Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Day One in Quebec City

I'm off to Quebec City until Sunday for my summer break, deciding to spend my vacation dollars North of the border for the foreseeable future -- as much as I would have enjoyed another baseball road trip. So, having crossed Halifax off the bucket list at biennial this spring, my first visit to Quebec City seemed a logical choice. And armed by many recommendations from mes amis, there will be food blogging.

Day one on Tuesday was six hours on the train, so other than dinner it was really a train food day, with breakfast and lunch in VIA One, before dropping my bags at my AirBNB and heading back to the old city for a real meal.

Train breakfast

I wasn't expecting breakfast  as it was a 10:15 AM departure on VIA, so outside the usual breakfasting hours. Prime brunch hours I suppose, though it is Tuesday. Still, just East of Ottawa they came around with the meal cart, offering an omelette or cereal, and as I hadn't eaten breakfast I decided to partake.

Now, those of you paying close attention at home know I'm not a big egg guy. Still, I wasn't feeling the cereal, and while I won't go out and pay separately for eggs, there is one scenario where, faced with limited choice, I will eat them. It should be an omelette with other stuff in it, and it should be smothered in copious amounts of ketchup. So, conditional on VIA having ketchup (which they did), that was my choice.

It needed more stuff in it though. There *may* have been cheese. But I saw no green peppers, or mushrooms, or what not and what have you. I ate it grudgingly, if only to get to the nondescript sausage patty underneath. The baked beans were a nice touch, and the fingerling potatoes a standout.

Train lunch

After a 30 minute layover in Gare de Montreal, where ongoing passengers were to stay on the train (I was told there was no time to go for smoked meat) we backed-up halfway to the airport, and then continued East again, deeper into Quebec. And soon, it was time for lunch.

They had begun drinks at the opposite end of the car from me so I was resigned to them being out of anything decent when they got to me (when I say resigned, I mean seething with first world, privilege unchecked pre-anger), but after serving the VIPs they began on my end, and the world was my oyster: chicken, beef or pasta.

Now, beef is usually overcooked in these scenarios so I tend to avoid it. And pasta, as I've said, feels too simple and cheap, something I could make at home. And did last night, actually. So chicken it was.

I was somewhat disappointed that I hadn't realized or been told it was actually a cold chicken salad, so that was a shock. Still, one I overcame and was fine with in the end. I took my roll and the chicken breast, and some of the salad and made a little sandwich. The salad could have used some work though. Other than two pieces of cucumber and two cherry tomatoes, and a few stray weeds, it was basically a large pile of carrot. And couscous as the side. Two salads; my bowl runneth over.

The now standard VIA vegan brownie, and it occurred to me now there was no after-lunch chocolate, with was a downgrade a few years ago from the post-meal truffles they used to serve. It's also often a challenge now to get drink refills after the meal service. But enough kvetching.

Café du Monde

Having found and settled into my AirBNB, I scoured my crowd sourced list of recommended local dining establishments and decided to head to Café du Monde. Located on the waterfront in the cruise ship terminal it should not be confused with the New Orleans restaurant of the same name, famous for its beignets. No beignets here.

It was busy but I didn't need to wait, and as I sipped a glass of Quebec red I decided on the table d'hote, starting with the French Onion soup. Because when in Quebec...

I don't think I've had French Onion soup since I was a kid. My Dad used to make it, so that would have to have been at least 15 or more years ago. I recall my sister and I used to just eat the cheese off the top, and he would get mad and make us at least make an effort at eating the rest. I also remember we had these cool ceramic french onion soup bowls with the handles we bought in France, which is perhaps why he made it regularly.

If Dad was watching he'd be happy to know I finished the whole thing this time. Plenty of onion, flavourful broth, and a cheese stronger than I'd usually have on its own, but delicious in this setting balanced off by the broth. And I rationed the cheese throughout the soup. Tasty.

On to the main course: duck confit and mushroom open ravioli. Now, I don't often have duck as I'm more of a white meat guy, but I'm expanding my culinary horizons this week and this was tasty.

The duck was very tasty, and plentiful, and the jus quite delish. Could have used more mushrooms would be my primary note. And I've never had this open ravioli thing before. It certainly allowed for more meat, but was a challenge to cut.

Because it was a three-course deal, I had a choice of deserts: some chocolate dot thing, or Crème brûlée. And again, when in Quebec...

I like Crème brûlée but I'm not a connoisseur, so when I ate my first spoonful and found it a bit cool/cold inside, I was unsure if this was how it was supposed to be or not. A quick Google  told me cool inside with a warm crisp top describes the ideal crème brûlée. So I carried on, and enjoyed.

Don't have Wednesday planned yet. But I know it will begin with fresh croissants.

Bon soir.

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