Foodie’s Guide to the Best of Quebec

Foodie’s Guide to the Best of Quebec

My first trip to Quebec was to the province’s largest city, Montreal. As I’ve mentioned, I love Montreal. On my recent trip to Ottawa, I stayed in Gatineau, which is the French half of Canada’s capital. It was there that I found the profound (and waistline-influencing) importance of food in Quebec. Let’s look a little closer at Quebec food culture in one of Canada’s most interesting provinces.

Cheeese (Fromage)

For the uninitiated, Quebec food and specifically Quebec cheese might mean a plate of poutine – that’s the unhealthy-but-delicious concoction of fries, cheese curds, and gravy shown above.  And I would dare say that’s a good place to start.  But Quebec is a cheese lover’s dream, and I’ve had some of the best cheeses in the world here – over 300 kinds of cheese are produced in the province.  If the weather gods are friendly to you, stop and pick up some stinky cheeses and have a picnic.  You won’t be sorry.

But what cheese to try?  Here are a few recommendations that you should be able to find in grocery stores (except where noted):

  • Le Riopelle de l’Isle
  • Le Mont-Jacob
  • Grand Cheddar 3 ans
  • Migneron
  • Ciel de Charlevoix
  • Chèvre noir
  • Le Cendrillon (voted best cheese in the world in 2009)
  • L’Abysse; this cheese is aged for 5 years at the bottom of the Saguenay river in 400 ft of water. It’s the only cheese of its kind in the world. Still pending government approval for the distribution, you will have to visit Fromagerie Boivin for a taste.

Beer (Bière)


Quebec has been experiencing somewhat of a Quebecois beer renaissance.  This is because in the 1980’s, the provincial laws changed that allowed small businesses, such as a pub or restaurant, to brew their own beers on premises.  The result, in a time when all but a couple of conglomerates controlled the market, now means that no matter where you go in Quebec (including retail shops), your choice of beer is… a little intense.  Fruit flavoured beers, maple beers, fizzy beers, ales, lagers, and everything else in between.  If you like beer, you will love Quebec – many restaurants offer a beer pairing with their Quebec food as well as a wine pairing.

As you stand, bedazzled by the beer section of the local Quebec shop, here are a few recommendations:

  • St-Ambroise is quite a popular brew, and their apricot ale is very tasty without being too sweet. They have an awesome oatmeal stout (when on tap, it’s better than Guinness).
  • An everyday favourite is Belle Gueule Pilsner.
  • L’Alchimiste and Barberie make beers that are out of this world.

Quebec breweries produce beers for any time of day (starting your day with a warm St-Ambroise stout is a great part of a nutrious breakfast), mood or dish.

The Mecca for beer lovers is by far Le Dépanneur de la Rive near Québec city. They have by far the largest selection of beers in Canada. Over 336 different beers but 711 beers on rotation. The outside looks like any other dépanneur but one you enter the front door you’ll be walking through a maze of beer cases stacked to the ceiling. Staff will push beer samples at you. Apart from beer they usually a few pints of milk, a couple of loaves of bread and the daily paper for sale. But, it’s all about the beer!

Meat (Viande)

quebec food - pig roast

Both the romantics as well as the pessimists of French cuisine know that France will eat anything that moves – a stereotype that starts with the lowly pigeon and ends with pig-on-a-platter.  The only other place I have been with such a love affair with meat is Quebec.  As the photo above illustrates, meat is serious business here.

Like in France, Quebec has an Appellation controlée system for some of their meats. Veau de Charlevoix, agneau de Charlevoix, agneau de l’Ile verte etc.

smoked meat sandwich is one of the popular touristy things related to Quebec food – a visit to Montreal without having a sandwich from Schwartz’s is a trip not worth taking.

Tourtière is a meat pie popular across the province, though the type of filling varies depending on where you are – typically pork but sometimes it is duck or even hare.

Pate is another Quebec classic – and once you must try from a bakery or butcher’s where it is made fresh. Similar to all of the other products listed, Quebec pate comes in many shapes and sizes, from duck to pork, and in so many different flavours.

And who wouldn’t want a Chien Chaud – it sounds delicious, but if you speak French you know this beautiful phrase simply means hot dog:)  They make ‘em right though, particularly up in Quebec City.

I should warn my American readers, though – if you order a Quebec pizza, you will not get a “pop tart with ketchup” as urban myth permates – but instead, a pizza with…meat.

Maple Syrup (Sirop D’Erable)

Did you know that 75% of the world’s supply of maple syrup comes from Quebec?  If you’ve been in any souvenir shop in Canada, you’ll have seen plenty of the sticky stuff, and it is mostly from here.  It was Quebec that introduced me to the grading system for syrup flavours – “Aunt Jemima” isn’t the only way to prepare mable syrup, and in many stores in Quebec you can choose from dark, richer flavours or opt for something light.

In early Spring, you can enjoy some “tire sur la neige”, or sugar snow, which is maple syrup poured onto fresh (preferably white) snow.  It’s so good we featured it as one of the world’s best desserts.  But often, Quebec food is flavoured with maple, such as glazes on meat.

So, next time you are in Quebec, ask for something a little more local.  Cheese?  Beer?  Meat?  Maple Syrup?  What else do you need!

Photo Credits: joephotoGary Soup, Author Photo,kylemac,

Editor’s Note:  Special thanks to Marc Faubert, a true Quebecois whose fabulous gastronomic advice and never-ending pursuit to keep taste buds moist and bellies full made this article possible.

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  • […] to visit every Canadian provinces, as it is such a wonderful country.  So after a belly full of Quebec food, I boarded my berth on VIA Rail’s The Ocean (more on that another day), and relaxed in for an […]


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