NOTE: Please see a portfolio of our Quebec photos.
Part Two of three parts
The accordion player ambled through the chalet-like dining room, belting out Quebecois folk songs as we played along with sets of spoons. We were in a cabane a sucre, or sugar shack, on the Ile d’Orleans next door to Quebec City. Especially in the spring, the sugar shack is a venerable cultural tradition sticky with sirop d’erable – the ubiquitous maple syrup.
We were waiting for our dessert – pancakes and syrup – after a family-style spread of pea soup, ham, potatoes, meat pie and beans. We were strongly encouraged to pour maple syrup on everything.
This day was about food and drink, and lots of it. I willed my stomach to stop whining and expand.
Any trip to Quebec City should include a day on the Ile d’Orleans and lunch at a sugar shack, where maple syrup is tapped and turned into all kinds of products. The Ile d’Orleans is an agritourism hub adjacent to Quebec City. The island supplies wine, breads, cassis, cheese, foie gras, fresh fruit and maple syrup to its urban neighbors. It is reminiscent of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York – villages, vineyards, farm fields and food boutiques on an island in the St. Lawrence River. The single highway around it is 47 miles long.
This sugar shack, L’en Tailleur, has been in the Tailleur family for nine generations. Mme. Tailleur warmly welcomed us and then gave a tour to two busloads of tourists, including French-speaking Quebecois, who arrived after us.
We had our car, and I had researched and mapped out several stops. Our first was the Chute de la Montmorency, the famous waterfall that is 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. If you aren’t up for the tram ride to the top and the suspension bridge that straddles it, it is probably not worth the entrance fee of $10 Canadian each. Busloads of Chinese tourists jammed the visitor center, tram line and trails – and we decided to move on.
At Cassis Monna et Filles, we tasted fortified wines, jellies, vinaigrette and condiments made with cassis, the black currant liqueur. At the Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau, we tried foie gras mousse and maple butter along with cider. We found a farmer’s market with in-season strawberries, apples, plums and blueberries. We stopped at the Vignoble St-Petronille, to buy a bottle of the wine we had at our food-tour dinner the night before. Fall foliage was near its peak on the island and surrounding hills.
Because of our reservation at the sugar shack, we didn’t make it to a lot of well-known stops: A fromagerie (cheeses), a confiturerie (jellies and jams), a roadside stand famous for poutine, a brewpub that features Suzanne Morceau (a maple syrup-infused lager), and many art galleries and souvenir boutiques.
The day was my favorite in Quebec. If we returned, we would consider the trip in reverse – stay on the island, and venture into Quebec City for a day. So much to sample, so little time.