Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quebec's Most Important Culinary Experiences

1. Smoked meats: In my opinion, the pièce de résistance of Montreal's food scene is smoked meats (locals usually say it in plural, but I've heard "smoked meat" as well). Wikipedia describes it as "a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. The brisket is allowed to absorb the flavors over a week, and is then hot smoked to cook through, and finally steamed to completion." I don't know the details of the recipe, but I can vouch for the necessity of including smoked meats on your edible tour of the city.
2. Poutine: When you think of unique Canadian foods, this is probably what comes to mind. The best poutine is thick, hand cut home fries "smothered" (this is always the verb used to describe poutine) in thick beef gravy and fat cheese curds. There are tons of variations, adding pulled pork, foie gras, or even sauerkraut! Particularly in touristy places, sometimes you find skinny, limp french fries, runny gravy, and plastic-tasting cheese, so choose your poutine wisely. I recommend Main Deli!  

good poutine
bad poutine

3. Fondue: Molten cheese- what could be better? Common dipping items are crusty bread, apples, and grapes. Pair a Swiss fondue with a crisp Niagara mineral white wine!

4. Beer: The Québecois love to make beer, and the microbrewery industry has exploded since the 1980s. There are brewpubs seemingly every few blocks and it's common to find bars with their own specialty beers. Whether it's a tall drought while watching a hockey game in a local bar deep in the French (East) side of Montreal, or sampling different beers with a cheese platter near Old Port, you wouldn't want to miss out!

5. Cheeses: Often the largest section of Montreal's pretty markets, cheese is a very important part of the food scene in Quebec. The most iconic cheese dish is raclette- a Swiss import made by melting a wheel of raclette cheese and scraping the soft, hot cheese directly onto the diner's plate, but make sure to try a local sheep's milk cheese or the nutty, bright orange (hard to find in the USA) mimolette.  

6. Crepes: You know what a crepe is. Sweet or savory, crepes in Quebec City are probably the best you'll find this side of the Atlantic. Perfect food after a night out  ;)

7. Quebecois pizza: I can't say that this is honestly much different than other pizza, but some of the best I've ever had is at Pizzeria Magpie in Montreal! I've also heard rumors of a poutine pizza, but I cannot confirm that.

8. Italian coffee: Coffee is important anywhere, but especially while on vacation. There's no such thing as Canadian coffee, as far as I know...but Montreal does Italian coffee particularly well. Check out Olimpico in Mile End!

9. Seasonal holiday treats: One of the most magical times to visit Quebec is during the Christmas/New Year's season. Quebec City is endlessly romantic, like the whole city was taken from the pages of a French fairy tale. Montreal, particularly old town, is also beautiful. A perfect addition to strings of twinkling fairy lights, glittering snow covered alleyways, and dripping icicles is buche de noel. This cake, charmingly made to look like a stick (okay, it's a yule log), it usually a yellow sponge cake roll with chocolate buttercream filling and icing. You're probably going to need two pieces.

Another Christmas tradition is tourtière. This meat pie is found across Canada and the north eastern US, but it originated in Quebec.

Also, I saw this 12th Day of Christmas/Epiphany cake a few places. I didn't try it, but it looks great- and it comes with a crown!

Honorable mention: St. Viateur's Bagels!