A few months ago, we held a contest to create and win your own intinerary travelling through Ontario and Quebec and our winner Lindsay Young (aka @Lindsontheroad) recently returned from her #FCRoadtrip and shares some of the amazing food and culture you can experience right here in our home and native land:
It’s pouring down rain as we duck into the artists’ alley in Vieux-Québec, one of my favourite parts of the city. Last time I was here, I bought a postcard-sized watercolour as a present for my mum. This time, she’s with me, and I’m hoping to find the same artist who created that first watercolour.
We make our way up the slight incline, passing several artists with varying styles, but one common theme – Old Québec. It’s hard not to be charmed by the colours, whether expressed in acrylic, oil, or watercolour. We finally get to the end of the alley, and just before we emerge back onto the street, I recognize the style on some watercolours on my right.
“Bonjour! I remember you!”
I greet the artist and introduce my mum and myself. Of course he doesn’t remember me, but he loves to hear that I bought a painting from him two years ago and have returned. His work is just as beautiful as I remembered it, and my mum ends up buying another, larger piece of his. He humorously told us it was a particularly personal scene he painted – it’s what he stares at everyday while in traffic (not a bad traffic view, if you ask me!).
It’s likely that I’ll always re-visit this painter, Robert Charron, every time I return to Québec City. This is what I love about travelling – chatting with locals, frequenting local businesses, and feeling as much like a local as possible.
Along that vein, mum and I decided to engage in a local pastime as we drove ourselves from Québec City to Montréal. Many people on the same route pass right through the region known as “Centre-du-Québec”, but we meandered through the region at a leisurely pace. Why? Because it’s full of fromageries and antiques!
My mum and I share a number of similar interests, and cheese and antiques happen to be two of them. Naturally, we were looking forward to zig-zagging through the region, stopping off for cheese-tastings and antique browsing. Both cheese and antiques have their own special route, as determined by Tourisme Centre-du-Québec, so we combined and customized as we went. We savoured old cheddar from St. Guillaume and spent nearly an hour completely engrossed in the impressive selection of antiques at Michel Prince.
After we’d indulged our fiendish love of cheese and fascination with antique desks and tables, we made our way to Montréal, a city I always want more of. On the agenda was a little bit of shopping, and a wander through Old Montréal.
At this point, I should confess. I had a bit of a hidden agenda. I adore Chuck Hughes, the chef from the Food Network’s “Chuck’s Day Off”. When I say adore, I mean it: I have been known to plan my treadmill runs around that show (and I actually stay running the whole hour). His food and style of cooking is my favourite of all the Food Network chefs, and I’ve always wanted to visit his restaurant, Garde Manger, in Old Montréal. I love his Canadiana style and use of local ingredients and concepts, and, let’s be honest, I also think he’s adorable.
Procuring a reservation at Garde Manger is known to be a challenge, and due to a number of factors, I didn’t make one well enough in advance. Nonetheless, as we meandered the cobblestones of Vieux-Montréal, I made sure we passed right by Garde Manger. Peering in the window like a total creeper, I couldn’t really see much, and knew there was about another three hours to go until opening.
On a whim, I called and left a message, acknowledging that my request was probably a silly one, but did they have any space for two for that evening. After all, it was Sunday… Sundays are always slow, right?
Deciding it was just about wine o’clock, we headed a few blocks over and settled in for some vino and chatter. About an hour into our happy hour, GARDE MANGER pops up on my call display. No way. Happy Hour, indeed! They had space for us, but only at the bar. Done.
I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a meal.
The menu, written on a couple chalkboards throughout the restaurant, and efficiently rattled off by our server, was just about the most tempting thing you could ever dangle in front of me. Choosing my cocktail was easy (mmmm pineapple-rum-cinnamon deliciousness), but I’d never had this much trouble choosing my meal. In the end, I went with what I probably knew I’d go with all along: to start, seared foie gras and veal cheeks on a waffle with a maple syrup reduction (yeah, seriously), and then lobster broth risotto with rock shrimp.
I promise you that my words can’t do the dishes justice. Mum had a salad with gorgonzola, as well as the famous braised short rib. We both agreed it was one of the best meals we’d ever eaten. Sadly, we were both absolutely full and couldn’t fathom dessert (I knew one inkling of a maple item would make my knees just about as weak as they could get). And while we didn’t see Chuck (must’ve been his day off…ha…), the experience was unforgettable, and no doubt one I must do again.
Our evening at Garde Manger was the decadent icing on an already overwhelming cake of indulgence that is otherwise known as our trip through Québec. I’m already craving a return visit.
Looking for more information on travelling through Quebec or need assistance building your own Quebec holiday package? Contact one of our travel consultants at 1-877-697-5302 or find your closest store to get started!
Montreal, Quebec is highlighted on the Flight Centre Map.