Les Lofts Saint-Joseph — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Quebec City

We drove through northern Maine on high moose alert — the country was wild, wet and largely uninhabited, and roadside signs all along the route warned of moose crossings.

Flynn et Willa in our loft

Flynn et Willa in our loft

We didn’t see any moose. But we had a pleasant leisurely chat about web design and client management with the friendly officer at the border crossing as the cars piled up behind us. And then the signs were in French and the traffic lights were sideways and we were in Quebec.

An hour later we arrived in Quebec City. Having turned off our data to avoid international rates, we circled through an endless maze of rues and avenues until we finally found our way to Les Lofts Saint-Joseph.

View on Château Frontenac from the Plains of Abraham

View on Château Frontenac from the Plains of Abraham

After five nights between rectangular hotel rooms with double beds in Boston and Bar Harbor, opening the door to our fourth-floor loft was like a veil being lifted. It was beautiful, clean and modern, a huge open space with exposed brick walls, wood floors and large windows looking over Quebec. There were two bedrooms with queen beds, a massive bathroom and a washer and dryer. And somehow, ironically, perhaps because of a strong dollar or the brand new lofts trying to attract guests, it was the least expensive of all our stays.

And… there was a full kitchen.

Within an hour we were at the Metro Plus supermarché, filling our baskets with bread, soft ripe cheeses, foie gras, Canadian salmon, fresh butter and local mayonnaise, French wine and poutine Lay’s potato chips. (I’m a fan of trying unusual flavors of Lay’s potato chips in different countries.)

Imogen makes herself at home

Imogen makes herself at home

For a cook in a foreign city, there is nothing better than having a kitchen and access to a local market. In addition to offering a creative outlet for me, it would provide an anecdote to restaurant burnout. Our first evening’s dinner in the loft began with vin rouge, foie gras mousse, cheeses and a baguette worthy of a Parisian boulangerie, followed by pan-seared steak and salmon fillet, steamed asparagus with butter and an oak leaf lettuce salad with maple/rosemary mayonnaise dressing — simple, fresh and delicious.

Returning to the Metro Plus in the morning to get some cream for the coffee, I made a discovery that nearly took my breath away — a dozen Prince Edward Island malpeque oysters for $4 Canadian (that’s about $3 U.S.) So it was oysters for breakfast for me, with plans to return for several more dozens later.

The Old Town

The Old Town

In the old center of Ville Quebec, you would be hard-pressed to find a single detail save the occasional maple leaf flag to make you think you were anywhere but France. And that includes an impressive collection of charming bistros, brasseries, cafés and restaurants. Our morning walk took in all the sights — the Old City and Old Port, the Chateau Frontenac, the Plains of Abraham… But come lunchtime, we found only expensive tourist joints all serving the same assortment of croque monsieurs and Greek salads. So we headed back to our charming neighborhood, where real Quebecois seemed to be eating, and landed in the restaurant Flynn had been lobbying for: Poutineville.

Poutine,” for those uninitiated in Quebecois cuisine, is pretty much the national dish — fried potatoes piled high with gravy, cheese and various other tasty toppings.

Custom poutine at Poutineville

My custom poutine at Poutineville

At Poutineville, you could order one of the poutine specials on the menu, or you could check off boxes of what you wanted from the poutine check box menu and create your own. I checked off crushed potatoes (versus the chips), smoked meat, cheese curds, jalapeños, grilled onions and traditional poutine gravy. The dish was oddly satisfying and delicious, the squeaky curds playing nicely off the rich gravy and crispy potatoes. I could see how the Quebecois might get obsessive about the dish to the point of needing a Lay’s poutine potato chip.

Later that evening, after another dozen malpeque oysters and a beer, plus a baguette and some foie gras and stinky cheese, I cooked up a couple simple langoustines with browned butter and lemon. My wife was still full from the poutine, so I got most of hers.

IMG_7800

In the morning before driving up the St. Lawrence waterway to take a boat ride searching for white beluga whales (bucket list), I would slurp another dozen oysters. (Long drive, but yes, there would be white whales.)

And ahead would be Montreal, dinner in pal Don Schneider’s favorite restaurant in the world, more foie gras and more wine, more poutine Lay’s and heaven knows what else…

Flynn + Willa, Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Flynn + Willa, Montmorency Falls, Quebec

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 02:28:46

    So glad you were able to do some of your own cooking Sean, sounds wonderful.

    Reply

  2. Michelle
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 11:55:55

    Ah, the land of the PFK! We did the Quebec City/Montreal trip a long time ago and had a nice time. I loved how people in Montreal would say “bonjourhello” as if one big word and then wait to see how you responded.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jul 02, 2015 @ 11:20:24

      Can’t wait to hear that! Actually I’m finding they speak a lot more anglais in Montreal than in Ville de Quebec. Some truly great restaurants here, too.

      Reply

  3. andreathompson2
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 21:09:13

    Soon cool!

    Reply

  4. andreathompson2
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 21:09:35

    Soon = sooooo

    Reply

  5. Mom
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 07:44:32

    I am sooo jealous.

    Reply

  6. Jessamine in PDX
    Jul 04, 2015 @ 06:06:29

    A dozen oysters for $3? Bless Canada! I also love staying in places with a kitchen. There’s nothing sadder than being somewhere different, seeing all kinds of fun things at the local market and having no way to cook them. Sounds like you made good use of it – those are some serious vacation meals! Also speaking of smoked meats – while you’re in Montreal, I really hoping you’re planning to eat at Schwartz’s. It’s pretty amazing.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: I Left My Heart in Poutineville | skinny girls & mayonnaise
  8. Trackback: Coming Home — Cheese, Chips and WCs | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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