While we were in Toronto, we went to a dinner party hosted by my friends Andrew and Debbie Levy. As we ate, my name was called out, and when I turned towards the far end of the table, Andrew, Debbie, and all their friends bellowed “YOU MUST GO TO CHARLEVOIX!”
Honestly, Dana and I had never even heard of this region, but since we had nothing but faith in the Levy/Levy Friend Group’s taste, we rearranged our time in Quebec so Charlevoix would be a part of it.
Are we happy we did? Oh yes. It's a remarkable place.
Located northeast of Quebec City and hugging the St. Lawrence, Charlevoix is all that is charming; there are sweet villages, big red barns, bays lined with tipsy old boathouses, and some hilariously-named pastries.
For example, our lovely host Laurence at Les Petits Brasseurs made us pets de soeur for breakfast one morning. They're a kind of French Canadian/Acadian rolled pastry, with a name that translates as “nuns’ farts.”
And they're so tasty.
Dating back to 1827, the mill was restored by Heritage Charlevoix in 1997, and now grinds all the locally-grown wheat for the bakery in front of it. Its shelves are lined with bread, pastries, brioche, and pies - we bought a loaf of cranberry hazelnut sourdough and shared it with the other guests at Les Petits Brasseurs. This site is one of many worth visiting on the Charlevoix Flavour Trail.
It was an imposing sight, with masts still attempting to reach skyward, and its lower half melting into the beach. Soon enough it’ll be little more than a few coiled ropes.
Later we found dinner at Mon Ami Alex ('Our Friend Alex'), a restaurant named for a man I would have liked to have known. Who wouldn't? Look at this guy:
We had one of the house specialties: local, in-house smoked trout over layered potatoes and lardons, and topped with fresh fennel.
While it wasn’t the most graceful-looking dish we were served on the trip, it was one of the best. The fish and potatoes were perfectly cooked, the flavours were unbelievably paired, and it tasted especially good after a long cold walk on the beach.
More on our time in Baie St. Paul to come. If you should ever find yourself at a dinner party with Dana and me and you happen to mention Quebec, you can count on us also insisting you go to Charlevoix. It's the grandest little bit of advice.