AS A LIFELONG SKIER, I’VE BEEN CONDITIONED TO SALIVATE AT THE SOUND OF CERTAIN WORDS. Like Pavlov’s mutt, I start drooling the moment someone even whispers, “powder day,” “first chair,” or, “first tracks.” Living here in Quebec, there are two other words that never fail to whet my whistle: “bon appétit”.
Bon appétit is what we Quebeckers say whenever we gather to share a moment and a bite. You can hear it spoken on the slopes of Mont Tremblant and Mont Sainte-Anne, whenever skiers doff their skis, drop their poles, grab a Popsicle stick and scoop up a thick dollop of tire d’érable (piping hot maple syrup drizzled over pure, glistening white snow).
Bon appétit is an affirmation of good times, good taste and the good life. It’s something Quebeckers proudly trumpet as we stagger out of an otherwise awful greasy spoon bearing heaping mounds of hot, gooey, runny, messy and oh so disgustingly delicious poutine. (Poutine, with a lower case ‘p’, refers to a heart- attack inducing concoction of oleaginous French fried potatoes, chewy cheese curds and brown BBQ sauce, plus whatever other topping the chef has on hand. It is not to be confused with the potentially deadlier Poutine, note the upper case ‘P’, which is how Putin is spelled in French.)
Skiing in Quebec, you’ll find no shortage of times and places to say “bon appétit”, no matter your budget, style or tastes. In distilling the short list of restaurants that follow, I had to call in an army of experts for their invaluable advice, assistance and, sigh, relief. In Part One, we’ll look at the places that skiers that love to eat absolutely, positively cannot afford to miss when dining out in Quebec. In Part Two, we’ll examine just of the few of the myriad tasty options awaiting those who choose to dine in.
Mont Tremblant and the Laurentians
The hills north of Montreal are teeming with ski areas and fine eateries, from Sain-Sauveur to Mont Tremblant. According to Pierre Bessette, there are two restaurants in St-Jovite (a.k.a. downtown Tremblant) that should be on every self-respecting foodie’s bucket list.
Says Pierre, “sEb, Artisan Culinaire is a culinary odyssey with local and seasonal products.” It’s THE place to discover local bison, venison or a seven-course, tasting menu with wine. Also not to be missed is le Cheval de Jade. Says Pierre, “They serve French fine cuisine. Chef Olivier Tali was recently proclaimed Maître Canardier (Duck Master), and is one of only a handful of chefs trained and licensed to offer a famous, 300-year old recipe called Duckling à la Rouennaise.”
If your tastes run more toward fresh seafood and AAA+ beef, Pierre says you can bet on the Altitude Seafood & Grill in the Casino Mont Tremblant.
Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, accounting for over 70% of global supply. To experience how distilled sap can transform otherwise ordinary ingredients into truly extraordinary feasts, Pierre recommends La Tablée des pionniers in St-Faustin-Lac-Carré near Tremblant. Says Pierre, “It’s owned by Louis-François Marcotte, a well known chef in Quebec who has his own TV show.”
For more budget-minded skiers seeking an authentic sugar shack experience, Pierre recommends La Petite cabane d’la côte in Mirabel, near Saint-Sauveur. Don’t forget to bring your own bottle of wine or beer.
For lunch, Pierre suggests Le Petit Poucet in Val David. The local landmark specializes in traditional Quebecois cuisine such as tourtière (meat pie), fèves au lard (baked beans) and tarte à sucre (maple syrup or sugar pie).
Les Cantons-de-l’Est (the Eastern Townships)
When I started researching this project, Danie Beliveau told me that there are now so many different restaurants, cafés and fine food emporiums to choose from in the Townships, that Tourisme Cantons-de-l’Est (TCE) had to organize them in three different categories. Chefs créaturs Cantons-de-l’Est, Cafés de Village and Créateurs de saveurs.
Chefs Créaturs assembles many of the region’s top chefs and their restaurants. “The emphasis here,” says Danie, “ is on refined, creative cuisine that often showcases local products such as Brome Lake duck, Stanstead rabbit, incredible cheeses du terroir as well as topnotch regional wines, ciders and beers.”
Skiers looking for a ski, dine and stay package should scope Les Sommets and the Hotel Chéribourg near Mont Orford. Chef Jerome Turgeon’s continental and regional specialties include roast salmon in maple and tandoori and roast duck magret with a balsamic and maple sauce.
Lumami, at the acclaimed Balnea Spa in Bromont, shows you just how gosh, darn delicious even the healthiest ingredients can be when they’re prepared by skilled hands. Sinners can rejoice scarfing the homemade marshmallow and Wild Turkey bourbon caramel.
Also, not to be missed are Restaurants Auguste, Le Bouchon and Lo Re in Sherbrooke, and the Four-Diamond, Restaurant Le Hatley at the Manoir Hovey in North Hatley.
For skiers looking for more casual fare, TCE has also assembled a list of tasty cafés. The food here is always homemade. Fresh and delicious.
My wife swears that no one serves up more yum for the dollar than the Coop du Grand-Bois in Saint-Étienne de Bolton., which is conveniently situated between Orford, Bromont and Owl’s Head.
If your idea of divine terrestrial bliss includes all things chocolate, add the Confisserie Bromont to your list. Be sure to tour the Musée du Chocolat on site.
Québec City Region
Serious foodies visiting the Québec City area will want to ski all day (or morning) at Stoneham or Mont Sainte-Anne, and then hightail it 30 minutes down the road to wine and dine in beautiful, historic Québec City. This isn’t to say you can’t eat well eat either of these two great hills. It’s just that few North American cities c