Saturday, February 27, 2010
When the weather is -9 Fahrenheit there is nothing like getting cozy in a restaurant where the building dates back to 1647 and the food is designed for mountain men. I'm speaking of the weather in Quebec City and the restaurant is Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens. Originally I booked dinner at L'Echaude, one of the best restaurants in Quebec City, or so I was told. However, our plans had to be changed rapidly when we were wandering around the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel. It was 5pm and our reservation wasn't until 8:30pm. Without shelter shielding us from the -25 degree wind chills, we needed to come up with an alternate plan of attack. A quick jaunt down Saint-Louis Street and it was clear there was an another restaurant in Quebec worthy of our attention.
It was quickly apparent that this restaurant was different. The servers were dressed in old fashioned, Baroque outfits and they spoke in perfect English. We were taken to the upstairs dining room which opens after 5:45pm. In fact, here's a little piece of advice, if you ever eat at Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens, do so before 5:45pm. They have a 3 course special which includes an appetizer, entree and dessert for $19.95. To give you an idea of the savings, a normal entree after 5:45pm is about $32. Once seated our server brought out our menus very quickly, then began to tell us the specials. And although he was speaking English it may as well have been French because the items he was rattling off were very exotic and rare. He was saying words like Pheasant and Bison Meat Pie and my saliva glands started sweating profusely. Once my wife wiped the drool from my mouth I ordered my drink, a red beer from a local brewery. The drinks were brought to us in lightning time and we ordered our dinner.
Up first was a fine example of one of the dishes our 17th century waiter told us about, Homemade Game Pate with Carrot Preserve. I asked what the Game in the "Game Pate" was and he said it was Boar, Pork and Pheasant. There's really only one way to tell if the table likes a dish and that's to see how quickly it gets devoured. I counted 30 seconds, for 3 people to take down the entire appetizer. Yes, it was good. It wasn't gamey like Deer, no, instead it was smooth, rich and delicate. The Carrot Preserve went along beautifully. Next up was our entrees.
My dish was named after a beautiful Canadian lake, Lac Saint Jean. It consisted of a Meat Pie with Caribou, Pheasant, Boar, Pork, Elk and Beef. In all my dining life, this dish sticks out among the top 10 I have ever had. Simply because it was pure wilderness food to me. I felt like Robinson Crusoe, or Jack London or any number of people who have survived the wilds alone, with nothing but their trusty pocket knife and brave dog to keep them company. A magical meal indeed. The flavors were wonderfully paired. It was extremely rich and satisfying.
There were more treats to be had at this table. A large forkful of my wife's Caribou cooked with Creamy Blueberry Wine Sauce revealed a Gastronomic Elegance to this rugged restaurant. Her dish was of course rich and a carnivores delight, but it was also dainty, the Blueberries and Creamy Wine Sauce danced delicately on my palate. There was one more dish to try, my mothers Vegetables with Wild Rice au Gratin. Being the slender, health conscious one in the bunch (I'm going to get murdered for that, my wife is actually very thin) she ordered the only Vegetarian thing on the menu. This too was actually very tasty. But I was too consumed by my own main course to be bothered with her tree-hugger version of wilderness food.
Bellies fully sated, we decided to split a dessert. Our friendly waiter suggested their famous Maple Syrup Pie with Fresh Cream. Truth be told, I could only enjoy one bite of this sugary little dish. I was full from my starter and main yes, but this was also one of those sickly desserts that I always regret eating long after the fact.
Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens is one of those little restaurant gems that you're thankful you discovered, but glad they are not more abundant. I would probably eat food like that everyday of my life and I would find myself without a wife and without a home soon after. My money would be spent on rare and exotic animal flesh instead of electric and heating. For those of you who like meat and are in Quebec City for a little fun in the sun (yeah right!), Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens cannot be missed.
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Living in the North East of the United States, I am accustomed to being extremely cold for at least 3 months a year. I have several coats, but to be honest I hardly need them and when I do it's usually just to pair with a scarf and some of my other clothes to look more fashionable. Hey, I'm just being honest. So when I was invited up to an event in Quebec City this past weekend it didn't occur to me at all that I was going to be going into the coldest weather I have ever experienced in my life. And what did I bring with me? A polo shirt and one coat. Not unlike my Cambridge days when I would be known as "that guy who only brought 2 pairs of pants and 2 polo shirts." I like polo shirts, sue me!
We drove to Quebec and as soon as we crossed the border is was like we were in a different country. Hmm... probably because you were, you moron. The drive from the border to Quebec City is like driving across a frozen tundra. There was nothing but white, more white and just for a welcome change, more white. Trees were barren and even the land looked like it was cold and wanted some tectonic plate movement down to Florida.
Upon arrival, I had one thing on my mind, food. I knew Quebec was a French territory and that means one thing to me... Bistros. Lots and lots of Bistros. We unpacked our suitcases and took a stroll down the block. About 500 feet from where we were staying at Hotel Pur, we came across a lively and trendy looking restaurant. It was called Les Bossus and it sat on a street which housed such shops as Hugo Boss and a Children's clothing store which displayed their mannequins in Burberry. Whenever I'm in a foreign place I always try and eat near expensive looking streets. It hasn't always paid off, but most of the time it does.
Although the restaurant was almost filled to capacity we were seated quickly. I have never chosen my main course so fast in my entire life. A quick scan of the menu revealed a welcome surprise, Horse Meat Burger. If I have learned anything from my travels it is this, never pass up a meat that you've never tried before, or that is politically incorrect to eat in another country. Most U.S. restaurants would never dare serve horse, but Les Bossus was unashamed.
The other diners ordered their main courses and within 15 minutes we were brought our food. Horse Meat Burger is unlike any other Burger I've had. And I've had my share. It's a little tough and bland, but once I took off the Burger Bun, which was hard as a rock, I was able to get a full mouthful of just the meat. And I have to say, I liked it. It reminded me of Ostrich Jerky. You know, Beef Jerky but made with Ostrich? It's supposed to have less fat or some other nonsense. Although, I still prefer my Burgers made with the sacred Cow. However, the Fries were delicious. Served with a little Bernaise Sauce, or something similar.
When I was finished with my Horse Meat Burger I needed to cleanse my palate. A few forkfuls of my wife's salad revealed to me how incredible mixed greens could be when they are combined with Goats Cheese and dressed with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. As I sat there chewing I had a thought. My first actually since coming into the city and being hit with -20 degree wind chills. That's Fahrenheit, not Celsius, by the way. In Celsius it was -29 degree wind chills. My thought was this, does America have the worst native food in the world? And the answer to this, I'm afraid is most likely, yes. We finished our meals and left. The next morning we would return to the restaurant for an even more amazing meal.
Once again we were greeted with a warm smile and swiftly taken to our table. The same table we had the night before. The same waiter too. And once again it took only a few seconds to decide what to order, Oeufs Benedictine, or Eggs Benedict for the rest of us. It was served with chopped Potatoes that must have been roasted in Maple Syrup. I don't normally enjoy Maple Syrup, but it had just enough for me to taste it. My fellow diners weren't making a sound. Always a sign of a good meal. With a few quick hand movements I was able to steal several bites of the Cheese and Ham Omelet that one of the diners was mightily working away on. With another quick hand movement I was able to pilfer a small bite of my wife's Croque Monsieur. One of the best dishes on the planet, and this one did not let me down.
All in all, Les Bossus is a fantastic, authentic French Bistro in Quebec City. My only wish is that it was closer to the Old Quarter. That's where most of the action is in Quebec. Most of the restaurants, as well as the hallowed Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel are located in the Old Quarter. I will never forget my trip to Quebec. As my best friend said before I left, "Quebec is a little taste of Europe on America's back door."
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography
Posted by Passport Foodie at 8:26 AM