Hi Frugalistas! Regular readers will know how much I love eating local foods, and drinking local drinks. I find it one of the best ways to understand a place and its people. So much history and culture is tied to food. So when I was visiting Montreal and Quebec City trying local food, and drinking local drinks was high on my list of “must do” things. While there is so much to choose from, and I have included some drinks as well, here are my ten best foods in Quebec (in no particular order).
Best foods in Quebec
Poutine is, of course, synonymous with Montreal. Travel bloggers and Canadians alike get misty eyed at the mere mention of this humble dish of French fries, gravy and curd cheese. But like many traditional dishes, poutine doesn’t have to be humble. My plate of poutine with tempura prawns, beef cheeks and a spicy sauce was anything but. It was delicious. It was tasty, and it was definitely not humble. Whether you choose your poutine from a food truck, a hole in the wall family joint or somewhere more fancy, poutine is a treat.
Debate rages about the Montreal bagel. Not whether one should eat Montreal bagels (because of course, one should), but rather which bakery one should patronise. There are two camps, each with their own fans, who wouldn’t dream of eating the other. Whether you prefer Fairmount or St-Viateur, a traditional Montreal bagel needs to be a part of your Quebec diet.
3. Queues de Castors (Beaver tails)
Queues de castors were the big surprise for me. These flat, fried pastries are deliciously morish. And big, and sugary and tasty. While they do come with savoury toppings and I did like a maple butter and chocolate sauce one, I loved the almost pancake like flavor of a simple cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice queue de castor.
There’s no polite way to eat a queue de castor. Expect messy fingers and grab lots of napkins!
Whilst in Québec City I was taken for lunch in a traditional diner specializing in local Quebecois cuisine. This created a dilemma – what to choose? Yes, I was tempted by the tourtiere, a local pie. I was going out for dinner at a restaurant I was really looking forward to, so maybe a salad would be the better choice?
Deciding the diet could wait, I went with the cipaille. Layers of meat and potatoes, it reminded me a bit of shepherd’s pie and bit like a different version of lasagne. Actually it was neither. It was cipaille and it was good.
5. Anything made with local, seasonal products
This is one of my basic rules, no matter where I travel. It’s also how I like to eat at home. Fortunately Quebec and particularly Quebec City is heaven for local, seasonal produce. My food walk showcased it well, but it was my dinner at Le Clocher Penche Bistrot that set the bar for local, seasonal produce. From the crème de cassis in my kir royale that I had tried earlier in the day on my trip to the Ile d’Orleans, to the bread that came from a traditional bakery around the corner, everything was local. The highlight of my meal? My entrée (main course) of local pork, that came with vegetables I don’t like and never eat. I ate the whole plate. Because it was all completely delicious. Even the vegetables…….
If you saw my post about the markets, or have followed me on Instagram, you know how good the pastry is in Quebec. It’s hard to go wrong. Whether you choose something French inspired, a more rustic maple syrup laden tart, or just a good bread, I say “let everyone eat cake!”
Best drinks in Quebec
1. Ice cider
Ice cider (cidre glace) is local to Quebec. Made from frozen apples, the freezing concentrates the sugar, making a super sweet, almost honeyed drink. Usually served chilled, local Quebecois will enjoy it as an aperitif, or perhaps with some foie gras. I particularly enjoyed a sparkling variety on my trip to Ile d’Orleans.
In a liquor store I came across some tiny 50ml tasting bottles. Being 3-1-1 packing compliant they were a no-brainer souvenir to take home!
2. Ice wine
Ice wine is the Canadian equivalent of the German and Austrian style eiswein. While it comes from various parts of Canada (including Ontario and British Columbia), I vote for trying the local Quebecois.
Ice wine is freely available in the Duty Free stores at airports when you are leaving Canada. However, to my disappointment, leaving Canada via Vancouver only Ontario brands were available. If you want to take traditional Quebec ice wine home as a lovely souvenir or gift, head to a wine maker or liquor store in Quebec and buy your supplies there. Because they come in small bottles (about 200ml) they are easy to travel with.
3. Maple cream
Do you like Bailey’s Irish Cream? Do you like maple syrup? Then maple cream is for you. Drink like Bailey’s. It’s delicious. And it’s readily available in Duty Free stores at the airport. And it’s made in Quebec…………..
4. Microbrewery beers
Quebec has a vibrant microbrewery scene. While I’m not a big beer drinker, I do like beer when it’s part of the local food culture. Be brave and try something different. Even if you don’t like beer normally, ask questions and find a flavour you are willing to try. I defy anyone who doesn’t like beer to tell me they didn’t like the gingerbread beer I tasted on my food walk. It tasted like gingerbread. It was delicious.
The best food (and drink) to avoid in Quebec
Canadians will hate me for it, but I honestly think anything from Tim Horton’s is best avoided. The coffee is truly awful. The bagel I ate was passable, but heavy and somewhat leaden. Find a locally owned café and buy your coffee there. Give “Timmy’s” a wide berth. You have been warned!
So, my list of the 10 best foods in Quebec is complete. What catches your eye?
Author’s note: While in Quebec City and Montreal I was a guest of Quebec Tourisme. I paid for my own coffee and bagel at Tim Horton’s so I can’t blame anyone but myself for that………..
Rachel Heller says
I haven’t been up that way in years, but loved reading this! I’m not a big fan of ordinary poutine, but that fancy version sounds good! And I’d really love to know where in the Netherlands I could buy some of that Maple Cream! Like Bailey’s but maple? Heaven!
I must admit I wasn’t going out of my way to eat poutine because I don’t like fries with gravy, but when I saw that one on the menu I knew I had to give it a go.
The maple cream is fab – maybe you can find someone to send you some?
Geek Goddess says
Oh, when I’m up there working, especially out in the rural areas (southern Saskatchewan), when they want to meet for coffee, you know they automatically mean to “Meet at Timmy’s”. I never get anything to eat, but I do get a double white.
Oh, dear, poor you……….
You defiled the Canadian Institution ‘Timmys”! (sob) I may never come across your blogging doorstep again. 🙂 (joking, but I do love my Timmy’s). I’m not a big fan of their baked goods, but give me a large black coffee, and I am wired for the day!
I think I have said this before. I used to work in Montreal and Quebec City, and ate some awesome food in the day. I hate hate Poutine. It really is a Quebec dish, although these days all of Canada seems to claim it as a national pastime. Awful stuff, but what you are showing here looks very good. I would have one of everything (well, I’d have to think on the poutine!) I can now buy Canadian ice wine in Korea (those free trade agreements at work), but very expensive!
Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says
We’ve just spent the last 7 weeks in Montreal and I’m with you on all counts!!! There is a St Viateur bagel shop just 5 minutes walk from my place. It’s dangerous!!!!!!
The bagels are seriously good, aren’t they? I’m pleased that after 7 weeks you can’t improve on my list!
I think poutine and Timmys are both interesting, Nancie, but for different reasons. I wasn’t interested in trying poutine because I think that chips with gravy is a waste of perfectly good chips, and perfectly good gravy – I don’t like them together. Having said that, when I saw this gourmet version, I knew I needed to try it. And it was good. Now, Timmys. I have this theory that Tim Horton’s coffee is the Canadian equivalent of the Australian cultural icon, Vegemite – you actually have to come from the country to like it. Tim Horton’s coffee was revolting in my opinion, and why people would queue for it, I just don’t get. Exactly the way the rest of the work feels about the glorious salty tastiness that is the Australian Vegemite 🙂
Love this list!! I have to agree with Tim Hortons and lovers of Montreal bagels should know – Tim’s DOES NOT serve Montreal style bagels (which is an utter shame!) I think Tim’s best offering is the hot chocolate, which is perfect on a snowy cold day.
A much, much better choice for coffee (both in terms of quality and taste but also local authenticity) is a Canadian chain called Second Cup. They’re kinda Starbucks-ish in nature but all are locally owned. They do great coffee and they were the first major coffee group in the world to start buying Rwandan coffee (and donating proceeds back to charity there).
Second Cup did a good job, but the best coffee for an Australian coffee snob was definitely in the independently owned small cafes and coffee shops. It took me a while to work out what to ask for to suit my tastes, but once I did, I never got a bad cup!
I’m so glad a Canadian agrees with my assessment….
Paula McInerney says
Just re-reading over your Quebec and Montreal posts for our upcoming trip. I am freaking out if the coffee is that bad. Ok, so seek out small and independent shops, which we will and would.I need an Australian coffee to deal with this Jo
Decent coffee is quite findable. Like much of what I write about, seeking out small, independent shops and cafes, and streets off the tourist path is definitely the way to go. For chain coffee in Canada Second Cup is decent (but Australians may need a double shot)
great point about tim hortons, we tried it when in BC, Canada and we were all feeling very sick from how overly sweet the food was! my son was 8 at the time and actually ended up puking from having a hot chocolate and a donut.
I just didn’t like it at all, even though it is a Canadian institution…….