This year I had the fortune to celebrate the last three days of 2005 in one of my favorite places, Quebec City. I was surprised to find that my hotel of choice, The Hotel Dominion 1912 was recently rated the number one hotel in Canada by Traveler Magazine. It is a great hotel but they usually reserve such designations for much more expensive places. This place is value for money but now it has been discovered. This place is located in the lower city at 126 rue St-Pierre (418-692-2224), near the waterfront and St. Jean Street with its many galleries and a few bistros. The hotel was built as a warehouse in 1912 and converted in the last twenty years. The rooms have high ceilings and great views if you get above the fifth floor. I only hope they do not raise their prices. It is bad enough to have the stronger Canadian dollar. What used to be a 40% discount because of the currency exchange rates is now only 10%.
I do not normally write down all the dishes on a trip but these were worth the effort to remember them.
Café Du Monde was the choice for lunch the first day. It recently moved to be on the water front in a ferry terminal. Classic Paris bistro food is served with a good view of the ice flows in the St. Lawrence. Two onion soups and a shared puff pastry with escargots in a garlic cream sauce went well with a Kronenboug on the cold day. It is located at 84 Dalhousie, Vieux-Port (418) 692-4455.
L’ Echaude served us dinner the first night. It is my Quebec favorite for bistro food. Others agree. The place was full and people were being turned away but we had booked two weeks in advance. We started with a Jerusalem artichoke cream soup with truffle emulsion. Then, we had Angus tenderloin with a shallot red wine reduction and, the best part, a nice piece of bone marrow. It is hard to find this is the US. We also had a roast duck with plenty of skin and a nice sauce. With it were some of the best potatoes I have eaten anywhere. They were cubed and sauted in the duck pan juices with some pancetta and a few winter vegetables, also cubed. A rich chocolate pie was shared at the end. It is located around the corner from the Hotel Dominion on 73 Sault-au-Matelot (418) 692-1299.
The hotel serves an excellent cold breakfast with four different types of croissant. cheese, rabbit terrine, fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice and other good stuff. You can have it in the lobby in front of their very large fire place. They also provide trays in your front to bring it back.
Lunch the next day was on the main shopping street in the old town at the Pub Saint-Alexandre as they had onion soup and it was cold again. We shared a classic grilled ham and gruyere on bagette and, of course, pommes frites. They also had some of the Quebec Unibroue beers brewed in the Belgium tradition. I had a Don De Dieu which is hard to find in Cambridge. You can usually only get their Fin de Monde here. I later took back several different types of the Unibroue beer including Trois Pistoles and Don De Dieu. We noticed that they had blues that night so we came back. It is located at 1087 rue St-Jean (418) 694-0015.
Dinner was at L’ Ardoise near our hotel on 71 St. Jean Street (418) 694-0213. It served acceptable bistro food which was fine as we just wanted something simple before the blues. We had a duck confit with Grand Marnier sauce and pommes frites. In addition there was a nice pork tenderloin in a maple and walnut sauce, very Canadian.
Going back to the Pub Saint-Alexandre for blues turned out to be a good idea. We heard the Riverside Blues Group who talked in French and sang in English with a French & American accent, which seems a common practice. So we got many covers such as B. B. King’s “le trill es gone,” some Clapton, Muddy Waters, and the singer got her mojo working with a French accent. The female lead got most excited when she did CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival) and she did five of them during the three sets we stayed for. She had amazing bug eyes which got bigger on the high notes. The second set was the liveliest with dancing on the bar by some of the audience. They keep going until 1, a good warm up for New Year’s Eve. The pub also had the dark Leffe beer from Belgium on tap and a lot of other great beers from Europe and Quebec.
Walking around earlier we also found that there is blues at Le Pape Georges in the lower town (418) 692-1320 but opted for the Pub Saint Alexandre.
Aviatic Club hosted a New Year’s Eve party with champagne and appetizers, an excellent six course meal (see below) with a different wine with three of the courses, and champagne at midnight. All the wine was included and they followed the bottomless cup policy that is usually reserved for coffee. I was amazed that they would continuously offer to top off your glass with any of the courses. The price was at least half of what a Boston club would charge for all this. A live rock band fronted the active dance floor. The band, aka the Electrik Fab Four Band, counted down midnight James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” The lead singer opted for a toned down Clock Work Orange Look with black shirt and wide red tie. The club is located in the train station (418) 522-3555. It appeared we were the only out-of-towners and we were grateful for the hotel to tell us where the mid-aged Quebecers go on New Year’s Eve to party.
The first course involved salmon in several ways, including smoked and sashimi with a dark sesame sauce with a Tokay Pinot Gris. Next, was a first for me, kangaroo tenderloin mushrooms and a lot of other stuff and a nice old vine Zinfandel. After a citronelle with champagne, we had duck foie gras and blue fin tuna on opposite sides of the plate with some nice potatoes in sauce between. This came with a pinot noir. A Quebec cheese course followed and then a large assortment of deserts.
Before we left town the next day, we stopped at a market for bread, crossiants, cheese, pate, Bayonne ham, and other goodies to bring back along with the Uniboure beer. During the seven hour drive through Maine we feasted on some of this stuff.
Here is more on Quebec restaurants.