QUÉBEC CITY’S JOIE DE VIVRE

Seabourn Club Herald - - CUISINES OF THE WORLD - By Mark Card­well

THE BISTROS, BREW PUBS AND BOULANGERIES OF “LA VIEILLE CAPITALE” PRESENT A DE­LI­CIOUS BLEND OF OLD WORLD CHARM & PI­O­NEER­ING SPIRIT.

When Frédéric Cyr started cook­ing at age 12 in the kitchen of his fam­ily’s Re­lais & Châteaux– mem­ber inn near Québec City, he says the local cui­sine scene was both dom­i­nated and de­fined by a small num­ber of high-end restau­rants in the his­tor­i­cal Old City district that spe­cial­ized mostly in clas­sic French cui­sine.

“Québec City has al­ways had great chefs,” says Cyr, now in his early 40s and ex­ec­u­tive chef of the city’s most promi­nent and fa­mous land­mark — the cas­tle-like Fair­mont Le Château Fron­tenac, which over­looks the port and St. Lawrence River. “But the size and diversity of the of­fer­ing was as limited as the sup­ply of qual­ity lo­cally grown and pro­duced foods and ingredients.”

But in re­cent years, a per­fect storm of fac­tors — from the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia and the foodie move­ment to Québec City’s emer­gence as one of Canada’s hottest cities in terms of eco­nomic growth — have helped to cre­ate a new food cul­ture that is mak­ing Québec’s pic­tureper­fect provin­cial cap­i­tal a culi­nary port of call to re­mem­ber.

Long con­sid­ered an A-list des­ti­na­tion by in­ter­na­tional tourists be­cause of its stun­ning nat­u­ral beauty and be­witch­ing Old World charm, Québec City now also boasts a bevy of world-class bistros, brew pubs and boulangeries that spe­cial­ize in tra­di­tional recipes and ex­per­i­men­tal fare us­ing a bur­geon­ing blend of lo­cally pro­duced grains, meats, cheeses, seafoods, fruits and veg­eta­bles — not to men­tion mush­rooms, roots and flow­ers har­vested from the nearby bo­real for­est.

Even hearty al­beit low­brow tra­di­tional French-Cana­dian dishes like tor­tière, cipaille and pou­tine are get­ting imag­i­na­tive in­gre­di­ent makeovers — and find­ing new life along­side char­cu­terie and other fash­ion­able meal items on the menus of both up­scale and up­start Québec City eater­ies.

“The qual­ity, abun­dance and diversity of the food of­fer­ing here now is sim­ply amaz­ing,” says Cyr, who learned to cook along­side his late fa­ther Re­naud, a farmto-plate Québec food pi­o­neer, and honed his skills in top Asian ho­tels and in­ter­na­tional cruise ships. “We have a whole new gen­er­a­tion of cre­ative chefs who are in­fus­ing their en­ergy, vi­sion and per­son­al­ity into their food and their restau­rants.”

Like many of Québec City’s best sights, a good place to find that new culi­nary spirit is in some of the most time-tested restau­rants in the Old City’s Upper Town neigh­bor­hood.

One is the wood- and glass-pan­eled Cham­plain restau­rant in the newly re­stored Château Fron­tenac, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 125th birth­day in 2018. French chef Stéphane Mo­dat makes cut­tingedge re­gional cui­sine there that com­bines sea­sonal ingredients and for­est-fresh foods — ev­ery­thing from stur­geon and snow crab to wild ber­ries and edi­ble plants — with tra­di­tional and even First Na­tions’ cook­ing tech­niques to make unique dishes like fish-egg may­on­naise, an Inuit dessert.

The Château is also home to the 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar, which of­fers great views, drinks and cheeses from its aroma-laden cheese cel­lar, and stocks an im­pres­sive 350 Québec-made cheeses.

Other high-end Upper Town eater­ies that com­bine tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion in­clude Le Con­ti­nen­tal and Le Saint-Amour. The lat­ter, which is owned and op­er­ated by celebrity chef Jean-Luc Boulay, is a peren­nial top-10 pick for best Cana­dian restau­rant and the eatery of choice for vis­it­ing celebri­ties like Sir Paul Mc­Cart­ney, Sting and Charles Az­navour.

Boulay also owns — in partnership with chef Ar­naud Marc­hand, a Québec game-food pi­o­neer — the nearby Chez Boulay Bistro Boréal. The in­ti­mate bistro spe­cial­izes in north­ern Québec-in­spired foods and fu­sions like bison tartare, braised beef ravi­oli with candied red cab­bage, salmon in a cran­berry glaze — and for dessert, iced nougat with tun­dra­grown cloud­ber­ries.

It’s down on the nar­row, cob­ble­stone streets of Lower Town, which

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