picBaie-Saint-Paul anchors the region’s southern end and is home to Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour.  Using regional cow, goat, and sheep milk, the dairy makes some of Canada’s best cheeses including Le Ciel de Charlevoix, a semi soft blue cheese named for the region’s blue skies.  Down the road, Laiterie Charlevoix, an economuseum and fourth-generation cheesemaker, produces cheddar, comte, a brie-like fleumier, and the award winning Migneron de Charlevoix.  At La Ferme Basque, Isabelle Mihura and Jean-Jaques Etcheberrigaray raise ducks by traditional “gavage” feedings to produce superbly smooth fois gras, fattened breasts, and other meat.  The restored La Remi mill uses and “overshot” waterwheel to grind flours for a wood-burning bread oven baking baguette traditionelle.

Emu is another regional specialty, with the Emu Centre, the province’s largest, raising 400 of the gawky birds for meat and a range of oil products.  In town, at Auberge La Muse, Chef Hank Suzuki’s emu tartare presented the lean red meat at its best.  The equal of fine beef tartare, the emu has an excellent texture and taste that was enhanced by the chef’s gentle spicing.

North from Baie-Saint-Paul, the Flavor Road climbs a headland over the St. Lawrence, then descends into Les Eboulements, a 350 million-year old meteorite impact crater.  Along with stunning scenery, Les Eboulements is home to La Chocolaterie du Village, where Line St-Pierre and Yves Huppé hand make more than 50 kinds of Belgian chocolates, including dark, semisweet bon bons exquisitely spiked with bits of hot pepper.  The couple returns to Belgium each year to purchase supplies and enhance their skills.
A brief side road from Les Eboulements leads down past Le Jardins du Centre with 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables, to the ferry to Ile aux Coudres, another river island devoted to gastronomic tourism.  Here, the St. Lawrence begins to widen out in an elongated horn-shape that will eventually turn and spill into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia beyond.  Stark and lonely seascapes stretch across the tide-deserted foreshore, perhaps a mile out to the river’s main channel.  But, apples seem to love Ile aux Coudres.  Ciderie et Verger Pedneault, another economuseum, is known for its ciders, mistelles (fortified fruit juices), and sparkling fruit wines.  Along with apples, Pedneault uses pears, plums, cherries, and saskatoons to handmake a delicious array of 22 fruit ciders.

Through Les Eboulements and Saint-Irénée, the coastal road is a favorite for artist and crafts studios, before descending into the northern end of the Flavor Road at La Malbaie.  The eponymously named Auberge La Romance makes a charming, comfortable basecamp, complete with a riverview balcony, fireplaces, whirlpool baths, and a breakfast that is a gastronomic tour of the surrounding countryside.

Quebec’s Gourmet Route is a true culinary tour that ties together all the facets of a complex and progressive regional cuisine, from the growers and producers to the market stands, food stalls, and final kitchen masterpieces.  For more information on food touring in Quebec Province, visit http://www.tourisme.gouv.qc.ca.  The Auberge Place d’Armes, within Quebec's walled city, offers cozy rooms in a choice location.  For more information, visit www.quebecweb.com/placedarme, or call 866-333-9485

The following recipes are Québequoise traditions
French-Canadian Creton or pork pate
pic1 1/4 pounds ground pork, not too lean
3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
Saute the pork in a large frying pan 3 minutes until no longer pink, then add the onions and garlic, stirring for another minute.  Add the salt and other seasonings and cook stir another  minute.  Add the milk and bread crumbs and continue stirring for 3 minutes over medium heat.  Reduce to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for over an hour, until the pork is very tender and the liquid is reduced.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and all the liquid is evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Adjust the seasoning and transfer to a decorative bowl or several smaller ramekins, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.  Cover tightly and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve with thinly sliced French bread and cornichon pickles.

French Onion Soup
2-3 large onions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 dash Kosher or sea salt
Lemon pepper to taste
2 fresh garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon dark sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
2 cups beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
French bread
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon Cognac (optional)
In a medium sized sauce pan, sauté onions in butter until limp.  Add flour, salt, pepper, garlic and sugar, and cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cognac and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the cognac and spoon into ovenproof soup bowls with slices of toasted French bread in the bottom.  Sprinkle generously with the cheeses and place under a broiler until the cheese melts and browns.

Roasted Trout Fillets
4 trout fillets, skin on
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped fine
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons balsamic, tarragon or basil vinegar
Thumb-sized sprigs of parsley, basil, tarragon or cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, minced
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Mix the vinegar, cream, and half the oil and in a saucepan.  Add the minced shallot, chopped herbs, and salt to taste and place over a high heat until just beginning to simmer.

In a heavy pan; heat the remaining oil to a moderate temperature.  Place the trout fillets in the pan, skin side down; cook on this side only until the flesh becomes opaque.  Sprinkle with salt and place into deep plates.  Pour the herb emulsion over the trout fillets and garnish with a bouquet of the same herbs.

This story is the sole property of Reed Hellman Wordsmith.  No more than a brief excerpt for a review may be reproduced or used in any way without written permission of the author.  Contact Reed Hellman Wordsmith at reedhellmanwordsmith@comcast.net.