21 September 2010

1st Anniversary Road-Trip Day 4

Day 4 of our trip had us exploring Quebec City taking heed of the recommendations of our gracious host. We’d planned on checking out the Ile de Orleans for the better part of the day, but I honestly think we got a lot more out of staying in the city proper.
First things first: exploring our lovely B&B.  Here are a few shots of the common area.

Common room
Dining room which we actually never used
Tea room
First things second: breakfast. As we were staying at a Bed & Breakfast we were treated to a complimentary 3-course breakfast which we had reserved in the quaint sun room.

Sun room
Breakfast consisted of a great multi-grain toast with assorted spreads, a fresh fruit smoothie, a parfait, and mini quiches with an avocado tomato salad.

Dastardly duck
Quiches and salad
The meal was served on a very snazzy set of fine china. I really liked the little pewter ducks set out for you to set your knife on. Those dastardly devils kept trying to drink all of our coffee though! Sneaky buggers.

Highlights of the meal were the hazelnut spread on toast, the smoothie, and the wonderfully sweet kiwi in our parfait. Also the smoky chunks of ham in the quiche were quite good as well.

First stop on our tour of the city was catching the changing of the guards ceremony at La Citadelle. It was really great to watch this take place on a large circular asphalt slab overlooking the city.

Columns of animated Q-tips
I liked the pictures with the Chateau looming in the background. Props to Batisse the regiment’s official mascot. After basking in this creature’s regal presence the Mrs. is determined to name our next pet Batisse.

I wish we had a royal goat
 Other than that there was a lot of stomping, yelling, and turning around and marching back and forth. There was a band that came out and rocked the house. Leave it to me to get the circle pit going. Luckily, I walked away with only minimal gravel burn and a few bruised ribs. The Mrs. on the other hand… Well, let’s just say she left holding more than a few teeth in a plastic baggie.

Afterwards we leisurely made our way down the Grande Allee. This, along with rue Saint-Jean is the other major thoroughfare into Old Quebec.  The next stop on our morning agenda was the Chateau Frontenac. We arrived just in time for the tour at noon which was lead by a delightful woman dressed in full period garb. She led us through the hotel, not once breaking character, to some of the suites and rooms.

Grand Allee
Chateau Frontenac
Chateau Frontenac
She was very good at fielding questions while maintaining her persona. I wish I remembered her name, but you can see her here in one of the larger rooms we visited (I believe it was called the rose room).

Tour guide and "Rose Room"

Pertty lobby
Before we knew it, the hour had passed and we were back out on the streets.  Our next stop was the Capital Observatory housed on the 31st floor of the tallest building in QC.
It was pretty interesting to see the city from the 4 cardinal directions especially with the provided information panels describing what we were looking at.  I snapped a few photos and we made our way back to rue Saint-Jean.  
Old Quebec
La Citadelle
We walked up the street to check out a creperie I had my eye on Le Bilig, but unfortunately they were closing in 5 minutes so we decided to save that for another trip.  Instead we headed to Choco-Musee Erico which was right across the street from our B&B.  

I knew this place had a museum dedicated to chocolate, but what I didn't know was the mind-boggling array of ice creams they had.  I've eaten A LOT of ice cream in my day and I could barely wrap my mind around some of the flavors they had here.  
Even more what??
Pictures helped... kinda.
Luckily we found a bi-lingual employee and she helped me out with a few tastings.  As soon as she mentioned they had ice cream made with tofu I assumed she meant they were just soy-based, but when I tried the Bonte Divine (black currant-raspberry with tofu base) it really did taste like straight up tofu.  I'd never had anything like it.  I ordered a small cup of that and after informing me that I also get a piece of chocolate with my ice cream I went with the dark.  
The aptly named Bonte Divine
It was dense, tart and barely sweet, the dark chocolate bringing out the slight bitterness.  The tofu base was equal parts bizarre and wonderful.  The Mrs. busied herself oggling the baked goods finally ordering two chocolate chip and two super cookies claiming she would eat two and save the other two for later.  
Baked goodies
Also the aptly named Super Cookie
I wish my insides looked like that
The cookies were nice and melty and ooegy gooey just how we like them.  The Mrs. fawned over the super cookies which were an everything but the kitchen sink take on the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  This cookie killed Momofuku Milk Bar's Compost Cookie and I'm sure the ingredient list was about a forth of what goes into a compost cookie.  Eat your heart out Christina Tosi.
Since we had a few hours to kill before our dinner reservations at Le Pain Beni, we decided to check out the J.A. Moisan market. 
Mmm alcohol...
Would they all fit in my trunk?
While we didn't buy anything this time around, we made a mental list of a few items we were going to take home with us.  After a few relaxing hours spent in bed playing Final Fantasy Tactics on my (borrowed) PSP the time came to get spiffyed up and head on down to Auberge Place d'Arms which housed critically acclaimed Le Pain Beni.
Le Pain Beni
Le Pain Beni had just reopened a few short months ago after an unfortunate fire shut them down for renovations.  People raved about the new decor, but I honestly found it a tad cheesy.  
Apparently the cafe at IKEA serves some kick ass food...
I felt like I was dining in a chic hotel lobby from the early-90s.  Or a dated IKEA ad.  You be the judge.  Nonetheless, I would dine in a dumpster if the food was good enough, and in the case of Le Pain Beni, it most certainly was.
I was in the mood for a cocktail so after perusing the menu I noticed L'indecis which contained peach schnapps, black currant liquer, sparkling wine, ricard which is an anise liquer, topped with freshly cracked black pepper.  Look at the beauty of this beverage:
It tasted even better than it looks, if you could believe it.  Since I'd been on an anise/black currant kick this cocktail hit the spot perfectly.  It was light and bubbly with a strong licorice presence with the peach coming through on the back end.  The black pepper rounded it all out.  The Mrs. ordered a glass of sangria which was more sweet than tart, but not overly so.  It tasted like an adult fruit punch.  
Sangria, anyone?
Now for the first course, while the foie gras was extremely tempting, I had had my fill at PdC, so no dish really screamed out EAT ME!!  I deferred to our waiter for assistance in my selection and ultimately ended up choosing the Braised Lamb Shepherd’s Pie with green lentils, grilled eggplants and zucchinis, goat cheese and rosemary cauliflower mousse, fruit ketchup.  The Mrs. chose this dinner to recreate all of the feasting we did on our honeymoon so she ordered the Classic Caesar Salad with capers, bacon, parmesan cheese, olive oil croutons and creamy sauce.
Cute, ain't it?
Usually I find Shepherd's Pie to be a fairly bland and boring dish, but that definitely was not the case here.  The lamb was as tender as one would expect from braised lamb and the gaminess was fused into the sauce and complimented the goat cheese.  The rosemary cauliflower mousse was creamy and luscious, but what really did if for me was the green lentils which paired magically with the rosemary.  
The perfect bite
I would never think to pair fruit ketchup with a dish like this, but after a quick taste I made sure to include a little dab of it on every forkful.  The Mrs. loved her caesar, but I was too enamored with my dish to take notice.
Seizure salad
What to order for my entree also proved to be extremely difficult, but this time it was because I wanted EVERYTHING.  Just look at their menu (click on restaurant then menu).  Prior research had me set on ordering the lamb raviloli, but having sated my craving for lamb I went with the Lobster Risotto with chorizo and corn, carrot juice, citrus and saffron, aged Manchego cheese in anticipation of all the amazing lobster I would eat in our upcoming foray into New England.  I opted for the half lobster fearing a whole lobster would upset the balance of the dish.  
Once again trying recreate the meals we had a Chops Grille on Freedom of the Seas, she ordered the Filet mignon (cooked medium) and foie gras fondant with port wine sauce, wild mushroom tapenade, baby spinach and cipollini onions even though she doesn't care for foie gras or mushrooms...  I advised her against it, but she had a craving for meat.  I asked the waiter for a beverage pairing for my dish and gave him full reign, expecting a white, and was surprisngly presented with a red.  An American Pinot Noir to be more precise.  After tasting it, the Mrs. also ordered a glass.
Now THAT is food porn
Let me start by saying that this Lobster Risotto was my favorite entree of the entire trip.  There, now that that's out of the way, I loved this dish.  I would choke a puppy to have a plate of it in front of me right now.  Yes, I understand that's pretty extreme, but we're talking about Lobster Risotto here, not some $2.99 bucket of chicken.  
Mmm, sheet of cheese

This dish had so many things going on.  The creamy risotto chock full of sweet corn and smoky chorizo, the sweet succulent lobster and the peppery arugula, the salty crunch from the aged manchego cheese cracker.  I don't even know what the hell was in the foam, maybe that's where the carrot juice, citrus, and saffron came in?  I didn't really get the wine pairing with my dish, but who cares, everything on the plate worked together and it killed.

The fioe gras was creamy and rich and far better than any foie I had at PdC save maybe the cromesquis.  The filet was cooked perfectly to my liking, but I couldn't help wonder that if this was medium then medium-rare or rare for that matter would probably be jumping off the plate.  
Does that look like medium?
I raved over the wild mushroom tampenade as it added an earthy depth that only enhanced the richness of the beef and foie gras.  As expected the Mrs. said it wasn't as good as the one she had on the cruise, which I suspect was due to the variety of sauces we were able to choose from at Chops.  When you order a dish prepared with multiple ingredients you don't like, what the hell do you expect?
And finally the dessert course.  I opted for the Coconut Milk Risotto with green tea frozen yogurt, stewed mango, cashew and wasabi pea crumble hoping it would recreate my love of the Mango Sticky Rice at Thai Restaurant in Baltimore.  To round out her recreation of Chops, the Mrs. went with the Black Chocolate Cake with melting white chocolate heart, milk and goat cheese ice cream, rhubarb and beet sauce.  Holy hell, the deliciousness ensued.
When does the deliciousness end?
To follow the Lobster Risotto as my favorite entree of the trip, the Coconut Milk Risotto just happened to be my favorite dessert of the trip.  Unlike my other two dishes, there were no surprises here as all of these flavors were very familiar, but never before had I had them executed with such precision.  Read the ingredient list, imagine all of those flavors, now imagine them coming together harmoniously in one flawlessly executed dessert.  I don't think I really need to say anything more.  Actually, wait, yes I do.  I forgot to mention that our waiter brought us a complimentary digestif to go with our dessert.  
Liquid gold!
He said it was a local ice cider, but unfortunately I failed to garner exactly which ice cider.  This beverage had the distinct flavor of apples, honey, and peanuts.  Yes, peanuts.  Don't ask me how because I have no idea.  After taking a bite of my risotto with the cashew crumble and strawberry and then sipping the ice cider I was beside myself.  Best bite of the trip so far.

They weren't joking when they said melting chocolate heart because as soon as we cracked into the cake, white chocolate poured out all over the plate.  I got a pretty great picture of it:
It's only a flesh wound...
MMmmm, white chocolate waterfall.  It tasted like it was infused with basil which I loved.  The rhubarb and beet sauce seemed like more of an afterthought, not particularly tasting of rhubarb or beets.  The flowing chocolate center was the start of the plate, and frankly really the only memorable feature of the dish.
I was in the mood to go out afterwards, but unfortunately Monday nights are pretty dead in Quebec City.  We went back up the Grand Allee and hit up Maurice nightclub which is housed in the same building as the Voodoo Grill and Charlotte Ultralounge.  
Where da party at?  Not here!
The music was bumping as we entered, but we turned the corner and I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll by as there wasn't a single person anywhere in sight.  We backed away slowly and after hitting up the ultra-chic bathrooms we made a beeline for the door.  We ended up going to a random pub around the corner from our B&B which was actually pretty packed.  
Corner bar with a pretty bad ass rooftop terrace
 I got my first taste of La Barberie in the Rousse Forte aux Fruits.
Red with fruit?  Something like that.  It was decent, but turned out to be my least favorite of La Barberie's line of beers, but more on that later.  I struggled to finish my beer, but alas I threw in the towel.  We had a pretty huge dinner and I was falling asleep.  We stumbled back to our room and the next thing I knew it was Tuesday...

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