While the restaurants in Montreal were hip, edgy and sophisticated in their offerings, Quebec City felt a bit like Montreal's kid brother. You can tell that they're in the same family. You see the resemblance, admire the good breeding, but can't help and think, oh wait a few more years until you're own grown up, and you're going to be trouble. With that said, I really enjoyed the slightly scrappier, but still inventive meals we had in Quebec City. I've spoken about the smoked meat, poutine and crepes here, so let's move on to the main event.
Le Moine Echanson
This unassuming restaurant on the food laden street, Rue Saint-Jean, has basic indoor and outdoor seating with large planks placed on overturned wine barrels serving as makeshift tables. During the day they'll plunk down a few bottles outside and open up a wine tasting of some of their funky biodynamic bottles.
At this point in the trip, we were all about the funk and grit of these multi-layered wines, so we asked our tank top wearing waitress what she recommended. We flipped from French to English fairly quickly to describe what we wanted and she confirmed acknowledgment of our request with a full on growl and cat scratch meow with her hand to describe how gnarly we wanted our wine. We started with a yeasty sparkling wine from Negondos Vineyard, the first organic vineyard in Quebec, started abut 20 years ago.
Nogondos' Preambule was refreshing, but with some character. It paired well with my sturgeon that included fresh fennel, apricot and lightly fried onions. We also got our vegetable fill with freshly sautéed asparagus, presented on a clean white plate, still crisp to the bite over a creamy garlic puree.
We stepped up the funk with the bottle described with a growl and further detailed with the smells of locker room. Yup, it was full on dirty shoe and we were loving every second.
Then arctic char arrived, strewn across a long cutting board with a warm melange of vegetables underneath and a creamy foam across. My main could have doubled for dessert, and in fact it did. Needing my daily foie fix, I got a heaping portion served in a cast iron pan. It stood proudly on top of a pear tatin with some chèvre sandwiched in between and walnuts scattered across. Nothing like rich on rich. Throw in some funk and you got yourself a great meal.
L'Affaire est Ketchup
You have to like this place for the name alone, slang for, it's all good, which is exactly right little bro. After I had received several good recommendations for this place, I took one look at their facebook page, I was sold. I knew we'd be in for a good time.
Walking in to L'Affaire est Ketchup is like stepping into a friend's house. It's a small, very casual slip of a restaurant, with only about 25 seats. This is a definite reserve ahead place, especially after I learned Anthony Bourdain had also found it. Like most places we went, there was a chalkboard menu listing a few main ingredients, but with no preparation details. A scruffy kid with curly brown locks greeted us with a big smile and lots of French, which he easily turned to English for us as he recited each and every dish with accompanying ingredients, a show he put on for all who sat down.
Our server ended up being one of the owners and creators behind L'Affaire est Ketchup, and went on to tell us about the other restaurant they just opened down the street with plans for a wine bar in the works. He pointed to his backwards hat wearing friend at the nearby tiny kitchen stove cooking up some fresh fare he gets from local farms. It's a group of foodie friends making it all happen and you can feel the joy they have in sharing it with everyone.
He was more than eager to help us continue to get our wine funk on and brought 3 physical bottles over as options, which we had seen done before and were quite fond of since the bottle label always seems more familiar than just the name on a list. We couldn't refuse Nicolas Testard's Bons Baisers de Brouilly, given that he features different James Bond movies on different varietals. We were treated to a great show inside with this dark gamay based wine with some structure to support it. There were a range of unique notes that worked for our entire meal, and the waiter/owner enjoyed a glass along with us while chatting between courses.
We continued to take advantage of the short fiddlehead season and enjoyed an entire bowl of them, served crisp with a creamy Parmesan sauce. I'm still thinking about that dish. And without fail, I had foie gras on top of a great mix of sautéed mushrooms. Our starters were both winners.
I may have misordered by getting the bison, which I found a bit chewy. It doesn't have the same rich flavor as beef, but the swordfish was well cooked with a refreshing yogurt-dill sauce.
Our new owner friend treated us to one of their specialty after dinner drinks of ice wine. We had a refreshing apple glace, but he also encouraged us to try the pear. It's not super sweet and has a lower alcohol content of 10% as compared to other fortified wine.
We continued to be overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of the Quebecois right down to our last complementary drink. Montreal and Quebec are wonderful places to visit (though I will only speak for the summer months) and even better places to enjoy for their inventive cuisine.
If you missed any of the trip, here's a recap of my time in Montreal and Quebec City: