Last year, my birthday was exceptional in every way possible: it was my 30th, I was in Paris with E and we were just starting our 5 month stay in France’s capital – I had dreamed about it for so long! I knew my birthday would be great, but it also meant I would be away from most of my friends and family. I figured it would be a quiet birthday, but that was before my two best friends surprised me by flying over to Paris for a weekend just to celebrate with me!
Fast-forward to 2010: I knew Paris would be difficult to beat and that it was only my 31th, but who wants a boring birthday? I was on a quest to find the perfect place to celebrate…
Enter Le Canard Goulu: le Canard Goulu is a Muscovy duck farm located on the South side of the St. Lawrence River, in the small village of St-Apollinaire, about a half-hour outside of Quebec City. It is located in a very charming setting and managed by passionate people. Visiting the Canard Goulu farm on a sunny summer weekend is a popular activity because you can meet the breeders, see the ducks and how they live and buy fresh products directly from the farm. They even serve food on a lovely terrace.
I love all of their duck products, the star of which is the creamy foie gras, because they’re delicious, but most importantly, because they breed the ducks in a very respectful manner. Foie gras being somewhat controversial in the foodie world, I find it really important to consider how a farm treats their birds. The way the ducks are force-fed can get really ugly (I’ve seen shocking pictures on protest posters in Paris), but le Canard Goulu has developed a technique that ensures the ducks stay healthy – because, as they say, only healthy ducks make delicious foie gras.
The Canard Goulu products have grown more and more popular over the years: they are now sold in many grocery stores around the city and are also served by the chefs of Quebec’s most elegant restaurants. For their 10th year anniversary, the company decided to come closer to its customers and open a boutique/café on the popular Maguire street. On the ground floor is the shop selling their products but also fine teas and condiments and on the second floor, they built a nice café with only about 10 tables. Chef Martin Guillemette (who trained under Québec’s most famous chef, Daniel Vézina) serves gastronomic food for lunch every week day and E and I have become great fans of his all-duck menus – so much so that you probably think by now that I’ve been sponsored to write this post. Rest assured!
The restaurant’s closed on weekends and at night – except for Friday nights. For about a year now, the restaurant has been serving a gastronomic tasting menu every Friday. The menu changes every month – you read me well, each of their tasting menus is served only 4 nights a month. Because of the restaurant’s very small dining room, reservations must be made well in advance and the experience has an exclusive feel to it.
Have I lost you? Getting back to the birthday topic: by pure chance, right after New Year’s, I went to their store right when they released their first gastronomic Friday dates. Lucky me, the first Friday what just a couple of days away from my birthday! I never had the chance to try their tasting menu yet so I instantly knew where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. Of course, E didn’t oppose and so we went to our much-loved Canard Goulu café, at night and all dressed up for a change.
The experience was delightful: the chef has a special talent in presentation and he is very creative in using a great variety of the farm’s products – no, believe me, you won’t get bored of eating duck! As a bonus, chef Guillemette comes out of the kitchen to present each course himself, explaining how he came up with it and why he used this or that ingredient. It’s a very unique opportunity to meet him and I find it rather brave for him to leave his small kitchen (and team) 6 or 7 times over the course of the night. Cooking in a commercial kitchen is quite a sport but he looks composed and very happy to see the faces of those enjoying his food. A sommelier also serves and presents the wines paired with each dish. Guests are also warmly invited to visit the kitchen if they so wish, the mood is refined but also really friendly and open.
The menu in the heart of January was comforting and filled with generous flavors. Following are pictures of the beautiful plates and a description of each course.
Foie gras cannelloni with “Village Bay” oyster tartare, smoked duck jus pearls:
Wine pairing – United States, Carneros Pinot Gris 2007, Étude
Cod acras (fritters) with a heart of melting foie gras, yellow beet émincé, tomato and toasted almonds emulsion:
Wine pairing – Canada, Niagara Peninsula Chardonnay 2007, Lailey Vineyard
Duckling stew with berry perfumes, sweet potato gnocchi and a crunchy pink pepper tuile:
Wine pairing: France, Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2006, Hervé Murat
Roasted fillet of duck, pickled turnip, crunchy wild rice and a generous slice of foie gras sprinkled with fleur de sel:
Wine pairing – Australia, McLauren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Kangarilla road
Ciel de Charlevoix (a local cheese) espuma, duck fritters, fennel émincé with dried apricots, tarragon-flavored oil:
Wine pairing – France, Sauternes 2001, Cru Barréjats
Scotch-flambéed banana, crunchy cocoa fettucini, fresh papaya and Bailey’s cream:
And as a final mignardise, a perfectly executed cannoli.
If you come to Quebec City, please do plan in advance and book a table at Le Canard Goulu. It’s one of our best kept secrets! They can also open at night for private events and can organize a simple apéro, a cocktail party or a full service dinner for groups from 10 to 50 people. They usually publish the current month’s tasting menu on their website (in French only).
Le Canard Goulu
1281, avenue Maguire
Phone : 418.687.5116
6-course tasting menu: $70 CAD / person
Wine pairing: $50 CAD / person