MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada -- The golf is grand in Quebec, no doubt, but it might be the dining experiences that leave the biggest lasting impression on visitors. The heavy French influence in the province leads to a higher standard in the kitchen of every cafe and restaurant.
My six-day trip in July felt more like a culinary tour than a golf adventure. Dining at Restaurant La Quintessence & Winebar was easily the most intimate dining experience I've had in years. The waiter led my wife and I through the kitchen -- a unique touch -- to the secluded chef's table in a private greenhouse overlooking Lake Tremblant. Classical music was the only interruption heard between the clank of our forks diving into an appetizer of crab balls and the succulent lamb and lobster thermidor we shared as the main course.
The four-star restaurant in the boutique hotel Quintessence certainly felt five-star worthy that night.
The scene couldn't have been more different days later at Le Cafe du Bistrot in St-Andre-Avellin, a small town outside of Montebello. The tiny cafe was packed and noisy. Waitresses were running in all directions trying to keep customers happy. But the lively, casual atmosphere was welcoming and the food excellent. My first time trying steak frites, a delicious steak and fries combo popular throughout French-speaking Europe, won't be my last.
I also developed a daily craving for crepes after devouring some on the breakfast buffets at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in downtown Montreal, the Fairmont Tremblant in the charming ski village in the Laurentian Mountains and the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, the world's largest log-cabin hotel set along bank of the Ottawa River. They taste best soaked in the rich maple syrup Quebec is known for producing.
My stay in downtown Montreal lasted less than 24 hours, just enough time to discover why its bagels are so famous. They are boiled in honey-sweetened water and baked in a wood-fired oven. Yum, or as they say in French, miam!