The last two days of my whirlwind trip around Quebec were spent in the Charlevoix area, northeast of Quebec City. Canada is huge. The Province of Quebec is huge. Even the Charlevoix area is sizable, stretching something like 230 kilometers (about 140 miles) along the St. Lawrence River. The region has devised symbols for attractions of particular interest — a chef’s toque for places of culinary or food production interest, and an artist’s palette for studios and galleries. It’s difficult to put in much mileage when those two tempting signs beckon. Here are some foodie highlights along Charlevoi’s Flavor Trail:
- One such sign indicates the Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour, one of those 400 to 500 Quebec cheeseries that has branched out, which I wrote about in my immediately previous post. Founded in 1994, this artisanal cheesery introduced its signature La Migneron de Charlevoix washed-rind, semi-soft cheese (left) the following year. In 2002, it was named not only Canada’s best washed-rind cheese but also Canada’s best cheese. Two other cheeses have followed: a mild blue cheese called Le Ciel de Charlevoix and Le Deo Gratias, Maurice Dufour’s first sheep’s milk cheese (the other two are cow’s milk), which is a bit feta-like in taste but features a brie-like rind. If you’re in the area, stop by to buy some cheese, to have some lunch and definitely to enjoy a free tour of the cheesemaking process. The cheesery is located at 1339 Boulevard Mgr. de Laval, Baie St.-Paul.
- Good cheese calls for good bread, and you’ll find some of the best at Eric Levoi’s Boulangerie Remy, a restored 19th century bakery and flour mill. In a pair of brick ovens, he bakes baguettes, loaves and a a characteristic Quebecois bread shape called pain-fesse. The bread is shaped into conjoined loaves, resembling the human backside. It is no surprise that fesse means buttocks, but as a website explaining Quebec expressions points out, the Brits bake buns. When the day’s bread baking is completed, Levoi puts in small hand-shaped pizzas. The bakery is at 235 Terrasse La Remy, Baie St.-Paul.
- If you’ve ever been curious about where all that foie gras and duck breast that you find on restaurant menus comes from, take a tour ($4) of La Ferme Basque de Charlevoix, run by Isabelle Mihura (originally from the French Basque country) and Jean-Jacques Etcheberrigaray (from the French Riviera, near Italy). The couple raises 250 ducks at a time, from age one day when they come from the hatchery to age four months when they are sent to the abbatoir. A butcher disassembles the carcasses, which are processed into a variety scrumptious products at the farm. Nothing goes to waste. Like many foodies, I find foie gras fabulous but have had serious misgivings about force feeding an animal to fatten the liver. Isabelle’s matter-of-fact tour makes me feel a little less guilty, though the free-range, gain-fed quackers at La Ferme Basque probably have it better than most ducks and geese raised for their foie gras potential. If anyone is interested in what I learned, I’ll happily share it on a subsequent post. 813 Rue St.-Edouard, St.-Urbain.
- Did you know that people eat emu? I didn’t. These larger birds raised at the nearby Centre de l’Emeu Charlevoix not only provide oils, creams and salves for health, healing and beauty, but meat as well. This dense and healthy poultry that comes from the big bird’s legs can be prepared much like beef. It is possible to buy emu Chateaubriand, emu carpaccio, smoked emu, emu medallions, pate, sausages and more at the emu farm. Take a tour ($4) or stock up on any of the many emu products. The dinner menu at Auberge La Grande Maison that evening listed emu tartare as one of the appetizers. The emu farm is at 706 St.-Edmonde, St.-Urbain.