Monday Miam-Miam: Where and what to eat (and read) in Quebec City

Back in France, my OB was highly respected in his field. As a first-time expecting woman I trusted his advice.

“You can eat everything you like,” he told me at my first visit. “Don’t eat for two, though.”

In fact, I had started to eat for three as soon as I knew I was pregnant. I felt so good and so happy. He really put a damper on my appetite.

“Of course,” he added. “Alcohol in moderation.”

I had immediately stopped drinking wine and even coffee as soon as the two lines had appeared on the pregnancy strip test.

“And I would stay away from steak tartare.” He sighed and smiled with empathy. “I know, I know. Same with sushi, of course.”

Sushi had barely entered France, but steak tartare was a staple. And yes, as barbaric as it must seem to you, my fellow American readers, I loved my red meat raw when I used to be 100% French.

Of course, I ate steak tartare occasionally and at the best restaurants or bought the meat from my trustworthy butcher who sold grass-fed beef. With capers, fresh onions, a fresh raw egg, a side of green salad and good bread, steak tartare was a treat that I loved. I knew I would miss it.

But I would have done anything for my baby. And I did.

My daughter was eleven months old when our small family moved from Paris to the San Francisco Bay area.

This is in California that I saw for the first time all sorts of warnings about alcohol and raw food, particularly targeted to pregnant women.

This is also in California that I built my vocabulary list and learned strange words related to the way Americans liked their meat.

We didn’t eat out very often in our early days in California. When we did, my husband ordered his steak “rare,” saignant (bloody) or bleu (blue) in French. I preferred mine “medium,” mostly because it was easier to pronounce than “rare.”

Many years later, when I could order rare and be understood, I rarely eat red meat anymore. When I do, it’s always cooked medium rare or à point in French.

Unless I visit Quebec City and discover that this city loves anything tartare.

“Quebec City,” had said one of our hosts at the auberge, “isn’t a foodie destination.” Originally from France, he grew up eating fresh and seasonal. So he had mixed feelings about Poutine. Me too 🙂 However, he gave us the names of a few places he liked.

To be frank with you, my French and American sides battled when I read the dinner menu at the lively Bistro L’Atelier, in the heart of the old part of the city.

Is it safe to eat raw beef in an unknown place? But you loved it, remember? Yes, but it was a long time ago. Oh, please. I want to make sure it’s the freshest. You’ve become such an American. Well, yes.

This is when I saw the waiters and waitresses carrying wooden boards, which served as plates, loaded with fresh raw meat or salmon or still tuna centered around greens, red onions, capers, and decorated with parsley. Talk of throwback France.

I ordered the 4oz two salmons tartare accompanied with greek yogurt sauce, capers, mango, and coriander, and served with croutons.

My husband prefers tuna to salmon and opted for 8oz. His tuna was served with lemon vinegar, avocado and pineapple. The larger size comes with fries and a green salad. My husband generously offered me the salad but I had to steal some fries 🙂

As always we shared dessert.

The trio looks bigger than the real sizes which are perfect for two

Our waitress was extra nice and professional. We were momentarily confused when we asked for the check and her name appeared as “Jonathan.”

“It’s because it’s my first day,” she explained. “I cannot be in charge of payments yet.”

She would be soon, considering her impeccable service.

View on the St. Lawrence River

The weather was cool with occasional quick showers when we visited Quebec City. On Monday, after our brief encounter with the Prince of Wales, we had lunch at Bistro B on rue Cartier in Montcalm, really close to the place where we stayed.

The décor, service and food are impeccable there. Unpretentious yet sophisticated, original yet totally approachable, Bistro B is a real neighborhood restaurant that will also fit any visitor since the waiters and waitresses don’t play favorites.

Despite the weather we both went for the soupe froide melon canari. It’s cold soup melon in English. Wow. Never had melon used as a soup ingredient before. This bowl was an explosion of flavors with a remarkable texture. Double wow.

We each ordered one appetizer. Impossible to share soup. Besides, this one should never be shared.

Then I had the grilled asparagus with fresh mozzarella, toasted almonds, a poached egg and croutons while my husband enjoyed a beef strip loin, served with roasted beets in Xeres vinegar and a parsley smoked cheddar rosemary sauce. The beets were extraordinary. And believe me, my relationship with beets is complicated. I had to eat them at my school cafeteria and hated the mushy bloody appearance and sweet taste. These would convert anyone. Both our entrees were remarkable.

Mine

His

Instead of dessert, we ordered two espressos. Presentation, execution, and service are excellent at Bistro B. And the check is also very reasonable. Even more for Americans due to the current change. With another night in the city we would have returned for dinner to this really cool place.

I noticed that tartare was also featured on the menu at Bistro B. A quick Google search informed me that for the fourth year, Montreal and Quebec City had celebrated tartarefest, a weeklong May festival dedicated to meat and fish tartare. May is to consider then for another visit 🙂

Love the mix of French and English throughout Quebec City

 

Bookstores for the mind and soul: for such a small city Quebec City has LOTS of bookstores. We visited several. My two pics, only because the list would be too long.

  • La Librairie du Quartier, located rue Cartier, a short walking distance away from the auberge Aux Deux Lions where we stayed and next door from Bistro B., is a true neighborhood bookstore. Despite its sparse décor, the selection of books is wide and diverse. I noticed an extensive selection of contemporary books written in French by Canadians authors. And many novels and non-fiction books translated from American English but also from several other languages. When in Quebec I’m always surprised to find French books written by French authors displayed in the foreign section. If you read French you will notice the homophones nouns “Quartier” and “Cartier.” Quebecois, even more than the French, excel at these play on words.

We couldn’t resist, of course.

For the chef

The Tintin complete Series followed us from one continent to another. Our son taught himself how to read in French spending hours with Tintin

P.S. All photos from this blog post (except the book covers) are courtesy of Evelyne’s husband.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed another culinary trip with you Evelyne! I wouldn’t have enjoyed the food, not because it’s raw but because I’m really not a big fan of the taste of red meat, but I enjoyed reading your memories of these dishes.

    • Me neither, usually. At least, not anymore. But these were really yummy. A small portion and rarely is okay. Too often and too much? Probably not 🙂
      Thank you, Andrea for another kind visit.

  2. This is a wonderful food post. I would avoid the raw meat (and I simply don’t like sushi). The photos all look good. When we were children, my grandmother would make a Syrian dish called Kibbe, which is ground beef, bulgur wheat, onions and pine nuts. The meat and the wheat are worked by hand until the wheat is soft (i.e. forever) and we used to keep tasting it to see if it was soft enough. It was many years later that I realized I had been eating raw beef, although I swear the friction probably cooked it 🙂

    • Oh, I would have loved your grandmother’s dish!
      In fact, I like most ingredients of the Middle East cooking.
      Your anecdote about the meat cooked, thanks to the lengthy friction reminds me of my elementary school teacher telling us than the Huns who invaded our native land and scared it’s inhabitants to death used to place a raw steak under the saddle of their horse to cook it. My young imagination pictured the vivid scene, and I was half disgusted half impressed.

      • I never heard of such a thing, but I guess it would work. If you want to know more about it, search on “kibbeh nayeh” – I would like to make the (cooked) dish again, but I don;t think I’d eat it raw, not unless we found a much better butcher.

  3. I like steak tartare and I love sushi!
    When I was in Quebec, I ate wonderful food, but mostly I remember poutine and curry. Specifically how everyone was convinced THEIR place had the best. I was a vegetarian then, and so now I think I would have so many more choices.
    The meals you’ve featured here look scrumptious and I am glad my dinner is cooking! The melon soup in particular sounds fantastic.

    I wouldn’t want to get into an argument over what is okay during pregnancy, and certainly not with any California mommies.

    • So you’re one of the few Americans who like their meat raw. Rare:)
      Funny what you say about people thinking their place was the best!
      Yes, you would have lots of options now. Vegetarians or not.
      My husband makes wonderful soups, but the melon one was a first and the taste was amazing.
      Thank you so much for reading me with such regularity. I really appreciate your visits and comments.

  4. I think tuna may be the only fish that really IS better raw. But then again, I really love sushi. And almost raw beef.

    • Agree about tuna. Not my favorite figs when cooked. Too dry. But raw or at least barely seared is delicious. Never met too many Americans who like raw food. But again, you are different. In a good way:)

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