Savour the Stops on Quebec’s Flavour Trail
Road trips have never been more delicious than when you treat yourself to a taste of Quebec’s Flavour Trail. This easily drivable route is a veritable feast for the senses with opportunities to sample fabulous food, revel in beautiful scenery and learn a bit of history along the way.
Experience Mouthwatering Montréal
Begin your foodie adventure at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, Montréal. Located atop Central Station in the heart of Montréal, this elegant hotel offers easy access to the metro, Old Montréal and the dizzying array of downtown attractions.
If you’d like to feel less guilty while indulging, pedal while you nibble. A food and bike tour such as “Hoods and Hidden Gems” offers a Montrealer’s view of this eco-friendly city. You’ll explore local hangouts and make a stop at Jean-Talon Market, the largest open-air market in North America. This is where local chefs shop for their daily ingredients, and this is the place to find all and local Quebec food products you may want to sample or bring home as souvenirs. Marché des Saveurs is a unique store at Jean-Talon Market, offering culinary goods from every region of Quebec. It is the largest store offering Quebec products, including local jams, produce and of course maple syrup. Did you know that 74 percent of the world’s maple syrup production comes from Quebec?
Moving on, check out the ultimate food fight of the century. St-Viateur Bagel hovers on one side, while Fairmount Bagel casts a wary eye from the other. These rivals are in the Mile-End neighborhood, and their bagels turn even the most buttery of croissants green with envy. Ask any Montrealer which is their favorite bagel, and they’ll be sure to have an opinion. Try both bagel contenders and you can form your own preferences.
A lively mix of cultures and cuisines, Mile-End provides countless opportunities to put your creative photography skills to the test. The famous staircases, seen throughout the city, are often referred to as iron icons. Take a series of photos to create a stunning collection of memories. There are many theories as to why these staircases styles are so abundant, but a favorite of Montrealers is a titillating one. It hypothesizes that the Catholic Church encouraged the construction of open-air staircases to increase visibility of visitors. After all, an outdoor staircase makes it more "difficile" for the milkman to make an illicit visit during the day.
As your daytime moves into night, try one of Montreal's top-rated bring-your-own wine restaurants, such as Le Quartier General or O'Thym. Ask a savvy wine sales representative at one of the many SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) locations throughout Montréal to help you with your selection. Or, if you’re craving down-home comfort food, head to Poutineville to sample a French-Canadian favorite, poutine: fries smothered in hot gravy, topped with melting cheese curds.
When it’s time to turn in, you can tell your friends that you stayed at a hotel in downtown Montréal that was host to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In for Peace; the duo wrote and recorded their anthem “Give Peace a Chance” in bed at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth.
Explore an Enchanting Island
Next, your ultimate drive route is from Montréal to La Malbaie, but on the way you must stop for the night in Quebec City at newly-renovated Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a castle hotel said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. At home inside the walls of Old Quebec, this richly renovated historic hotel delivers lasting memories as you enjoy breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River.
While in this area, plan a visit to Île d’Orléans, an island that sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, but within view of Quebec City. The entire island is a National Historic Site and it provides Quebec City with fresh fruit and vegetables, grain and maple products. En route to the island, stop at Monna & Filles. You’ll be amazed by the staff’s skill in transforming black currants (harvested on Île d’Orléans) into culinary works of art that include an award-winning Crème de Cassis.
Once on the island, visit Le Jardin des Arts, the island’s largest gallery. After shopping, have lunch at Chocolaterie de l’Île and make sure to follow up your quiche Lorraine or ham croissant with one (or maybe three) of their artisanal chocolates. Continue to seduce your senses at La Seigneurie de l’Île, 10 acres of fragrant gardens that include more than 75,000 lavender plants; lavender essential oil is a perfect choice to take home as a souvenir.
Feed Your Soul in Charlevoix
As you continue on your journey, you’ll want to veer off highway 138 and take a gourmet lunch break in quaint Baie St. Paul. Your designated driver can sample the local beer on tap at Le Saint Microbrasserie, and there are plenty of picture-perfect shops and restaurants to explore. Once you’ve fuelled up, don’t get back on 138, but opt for the slower, scenic drive and take Route 362 all the way to La Malbaie. A postcard-perfect waterfront community, La Malbaie is in the Charlevoix region, known for its dramatic landscape of rolling hills, fjords, headlands and bays. In fact, in 1989, UNESCO designated the region a World Biosphere Reserve. You’ll make this your final food-friendly destination, and your temporary home will be the magnificent Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu.
Charlevoix is home to fine gastronomy, and all three of Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu's restaurants reflect this. If you’d like to know where the chefs shop for their ingredients, sample the award-winning cheeses at Maurice Dufour, the crusty baguettes at Le Moulin de la Remy, or the ice cider at Isle-aux-Coudres family estate. After your tasting tour, head to Le Manoir Richelieu's spa, where you can continue this feast for the senses with a deliciously relaxing ice cider body scrub.
Le Manoir Richelieu's concierge can point you in the right direction to discover the region’s signature products. Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail connects more than 40 local growers, producers and restaurateurs. This driving adventure is designed to leave you full of great food and overflowing with joie de vivre.
Liisa Sullivan is a freelance content writer who lives in Asheville, NC. She has written on a great number of topics for multiple industries, but has a strong focus on hospitality and travel. (And yes, the spelling of her first name is correct – it’s Finnish).
Peppers at Jean-Talon Market, Montreal, Canada by Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner
View from Ramparts by Dennis Jarvis
Lavande by Romain Cloff
Baguettes by Jarkko Laine