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Québec City at its Best

Nordic Cuisine: The Distinctive Flavours of Québec's Boreal Forest

Credit: Allison Van Rassel

Québec City’s chefs embrace the seasons and transport adventurous eaters into the heart of the boreal forest with every forkful. The boreal forest is the largest vegetation zone in the province of Québec and has served as both pantry and pharmacy for First Nations peoples and early Quebecers. The boreal forest is unlike any other region in North America—it is the soul of Québec cuisine. So dig in and enjoy the taste of balsam fir, green alder pepper, sea buckthorn, and honeyberries.

Here are a few spots where you can sample and savour the full wealth of boreal cooking:

1 Chez Boulay, bistro and comptoir boréal

The boreal forest is one big playground for Arnaud Marchand, co-owner and chef at Chez Boulay. He likes to cook with balsam fir and cranberry seed oil—finicky ingredients that take some finesse to use! For dessert, he uses sea buckthorn and white sweetclover to surprise and delight the tastebuds. White sweetclover tastes a lot like vanilla, and sea buckthorn—a small orange berry loaded with vitamin C—adds a touch of acidity, much like lemon. In addition to dining in, you can also enjoy a quick meal from the restaurant’s ready-to-eat counter. And don’t forget to stop by the store and pick up the owners’ recipe book and the ingredients you’ll need to whip up a boreal feast at home!

2 Légende, L’Orygine and Kerrmess by Groupe La Tanière

Légende, L’Orygine and Kerrmess restaurants by Groupe La Tanière pride themselves on cooking exclusively with local products and using all parts of the animal or plant, from root to fruit. Chef and co-owner of all three restaurants Frédéric Laplante is a staunch advocate of biodiversity and works closely with biologist Fabien Girard to source ingredients from the boreal forest sustainably. Come for a drink, a meal, or just dessert and discover a whole host of responsibly-sourced delicacies!

3 La Traite

Indigenous culture and traditions take centre stage at La Traite restaurant at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, no matter what time of day you stop by. Chef Olivier Bernadet uses unique ingredients like birch syrup, oak leaf, and wild berries to delicious effect to enhance the flavour of his game, fish, and vegetable dishes. Be sure to try some bannock, a traditional flatbread that goes great with the many local cheeses, smoked fish, and housemade jams served at brunch.

4 Le Monastère des Augustines

Tisanes de l'apothicairesse Credit: Le Monastère des Augustines Zoom

Discover the benefits of the medicinal herbs and local plants used by Québec’s Augustinian sisters. Le Monastère des Augustines' boutique sells Les tisanes de l'apothicairesse, healthy infusions once used by the nuns themselves! Try the Tisane Royale—a blend of grape, licorice, and flaxseed—and a whole host of other healing, comforting, and calming concoctions that revive the body and mind.

5 Brasserie Artisanale La Korrigane

La Korrigane brews craft beer with hand-picked ingredients from boreal trees and bushes. Depending on the season, you might find some unusual products in the barrels, like a German-inspired beer made with wheat and Labrador tea, a plant that’s often used as a tea substitute. This peppery and lemony beer, named Amaruq, took home the silver medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2017.

6 Chapeau les bois

The Chapeau les bois stall at Marché du Vieux-Port is a great place to learn about products from Nordic cuisine. They sell Nordic nuts, freshly picked wild mushrooms, and a range of homemade products including chipolata des bois sausage, ground chaga, and a lemon fiddlehead pesto. If it’s in season, make sure you try the famous sea asparagus, an herb that grows between tides in the salty soil along the majestic St. Lawrence River.

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