Tourtière, traditionally enjoyed around the Christmas and New Year holidays, is a savory, spiced meat pie enveloped in a flaky puff pastry crust. Customarily filled with minced pork and seasoned with holiday spices such as clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, the tourtière has origins in the province of Quebec that can be traced back to as early as the 1600′s. There remains debate as to the history of the name and whether it was derived from the tourte, a passenger pigeon that was hunted into extinction as game meat was originally used for the tourtière’s filling or from the word tourte, referring to the pie pan the dish is prepared in. Either way, there is no debate as to the tourtière’s place at the holiday table and the nostalgic memories of the holiday season that it conjures in people throughout the world with ties to French-Canadian culture.
The menu for this French bistro maintains an assortment of standard restaurant fare (at the expected prices; $15-$20 plates) and wine (including wines from South Africa). The pasta is earthy and the maple tart will NOT fall from your fork. There is also an extensive ‘after-dinner’ cocktail list with a surprisingly wide variety of coffee drinks, a touch that invites hours of alcohol consumption. And so, the restaurant becomes a relaxing and necessary escape from the frigid Quebec cityscape (and a further excuse to remain indoors). But the reality is that half of the allure of Le Hobbit stems from its name, which may or may not have anything to do with the Lord of the Rings (a history of the name appears to be available on their website). I may have been disappointed that a tiny person with hairy feet wasn’t my waiter. While the interior and menu are undeniably un-Hobbitesque, there are a few unique features worth mentioning. Most notably, the brick walls are accompanied by an odd and perhaps even warped interior design. Do you see the gigantic white cinderblocks hovering in space? It’s a point where the Hobbits gave way to some fat drunken Elf (and Elves don’t get drunk, so you see what is happening here). Fortunately, instead of intruding on the experience, it keeps the place interesting. Also, the ‘Hobbit influence’ is reflected in (at least some of) their dishes, garnished with gooseberries, (edible?) twigs and a variety of leaves that yields warmth, curiosity and an unmistakable appreciation for things that grow.
700, Rue Saint-Jean
Quebec, QC G1R 1P9
Written by Jason Summerfield
Built in the late 19th century, the iconic hotel, perched high atop Cap Diamant overlooking the St. Lawrence river, evokes feelings of romantic elegance normally associated with historic European castles. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, it will likely appear as the backdrop in most of your photos of the centuries-old walled city and is well worth the trip up the hillside to explore the chateau itself and all the property has to offer.
Le Château Frontenac is most idyllic during the colder months when Old Quebec welcomes its Winter Carnival and the luminescence from the hotel can be seen glowing through the snowfall. The hotel also hosts its own winter activities on property, including an ice skating rink and a triple chute toboggan ride from 1935 that takes riders across a quarter-mile long track.
1 rue des Carrieres, Quebec City, Quebec
The tradition of the winter carnival first began in Québec in 1894 as part of a tradition to gather and celebrate before Lent. The first presentation of the Carnival, as it has come to be known today, began in 1955 and introduced the world to Bonhomme, the Carnival’s representative and symbol of winter revelry. As one of the snowiest cities in the world, Québec embraces the winter and presents a variety of attractions and activities representative of the city’s history and cultural traditions. From late January to mid-February, when the Carnival is hosted, Québec transforms itself into an outdoor winter city, complete with a full-sized ice palace dramatically situated across from the Parliament building and colorful nighttime parades to compliment the merriment of the festival atmosphere. Visitors to the Carnival can watch traditional Québécoise activities, which include dog sled races and a canoe race down the icy St. Lawrence. Another remarkable spectacle of the Carnival are the beautifully crafted ice and snow sculptures displayed throughout the city. With so much to do and see you’ll want to stay out all night, in which case, another Carnival tradition may be helpful for fighting the frigid winter temperatures, the Caribou, a festive local drink of vodka, brandy, sherry and port. Un très joyeux Carnaval!
Photos courtesy of Carnaval de Québec.
For detailed information: http://www.carnaval.qc.ca/
Additional coverage of the Winter Carnival
Built in 1677, the historic Maison Jacquet is one of the oldest houses in Quebec. The former home of the popular Canadian novelist, Philippe-Joseph Aubert de Gaspé, author of the 1863 novel Les Anciens Canadiens, the house has been the location of the popular restaurant bearing the same name since 1966. Showcasing traditional Québecois cuisine, the restaurant offers diners the choice of ordering à la carte or from la formule, the fixed-price menu. The highlights of the menu are the regional options, which feature game meats such as wild caribou, bison and pheasant prepared using traditional French-influenced methods. No matter what you choose, when it’s time for dessert, don’t skip out on the maple syrup pie.
34, rue Saint-Louis – C.P. 175, Succursale Haute-Ville
Vegetarian options are limited.