Quebec City is a place that gives winter its due. Winter Carnival draws close to a million revellers to the streets, and this was the first city in Canada to build an ice hotel, not to mention its passion for maple syrup, fine cheeses and foie gras help us all brave the winter chill. Chef and restaurateur Christian Lemelin helps visitors layer up for the season by offering the rich goose-liver pâté at his three restaurants: the Old Port’s Restaurant Toast!, his quick-to-go Restaurant SSS and his new charcoal-house in Lac-Beauport, Pur Sang Bistro Grill. “I’m the biggest seller of foie gras in Quebec City, along with Restaurant Saint-Amour, where I learned to cook foie gras. After that I developed my own way, such as apple pie with ice cream foie gras and caramel.”
Lemelin is a big fan of his native city. He shares his favourite places to visit with kids, and without.
Village Vacances Valcartier
“One of the places that I used to go as a child and now I go with my sons is Village Vacances. It’s about 10 minutes from Quebec City. You can do sliding, skating, snow rafting. You get a big inflatable boat and you slide on the snow. It’s so awesome. You spend a really nice day here and then go inside for an apéritif and a hot chocolate for the kids 1860 Boulevard Valcartier, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, valcartier.com
“In Quebec City my favourite restaurant is Initiale. The chef is the owner. It’s a classic French restaurant, but done in a different way, done in a 2013 way. If we had a Michelin guide, it would be three stars in its decor, service and food. When you go there you go with a gastronomic menu pairing with wine. It’s all little plates. You eat many things, about 10 to 20 plates to taste the maximum number of dishes.” 54 rue Saint-Pierre, restaurantinitiale.com
Le Clocher Penché
“Since I had my second son, I cook a little more at home. But one of my favourite restaurants, when I used to go out with my wife, was Le Clocher Planché. It’s a little outside of town. It’s simple things done the right way. The chef is trying to use local products all year long and what our grandmothers used at this time of year – potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips – when there was no asparagus from Chile. He’s doing really local cooking. A lot of braising. Comfort food. I love it.” 203 rue Saint-Joseph Est, clocherpenche.ca
Marché du Vieux-Port
“During December you get the Christmas farmers’ market here selling cranberry jam, tourtière, all this local produce. It’s really nice. They make fresh doughnuts. During the winter it’s a little more empty, but there are stands open all year. We’ve got les fromageries. We have so many cheeses that are done here and that are high quality. In the fall, you can’t miss the farmers’ market in the Old Port.” 160 Quai Saint-André, marchevieuxport.com
Sugar Shacks at Île d’Orléans
“In early spring, one of the traditions for my family is go to a sugar shack on the Île d’Orléans for Easter brunch. In French we say tire sur la neige. It’s like maple caramel that we spread on the snow, roll it over a stick and eat it. It’s one of my favourite things in the year."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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