I love Charlevoix. It’s located close enough to Quebec City to be considered a weekend getaway, and far enough to feel as though I am escaping from home. Every season, friends of mine plan an escape to Charlevoix. We usually rent a chalet at Le Genevrier and spend a weekend indulging in Charlevoix’s nature and terroir. But, last weekend was a different kind of escapade to Charlevoix.
I was invited by the Table Agro-touristique of Charlevoix to visit some of the producers of the region who take part in the Route des Saveurs. The Route des Saveurs is a selection of producers who make up a circuit that encourages you to travel across the region in order taste the products. A sort of foodie tour of the Charlevoix region.
Each year since 1996, the producers of the Route des Saveurs present their annual Fêtes des Saveurs, an eight-course banquet that takes place at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu. An event where you get to taste the talent of the region’s chefs who transform Charlevoix’s produce on a daily basis. It’s also an event where hundreds of students from the province’s culinary schools flock to practice their teachings and serve the evenings customers. For the occasion, the Manoir’s ballroom is set up with four stations where each attendant has a specific task and/or ingredient to plate. Impressive teamwork. My favourite dishes?
1- Le St-Pub’s Chef Jean-François Deschamps’ deconstructed mini club sandwich featuring the Viandes Biologiques de Charlevoix’s smoked chicken.
2- The Mouton Noir’s Chef Thierry Ferré’s warm maple foie gras served atop poppy seeds and onto a galette. The Ferme Basque’s foie gras melted in my mouth like butter.
Producers I love in Charlevoix
The first producer that comes to mind is Danielle Ricard of Champignons Charlevoix. She is a perfect example of a producer’s dedication to creating exquisite produce. Located in La Malbaie, Danielle and her husband have researched and developed for more than eight years a technique to grow a unique variety of Oyster mushrooms inside pails. She sells them fresh to the regions’ chefs, but transforms them into savoury pestos marinated, among other flavours, in spicy oil. I cannot make spaghetti sauce without using her mushrooms. You can order her products online shipped province-wide via her website.
Don’t just take the time to stop by the Laiterie Charlevoix to indulge in their cheese and oh-so-magnificent ice-cream, take the time to visit their cheese making museum. The Laiterie Charlevoix founded the series of Économusées located at different producers across the province that want to take you step by step into the process and history of creating some of Quebec most renowned products. At the Laiterie Charlevoix, you can have a free tour of how cheese is made, from the exclusive variety of cow they breed to the process of aging cheese. It’s where I learned how two of my favourite Quebec cheeses are made, the Hercule and 1608. The most exciting part of the visit, walking through the plant where the petit lait is recuperated to make methane gas that heats their buildings; 100% renewable energy.
Do not leave the tour without a visit to the second floor of the building where you’ll find thousands of artefacts from the milk industry. Some even date back as early as the 1900s. You’ll also witness a unique collection of milk bottles and caps, cheese packaging and the first tools used to measure fat in milk.
Everything Damien Girard touches turns into beauty. His prosciutto-like ham is so tasty you’ll want to bring a leg of your own. His chickens, pork and turkeys run free in larger habitats and raised according to the highest of ECOCERT’s organic standards. Raised in Saint-Urbain, every animal is born, fed and transformed in Charlevoix. He transforms his meats into a variety of products available province-wide. I highly recommend any of his products, but his ham and flamboyant chorizo are a must.
Where to Stay while in Charlevoix
La Ferme is one of the province of Quebec’s most beautiful hotels. La Ferme is a place that blends perfectly every aspect of modern design and architecture with our nation’s rustic heritage. La Ferme is an impressive two-storey building that reflects the regions charm, audacity and agricultural values. Its design evokes an impressive attention to details. From Quebec artist Claude Guertin embracing the hotel’s walls, to Charlevoix’s terroir plunging both into Les Labours’ and Le Bercail’s menus, La Ferme is your chance to get in touch with your inner senses. A destination orchestrated and properly enjoyed with a loved one. It is physically oriented for relaxation and well-being within a unique lifestyle experience in one of Quebec’s most creative agricultural regions.
Opt for the gastronomic dinner at Les Labours, the hotel’s restaurant. There, indulge in Charlevoix’s lake trout. This Omble de Chevalier species is raised in Charlevoix and cooked at very low temperature so that it melts like butter in your mouth. If you rather enjoy pizza and finger foods at Le Bercail bar/lounge, order the Cratère. A poignant cassis-based cocktail that isn’t featured on the menu, but definitely worth you knowing about.