Another fantastic week in and around Québec City! We did a lot more touristy stuff this week, and learned a great deal about the history of the city and region. I have been fascinated by the parallel history between Québec and the American colonies, which include many overlapping historical figures. Growing up and going to school in the U.S., I didn’t receive the Canadian version! Canadian history is just as colorful as that in the U.S., which fierce military battles and political upheaval. Yet in many ways, it is much more complex, with regime changes yet lasting influences, as well as peaceful, diplomatic maneuvering. Whereas the U.S. fought and won its independence with tremendous loss of life, Canada’s independence, albeit nearly 100 years later and still as part of the British Commonwealth, was achieved in 1867 without a shot being fired. Next year, Canada celebrates her 150th birthday. Still, it wasn’t until 1931 that Canada achieved its own sovereignty, and amazingly, Canada didn’t adopt its first constitution until 1982! Much of Canada’s character as a nation has come about because of social evolution, not revolution.
Our excursions this week included a walking tour of the Old City, a bus tour to nearby Montmorency Falls and the Basilica du Sainte-Anne-de-Beuapré, and a Sunday morning horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. Our walking tour guide, Michael, as Irish as they come, was informative and entertaining. He showed us sights we had been overlooking for more than a week! Montmorency Falls is breathtaking. It falls some 275 feet, roughly 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. The bus ride included a brief drive to the île d’Orleans, an agricultural island in the Saint Lawrence River just outside Québec City. Many of the local wineries are situated here, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the nature of this bus trip! On to the Basilica of Saint-Anne, who was the Virgin Mary’s mother – Jesus’ grandmother. At this magnificent church, many people have reported miraculous healings over the years. Finally we enjoyed our carriage ride with Danny, our driver, and the ever trustworthy steed, Freddie. Again, we saw things we’d been walking past without noticing. It was a charming and relaxing way to spend our Sunday morning.
Other points of interest this week: a visit to J.A. Moisan, the oldest continuously operating grocery store in North America. They’ve been supplying provisions here since 1871! Across the street is the Musée du Chocolat. It’s small, but admission is free, and who doesn’t love a museum about chocolate?! We also enjoyed many fantastic meals, and the wine to go with them! In addition, I found a delicious, Québécois gin. Here’s what I thought of the week’s libations.
Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet Les Pins de Camille 2015
Beautiful golden color. Aromas of Meyer lemon and grapefruit. Flavors of lemon, grapefruit, and a hint of tangerine. The acidity is bright and lively. When cold, it starts fairly light body, but as it warms it develops a richer feel. Everyone says to pair this with fish, but it was delightful with our lemon-rosemary chicken.
4.5 stars (92-94 points)
SAQ Store, $14.50 CAD (approx. $11.24 USD)
Ravenswood Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2013
Sometimes when you’re on holiday, you just want familiar. Something that tastes like home. For us, Zinfandel is comfort food. Here in Quebec, the SAQ store doesn’t have a big selection of Cali Zinfandel, but there is was: Ravenswood. Ubiquitous in NorCal restaurants.
Brick red color. Inviting aromas of blackberry and spice. Flavors of blackberry, cherry, fig, clove, and black pepper. Medium body, and smooth tannins. Simple, but comfort food. Basic, but just what we needed!
3.5 stars (85-87 points)
SAQ Store, $18.50 CAD (approx. $14.37 USD – yes, I know that’s almost double what I’d pay in the states, but you can’t put a price on your wife’s happiness.)
Ktima Foundi Xinomavro Dry Red 2013
Recommended by our server to pair with black pudding. Excellent pick! Ruby red with aromas and flavors of raspberry, red currant, and just a bit of oak. Fruit forward but dry, with very mild tannins and light acidity. Smooth drinking and complemented the rich flavor of the dish.
4.0 stars (88-91 points)
Restaurant L’Echaudé, $12 CAD per glass (approx. $9.37 USD)
Gin Thuya, Dry Gin, Distillerie Fils du Roy, Inc.
I like to try local products when I travel. I asked a sales associate for some assistance in finding a good, local gin suitable for a G&T or a Gin Rickey. This was one of two he immediately recommended. I’m a little choosey with my gin, so I asked about the style and flavor. He said Gin Thuya is definitely a dry gin with a juniper base, but beyond that it has some floral and savory notes. He said, in his French accent (we’re in French-Canada after all) that there isn’t really a word he can think of to translate from French. The best he could say is that it tastes like the seashore. Well, who doesn’t love a day at the seashore? Sold.
You know what, he’s right. It’s hard to describe the flavor. Almost a mild umami/earthy taste, but with a slight saline quality. Seashore! Quite delicious and refreshing, especially with a squirt of lemon and topped with tonic water. A perfect quaff on a hot Québec afternoon!
The producer’s website, translated via Google, has this to say:
“Gin Thuya is a gin that is not shy. Juniper is the dominant ingredient and the second ingredient in importance is coriander. If you mix a volume of water against a volume of gin, you are sure to appreciate the flavor.
Gin Thuya earned a double gold medal at the “San Francisco World Spirits Competition” in March 2013. This is the highest honor available on the planet is currently in the industry. Gin Thuya recently won a gold medal at the “International Spirits Challenge” in London UK “
The SAQ website describes it this way:
“Made entirely with natural ingredients, Thuya gin is flavoured with young cedar shoots freshly harvested in Saint-Arsène, Quebec. First distillery in Acadia, Distillerie Fils du Roy uses production methods that result in a perfectly balanced gin with fully preserved aromas. Savour it with a splash of water or in a wide variety of cocktails.”
4.0 stars (88-91 points)
SAQ Store, $39.25 CAD (approx. $30.66 USD)
During week 3 our daughter and grandson will be joining us! More fun awaits!