Charming Quebec. Shiny metallic roofs in silver tin, aching blood red and duller tones of tarnished green copper and grey. Some of the grey ones blend seamlessly with the Spring grey sky. It all feels a bit dreamy at times.
The capital of Quebec province, it is a small city, much smaller than Montreal with a population of just over 500,000. It really reminds me of Cork, where I studied and lived for years, a city that I have great affection for. It may be petite but there is so much individuality and few chains that it feels a lot bigger (it is rare to see a chain here as in Montreal).
I especially adored all of the second hand book shops, of which there are many. I even found an old MFK Fisher gem in a box under some shelves for $3.99. I resisted lots of gorgeous glasses, cutlery, plates and other loveliness in many antique shops. My case is already full to bursting. It did actually burst in the end.
I had to try poutine, that famous crazy dish that originated in Quebec city, or very near to it in any case. There are lots of claims on it, Chez Ashton seems to have a solid one, and the locals said I must go, so I did. Chips, fresh curds of the day and a sharp savoury gravy make up a basic poutine. I got the small size – yeah, I didn’t think it was small either. I also had to try the Hot Dog Au Lac, a hot dog with mayo, lettuce and chips on top.
What did I think? INTENSE. At this point, I have already tried the foie gras poutine at Au Pied de Couchon in Montreal, which was intense but a lot more gentle, almost soothing. This poutine squeaks. SQUEAKS. It rubs against your teeth in what feels like a slightly inappropriate manner. It is tasty though and I can image in the depths of minus 40 degrees which it sometimes gets here in winter, it is the best thing you could ever eat. I doff my cap to them. I am determined to crack a recipe for this soon (including the curds if you are wondering) as it is a cracking guilty pleasure.
The Hot Dog was just ten shades of weird – hot dog dates chip butty, both parties undecided as to whether they should kiss at the end of the night. Maybe it needs to be 2am post lots of wine to enjoy that. I think I might too.
Dinner at Le Cercle was a wonderful affair. When I arrived I knew I was home. It is exactly my kind of place. I was worried a little when I saw how trendy it was, it is a bar, restaurant, art gallery & gig venue, and in my experience, very stylish places rarely deliver on the food.
I was wrong. The food here was clever, flavourful and quirky. Lots of things I had never had before, a lovely wine list with lots of natural wines and great wine matches. All very well executed too, this chef knows his stuff. I started with rabbit rillettes with carrots (because rabbots love carrots – love that) and had several wonderful courses which I will detail in a seperate post soon. A lovely option on the menu is to have the chef bring what he likes to you and I did that. One course was so enticing, I only realised that I hadn’t photographed it when I was almost finished.
After dinner I couldn’t help pop in to the gig. Nashville Pussy were playing, a surprising blend of metal and country, it worked and was so much fun. Like the poutine of music.
On my last night I dined at SSS, near my hotel. By this time, I am full and sleepy but I am instantly perked up by the tiny popcorn shrimp, so deliciously fresh and sweet, with a spiced aioli. A half portion of ribs seemed manageable for mains until I saw them – HUGE – but very delicious. Spiced and cooked for 18 hours gently. I had to have Quebecois cheese as I haven’t really had any yet with a pear and apple aperitif. They remind me of my journey home the next morning. I happily go back to my hotel to sleep.