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THE CHARLEVOIX FLAVOUR TRAIL - QUEBEC FOODIE TREASURE CHEST
 
(2014 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: GURTH M. PRETTY



Colleagues told me there existed a foodie haven near Québec City, with a trail leading to more than 40 gastronomical delights.

They described it with such colourful and descriptive language that an image of a mythical gourmet treasure chest materialized in my mind. My mouth began to salivate. My stomach began to grumble. Being a former professional chef and a foodie myself, the “in” word for those loving food, I venture into this land, seeking this trail of legendary flavours. What mouth-watering discoveries will I find and experience?

Less than a 90-minute drive east of Québec City, the road to the Charlevoix region takes me over a mountain and down to the fertile valley below. The villages of Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie are the main centres. The rugged and scenic beauty of the Laurentian mountains, the salty shoreline of the St. Lawrence River and the region’s hospitality have enticed visitors to the town of La Malbaie since 1760. In the early 20th century, they arrived by steamship from Montréal and the USA. The majestic Le Manoir Richelieu opened in 1899 with 250 rooms and continues to offer world-class service to this day.     

Nearing the bottom of the valley, I do not have to search very long for clues of the Flavour Trail (Route des saveurs). Road signs with an image of a chef’s white hat begin to appear, identifying local growers, producers and restaurants. They are the members of Charlevoix’s agro-tourism association.

Baie-Saint-Paul

Driving is thirsty work! First stop, la MicroBrasserie Charlevoix, Baie-Saint-Paul’s micro-brewery in Le Saint-Pub Restaurant. A pint of the Dominus Vobiscum blanche beer with its citrus and chamomile flavours quenches my thirst. Their in-house smoked meat sandwich cured in their beer makes this former Montrealer wonder if the owners have a Montréal chef on staff. All restaurants participating in the Flavour Trail program source up to 60 per cent of their ingredients from the Charlevoix region.

Baie-Saint-Paul is well known for its very picturesque downtown streets, lined with traditional French-Canadian homes. Group of Seven Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson immortalized winter scenes of the town onto canvas. Tony Mailloux and Cynthia Duchesne openedChocolaterie Cynthia,their decadent shop in such a home. The aroma of high-quality chocolate nearly knocks me over as I enter. Tony and his chocolatiers only work with products with high cocoa butter content. Their chocolate-coated, fresh Charlevoix blueberries are amazing and a local favourite. A fine chocolate or a truffle is a tasty treat at any time.

Leaving Baie-Saint-Paul in the direction of La Malbaie, Laiterie Charlevoix is a must-stop in the valley surrounded by the ancient hills. Look for the big, plastic, black and white cow in front of the cheese factory. Opened in 1948, this facility is now in the hands of the fourth generation of the Labbé family. The laiterie is renowned for its 1608, Hercules, Fleurmier and Origine fine cheeses. It is a foodie’s nirvana. The “squeak” of the Old Charlevoix Cheddar and fresh Cheddar curds make me smile when bitten into. At their Economuseum on the Québec cheesemaking industry I learn the province used to export tons of cheddar to England. Who knew?

La Malbaie

Following the river valley down to La Malbaie, I notice another Flavour Trail sign in Clermont for Pêcheries Daniel Girard. This company not only catches its fish, but also smokes it. I do love my smoked fish. Capelin, smelt, herring, sardines and eel were caught at first. With the acquisition of smoking facilities, Daniel and his staff now also smoke salmon, trout, eel, black sturgeon and scallops. A jar of their smoked salmon rillette, a pâté-like product, becomes my tasty souvenir.

 One of my loves is the aroma and taste of fresh-baked bread. The sourdough bread produced at Boulangerie Pains d’exclamation! in La Malbaie is the perfect base onto which to spread my rillette. Josée Gervais uses stone-ground wheat from the Seigneurial Mill. Built in 1790 in the nearby town of Les Éboulements, the mill is fully functional. Josée carefully supervises the development of her sourdough starters to create 14 different kinds of sourdough loaves. Her café offers pastries, breakfast and light lunches to be enjoyed indoors or on the terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River. 

The regional chefs are proud to include the delicious ingredients produced within the Charlevoix region on their menus. Believing it is important to support and work with local food producers and processors, Chef Marthe Lemire of la Crêperie Le Passe-Temp uses local cheese, veal, smoked fish and cured meats for her Chinese fondues, stuffed crêpes and othermain courses. Her linguini carbonara with smoked sturgeon is a tasty example.

Isle-aux-Coudres

Driving back toward Baie-Saint-Paul along the hilly shoreline, I detour down to the coast where a free, short ferry ride brings me to the island of Isle-aux-Coudres. Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault is my destination. Michel Pedneault and his staff produce a large variety of apple products on his family`s ancestral lands. Hard and sparkling cider, vinegars, jellies and theirMistelle liquor are unique foodie memories to bring back home.

I must return to the Charlevoix region to visit and experience even more of the treasures along the Flavour Trail. I will definitely contact the region’s tourism office to update my information for future foodie trips. I can’t wait!

Travel Planner

For more information, visit charlevoixtourism.com or call 1-800-667-2276.

 
 
 
 
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