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Thursday, October 7, 2010
Working and studying in the world of food is the best thing that can happen to any foodie. We are surrounded by knowledgeable and passionate peers that are always more than glad to transmit their contagion! During my school year, I was fortunate enough to meet a fellow classmate that had loads of experience in some of the most known restaurants in Quebec and some more in Europe. He was an amazing connection to infamous chefs and was himself an encyclopedia in the world of restaurants.
Thus, i decided to pay him a visit with a good friend of mine last summer. At the same time, the Festival D'Été de Québec was taking place where artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Rammstein and Billy Talent entertain thousands and thousands of fans. In our three hours drive to Quebec, we familiarized ourselves with their hits to be able to sing along with everyone once we were there :)
The concert of the BEP was absolutely crazy!!!! Over 100 000 persons invaded the Plains of Abraham! We were screaming our lungs out and dancing the night away along with all these energetic spectators. Needless to say, we slept like babies that night. We were pleasantly awoken with the smell of fresh pastries and robust coffee aroma that our host kindly prepared for us :) And on it started! our foodie journey in the wonderful streets of Quebec city!
We stopped at a fine chocolate shop, Champagne Chocolatier, where we bought some exotic truffles to excite our taste buds! We tried Porto, Chili, Goat and Basil, Caramel au Fleur de Sel and finally Whiskey. Goat and Basil was definitely the most surprising in terms of flavor. The unexpected grassy taste of Goat cheese combined with the fresh and minty notes of Basil complemented marvelously the dark chocolate.
While strolling the streets towards the Festival, we stopped at the old Port where a local market was situated. Heaven on earth! I just love these kind of places. If it was for me, i will spend my whole days just to visit and slowly look at every single products in these markets! We found a spice shop where flavors from every culture met! On one end of the shop were a whole wall of spices! Every spice you can imagine from every corner of the world! It was sooooo exciting!
There was also the smoked house Atkins at the market! They are known for their smoked salmon and other fish and seafoods. We were seduced by the smoked trout, the salmon carpaccio, the gravlax and seal rillettes. Seal is a very controversial meat and I admit that I did felt bad eating it. But at the same time, as a foodie, I had to try it. And the mouthfeel was so pleasant! Wow! It was smooth and had the right bite to it. Its dark red color is surprising and the taste is similar to that of red meat but much more flavorful. The seasoning was perfectly balanced. I was extremely satisfied with my first experience!
The rest of the day was without much artifice in terms of food. Not the same can be said for the day after!!!! My oh my was my tummy happy :) We started the day with a brunch at the Clocher Penché, a block away from where we were staying. The atmosphere was relaxed, perfect for a Sunday morning. Included with each dish was a bowl of Café au Lait and a verrine made of mango and watermelon yogurt with citrus croutons. Fresh and delish! My friend ordered Le Seigneur des Anneaux which consisted of lamb parmentier (french dish made of mashed potatoes and meat) with old cheddar, a runny egg, mushrooms braised in the lamb's juice over a grilled bagel with a herbed butter spread. Triple wow for that dish! Every single item were bursting of flavor, it was unbelievable! The mashed potatoes had the right amount of creaminess and paired amazingly with the juicy lamb. I am literally salivating just thinking about it.... haaaaaaaaa! I ordered the Odeur de Sainteté: aragula, crystallized tomatoes, vegetarian pâté, eggs, tomme des grosse îles (amazing non-pasteurized soft cheese) on a crispy olive bread served with savourous fried potatoes. Even though the dish was good and fresh, i found it quite bland compared to the dish of my friend. It did not particularly impressed me but it is a very good choice for someone looking for a healthy or vegetarian choice.
Our beloved friend then had the courtesy to reserve us a spot for dinner at the most requested table in Quebec city: Le St-Amour. Celebrities from around the world such as Alicia Keys stopped at this destination for a bite. We were quite honored to have the opportunity to taste the work of Chef Jean Luc Boulay. We let the expertise of our friend who worked there and let them design our menu :)
We first started with the trilogy of mise en bouche. That included a blini topped with caviar, a raw oyster with citrus espuma, and wild sockeye salmon with caviar. We then proceeded with a declination of foie gras: seven different ways to cook and present the meat. It was truly impressive, they did a brilliant job to showcase the quality and versatility of the foie gras. Unfortunately, my memory is playing games, i only remember a few descriptions namely pyramid of foie gras, foie gras macaroon with fig puree, foie gras with blueberry dust, foie gras tiramisu and i believe there was the traditional foie gras au torchon and i forgot the others... i'm sorry... I then ordered the giant shrimps and they were seriously GIANT!!! I had to take three bites to finish each. They were vacuum cooked in espelette pepper which gave enough of a kick and were paired with fresh and crispy salad in chilled fennel soup. Miam!!!
As entrée, I chose the veal sweetbreads and wild shrimps. Mmmmmm... Very hearty meal, perfect for wintery and cold nights. The side dishes were very original! Interesting twist to a classic: roasted butternut squash gnocchis! Also served with Swiss chard stems and leaves dome, morrel mushrooms swimming in Samos Muscat creamed juices. Although extremely satisfying and full of complex flavors, i found the dish too salty and the sweetbreads were a little on the chewy side. On the other hand, my friend's dish completely blew my mind!!! The downright stunning Gaspé lobster was the best piece of meat from the sea that I have ever eaten! The combination of spices and herbs they've used, OMG! It brought out the sweetness of the lobster while underlining the freshness of the sea. I am not sure but I think I also detected hints of saffron in the sauce too. I am astounded by the awesomeness of this plate! WOW! And the finale: L'Inspiration - seven ways to present the world's best péché - CHOCOLATE!!! Again, I will try my best to describe what I can remember: so we had a chocolate creme brulée, a chocolate sherbet, a chocolate macaroon, a chocolate mousse, a truffle made with fizzy sugar, etc. This assortment of sweets clearly demonstrates the talents of pastry chef Eric Lessard. The techniques required to accomplish some of these desserts are of high expertise! Dangerous addiction to any chocolate lover out there :)
All in all, the meal highly met our expectations. I must say that we were very fortunate to be accompanied by someone who knew all the staff of the restaurant and knew well the best recommendations. Given the price of the menu, it may not be affordable to all to have a six courses meal but one should at least try their declination platter. It is well worth the money when such a great variety can be tasted in a single dish :)
My trip to Quebec was fulfilled of good eats and great company! Couldn't have asked for more! Stay tuned for further yummy reads!
Le Clocher Penché
Restaurant Le St-Amour