The Québec maritime Blog
One of the best ways to experience the culture of a region is to immerse yourself in its culinary heritage. Because food is so central to a people’s cultural identity, you can learn a lot about a place by savouring its typical or contemporary dishes and meeting its culinary artisans.
If you’re a food enthusiast and want to explore any of the maritime regions of Québec in this way, you’re in for a treat! Whether you’re a novice or experienced culinary adventurer, all the maritime regions of Québec offer fabulous gourmet finds. Local food growers, producers and artisans open their doors to the public to help visitors experience their corner of the world.
Here are a few must-try products, mouth-watering dishes, people to meet and sites to visit, which I’ll introduce you to via four regional food associations that promote the culinary heritage of Québec by the Sea.
Le Bon Goût Frais des Îles de la Madeleine
Let’s begin in the Îles de la Madeleine. Because they live on a small archipelago, local food producers and artisans, who strongly believe in preserving their culinary heritage, work together to showcase regional products throughout the Islands. Members of the association Le Bon Goût Frais des Îles de la Madeleine (A Fresh Taste of the Islands), which promotes food products made on the archipelago from local ingredients, offer a wide range of mouth-watering, authentic products; the association also organizes several gourmet events every year. Here are some of the things you’ll want to try during your visit.
Renowned for its subtle and exquisite taste, lobster can be eaten in a variety of ways: layered into a club sandwich, made into a soup or tossed in a salad… However, the best way to savour this delicious crustacean is the traditional one: in the shell, with flavoured butter.
At the Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent cheese factory, Jérémie and Lucie Arseneau make several raw milk cheeses from milk from their heritage Canadienne cows. Pied-de-Vent, a soft surface-ripened cheese with an excellent reputation throughout the province, is truly unique. Be sure to try this cheese before you leave the Islands!
Bouillabaisse at La Table des Roy
At La Table des Roy, Chef Johanne Vigneau offers typical and innovative island cuisine with surprising twists and an international touch. She makes a magnificent Bouillabaisse of Marseille, a seafood dish brimming with cod, halibut, rockfish, razor clams, scallops, mussels, clams and lobster in a saffron bouillon. This is your chance to taste almost all that the sea has to offer in a single dish!
À l’Abri de la Tempête craft beers
Located in a former fish factory, the À l’Abri de la Tempête microbrewery is committed to using local ingredients as much as possible. As a result, they flavour their beers with island flowers, algae or fresh herbs. Corps Mort, a particularly distinctive beer, is brewed using barley that was smoked at the Fumoir d’Antan, a herring smokehouse. You can tour the microbrewery with a guide, who will introduce you to the beer-making process and give you samples to try.
Our next stop is Gaspésie, to explore a spectacular peninsula that offers products from the land, sea and forest. You will fall under the spell of this region’s scenery, people and culinary heritage. The Gaspésie Gourmande association, which promotes regional gastronomy, offers the Fine Food Tour to help you discover gourmet products from all five sectors of the region.
While Gaspésie is also known for its lobster, if you’re a seafood fan, you’ll definitely want to try northern shrimp (also known as Matane shrimp), which is available throughout the region. These small crustaceans are delicious in cocktails, on pasta or in a ceviche. The best time of year to have them is in the spring, when they’re available fresh. Serve them whole (cooked) with a good white wine—you’ll be surprised by how many you can eat!
Traditional smoked salmon
Gaspesians have long mastered the art of smoking salmon. In fact, there are several specialized smokehouses in the region, including Atkins et Frères and Fumoir Cascapédia. Smoked salmon is available cold- or hot-smoked, flavoured or plain, in fillets or sliced—each with a distinctive flavour. The Atkins et Frères shop, located in the beautiful village of Saint-Maxime-du-Mont-Louis, offers a wide range of products, which you can enjoy on the nearby municipal beach.
Edible flowers at Estevan Lodge
Pierre-Olivier Ferry, executive chef at the Estevan Lodge restaurant, is renowned for his talent and innovation. He draws inspiration for his dishes from plants found in the Reford Gardens, which he picks every morning. A proud ambassador for the Smarter Seafood program, he believes in cooking in a responsible way by encouraging sustainable farming and fishing practices. No matter what you order from the restaurant’s menu, you can be sure your food will be fresh and original—not to mention a feast for the senses!
Strawberries from Ferme Bourdages Tradition
If you’re in the Chaleur Bay region, you must visit Ferme Bourdages Tradition, a magnificent strawberry farm. First and foremost, you will be charmed by the warmth of the people who work there, including the two owners, brothers Pierre and Jean-François Bourdages. If you get a chance to meet them (and you must!), they will be happy to tell you the history of the farm, which has been in their family for seven generations. You can also visit the strawberry fields, the fermentation cellar (where they make unique strawberry wines and liqueurs) and the gift shop. Be sure to sample their delicious products, which will be offered with a smile!
La Nature aux Mille Délices gourmet trail
In Côte-Nord, the regions of Manicouagan and Duplessis offer nearly 1300 kilometres (800 miles) of seaside driving and larger-than-life scenery. Fresh seafood is found throughout these regions since they are bathed in the cold waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary. Forest products are also featured on many gourmet menus in Québec. Explore the La Nature aux Mille Délices gourmet trail where you’ll encounter exceptional local food producers and restaurants. Here are a few you won’t want to miss.
Stimpson’s surf clams
Though found in abundance in the waters of Côte-Nord, Stimpson’s surf clams are little known in Québec since much of the harvest is exported to Asia. In addition, the fishery only began around the time of the cod moratorium, which also explains why this mollusk is still relatively unknown. With a sweet delicate flavour similar to that of lobster and scallops, Stimpson’s surf clams are often used in sushi and are also good in chowders or gratin recipes. Don’t miss the opportunity to savour this unique seafood!
Cloudberries are a local delicacy in Côte-Nord. Resembling raspberries, these yellow berries have a distinctive tart flavour and are rich in antioxidants. They can be made into coulis, jellies, jams or butter (which is delicious cooked with scallops from Minganie). Several chefs feature this berry on their menus. Visit the Maison de la Chicoutai (Cloudberry House) in Rivière-au-Tonnerre, where owner Bruno Duguay will introduce you to all things cloudberry!
Saveurs du Bas-Saint-Laurent
The last stop on our food tour is Bas-Saint-Laurent, which offers both the majestic St. Lawrence River and agricultural lands that stretch as far as the eye can see. Fertile and rich in history, this region will delight you with its many country-style inns and restaurants, gourmet products and small cafés. The Saveurs du Bas-Saint-Laurent association invites you to meet its members, an experience you are sure to enjoy. Here are a few products you will want to try.
Sweet treats at Pâtisserie et Gourmandises d’Olivier
Satisfy your sweet tooth by visiting Pâtisserie et Gourmandises d’Olivier, a French-style pastry shop with a local twist where you can savour macaroons, French pastries, cakes, chocolates and more. Try their superb homemade ice creams and sorbets, including sheep’s milk ice cream and a sorbet made with berries from the Kamouraska region.
Maple alcoholic beverages from Domaine Acer
You’ll also not want to miss visiting Domaine Acer, a maple Economuseum® in Auclair. Take a guided tour to learn more about how maple sap is transformed into alcoholic beverages and sample their products. This is also your opportunity to meet people who are passionate about the process as you visit the sugar shack and cellars. You are sure to be charmed by the site, its history and the exquisite taste of its fine maple products.
Fée Gourmande chocolates
If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll want to visit the Fée Gourmande chocolate factory in Kamouraska, where you can try mouth-watering products made with pure cocoa butter by a master chocolatier. The factory also makes several types of caramels, including one with a touch of salt, a spread and various chocolate-covered caramels. To learn more about the chocolate-making process, request a guided tour of the factory. True chocolate lovers will want to spend the night in the master chocolatier’s heritage home.
Obviously, this is only a taste of the culinary delights that await you in the maritime regions of Québec. I also invite you to visit the websites of the four food associations I’ve mentioned, so you can decide for yourself what you want to include on your itinerary. The hardest part will be narrowing down your options!