If you’re anything like us, you pick your next travel destination based on one very important factor: the food! And while Paris may have croissants, and Tokyo may have ramen, may we suggest a destination a little closer to home that’s every bit as delicious? Quebec, AKA la belle province, is home to some of Canada’s (and the world’s) finest artisanal foods, restaurants, and culinary delights. Don’t believe us? Allow us to explain:
Put down that sad block of grocery store cheddar and say hello to the world of Quebecois cheeses. Cheesemaking in Quebec is a serious business: Quebec is home to 17 artisan cheesemakers, many of whom are internationally renowned. If you’re looking for a true Quebec fromage experience, we recommend visiting Fromagerie du Presbytere in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick (the birthplace of poutine, according to locals!), just a couple hours outside Montreal. This fromagerie boasts over 59 awards and mentions for their internationally recognized cheeses, including their famed Louis D’Or – an absolute must-try. Named after its very unique location, Fromagerie du Presbytaire is actually located in an old presbytery, and sits beside a fully-functioning church that doubles as an aging room for the cheese. All milk used in the cheese comes from the Morin family’s farm, which is just across the street and has been passed down through five generations of dairy farmers.
Also across the street from Fromagerie du Presbytere, you’ll see their charming store, where you can find a delightful selection of Quebec-made charcuterie, wines, ciders, beers, pantry goods, and of course, all of the cheese produced on the farm. They also build charcuterie boards to enjoy there or take home, and outside the store and church, you’ll find ample seating to nibble away on your goodies.
If a trip out to Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick isn’t in the cards, many grocery stores around the province offer exceptional selections of Quebec-made cheese. For the ultimate selection, head to Montreal’s Jean Talon Market and ask the cheesemonger for their Quebec-made favourites. Trust us, you’re in for a treat.
Wine pairings galore
What better to pair your cheese with than some award-winning wines at some of the country’s most beautiful vineyards? A trip to any SAQ will show you that Quebec has a seriously impressive selection of Quebec-made wines – perfect for taking with you to any of the province’s BYOB restaurants (we always reach for a bottle of Bacchantes or Le Chat Botte when we can find it). To fully appreciate the best of Quebec’s wine offerings, we recommend taking a trip to one of the province’s many vineyards.
Vignoble du Ruisseau in Dunham, just over an hour outside Montreal, is a delightful option that beautifully showcases the farm-to-table movement currently sweeping through the province. It features rolling hills of vineyard vines, a charming covered bridge entrance, and a restaurant that’s dedicated to serving a farm-to-table menu (literally – 50 percent of the menu is sourced directly from the farm on the vineyard, including the veggies, herbs and even meat). If you happen to be visiting in early spring, the winery also offers a sugar shack experience that is simply peak Canadiana at its finest. What’s more, while wine is their primary offering, they also produce spirits and cider, so there’s a little something for everyone.
Quebec is home to some of Canada’s most iconic foods, and any trip to the province calls for a taste of all of them! Poutine, smoked meat, and bagels are three that you absolutely must try. Sure, you can get poutine at fast food restaurants across the country, and smoked meat and bagels at just about any grocery store. But trust us – they don’t hold a candle to the authentic versions you can find in Quebec.
For poutine, if you’re driving, we recommend stopping at one of the many roadside poutine shacks (a personal favourite is La Dame de Coeur, a couple of hours outside Montreal and en route if travelling from Ontario). In Montreal, options abound, but we recommend Chez Tousignant – a retro-inspired diner from notable Montreal restaurateurs Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione (who also happens to be a Food Network Canada Wall of Chefs chef).
When it comes to smoked meat, Schwartz’s Deli is often considered the go-to spot in Montreal, and their mile-high smoked meat sandwiches slathered in mustard are hard to beat (don’t forget to pair it with a cherry soda!). That said, wait times at the famed Jewish deli can be long (like, really long), so if you’re looking for a similar sandwich experience with less fanfare, try Snowdon Deli. The family-owned circa-1942 deli offers similarly delicious smoked meat sandwiches along with latkes, blintzes, and other Jewish comfort food classics.
The best bagel in Montreal is a hotly debated topic, with St. Viateur Bagels and Fairmount Bagel often neck-and-neck for the top spot. Coincidentally, the bagel shops are just a couple blocks away from each other, so for the full Montreal bagel experience, we recommend trying both and deciding for yourself (it’s a win-win, really).
Beloved chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain famously loved the city of Montreal’s food scene, and we have to agree. While not officially recognized by the Michelin guide yet, we have a feeling the announcement is coming any day now. Montreal is renowned for being on the cutting edge of Canada’s food scene – restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef have become internationally recognized thanks to Bourdain, and cult-favourite restaurants like Mandy’s have steadily built their empires across the country. For a new and buzzy option, head to Cabaret L’Enfer – helmed by self-proclaimed restaurant “punk” Massimo Piedimonte, the restaurant offers a rotating six- to eight-course menu reasonably priced at $90-$100 per person, which can be accompanied by their custom wine pairing menu on request.
Beyond Montreal, you’ll find Michelin-worthy restaurants scattered throughout the province – sometimes in the most unassuming locations. Case in point: just an hour outside of Montreal in the heart of the Richelieu Valley, you’ll find le Coureur Des Bois. This restaurant is a must-see gastronomic destination for locals and foodies alike. Featuring a seriously impressive (and heavily awarded) wine cellar, plus a farm-to-table menu that rotates every two weeks, the restaurant is inside a hotel on an unassuming road. In short, when in Quebec, there are foodie delights to be found everywhere.
The fact that Quebec is such a culinary hub is no coincidence – the province’s capital is actually home to a world-renowned culinary school, ITHQ (Institut de tourism et d’hôtellerie du Québec). The school counts Ricardo Larrivée and Emma Cardarelli as alumni (to name a couple) and has partnerships with Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels worldwide, including Fairmont, Club Med and more. The school even has two fine-dining restaurants where students work in the kitchens – if you’re looking for a taste of what’s next in the world of food (at a seriously reasonable price for fine dining), we highly recommend reserving a table for an impressive and affordable meal. And yes, your entrée is even served under a silver dome for the complete fine dining experience.