Not to be a completely, totally, predictable… but the first tour I did was food. Yep. That’s right, Mom goes away, and first thing out of the gate was a food. That I didn’t prepare. That people just brought to me, on trays! 😀 What a wonderful idea.
Actually, I really wanted to go to the Ile d’Orleans for a visit. It is a rich part of Quebec’s history, with some of the first French colonizing happening here. The first settlers were granted land for the specific purpose of growing crops, each different farm designated for different crops, and the farms have been passed down from generation to generation. Many of the French Canadians can trace their ancestry back to these first settlers, and the island has earned the title the Birthplace of New France, and Cradle of America.
The farm plots designated so early in its history still exist today, with one road that encircles the island, and three roads that cross from one side to the other. Two of these roads that cross the island are closed during the winter, because the snowfall makes them too hazardous.
I wanted to see this island for myself, but wasn’t so sure I wanted to rent a car and blindly drive around, hoping to find good tasting spots. SO… enter Quebec Food Tour, the Taste Trail. The Taste Trail tour took a 21 passenger bus, and visited 5 different stops for tasting, while our driver, Jaak, taught us about the history of the island.
1. Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orleans
The Chocolaterie d’Orleans has been making chocolate on the Ile d’Orleans since 1988, and the house that contains the chocolaterie dates from 1760. The ice cream parlor attached, is in a building that was originally the first grocery store, built in 1800.
The shop actually imports Belgian chocolate to use in making its treats, which contain no chemical preservatives. All of the fillings are made from the produce of the Ile d’Orleans.
We got to sample dark chocolates with a raspberry ganache filling, that were truly delectable. This is the way to start a food tour! After we all tried some, we could then mill around and explore the shops, or purchase something to take home. I got several of the dark chocolate bars with caramel filling to take home to the girls. 🙂 Time to start building a little goodie bag for them for when I get home!
To learn more about the chocolate shop, their products, or retailers that sell their product <<Go to their website here>>.
2. Vignoble du Mitan
Our second stop was Vignoble du Mitan, a winery. Planting grapes in 1998, Vignoble opened its doors in 2007. The wines were generally on the sweeter end of things.
The specialty was ice wine. The grapes are harvested during December and January, while the grapes are frozen. Pressed while still frozen, a smaller amount of concentrated grape juice is obtained. The resulting wine has a taste of a white port wine. In my mind, I could imagine drizzling it over vanilla bean ice cream would be amazing!
The vineyard has beautiful views of the St. Lawrence, and even a front deck seating area to spend a little sipping time on.
To learn more about their wines, activities, or where to buy their product, <<Visit their website here>>.
3. Cidrerie Bilodeau
Apple trees were first planted at Bilodeau in 1980, and sold from the orchard since 1985 when most of that was done through a pick-your-own set up. However, in 1995, the Bilodeau family added the making of ciders to their business, and have grown their varieties of ciders since.
While there were a number of different tasting options at this Cidrerie, I chose to taste four:
- La Petit Pommier – This is a light, alcoholic apple cider. The first that I tried, I thought it was a refreshing apple cider with a little kick to it.
- Le Cassis – The second sample was a slightly more fruity blend of apple and black currant, with the same little kick.
- Nectar de Glace – this is the ice cider, where (as with the ice wine) the apples are pressed while frozen, giving a more intense and sweet flavor. This is definitely intense and for sipping, and delicious.
- La Petit Bonheur – This blend was my favorite of the four, a mild, alcoholic apple cider with a touch of maple added. I really debated for a while about whether I should buy a bottle to take home. The only reason I didn’t was that I was traveling carry-on, so I knew I wouldn’t get it through security. 🙁
They have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, so visit, bring a snack to pair with your choices after a tasting. Make an afternoon of it!
To learn more about the Cidrerie Bilodeau, or to find a place that sells their products, <<Check our their website here>>
4. La Nougaterie Quebec
This one surprised me. Cider, yep, that makes sense. Wine, I live in VA wine country, I’ve done those tastings. Even the chocolate I had known was here. But nougat?? Really? We can do a nougat tasting?
I came in the door, and first of all… is this place cute and fun or what?
And if you look at all those different piles on the table, those are all different flavors of nougat! Who knew? So I tried a bunch: chocolate, almond, orange, caramel, maple, lavender, pistachio… I mean, at some point I just have to tell myself not to make a spectacle and stop already. I was truly surprised by the variety and the flavors that were at times understated (maple) and with others intense (orange).
In addition to the nougats, they also make meringues, home-made marshmallows, and jams. And there’s a coffee bar (did you hear the angels sing? I did), as well as sodas. It’s really a tasty little stop.
To learn more about the Nougaterie, their many, many different flavors, or to order some (they deliver throughout Quebec) <<Visit their website here>>
5. Cassis Monna & Filles
Bernard Monna, a 4th generation ‘liquorist’ from the l’Herault area of France, came to Ile d’Orleans in the 1970s, which Cassis Monna & Filles claims has the ideal microclimate for growing black currant. Now, his two daughters are having the tradition and family business passed down to them.
Their list of awards for their wines is extensive, and several different choices are available for tasting. I tasted La Creme de Cassis, and it was rich and tart with a touch of sweetness and greater depth than is usually there in grape-based wines.
In addition to the wines, they have a whole assortment of black current based goodies like jam, jelly, syrup, and marmalade in an assortment of different flavors. There are a number of different gifty packages that make great local-made foodie treats to bring home.
To learn more about the history, products, or even recipes for use with their produces (um, yum) <<Check out their website here>>.
Websites of the Tasty Stops we visited:
- Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orleans: chocolaterieorleans.com
- Vignoble du Mitan: vignobledumitan.com
- Cidrerie Bilodeau: cidreriebilodeau.com
- La Nougaterie Quebec: nougateriequebec.com
- Cassis Monna & Filles: cassismonna.com
I thoroughly enjoyed my tour. I befriended two other women on the tour who were also by themselves, and we tasted and chatted through it. The week I was there was pre-peak season, so our bus was not packed, which was pretty nice, although even filled I don’t think it would be overwhelming.
However, Ile d’Orleans is not too large, and with only one road circling the island, it is kind of hard to get lost! So if you have a car, you are free head over and make your own schedule. Eitherway, it’s a tasty and beautiful, easy trip from Quebec City.
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