Tim and I took a trip North this past weekend to Quebec City, Canada. This may seem like a strange destination for February, when many folks are dreaming of tropical locales, but we had great time!
Tim has a cousin that moved up there last year with his family, and we went to visit to enjoy some snow and the big Winter Carnival Quebec has every year. And of course, I checked out the local food! We did have a couple of unique culinary experiences that can only be enjoyed in the coldest months, and I will cover them at the end of the post. But first I want to talk about two great places that can be enjoyed year round: the bakery Paillard and the Domaine Steinbach Cidrerie and Relias Gourmand.
The entire Quebec province is Canada is unique in that it’s official language is French. In addition to the language, the French influence can be seen the food of the region, especially in Quebec City. There are tons of bakeries offering up croissants and other delicate pastries. Paillard was my favorite!
Paillard is right in the heart of the old city and has some truly delicious baked goods. I couldn’t decide on a pastry, so I got three and split them with Tim. There was the classic croissant, perfectly light with all the tender, flaky layers that characterize a great croissant. Then we also had a pomme or apple croissant and something amusingly called Escargot Aux Raisins. This was not snails, but a pastry rolled up like a cinnamon roll and studded with raisins. Both of these were sweeter, but not too sweet and so very tasty. Their breads also looked fantastic. If you are in Quebec City, they are definitely worth seeking out.
My other recommendation is on the Île d’Orléans, which is an island in the St. Lawerence River just outstide Quebec City. Agriculture is the main economic activity on the island, and in the summer the long circular route around the island is lined with fruit stands and markets that highlight the great produce. It’s not quite as vibrant in the winter, but some of the producers are open year round, including Domaine Steinbach. They make over 50 products, many from the apples in their large apple orchard that is just behind the main store. First, the apples are made into jams and hard cider. Then, after some additional fermenting, the ciders are made into a variety of flavored vinegars. These vinegars are then used to make specialty mustards! In the summer months, they often have tastings that include the mustards and jams, but our tasting only included various ciders. Not that I am complaining!
Most of the ciders have a fairly high alcohol content (11%-20%) and are considered apéritifs. The person leading our tasting suggested serving them with a dessert or cheese course or even over ice cream. One of Domaine Steinbach’s signature products is ice cider, which is made with apples that are picked after they freeze on the trees!
Both Paillard and Domaine Steinbach are open year round, but there are a few unique things you can only experience if you visit during the winter months.
The ice hotel is just that, a hotel made of entirely of ice and snow that is built each winter in Quebec City. I suggest stopping by for a drink in a cup made of ice, but it’s not a place I want to spend the night! Brrrr.
We also attended Quebec City’s annual Winter Carnival. In addition to a number of slides and amazing snow sculptures, you can get some maple taffy. It’s almost as much fun to watch as it is to eat! The taffy-makers have a huge wall of fresh packed snow, and they scrape off the top layer. Then they pour a slightly warm mixture that is mostly maple syrup on the snow. You wait about 30 seconds for it to start to harden, then stick in a popsicle stick and roll up the hardened syrup and some snow. It’s messy and super sweet, but also a lot of fun.
Despite the cold, we had a great visit to Quebec City!