Québec’s Local Food Scene: Part 2, Country

After a whirlwind 24 hours of tasting the best gastronomic delights Québec City has to offer (take a peek at the food-filled write-up here), I hit the road towards Charlevoix to explore the beautiful rural towns and farm communities that make up The Flavour Trail of la belle province. As foodie culture has grown more and more popular around the world, so has the interest in agrotourism, with Québec’s Flavour Trail giving visitors the chance to check out local family farms and producers.

Just a quick hour-and-a-half drive from Québec City, you’ll find Baie-St-Paul in Charlevoix, a quiet little town of 5,000 people, and a great spot to start The Flavour Trail. The town itself is undeniably charming, with a beautiful church in its centre and a quaint main street lined with independent boutiques (not to mention the claim to fame of having the most art galleries per capita in Canada – think Group of Seven-style paintings).


If you prefer to kick back and take the scenic route to Baie-St-Paul, you can hop on a train that offers sprawling views of the St. Lawrence River and the breathtaking landscapes of Québec’s countryside. Your final destination will be the front doors of the award-winning Le Germain Charlevoix (literally, the train stops right on the property), a one-of-a-kind hotel and spa that blends streamlined modern design with the natural elements of its surroundings.

Common areas feature grand windows to let the outdoors in, and guest rooms are spacious, minimal and all uniquely designed, from the lofty superior room with a four-poster bed to the junior suite that I stayed in, which reminded me of a minimalist Scandinavian ski chalet. But the real draw is the hotel’s Nordic spa and heated pool that overlook fields of wild grass, completely open to the elements, and the best spot to unwind after a day spent enjoying the flavours of Charlevoix.

Le Germain, Lauren on the bed

Outdoor Pool at Le Germain

Spa at Le Germain

The Flavour Trail

Before you set off on The Flavour Trail, it’s a good idea to whet your palate (and line your stomach) in Baie-St-Paul first. You’ll find plenty of family-owned farm-to-table cafés and restaurants to grab a bite along the main streets, but I recommend Diapason, where the ooey-gooey grilled cheese and pulled pork sandwich is made with fresh, local ingredients.

Grilled Cheese

The first stop on our Flavour Trail excursion was the Miellerie du Cratère de Charlevoix, a family-owned farm that has thrived for five generations thanks to its sustainable agriculture efforts. Although the Gauthier family has farmed livestock for decades in Les Eboulements region, it’s their three-year-old bee-keeping business that is drawing visitors to the property (along with sweeping views of the St. Lawrence). Step into the property’s 200-year-old barn and you’ll meet family beekeeper Mathieu and his brother Sylvain, and get a chance to try some of the honey products they’ve developed from the farm’s hives – wildflower honey, creamy honey, blueberry and honey jam, and my favourite… apple and honey jelly.

Silhouette

Honey

Miellerie

Following our sweet tooth, we drove a few minutes up the road to Chocolaterie du Village, where we found a tiny little house that had a steady line-up out the door with people from all over craving a taste of the famous hand-dipped chocolate ice cream cones. Store owner Yves Huppe studied in Belgium to become a chocolatier by trade, and now offers over 50 types of chocolate and 24 varieties of fudge in his busy shop, from hazelnut to maple and raspberry cream. And like most producers in Québec, the difference is in the ingredients – Yves uses high-quality cocoa, 100% cocoa butter, and 50% less sugar than most chocolate producers, making for a more flavourful treat than what you’d find in chain stores.

Chocolate at Yves

Chocolate

We saved the best for last, finishing our tour at Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, producers of some of the region’s best wine and cheese (including the cheese from my sandwich at Diapason!). With all production done on-site, from dairy farming of cows and sheep to selling in the shop and tasting in the restaurant, visitors get a full experience of how the business operates and how their food is actually made, one of the main attractions of agrotourism. Taste-test some of the award-winning cheeses in the fromagerie, like the whole sheep milk ‘Le Secret de Maurice’ and the wildly popular ‘Le Migneron de Charlevoix,’ or sit down in the newly-revamped on-site restaurant,, which was recently purchased by three young chefs in an effort to incorporate the farm’s produce in new and innovative ways (and is now one of the region’s most acclaimed restaurants).


Cheese Wheels

Faux Bergers

Check out part one of this local food exploration of Québec, where I head out on a food tour of Québec City’s St-Roch neighbourhood and try the seafood selection at one of the city’s newest (and most talked-about) restaurants.