Journeys with Carole Kotkin

The Flavor Trail of Quebec

Carole Kotkin is a syndicated Miami Herald food columnist and co-author of “MMMMiami – Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.” She is also the manager of The Cooking School at The Ocean Reef Club, food editor for “The Wine News” magazine, and co-host of “Food and Wine Talk” on

Located in the province of Quebec along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, Quebec City is the region’s capital and tourist showpiece. Founded in 1608 by explorer Samuel de Champlain, the city has inherited a strong cultural legacy from centuries of French and British occupation.

Everyone here speaks French and for a long time the region sought to break away from the rest of the country. Canadians are famous for friendliness, and language is not a barrier to the tourist. The city itself is charming, hilly and historic, and is celebrating its 400th anniversary. Most impressive, though, are the sights to be found just outside the city.

The government of Quebec has made exploring the province easy by dividing it into 20 designated tourist regions. Charlevoix, one of the smaller regions, extends from the Quebec City tourist region, in the west, to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, in the north, and Manicouagan, on the east. Charlevoix has 2,300 square miles to explore.

Montmorency Falls is a must see stop on the way to the region of Charlevoix. You can walk round the falls or take a cable car and watch 35,000 gallons of water thundering past every second. In the small communities of Charlevoix, you can sample some terrific local food and drink and explore the area, which prides itself on tradition, as evidenced by many successful, family-run businesses.

In addition to the farms and small hotels, it is also a center for art galleries and home to some of the best whale watching in the eastern part of North America.

Our first stop was the town of Baie St. Paul, a community that has demonstrated a strong commitment to celebrating the past while focusing on the future, a quality recognized by The Cultural Capitals of Canada Program for its efforts. The area of Baie-Saint-Paul is the birthplace of the famous Cirque du Soleil as well as a highly cultural area, prized by painters from everywhere in the country. Located along the narrow streets of Baie-Saint-Paul, are numerous ancestral houses that clearly recall the wealthy businessmen who settled in this region. The streets of the city are lined with boutiques and art galleries that feature work by artists and sculptors who come to the area for inspiration.

Although we did not have enough time to visit all 29 producers and restaurants on the Route des Saveurs (Flavor Trail), a trail of farms and shops that sell the region’s produce, gourmet foods, cheese and game, we did experience a new culinary discovery each day. Canada is considered one of the greatest cheese producing nations in the world. The industry comprised of approximately 200 manufacturers who produce more than 300 varieties of cheese, has achieved world-class status through international recognition, with Canadian cheddars winning numerous awards at major cheese competitions.

At Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, a tour guide introduced us to the cheesemaking and aging processes used in the Valée du Gouffre were cheeses such as cow’s milk Le Migneron and Le Ciel de Charlevoix and ewe’s milk Deo Gartias are produced.

Just off the coast near Les Eboulements lies Isle-aux-Coudres, a charming island that makes a perfect day trip. A free ferry takes visitors and residents back and forth from the mainland. Jacques Cartier named the island in 1535 when he noticed a kind of hazelnut growing there. (The old French word for hazelnut is “coudre.”) The island is perfect for bicycling and is a favorite with families. While there we visited to the cider house at Ciderie, Vergers Pedneault, famous for its ciders, both hard and light, ice cider, aperitif cider, and vinegar.

In addition to apples, the orchards contain cherries, plums, and pears. Plums are made into fruit drinks enhanced with distilled spirits called “mistelle.”

Traveling the Flavor Trail is a unique way to discover the charming region and people of Charlevoix. For more information:

Charlevoix Tourism, 800/667-2276;;

Where to Eat

Restaurant Au 51

51 rue Satin Jean-Baptiste, Baie-Saint-Paul,

French chef Patrick Fregni gets kudos for his French bistro classics using regional ingredients; visit companion bakery across the street for croissants and pastries.

L’Auberge la Muse

39, rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Baie Saint-Paul, 418-435-6839,

Restaurant features Charlevoix specialties, fish and seafood.

Where to Stay

L’Auberge la Muse

39, rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Baie Saint-Paul, 418-435-6839,

This beautiful Victorian Inn, located in the heart of Baie-Saint-Paul offers 14 cozy rooms.

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