Québec City Foodie Fave for Fall Foliage Cruises
“Panache restaurant at historical Auberge Saint-Antoine, Québec City”)
Most cruise ships overnight or schedule late departures from Québec City on fall foliage cruises. Thank goodness. Because if you skip dinner at Panache in Auberge Saint-Antoine, you have missed what would have become an unforgettable memory. The restaurant is so close to where ships dock. No taxi needed; just a five-minute stroll, as it’s located at the Old Port. In fact, you’ll probably be able to see your cruise ship outside Panache’s windows. And bring a camera.
Auberge Saint-Antoine is extraordinary. It primarily consists of three buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s as much history museum as hotel. It’s filled with hundreds of artifacts from both English and French regimes – some dating back to the 1600s - discovered on an on-site archeological dig. Dining at Auberge Saint-Antoine transports you back in time and delivers superb cuisine.
“Velvety squash soup, with toasted hazelnuts and wild mushrooms”
I’d give anything to dine at Panache again. I love the dining room. It’s so romantic. The stone walls date back to the 19th century. Wood plank floors and thick wood beams add to the long-ago ambiance. And while dishes on the modern French Canadian menu taste pure and simple, they are intricate to prepare. Many courses are interpretations of classic cuisine, prepared with organic produce from the hotel’s own garden, and with cheeses, meats, and seafood from small local purveyors. The food tastes French and it tastes Canadian – in short, it tastes like nowhere else but Québec.
“Half-cooked foie gras with salsify, pear and birch syrup”
Check out these recent dishes: Mushroom consommé with wintergreen leaves and seared mushrooms; foie gras with fig and gingerbread; pan-seared-scallops with endive, apple, and cilantro; veal sirloin with garden eggplant, grilled bread, and black olives. Dessert could be buttery pecan cake, with geranium jelly and flower honey. Each course is beautifully presented by skillful servers who pamper you plenty.
“Atlantic halibut with Jerusalem artichoke, seaweed, and oyster tartare with sorrel.
I sampled a tasting menu beginning with velvety squash soup, its silky texture accentuated by the crunch of toasted hazelnuts, its depth of flavor enriched by wild mushrooms. I devoured half-cooked foie gras, paired with salsify, pear, and birch syrup. I had never tasted birch syrup; how I marveled at its unusual, appealing taste. Fresh Atlantic halibut had its mild flavor beautifully paired with Jerusalem artichoke, seaweed, and oyster tartare flavored with sorrel. Earthy and ocean-y, at once.
How I loved Tomme du Kamouraska, local raw sheep milk semisoft cheese, with rich dark house-made blackberry jam, on fresh-baked caraway seed bread. What a cheese; its distinct delicate flavor comes from lengthy cellar aging. Dessert was a twist on classic Paris-Brest. Usually this sweet is prepared as a round pastry (same dough used for cream puffs or éclairs), filled with hazelnut pastry cream, and topped with almonds and powdered sugar – but there are many variations. The chef at Panache makes Paris-Brest-Québec, using pecans, apples and pure maple flavoring. Just genius.
Wine devotees will love Panache. The wine list has more than 700 different labels from 14 countries. The impressive cellar stores more than 12,000 bottles. Choose one wine for your meal, or go all-out and let the sommelier create a wine pairing. With this cuisine, it’s worth it. Great food, great wine, great ambiance. The perfect onshore evening on a fabulous fall foliage cruise. (saint-antoine.com; 888-692-2211)