The Québec Exquis food festival was back from April 22 to May 1, much
to the delight of Quebecers hungry for the social connection that often takes place around a table with a glass of wine in hand.
The festival has finally found the right ingredients to offer with three different food experiences: fine dining in over 30 participating restaurants, take-home boxes from the Château Frontenac and the final weekend event – L’Apéro Québec-Bordeaux – served under a big white tent on April 29, 30 and May 1.
New this year, the pleinair concept took place at Place Jean-Béliveau as the sun was setting behind the Videotron Centre. People lined up for Les Cowboys Fringants concert and an image of the late Guy Lafleur smiled from the giant outdoor screen. The sunny but cool outdoor temperature on the last day of April was not a problem; the lounge atmosphere inside the tent, with candlelit tables to seat a hundred and music by DJ Rain, was warm enough for people to remove their coats.
The tastings included a charcuterie and cheese plate with condiments, all produced by local artisans. More than the four promised wines from the Bordeaux region accompanied the local delicacies, greatly exceeding expectations. Happy hour got happier!
Québec Exquis president Vincent Lafortune welcomed guests and raised a glass to the theme of the evening – la vie est belle! A video on a large screen highlighted the beautiful Bordeaux region of France – from sea, to land, to winery – to “make you want to travel via your glass.” In contrast, Passage, a short film by Catherine Leblanc high- lighted agricultural treasures in nearby Portneuf, remind- ing eaters just how short a distance local produce travels from farm to table.
The tastings started with a glass of Puyfromage Blanc Entre-Deux-Mers as an aperitif before the food was served. Kler-Yann Bouteiller, sommelier and teacher at l’École hôtelière de la Capitale, described the wines being sampled. “Bordeaux is rich in viticultural traditions.” However, the Lyon-born sommelier said Bordeaux has never remained stagnant in its traditions. According to Québec Exquis, Bordeaux wineries are making efforts to go greener, but also reworking what used to be well-aged, woody red wines produced at large French chateaux. “Wineries have reworked their reds … the result? A fruitier wine that we can drink younger.”
Everything served was locally made – from light, fresh cheese produced at the family-owned and operated Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans to jalapeño pork sausage from Boucherie Turlo and apple jelly from Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault. Even the food platters were made locally, from walnut or maple wood, at Le Temps des Cigales, an artisanal workshop in Cap Saint-Ignace. Despite such good bakeries in Quebec City, the quality of the buns left something to be desired but the stellar products on display and generous pours overshadowed the mediocre bread baskets.
Bouteiller said he believes drinking wine together allows for moments of connection. The small tables of four to six enabled people to get to know each other and share “cheers.” Your scribe shared her table with a couple juggling careers in the military and health care and whose children attend an English-language school. Everyone agreed that, after months of pandemic isolation, it felt good to be out in the world enjoying good food, wine and company.