Beautiful sunny skies greeted us, and we treated ourselves to yet another leisurely morning of puttering around our apartment. Our host had recommended a bistro up the street, and after a bit of poking around, it looked like a promising spot. We headed over and grabbed a pair of seats at the beautiful bar surrounding a spacious kitchen area. Bistro B had a great modern feel to it–sleek lines warmed up by some interesting wood panelling behind the bar. Our waiter, either because he couldn’t or didn’t want to speak English, stayed almost exclusively in French, which gave David (and me) the opportunity to work on our French. Interestingly, the drinks list was provided on an iPad and the menu, which apparently changes daily depending on what looks fresh and interesting at the nearby market, was written on chalkboards mounted above the kitchen. I started with a terrine of foie gras with an apple chutney (big surprise), while David started with a terrine of guinea fowl. Mine was super delicious, creamy and flavorful, with the apple chutney tasting surprisingly like Thailand (I think it was the addition of ginger). David’s guinea fowl terrine was also very good–interesting and strongly-flavoured. He had also ordered an interesting cocktail, the “Man-Happen”, which was a Manhattan that included a touch of “cigar syrup” (cigar leaf that had likely been macerated in simple syrup). It gave an interesting tobacco flavour, which wasn’t overpowering, to add another dimension to the drink.
For our mains, I ordered skate wing with mushrooms, pecans and puréed celery root, which was divinely good. The skate had a wonderful texture to it, to which the celery root’s creaminess was a great counterpoint. David and I have marveled at how they get their purées so creamy here in Quebec (as we’ve encountered this more than once). David had pork shoulder with cabbage and BBQ sauce. The pork was also fantastic–had that fabulous forward pork flavour and absolutely tender. A win from start to finish. We had originally planned to continue exploring old town but decided that perhaps checking out the street we were on and the nearby Rue St-Jean, supposedly a fun, bustling street might be a better idea for the day.
We strolled leisurely down Rue Cartier, a lovely commercial street with large overhanging street lamps festooned with brightly-coloured lamp shades. At the end of the street, we came across Halles des Petit Quartier, a indoor marketplace with artisanal shops selling produce, cheese and other delicious things. It also housed a pharmacy, so we quickly popped in to get David more contact lens solution. We made a brief pit stop at home to drop things off and adjust the plans for the day. We were soon on our way and heading over to Rue St-Jean, a bustling neighbourhood lined with beautiful old buildings housing fun shops and restaurants. We stopped in at a darling little jewelry shop, Rose Bouton, and picked up a pair of awesome mushroom earrings made from recycled plastic from Lili Pop, a Quebecois artist, as well as a pair of framed 4×6 graphic prints. We can’t help ourselves–we always seem to grab a bit of art when we travel. I think art makes an even better souvenir than more traditional souvenirs that have “Quebec” or something like that scrawled across them. Not far down the street we came across a fun look pub, Le Projet, specializing in local microbreweries.
Housed in a gorgeous old space with ornately carved moldings and decorative work, the bar itself seemed hilariously incongruent with the relatively stately, old-fashioned nature of the space, which was part of the fun. David enjoyed a local stout and me a glass of wine, while a nearby patron chatted us up (hailing originally from Toronto but had lived in Boston for a time). We loitered for a time, enjoying the warmth (both interpersonal and temperaturel), before heading back out. I loved the colourfulness of the neighbourhood and its brightly painted buildings. We stumbled across a roastery, Brûlerie de Café de Québec, so naturally we had a peek. David happily sipped on his espresso, while I enjoyed my usual chocolat chaud (which was actually quite tasty).
From there, we wandered down to the restaurant we had thought to get dinner at, Le Hobbit, and popped our head in to make a reservation. They were hosting a party of 30 people that evening, so there were only bar seats available, which were fine for us, so we put our name down. With a couple of hours to kill until dinner, we climbed the hill to see the parliament buildings. I am a sucker for stately, ornate buildings, and this one certainly fit the bill. It reminded me a great deal of much of the architecture in Paris (which I adore), not surprising since it was built in “Second Empire” style, which was an architectural style popular during the late 19th century that originated in France.
From there, we trekked over to the Grande Allée in search of the local brewery, L’Inox. Despite being housed in a heritage building, the interior had a very modern, sports bar feel to it. We pulled up seats at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks as well as, throwing caution to the wind, a plate of nachos. Dinner in just over an hour? Pas problème! David enjoyed his locally-brewed stout, and we happily munched on our cheesy nachos, which used an interesting type of chip that we hadn’t seen before. After we’d had our fill of nachos and booze, we made our way back down the icy hill to Le Hobbit for dinner.
The large party hadn’t yet arrived, so we sat at the bar in relative quiet and had a look at the menu. It was fairly extensive, with lots of interesting possibilities. David went with the specials of the day, as he is wont to do, including a half quail to start with and pork belly for his main. I went with crab ravioli in a saffron cream sauce to start with followed by duck confit cannelloni. We happily sipped our drinks and watched our bartender prepare drinks and garnishes. Our food was solid–everything was flavourful and well-portioned. In chatting with our bartender, we spotted an interesting Quebecois gin, Ungava, sitting on the shelf. Apparently, it’s made from various pre-colonial (as in not planted by Europeans) herbs, berries and flowers harvested in northern Quebec (read more about it here). David had some over rocks and declared it to be quite tasty and that we’d go in search of it to bring some home. We were extremely full by the end our meal, perhaps not surprising since we’d spent pretty much the entire day eating and drinking, making our way through a good 5 courses throughout the day. So it was with a full stomach and a happy heart that we waddled our way back to the apartment for the evening.