie Charlevoix, I got to see these giant wheels of cheese in the course of their production:

7. While nearby at another cheesemaking enterprise, La Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, I encountered one the oddest cheeses I'd ever seen (though it tasted pretty good) - Le Secret de Maurice, liquid cheese encased within a hard shell:

8. Finally, here's a beer at the memorable La Maison du Bootlegger, a kind of beer, burger and live rock venue within a 19th century timber house which once hosted a club which defied Prohibition. And we're not talking about 1920s American Prohibition by the way, but an entirely localised Charlevoix kind. But that's a story, perhaps, for another day...

Disclosure time: On this trip I was hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourisme Québec. For more information on the Charlevoix region, visit the Charlevoix Tourism website.

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