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I Heart Quebec City

The view from Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de-Mons, my absolute favorite place in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
The view from Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de-Mons, my absolute favorite place in Quebec City.

Last fall, I worked on my most exciting writing assignment yet. As one of Travel+Leisure magazine’s newest “local experts,” I was asked to pick and list my favorite hotels, restaurants, and top things to do in my hometown, Quebec City. I was excited to work on this project for several reasons. First: it’s Travel+Leisure. I’ve been reading the magazine for over 15 years, and it is in fact the publication that gave me the itch to start traveling. Being asked to write for them made me as giddy as if I had just met my favorite rock star.

Second: I was over the moon that a major publication decided to hire a local to write about our city. Usually, journalists stay only for a few days—if they even get to come at all—and write about the few places they’ve had the time to visit, usually the same handful of places, located in roughly the same radius of the Old City. Talented as those writers may be, it’s, of course, impossible to dig under the surface of a city experienced for just a few hours.

A temporary art installation on Rue Saint-Joseph, in the Saint-Roch neighborhood of Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
A temporary art installation on Rue Saint-Joseph, in the Saint-Roch neighborhood.

It took me a split second to accept the job, but then I realized the amount of research I would have to do. As a resident, I was well acquainted with the restaurant scene, but I had only stayed in hotels once or twice. I knew of the obvious big names, but family-friendly establishments, inns, and romantic hotels? I’d have to do lots (and lots!) of visits to feel knowledgeable enough to make choices. So I started contacting hotel managers, all of whom generously opened their doors to me.

The historic façade of Hôtel Clarendon, one of the Most Romantic Hotels in Quebec City //  FoodNouveau.com
The historic façade of Hôtel Clarendon, one of the Most Romantic Hotels in Quebec City.

The view from Hôtel 71’s penthouse, one of the Best Boutique Hotels in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
The view from Hôtel 71’s penthouse, one of the Best Boutique Hotels in Quebec City.

The lobby of iconic Fairmont Château Frontenac, one of the Top Luxury Hotels in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
The lobby of iconic Fairmont Château Frontenac, one of the Top Luxury Hotels in Quebec City.

The sunny terrace of Auberge du Quartier, one of the Best Boutique Hotels in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
The sunny terrace of Auberge du Quartier, one of the Best Boutique Hotels in Quebec City.

I have long had an eagerness to visit hotels from top to bottom, the same way I’d love to get the opportunity to tour a cruise ship. I’m extremely curious about the behind-the-scenes aspect, how such institutions work. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to get access to hotels’ most exclusive rooms and luxurious suites? I do, especially since I know I won’t ever get to visit them otherwise. Touring hotels not only allowed me to see Quebec City in a different light, literally—some rooms opening on absolutely breathtaking views over the city’s landscape—but also gave me the chance to meet with passionate people who regaled me with stories about where they work, the people they meet, and the city they have such fondness for.

In other words, it made me fall in love with my hometown all over again. Quebec City has long been seen as a “museum city,” a reputation that was reinforced when UNESCO named it a World Heritage treasure back in 1985. Indeed, walking through the Old City’s narrow cobblestone street while studying the historic buildings unveils a lot about what many historians consider “the birthplace of North America.”

Quebec City's cobblestone streets and historic stone houses reveal the city’s 400-year history // FoodNouveau.com
The Old Port’s cobblestone streets and historic stone houses reveal our city’s 400-year history.

But what I love most about Quebec City is its revival, a process that started around its 400th anniversary in 2008. The celebrations organized to commemorate the city’s foundation and infrastructures built for the occasion were a breath of fresh air, encouraging a younger generation of local entrepreneurs to take on new projects, changing the face of many neighborhoods. This renewed vitality also made residents walk tall again, chests puffed with a newfound pride of living in a city with such a fascinating history.

Since then, dozens of new restaurants have opened their doors, which did wonders for our culinary reputation. Not content with only honoring our French heritage, our chefs have defined a new cuisine, one that focuses on making the most of local ingredients and producers, bringing our delicious terroir into the limelight. Now, the city is rich with first-rate fine-dining establishments, delightful bistros where guests are welcomed like family, bakeries that compete with Paris’ finest, pubs crafting and serving award-winning beers, and locally owned coffee shops that make for perfect spots to watch the city life unfold.

A food and cocktail spread at Le Cercle, named in the Best Bars and Best Brunches in Quebec City lists // FoodNouveau.com
A food and cocktail spread at Le Cercle, named in the Best Bars and Best Brunches in Quebec City lists.

Picture-perfect Neapolitan pizza at Nina Pizza Napolitaine, one of the Best Family-Friendly Restaurants in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
Picture-perfect Neapolitan pizza at Nina Pizza Napolitaine, one of the Best Family-Friendly Restaurants in Quebec City. Photo by Catherine Côté.

A comfortingly spicy Korean soup at Soupe et Cie, one of the Best Budget Restaurants in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
A comfortingly spicy Korean soup at Soupe et Cie, one of the Best Budget Restaurants in Quebec City.

Quirky mementos at hidden gem Le Renard et la Chouette, one of the Best Coffee Shops in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
Quirky mementos at hidden gem Le Renard et la Chouette, one of the Best Coffee Shops in Quebec City.

Over the weeks I worked on the project, I had the chance and privilege to visit and revisit my favorite spots and to explore new ones I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered before. I walked a lot, ate everything from casual brunches to refined dinners, and lost sleep over the choices I had to make. In the end, the lists I shared with Travel+Leisure feature my personal favorites, and while the choices I made can of course be debated (I look forward to what my friends have to say about my favorite poutines!), I think it’s fair to say that visitors walking in my footsteps will have a heck of a good time.

A delicious French fries, cheese, and gravy concoction at Snack Bar St-Jean, one of the Best Poutines in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
A delicious French fries, cheese, and gravy concoction at Snack Bar St-Jean, one of the Best Poutines in Quebec City.

If it sounds like there are no negatives about my hometown, it’s because when I look at it with the eyes of a visitor, I really believe there are none. I want Quebec City to get its moment in the sun, and see visitors of all ages come and discover us. It does seem like the word is starting to come out: National Geographic published an extensive Quebec City Guide on their website last year and The New York Times just named Quebec City among its 52 Places to Go in 2015. So why don’t you come over? If you do, send me a line and I’ll happily have coffee (or drinks!) and share more about what makes this place so special.

Part of the breathtaking 360° view from Ciel! Bistro-Bar, one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
Part of the breathtaking 360° view from Ciel! Bistro-Bar, one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Quebec City.

Place Royale, the exact location where Quebec City was founded in 1608 // FoodNouveau.com
Place Royale, the exact location where Quebec City was founded in 1608 and one of our Top Historic Sights.

Rue du Petit Champlain, one of Quebec City's most atmospheric streets // FoodNouveau.com
Escalier Casse-Cou (“Breakneck Stairs”) is where you can get one of the Best Views in Quebec City: that of Rue du Petit Champlain, one of our most atmospheric streets.

For more information about Quebec City:

Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of my Travel+Leisure Local Experts site, I teamed up with the Quebec City Tourism Office, as well as local producers and artists to put together three prize packages I hope you’ll love.

Each prize package includes:

  • One copy of the book Québec: A Gastronomic Capital, a gorgeous 300-page book that feature 90 recipes by our best chefs, as well as features on restaurants and producers
  • One set of three notebooks featuring atmospheric Quebec City photography shot by my talented designer friend—and Quebec City native—Miss Lemonee
  • Three issues of 1608, Quebec City’s trendiest lifestyle magazine that features bilingual articles about culture, fashion, and food
  • A box of maple butter-filled dark chocolates handmade by Île d’Orléans producers, sold at the Old Port’s Public Market

A Quebec City-Themed Giveaway // FoodNouveau.com

Each package has a total value of $100.

The giveaway is over. Thanks to all participants!

To win, browse through my Travel+Leisure lists and tell me which one inspires you the most. To get a second entry, suggest a theme you would like me to cover in future lists (for example, best shopping streets, top local designer shops, and so on). Social media actions also give you bonus entries! The giveaway is open to everyone. You have until January 30, 2015, at 12 AM to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all—and I hope to meet you in Quebec City soon!

{Candy Week} Wild Blueberry and Blackcurrant Cream Truffles

It has become a tradition for me to make edible gifts for my clients and friends who live far away every year. Here are the treats I’ve shipped in the past:

This year, it’s candy time! I’m sharing four different kinds of candies with you this week, all of which make perfect homemade gifts. I wish I could ship treats to everyone (that’s how much I love to make edible gifts!) but I figure recipes is second best, isn’t it?

Wild Blueberry and Blackcurrant Cream Truffles // FoodNouveau.com

Wild Blueberry and Blackcurrant Cream Truffles

I’m not sure whether there’s a treat that spells holidays more than truffles. They’re the quintessential hostess gift, and they sell for a prime at chocolateries, pastry shops, and gourmet grocery stores. But you know how easy they are to make, right? They’re so easy, in fact, that I thought they had become common and shied away from making them, thinking people I would gift them to would shrug them off and think, “Oh thanks, more truffles.” Because, of course, there’s no such thing as truffle overdose, this year I decided to whip up a batch—and I’m so happy I did. There’s nothing boring about these: the fruity berry flavors complement the bitter, earthy notes of the chocolate amazingly, without turning them too sweet. It’s the perfect dessert for people who say they don’t like dessert, and they’re great with a sip of Sherry cask whiskey, or the liqueur you made the truffles with.

In the recipe, I use the product of a local blackcurrant farm, Cassis Monna & Filles, which makes an outstanding crème de cassis (“blackcurrant cream”). If you can’t find blackcurrant liqueur, you can use any berry-based liqueur, such as Chambord, or double the amount of wild blueberry jam to make them alcohol-free.

Makes about 32 truffles (the recipe can easily be halved)

For the truffles
12 oz [340 g] bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp [30 ml] unsalted butter
¼ cup [60 ml] heavy whipping cream
¼ cup [60 ml] smooth wild blueberry jam (if there are whole blueberries in the jam, press it through a sieve so it’s smooth)
¼ cup [60 ml] blackcurrant cream or liqueur
¼ cup [60 ml] cocoa powder

To finish
12 oz [340 g] bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp [15 ml] vegetable oil
Optional: cacao nibs

Melt 12 oz [340 g] chocolate with the butter, cream, and wild blueberry jam in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur. Pour into a small container, cover, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Take the chocolate mixture out of the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl. Using a 1-inch [2.5-cm] scoop or melon baller, from the chocolate mixture into balls and drop them onto the baking sheet. If the chocolate mixture is too firm to work with, leave it a few minutes more at room temperature to soften. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder to coat lightly and return to the baking sheet. Place in the freezer until frozen, about two hours.

Melt the remaining 12 oz [340 ml] chocolate with the oil in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water until smooth. Remove the chocolate balls from the freezer, and line a second baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Using two forks, turn each chocolate ball in the melted chocolate to coat evenly and carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle a little cocoa nibs on the top of each truffle when the chocolate is still soft. If the chocolate cools too much, reheat it and continue coating the balls.

Alternatively, you can skip the coating step altogether and serve the truffles dusted with cocoa powder as is. Both options are delicious, but the extra chocolate coating makes the truffles extra special!

Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes, before serving. The truffles will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Always bring back to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Lou Seibert Pappas, The Christmas Candy Book

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

{Candy Week} Crispy Maple Mini-Meringues

It has become a tradition for me to make edible gifts for my clients and friends who live far away every year. Here are the treats I’ve shipped in the past:

This year, it’s candy time! I’m sharing four different kinds of candies with you this week, all of which make perfect homemade gifts. I wish I could ship treats to everyone (that’s how much I love to make edible gifts!) but I figure recipes is second best, isn’t it?

Crispy Maple Mini-Meringues // FoodNouveau.com

Crispy Maple Mini-Meringues

I recently made several batches of éclairs to create my latest How-To post, so I was left with lots of egg whites. I usually don’t mind having egg whites leftover because they become the perfect excuse to whip up a Lemon Meringue Pie (one of my favorite desserts). This time though, I had a lot more than what is required to make a pie-topping meringue, so I decided to use it to make candy. I always thought mini-meringues were super cute, but I had never made them myself. Being that I’m such a maple syrup lover, of course, they had to be flavored with it and sprinkled with maple sugar. The resulting mini-meringues are super crisp, but they melt and become sticky in the mouth, like honeycomb does. They’re an irresistible treat and they’re so photogenic too! They make a great hostess gift, but I’m thinking they would make for perfect wedding favors too.

Makes about 100 mini-meringues

1 cup [250 ml] maple syrup
3 egg whites
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] cream of tartar
2 tbsp [30 ml] coarse maple sugar

Position two racks in the oven, one in the middle, and one in the bottom, and preheat it to 170°F [75°C]. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil and cook until a candy thermometer indicates 250°F [120°C]. Remove from the heat while you beat the egg whites.

In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the hot maple syrup to the egg whites, beating constantly, making sure the syrup never touches the whisk (it would create sugar crystals). Keep on beating for about 3 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

With a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, shape the mini-meringues on the lined baking sheets: Hold the tip close to the baking sheet, press down on the bag to create an inch-wide [2.5-cm-wide] base, then lift up a little, pressing more lightly, then stop and lift swiftly. This should create the classic “kisses” shape. Keep on piping the meringues, setting them about 1 inch [2.5-cm] apart (they will not expand). Sprinkle each meringue with a little maple sugar.

Place both baking sheets in the oven and let the meringues dry slowly for about 3 hours, switching the sheets halfway through. Depending on your oven and the temperature (whether it’s humid in your kitchen or not), it may take longer to dry the meringues. To check for doneness, try to lift a meringue from a baking sheet. If it comes off easily, it’s done. If it sticks, even a little, let them dry more. Once the meringues are done, turn the oven off, and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour.

The meringues will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from RicardoCuisine.com

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

{Candy Week} Dark Chocolate, Roasted Hazelnut, and Dried Cherry Bites

It has become a tradition for me to make edible gifts for my clients and friends who live far away every year. Here are the treats I’ve shipped in the past:

This year, it’s candy time! I’m sharing four different kinds of candies with you this week, all of which make perfect homemade gifts. I wish I could ship treats to everyone (that’s how much I love to make edible gifts!) but I figure recipes is second best, isn’t it?

Dark Chocolate, Roasted Hazelnut, and Dried Cherry Bites // FoodNouveau.com

Dark Chocolate, Roasted Hazelnut, and Dried Cherry Bites

Does making homemade gifts sound exhausting to you? This recipe will convince you an edible treat doesn’t have to be complicated to impress. Four ingredients and no baking: in 15 minutes you’re done (and the dishes are washed). Bag these cute bites in clear gift bags closed with a ribbon and you’ve got your hostess gifts over and done with. Just a warning though: they’re so delicious, easy to make, and—let’s be honest—addictive, that you will most probably want to go down the variations list over the holidays. If you do, please come back to tell me which is your favorite, or to share your own flavor combination ideas.

Makes about 20 bites

6 oz (about 1 cup) [170 g, about 250 ml] bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tsp [5 ml] vegetable oil
½ cup [125 ml] hazelnuts, roasted, peeled, and very coarsely chopped
½ cup [125 ml] dried cherries, whole or coarsely chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Melt the chocolate chips in a double-boiler or in the microwave at low intensity until it’s smooth. Add the vegetable oil and mix well. Add the hazelnuts and dried cherries and mix with a spatula until all the nuts and fruits are coated with chocolate.

Drop the mixture by teaspoonfuls on the lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two months. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Note: To give the bites a festive look, dust a little edible glitter over the bites when the chocolate is still soft.

Variations:

  • Toasted almonds and dried apricots
  • Macadamia nuts and dried figs
  • Toasted pecans and candied orange
  • Milk chocolate, 1/3 cup [80 ml] unsweetened coconut flakes, 1/3 cup [80 ml] dried apricots,
    and 1/3 cup [80 ml] candied ginger
  • White chocolate, pistachio, and dried cranberries

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Lou Seibert Pappas, The Christmas Candy Book

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

{Candy Week} Pomegranate and Cranberry Marshmallows

It has become a tradition for me to make edible gifts for my clients and friends who live far away every year. Here are the treats I’ve shipped in the past:

This year, it’s candy time! I’m sharing four different kinds of candies with you this week, all of which make perfect homemade gifts. I wish I could ship treats to everyone (that’s how much I love to make edible gifts!) but I figure recipes is second best, isn’t it?

Pomegranate and Cranberry Marshmallows // FoodNouveau.com

Pomegranate and Cranberry Marshmallows

I first made marshmallows at the end of last year, and while they were delicious and very popular (I shared the recipe – in French – in the holiday edition of Quebec City’s online food magazine, Fou des foodies), their texture was a bit too fluffy for my taste. In my mind, marshmallows need to be chewy. You know how, at first bite, marshmallows stick to your teeth and kind of resist to give in to your bite? That’s the texture I was looking for. In an Australian magazine, I found a variation that used more gelatin, no egg whites, and corn syrup. I resisted using the latter last year–by pure foodie snobbism, I admit–but let’s be honest: corn syrup is difficult to avoid in the candy world. Since I never use the ingredient otherwise, I decided there’s little harm in using some to make oh-so-delicious candies once a year.

Makes about a hundred square inch [2.5 x 2.5 cm] marshmallows

½ cup [125 ml] pomegranate juice, plus about ¾ cup [180 ml] more (see recipe below – I use POM brand)
3 unflavored gelatin envelopes, for a total of 0.75 oz [21 g] gelatin powder (I use Knox brand)
2 cups [500 ml] granulated sugar
¾ cups [180 ml] corn syrup
Red food coloring, liquid or gel (optional)
Vegetable oil, for greasing
¼ cup [60 ml] cranberry powder (see note)

Pour ½ cup [125 ml] pomegranate juice in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle over the gelatin. Let it rest to allow the gelatin to absorb the liquid.

In the meantime, put the sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and add just enough pomegranate juice to cover the sugar, about ¾ cup [180 ml] more. Stir thoroughly and brush down any sugar sticking to the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush (to prevent sugar crystals from forming when heating the mixture).

Cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat to bring it to a boil. Using a candy thermometer to monitor the heat, boil the syrup until it reaches 265°F [130°C]. Once it does, take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 1 minute.

Whisk the gelatin mixture, using the stand mixer, on medium speed. Add the hot syrup, pouring it slowly down the side of the mixer bowl. Don’t allow it to touch the whisk directly or it’ll create sugar crystals in the marshmallows.

Once all the syrup has been added, if the color of the marshmallow isn’t as bright as you’d like it to be, add a few drops of food coloring and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes really thick, like a stiff meringue. It’s ready when you see the whisk forming bubblegum-like strands on the surface.

Bubblegum-like strands on the surface of marshmallow mixture // FoodNouveau.com

Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 in [23 x 33 cm] baking pan with plastic wrap (use a smaller pan if you want thicker marshmallows), leaving plenty folding over the sides of the pan. Lightly grease with vegetable oil, then scrape the marshmallow mixture into the pan using a greased spatula. The mixture is super sticky, so you’ll have to fight it a little. Once it’s all in the pan, press it down using the spatula, then cover with another sheet of greased plastic wrap, and press down on the plastic wrap to create an even surface. Leave to set in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours, until the top feels firm when pressed.

Once the marshmallow is set, lift it off the tray using the extra plastic wrap. Peel off the plastic wrap and place the very sticky marshmallow on a lightly greased surface. Pour the cranberry powder in a shallow bowl. Cut the marshmallow into cubes using a lightly greased knife, then roll each piece in cranberry powder.

The finished marshmallows will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to two weeks.

Note: Cranberry powder is a new and somewhat niche product. A sprinkle of it adds a flavorful and healthy punch to many things such as desserts, salads, lattes, or even salmon tartares and gravlax. You can also dissolve it in hot water to make a delicious hot beverage. It’s not a cheap ingredient, but a little goes a long way, and it has a long shelf life. I use the one made by a local company here in Quebec City, Nutra-Fruit, but you’ll find a similar product here. If you can’t find cranberry powder, you can also use pomegranate powder, pulverized freeze-dried raspberries, or just plain cornstarch, which is the usual and basic marshmallow coating.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Delicious Magazine

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau