Head into the forested countryside within day-tripping distance of Quebec City for a gourmet road trip along La Route des Saveurs. On this “flavor trail” in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, more than 30 cheesemakers, cideries, bakeries and other food producers — even an emu farm — highlight the products grown and crafted in this scenic agricultural area. And yes, there are samples.
Your delicious destination is the town of Baie-Saint-Paul, roughly an hour’s drive north of Quebec City. To help design the edible itinerary you’ll need once you get there, we’ve identified some flavor trail highlights that give you the best tastes of the region.
Waffles, Then Cheese
Start your day with a café au lait and a plate of waffles topped with fresh berries and whipped cream at Café Arômes et Saveurs, a cozy coffeehouse on Baie-Saint-Paul’s main street. And while Quebec-made maple syrup is the obvious accompaniment, if you top your waffles with creamy caramel or chocolate sauce, we won’t judge.
Next stop: cheese tasting. On a farm just outside town, the family-owned Maison D’Affinage Maurice Dufour crafts several varieties of fromage. Standouts include migneron, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese, and the sheep’s milk (tomme de brebis). The creamery also makes an excellent blue cheese, le Ciel de Charlevoix. Sample them all in the farm’s cheese shop.
The family recently opened a distillery on the property, where whey — a byproduct of the cheese-making process — is used to make vodka. The first batches of this distinctive spirit are expected to be available this summer.
Native to Australia, the flightless emu has made its way to Quebec, thanks to Centre de l’Émeu de Charlevoix. Owner Raymonde Tremblay grew up on this farm in the village of Saint-Urbain, in the hills above Baie-Saint-Paul. When Tremblay, looking to expand her farm’s offerings, began researching the healthful properties of emu meat, she learned from Australian Aboriginal traditions that these six-foot-tall birds were even better as a source of oils for skincare products.
The emu center on Tremblay’s farm now produces face creams, soaps, shampoos and other cosmetic and medicinal products, incorporating oils from the birds raised on property. You can take a guided tour to learn more about the animals — as many as 400 live on the farm — and test out the skincare line. And if you do want to sample the meat, try emu pizza, emu sausage or emu confit at the onsite Bistro Austravoix.
Believe it or not, you can make wine from tomatoes. Pascal Miche and Lucie Hotte, the husband-and-wife team behind Omerto, will prove it.
Inspired by the memory of his great-grandfather, Omer, who used to produce his own tomato wine in Belgium (and for whom Omerto is named), Miche began crafting wine in the basement of their home, using tomatoes that he and Hotte grew on their Charlevoix farm.
Today, he makes dry aperitif-style wines as well as the slightly sweeter, sherry-like Omerto Moelleux, in aged and unaged versions. Both have a nutty flavor that pairs well with the region’s cheeses. The couple shares its story and provides samples of the unique products in a tasting room that’s only a short drive from Baie-Saint-Paul.
If you love all things apple, board the ferry for the 20-minute cruise to Isle-aux-Coudres, a scenic island in the St. Lawrence River. Its Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault produces several varieties of still and sparkling ciders — made from locally grown apples — that you can try in the tasting room. Be sure to tipple the distinctive apple ice wine, a sweet spirit crafted to sip with cheeses or desserts.
While you’re on the island, stop for a snack at the popular Boulangerie Bouchard. This bakery, which has been in business since 1945, is known for pâté croche, a savory meat pie with a broken crust that’s served with housemade ketchup. There are plenty of sweet treats, too.
Where to Dine
Back on the mainland, you’re spoiled for choice when it’s time for dinner.
At Les Labours, the kitchen emphasizes local products, growing edible herbs, flowers and vegetables on the property; sourcing duck and pork from nearby farms; and offering seasonal Quebec seafood, ranging from arctic char to shrimp and snow crab. These ingredients might turn up in dishes like char confit with crispy leeks or duck paired with asparagus and sauced with spiced clementines in a modern take on the traditional canard à l’orange. Save room for the rich pouding chômeur (vanilla cake cooked in creamy maple sauce), a classic Quebecois dessert.
You might not expect to find fine dining on a dairy farm, but on the grounds of the aforementioned Maison D’Affinage Maurice Dufour, Faux Bergers serves high-end multi-course meals in a contemporary, window-lined space overlooking the fields. This bucolic dining spot specializes in wood-fired cuisine — the restaurant partners had a blacksmith craft a custom fire pit so the chefs could cook outdoors.
While lunch is a casual counter-service affair with pizzas and several vegetable dishes, dinner brings an elaborate seven-course set menu, which changes daily, depending on what’s fresh on the farm and in season from around the region.
Where to Stay
If you’re day-tripping from Quebec City, base yourself at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Auberge Saint-Antoine in Old Quebec, a 95-room boutique lodging created from several structures dating to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Should you prefer to spend a night or two in Baie-Saint-Paul, pop into Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa. Sitting on the grounds of a former farm, the property delivers clean-lined rooms and suites that mix rustic style and contemporary design. An evening soak in the spa’s Nordic-style pools overlooking the fields might be a grand finale to your gourmet Quebec adventures.