It is often said that the kitchen is the heart of a home; such is the case for Charlevoix, Quebec. Located a four-hour drive northeast of Montreal, Charlevoix’s burgeoning food scene is the key to discovering the essence of this charming riverside region. Though the UNESCO World Heritage Site has long attracted visitors for its prime whale watching and impressive ski hill Le Massif, it has only recently become recognized for its gastronomic appeal.
To get a taste of Charlevoix, one need only follow the Flavour Trail (La Route des Saveurs), a network of more than 40 of the region’s farmers, producers, and chefs. Beyond satisfying your palate, the Flavour Trail provides the opportunity to meet the people behind the region’s finest artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates, and more. Be sure to arm yourself with a large basket to collect your spoils, and plan to end your journey with a picnic at the picturesque Le Parc Municipal de la Baie des Rochers. Should you be pressed for time, not to worry—here are the four must-visit stops along the Flavour Trail.
Auberge des Trois Canards (Inn of the Three Ducks) is a quaint inn with an eponymous restaurant housed within its rustic walls. Adorned with duck-themed decor—always grouped in trios—the restaurant is known for its indulgent French-Canadian classics. Think escargots and Le Ciel de Charlevoix (“The Charlevoix Sky”) blue cheese; local duck breast from La Ferme Basque cooked in a port sauce with oyster mushrooms; and Quebec venison with seared foie gras and a housemade cedar jelly. With this decadent menu, you may be tempted to skip the bread to start, but doing so would be a mistake. Nestled into the middle of the dining room is a self-serve bread bar where you can cut a thick slice from housemade loaves before slathering it in up to three types of butter (the herbed option is a must-try). What elevates it, however, is the ability to then take your buttery slice to the open fireplace grill where you can toast it to golden-brown perfection, complete with satisfying sizzles and grill marks.
It takes a bold mind to create the world’s first tomato wine and Pascal Miche, a boisterous Belgian ex-pat with a personality as big as his towering six-foot-something frame, is precisely that. His winery’s name, Omerto, is a portmanteau of “tomato” and “Omer”, the name of Miche’s great-grandfather who first began turning tomatoes into wine in 1938 before passing down the dream down to Miche. Today, Miche produces four types of wine: sec, moelleux, acacia, and cherry/chestnut cask moelleux. Each shares a distinct citrus flavour with earthy undertones; the sec has been compared to a sauvignon blanc, while the cask-aged option is reminiscent of a sherry. Now in his eighth year of commercial production, Miche produces more than 30,000 bottles of certified organic tomato wine per year. All this comes from only 6,000 tomato plants on his one-hectare farm. Omerto participated in the internationally recognized Vinexpo wine and spirits exhibition in Bordeaux, a validating accomplishment for Miche, who says education and awareness continue to be a huge part of his job.
Were it not for the award-winning artisanal cheeses produced by La Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour, its perfectly pastoral setting—complete with a big red barn—would be enough to win over any visitor. Pass by flocks of sheep and teeming flowerbeds to reach the main store, where you can sample a variety of cheeses, including their most famous: Le Migneron, a melt-in-your-mouth cow’s milk cheese aged for 50 days with a buttery hazelnut flavour. “This [cheese] is my little brother; I grew up next to it,” says Madeleine Dufour, Maurice’s 24-year-old daughter, as she tours us around the site. “I was born in ‘94 as well.” The Dufours also produce wine under the label Charlevoyou, and have begun developing a vodka made from whey, a by product of their cheese production. Those with time to linger are well-advised to pull up a patio seat at on-site restaurant Faux Bergers, one of the newer additions to the Flavour Trail.
Stepping onto Louise Vidricaire’s certified-organic lavender farm Azulée feels as if you’ve been transported to the fragrant fields of Provence. Insects buzz, birds chirp, and the breeze carries sweet, herbaceous, and earthy aromas. “Do touch everything,” says Vidricaire from beneath a straw hat, its brim round and full with a bulbous top that affords much more room than necessary for the petite woman’s head. Surely, it must hide her secrets to cultivating such a lush garden. Vidricaire grows the vibrant purple flowers for culinary and aromatherapy pursuits, selling her lavender to local chefs and working with fellow artisans to produce infused honey, soap, and candles. Find these products in the nearby drying shed alongside sachets of dried lavender and mini recipe cards for treats like lavender-infused baked goods. If you arrive on a day when Vidricaire has been baking, take note: the lemon lavender cake is not to be missed.
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