Quebec embraces winter; evidence of it abounds even in at the height of summer. It was obvious from the stylish practicality of the apparel, to the restaurants devoted to soup or poutine. My favorite purchase emblematic of this unique spirit was a pair of weatherproof desert boots, colorfully covered in plastic beads from Neon in Montreal’s Plateau.
Winter activities include skiing at the popular resort Mont Tremblant, Quebec’s Winter Carnival and Montreal’s Festival of Lights. Night parades, snow sculpture competitions, zip lines and live music draw crowds of all ages outdoors.
Although Chicago is a great city, one of my favorite pastimes is travel. Here are some of my favorite things from our visit.
Despite twelve years living or working in NYC I prefer the sweet, dense Montreal bagel. I’m going to sacrilegiously suggest that I’m surprised they haven’t reached a wider audience. Staying just blocks from Montreal’s St.-Viateur Bagel I found myself drawn there, rather than to the croissants at the many neighborhood bakeries.
Another Plateau neighborhood landmark is Schwartz’s Deli. The hand cut smoked meat was delectable simply piled on light rye with yellow mustard. It wasn’t a replacement for the pastrami in the delis of my suburban Detroit childhood, but a worthy alternative.
Although I’ve had similar dishes in other Italian restaurants, the hearty risotto with bacon, at Au Pied de Cochon, was remarkable. The creamy rice was studded with thick chucks of pork and redolent of the Parmesan wheel. I think it was the single best dish we had in the province.
Mont Tremblant is a picture perfect resort, less a food destination than an opportunity to enjoy adventure or relaxation. I let my husband take my daughter to the zip line and relaxed at the spa. We met up at the pools, trying the variety, both hot and cold. Nevertheless our meal that night was probably the most memorable of the trip. The Restaurant La Quintessence serves amazing cuisine adjacent beautiful Lake Tremblant, a spectacular situation that affords a dazzling view. The evening capped with a serendipitous fireworks display that interrupted our dessert. Though probably part of the festivities celebrating a triathlon the next day, it was an echo of the unique vista that had disappeared with the sunset.
Quebec City is one of the most charming places I have ever visited. Its walled fortifications give it an otherworldly quality similar to Venice. The selection of shops and galleries offer a wide choice both hip and traditional. While there are numerous opportunities to learn the history of the city, I was taken with the local ceramics and a wonderful exhibit we happened upon at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.
The food in Quebec City is also exceptional. Sophisticated service and delicious cuisine can be found at the Nordic bistro Chez Boulay. Although my husband was drawn to the venison, I couldn’t resist the seafood. Another great restaurant was L’Affaire est Ketchup, profiled on Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown. We all had three courses at that dinner, despite the fact that the casual restaurant produces the meals in a home-style kitchen.
Admittedly the most lasting discovery I made on our trip was sweetening my cappuccino with maple syrup; a suggestion made by our server at Quebec City’s coffee bar and roaster, Cantook Micro Torréfaction. Combined with almond milk, the touch of sweetness takes the edge off the acidity of the espresso.
2 shots espresso
Low fat almond milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Prepare the espresso according to your machine directions then add 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Steam the almond milk and pour over sweetened espresso.