Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Panache at the Auberge Saint Antoine

Panache would be our final dinner in Québec City (I can't believe that was a month ago...), and as we walked away, we were both happy with the choice. On the Thursday evening of our reservation, the three course menu would be the Chef's, so we had no idea what would be coming out of the kitchen.

We were greeted warmly upon arrival by the maître d', our coats and umbrellas were taken away, and we were led through the amazing space to our table. The wine paired with the first course was poured, and we were left to relax with some lovely crusty bread and butter.

First up were some tender barbecued ribs with a vegetable slaw that I didn't get any pictures of. The ribs were pretty memorable - tender, smoky and the perfect portion - and Charles didn't stop talking about them for days.

Next was Arctic Char, served with vegetables from the restaurant's garden and a light, delicate vegetable broth.

Then cheese from around Québec... a sharp chevre and a creamy Grand Manitou that was made from cow, goat and sheep milk.

And finally dessert. I can't completely remember everything in totality, but those strawberries were lovely and fresh from Île d'Orléans, and were set off with citrusy shavings of orange zest. And the fennel ice cream - smooth and creamy with the intense flavour of liquorice, I could have easily had a bowl of it.

I loved the idea of the Chef's menu, and this one definitely did not disappoint. If anything, a little more adventure would have been nice, but the simple, clean, fresh dishes that appeared at the table were all excellent. Next time though, the regular menu is definitely in order - they are famous for their foie gras and I was a little sad to have missed it.

A peek into the kitchen through a frosted window at the entrance

With every detail thought of service wise, the beautiful decor and great food, Panache is certainly on the list for our next visit to Québec.

8, Saint-Antoine Street
Québec, QC

Also in the Auberge Saint Antoine is Café Artefact which does drinks, light lunches, and tapas style items. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stop by, but I was intrigued by the space which displays artefacts found in the archaeological dig performed before the addition was added on to the original building. Here's a similar display we encountered upon entering Panache:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To MRKT for dinner

Stopping by MRKT for lunch at the end of June with a coworker, I really enjoyed my warm, toasty braised beef sandwich. So reading the latest edition of The Tomato the other day and seeing that they were now open for dinner, Charles and I made plans to head over for a Friday evening dinner last week.

Arriving around 8pm, the place was fairly empty, so we grabbed one of the six seat tables along the wall, leaving the three ladies seated at the long main table to themselves. Greeted as we entered, our server was at the table right away providing us with wine and food menus, along with water.

The space itself is long and narrow with wood slats on the walls giving the place a sort of cabin feel. Combined with the lack of windows and sparse lighting (there won't be any food pictures with this one), there is a definite ambience created in the evening. During the day though, the front window brings in fairly ample lighting, along with two good sized skylights by the bar.

Towards the light!
(it went out soon after our arrival and we were left to our candle)

Charles jumped on the seared skirt steak, while I went for the special - braised beef ribs. In retrospect, I wish I would have gone for a couple smaller, lighter dishes, like the house made ricotta, a cheese and charcuterie board or oyster tartar. However the beef ribs were a welcome accompaniment to the cool fall weather, and since I didn't make it to the other dishes there is already a reason to head back.

Our food appeared fairly quickly after ordering. Charles steak was nicely cooked, well seasoned and incredibly flavourful and was topped with a well rounded gremolata that Charles couldn't get enough of. On the side were a few potato croquettes that were wonderfully crispy on the outside, and smooth and soft on the inside, as well as a simple, well dressed green salad to top things off. The beef ribs were incredibly tender, falling off the bone as soon as I began cutting into them. Apparently they were braised with Coca-Cola and a few other types of soda to aid in the tenderizing process, and although our server commented that they might be slightly sweet, I thought I was tasting more of that soda 'bite' than anything. The ribs were accompanied by a creamy, rich polenta and an assortment of swiss chard - my favourite fall vegetable.

Dessert wise, we decided on the special - a bread pudding served with caramel and crab apple sauce. Although I would have preferred the bread pudding itself a little warmer, the contrast between the tart crab apple sauce and the rich caramel and bread pudding was fantastic.

I loved their cups and saucers

Carla Alexander has done a really great job showcasing local producers and businesses on the menu - from Green Eggs and Ham and Sundog Organics, to Ocean Odyssey, Paddy's and Cally's, it was nice to see some recognizable names and both simple and inventive dishes created with great ingredients coming out of the kitchen. Along with the friendly service and daily specials, we will certainly be back.

Popeye cigarettes with the bill. They're Charles' favourite.

10542 Jasper Avenue
Lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5pm till' late (although the kitchen closes at 10pm)
Mrkt Market on Urbanspoon

For posts on lunch at MRKT, check out Foodosophy and Brûlée Blog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ice Cream and other things

We bought the ice cream attachment for our mixer back in July, but with our fridge breaking down twice within the week we bought it, my attempts to make ice cream were thwarted. But last week I finally gave up my superstition that the fridge broke because I wanted to make ice cream (plus we got a new timer put in), and I eventually settled on David Lebovitz' Mexican Chocolate ice cream from Ready For Dessert for the first batch.

This attempt turned out to be fantastic, and this was certainly the smoothest, richest and most decadent ice cream either of us had ever tried. The cinnamon provided the perfect warmth as did the little bit of cayenne I decided to add at the end. And both spices complemented the chocolates that I ended up using - a Venezuelan and a Madagascar, both from Valrhona. We've almost cleaned out the container, so hopefully I can find some time to whip up a new batch for the upcoming week.

Speaking of time, I'm pretty overwhelmed right now - school is crazy. It's my last year I'm pushing as hard as I can to finish for June. Unlike last semester where I had the Anthro of Food class to throw myself into with some more general classes on the side, this Fall is proving to be more specific and more difficult - Lower Palaeolithic Prehistory, Medical Anthro, Reading Class and Ideology, Linguistic Anthro, and finally, the most abstract, fun and challenging one - Imagining Society: Places, Things and Stories... what is the social imaginary? Can it be defined? How do we get at it? How do we interact with place? How do we sense it? What is sense? What is feeling? Is it tangible?...

All these things are swimming around in my head, and I've had by nose stuck in books and articles non-stop for the past couple weeks. All this is a round about way of saying posts will be few and far between this year, and I'm thinking of stopping the blog all together for a while. I 'feel' like it needs a new direction... maybe it will come to me in Lower Palaeolithic class as we discuss the most recent Acheulean hand axe find - you never know.

But before the possible break, I still have two posts left from Québec (I know...): Panache and our final lunch at L'Échaudé. Also, we made it to MRKT last Friday for dinner, so a post is in the works for that too. Then I'll see where I'm at.

Anyhow, I wanted to mention that we made it to Symphony Under the Sky again this year. As per usual, it was the perfect way to end the Festival season, and it's always nice to head out and be a patron - no responsibilities but to enjoy the show. Also, last Fat Franks and Mini Donuts of the year.

I still go for the veggie with dijon and regular mustard, sauerkraut and pickles; Charles is Italian or Honey Ham with mustard, pickles and hot peppers

Friday, September 10, 2010

Restaurant SSS

Our last full day in Québec City brought some beautiful warm weather, and after wandering around the antique district we decided on a late lunch on the patio at Restaurant SSS, the casual offering from the owners of Toast.

Unlike the majority of the patios we encountered around the City, this one took up the entire sidewalk, and with no railings or barriers of any kind marking the place off, there was plenty of good people watching to be had.

With the restaurant offering a lovely 'in between lunch and dinner menu', with lots of tapas style items as well as a couple full plates, we had lots to choose from. Charles decided on a burger that would be served with fries, while I went for the salmon tartar with fries and salad. Drink wise we both decided an afternoon beer was in order, and each selected and a glass of blond ale from Archibald Microbrasserie, the house beer on tap.

Both our drinks and food arrived in good time, and we were left to it. Charles burger looked great, and apparently the taste matched - still moist and flavourful, the patty was cooked well, and with toppings like truffle aïoli, smoked cheddar and house made ketchup, the burger was a definite hit. My salmon tatar was equally nice, with the chives cutting through the rich salmon well, the black sesame seeds providing a nutty contrast, and the tempura hidden in the middle giving a welcome crunch to the dish. Combined with the avocado base, this was definitely a successful incorporation of some familiar sushi flavours and textures.

Content for more walking before our late dinner reservation at Panache, we lingered a little longer to enjoy our beer, the patio and the general atmosphere of the neighbourhood. With great menu items offered from lunch to late night, I don't think either of us would hesitate to return to this one.

A natural canopy of leaves just starting to turn orange

Restaurant SSS
71, Saint-Paul
Vieux-Port, Québec

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Le Clocher Penché Bistrot

One of our dinner reservations in Québec City was at Le Clocher Penché Bistrot, a quick jaunt out of Vieux-Quebec down Saint-Joseph Est. After trudging through the rain, we finally found the restaurant situated in an old bank building on the corner of Saint-Joseph and Caron. Arriving almost 20 minutes before our 8pm reservation to a packed house, we were glad to be seated and rid of our wet coats.

The tables are incredibly tight in this place... almost uncomfortably tight, as we found with the couple next to us moving closer and closer to one another across the table as their wine bottle emptied. At any rate, we settled in with our short list of food items, a lengthy list of wines and a small dish of olives placed on the table to munch on.

We decided to start with a beer at the suggestion of the server, as the house beer on tap comes from La Barberie, a microbrewery just a few blocks from the restaurant (I really wish we would have stopped by this one). Charles had an espresso stout that was amazing, while I went for a blonde that was enjoyable, but a little to grainy for my liking. Food wise, I decided on a fresh, house made cheese to start, with a main of fresh scallops from Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Charles, ever the red meat guy, decided on beef and beef - the beef carpaccio to start and sirloin steak second.

A basket of some lovely grainy bread appeared on the table pretty quickly after ordering, and we were left with our beer until appetizers appeared, which wasn't long at all. My cheese dish was lovely and light - fresh, tart cheese that was the consistency of yogurt, served with thinly sliced radish and a salty prosciutto that contrasted with the cheese and radish nicely. Charles raved about his beef carpaccio, served with a dressing of truffle oil, horseradish and tarragon.

As we polished off our starters, I eyed the cocotte at the table next to us with envy. Every evening a dish for two is featured, and that evening it happened to be fresh shellfish from Îles-de-la-Madeleine... Charles doesn't do shellfish and there was no way I could have tackled that thing on my own. So another time, another cocotte.

Our mains arrived along with a sauvignon blanc for me, so I didn't spend too long ogling the dish next to us. My scallops were soft and perfectly cooked, so that they melted as they were eaten. Served with Chanterelles that provided a rich, earthy contrast as well as some beautifully coloured red and golden beats, I loved every bite of my dish. The beef side of things went well too, with Charles steak perfectly cooked and served alongside some fresh vegetables.

Rounding 9:30 and with much success with our first two courses, we decided to head to dessert. Waffling between the lemon and raspberry options, we eventually decided on the latter, along with the sparkling rosé paired with the dish. The combination of the Labrador shortcake with bright raspberries and rich orange sauce turned out to be the perfect way to finish our visit to Clocher Penché, and the rosé set everything off nicely.

I'm certainly glad we ventured through the rain to the Clocher Penché - with amazing food, wine and beer, it was definitely memorable. With dishes changing daily on both the lunch and dinner end of things, both Charles and I agreed we wouldn't hesitate to return next time we're in town.

Le Clocher Penché Bistrot
203, rue Saint-Joseph Est
Québec City, QC
418.640.0597 (reservations a must)
Open daily for lunch and dinner; Sundays brunch only and Mondays closed


My parents were out from Vancouver this week so we decided to celebrate my Nanny's 92nd a little early. Her favourite type of cake is chiffon and she adores marzipan, so the 'Duchess' from Duchess Bake Shop was an easy fit. It went over incredibly well - after enjoying it for dessert this evening, I sent Nanny home with two pieces and she 'won't be sharing with anybody'.

Happy Birthday Nanny!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pain Béni at the Auberge Place d'Armes

Although Pain Béni was located right in our hotel, we only managed to make it down for our complimentary breakfast each morning, as well as one late lunch on Wednesday afternoon.

All four mornings at Pain Béni were alright, with the most memorable item for me being a lovely bowl of creamy oatmeal served with maple syrup... yum.

Each morning we were given a list of about 8 items to choose from, all ranging in price from $6 to $8. Service was always a bit strange, as I think they simply pulled it together to serve hotel guests, so we were often in for lengthy waits outside receiving our food.

The 'Holy Bread' breakfast - french toast and bread pudding

At any rate, I think we were both glad to have the breakfast offered at the hotel - the food was always good and since it was included with our stay, it made for leisurely, care free mornings.

I was glad to see in my Chowhound searches that Pain Béni was popping up on the board repeatedly, mostly with a mention of lunch. So on Wednesday after a lengthy morning stroll, we were happy to head back to Place d'Armes, drop our rain gear in our room, and enjoy a relaxed lunch indoors.

We were eagerly greeted and sat at a table next to the window, perfect for watching the rain storm that had moved into the City. Our server quickly provided us with a McEwan's Scotch each (I really wish that they would have had some local microbreweries on the menu), and left us for a few moments with the lengthy menu.

With items all over the board, likely to satisfy the tourists crowding rue Sainte-Anne and the immediate area, Charles decided on Spaghetti Bolognese while I went for a fresh lobster and shrimp sandwich.

Our mains arrived and we happily got right into things. Charles' spaghetti turned out to be the perfect warm comfort food to match the rainy, grey day outside, and he happily got through the plate in no time. My sandwich was also lovely, with the sweet lobster and shrimp, sun dried tomato, salty feta and cilantro all mingling well on a nice crusty baguette. The salad that came with my sandwich could have been taken or left, with a little too much dressing and not much else to note.

There was no question of moving on to dessert at Pain Béni - with items like maple and tonka bean cookies, cilantro and apricot sorbet, and coconut risotto with wasabi pea crumble, I probably could have lived off of their dessert menu alone for most of our stay. Charles was in for the chocolate and so was I - a warm chocolate cake with a creamy white chocolate centre, along with goat cheese ice cream, beet and rhubarb sauce and soft caramel... yum.

The dessert was fantastic, with the smooth, warm chocolate cake and cool, tangy goat cheese ice cream providing a perfect contrast.

Although I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to Pain Béni more, particularly to sample more of the dessert menu, we were both happy with the dining choices made during our stay. As for the Auberge Place d'Armes itself, we loved the little room with the dormer style window providing perfect people watching opportunities. And although the bed was a little firmer than either of us prefer, we would certainly stay again for the friendly staff and central location.

View from the window

Auberge Place d'Armes and Pain Béni
24, rue Sainte-Anne, Vieux-Québec

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Restaurant l'Échaudé - Part 1

I'm swooning right now as I think of l'Échaude... It was so lovely, we ended up stopping twice - for dinner Tuesday evening and for lunch on Friday, just before we left for our flight home. Here's the dinner side of things.

l'Échaudé has a beautiful patio, and although there were patrons willing to wait 45 minutes plus to be seated en plein air, we opted for a table for two indoors, and were seated immediately by the maître d'.

The tables indoors are admittedly a little closer together than either of us prefer, but this seemed to be the norm wherever we went. And here, the general atmosphere seemed to make up for it, with servers gliding around the place in light pink button down shirts, 'last chance' wines written on elaborately framed mirrors on the wall, and a beautiful bar with iced sparkling wine and champagne ready to go at any moment. It was all very elegant, and with food to match, it was a beautiful combo.

After a few moments our server and Charles finally attempted to translate 'le panais' into English for my sake (at one point the table next to us got involved, describing the vegetable to me as a 'white carrot'). And while I decided to skip the soup that evening - a creamed parsnip - Charles opted for a bowl to start. His report was that the terrine of soup was great, with the rich cream and slightly spicy parsnip mixing well.

Charles' soup was cleared and we were left to enjoy our bottle of wine for a few extra moments before our mains appeared. For Charles, a New York steak that was served with an assortment of vegetables, including some amazing golden beats, and a potato pavé, all of which he enjoyed immensely. I chose to go with the 'milk fed' veal liver, after reading a report on Chowhound a couple weeks ago that raved about the dish... and the accolades were appropriate. The liver was moist, rich and flavourful, and was surrounded by a creamy, peppery herb sauce that complemented everything well. As with Charles' plate I also received some beautiful fresh vegetables, along with a crispy potato and chanterelle rösti that contrasted the soft liver well.

I had decided earlier in the evening to leave the camera in the bag, but then our server brought out the dessert menu and there it was - a chocolate tasting with Domori grand cru. I couldn't believe it. Domori is an amazing chocolate from Italy with a lovely smooth temper and flavourful single origin beans. This would be incredible! With Charles quickly realizing that this one wouldn't be a shared dessert, he found an alternative in the sugar pie, something his grandmother used to make all the time. The desserts came and went and were both amazing, and I think that is what led us to make a Friday lunch reservation for what would be our final meal in Québec City.

The Chocolate Tasting - rich, dense ice cream with peanuts; creamy, warm pot du creme; a smooth truffle studded with cacao nibs and a single cherry

Sugar pie... almost like Grandmama's

As we reached the top of the hill near our hotel it was decided - after lingering a bit for the view below - that a drink at the Château Frontenac was in order. And it was the perfect way to end a long day and a great evening.

The view

The drink - Dalwhinnie 12yr.

73, rue Sault-au-Matelot
Vieux-Port, Québec
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, with an after hours (10pm) menu available; A brunch on Saturdays and Sundays that we were sad to have missed