My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 2)

Bonjour mes amis!

I am on the VIA train right now, heading home from my Quebec adventure. I have to say that my experience here far past any expectations I could have had.

I have a reader who just emailed me and said that he traveled to France and really enjoyed his time. The key to his enjoyable time was detaching himself from all expectations during the trip. This is kind of/sort of the attitude I took for my short Quebec adventure. I left my expectations behind and was committed to having a great time with Mon Homme.

All of the food in Quebec was mouth watering. We dined on typical French cuisine the entire time, sometimes splurging on a multi-coursed dinner and other times scrimping our wallets and purchasing la nourriture from the grocery store (supermarché). It was simply all délicieux.

Here is the list of the top 5 things we did:

  1. Les Chutes de Montmorency (The Montmorency Falls)- They are massive! The local transit bus “800” took us all the way there (it was around a thirty minute ride from Old Quebec). We were led from a small walking path to a huge bridge that takes you right over the falls. Honestly, we were not expecting much but they sure are impressive. We then proceeded to walk down what seemed like 2000 stairs to the bottom of the falls to get soaking wet. It was an all around awesome time!
  2. Lower Old Quebec- Little did we know until the evening of last night that Quebec has a “secret” area full of cobblestone roads and cute little shops. Most of old Quebec is built around the Chateau Frontenac, near the top of a large hill, surrounded by the walls of the historical fort. The roads are paved, there are many shops and restaurants and a lot of tourists. We had walked the streets at least ten times until I turned to Mon Homme and said “I remember that Quebec has an area with cobblestone roads”. To arrive there we had to find the staircases behind most of the main roads that took us to the lower Quebec. This area is so charming and we found our restaurant for the second night here!
  3. Shopping- I don’t know if it is completely true, but clothes and shoes just seemed cheaper. We really needed to sift through the tons of tourist shops to find the true gems, a cute dress shop, another maple syrup store, some other crafty places. If you travel here, dedicate at least one day to shopping.
  4. Eating- Go anywhere! The price range is the same for every single restaurant so just  choose one! Besides the delectable wine and beef tartar, the sausages, burgers and soups are some of the finest too!
  5. Speaking French-I am happy to report that I was able to function with the French language. It is not the same French that is used in France as the languages really evolved differently since the French settled here eons ago. But, never the less, everyone speaks only French (it really is hard to squeeze the English out of them) and I loved the feeling of being able to understand and speak.

If you are traveling to Quebec any time soon, please drop me a line and I could recommend some great places for you to visit!

Thanks for reading!

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My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 1)

I am in Quebec City for a mini French adventure. I left the bustling, busy GTA and began my journey with Mon Homme on Sunday. It was a spur of the moment decision for both of us but the desire to come here had been hanging around for a couple of months. Why not? This is an excellent opportunity for me to practice my French and eat real French (Canadian) baguettes and croissants.

Is Quebec City real a francophone city?

Yes! I actually could not believe this myself. Quebec is the only francophone province in Canada (with the exception of a part of New Brunswick), but even so, the number of anglophone inhabitants is enormous. I was expecting to arrive here and have trouble finding people (such as restaurant servers, hotel concierges, tourist guides and so on) to speak French with. I have traveled to the province of Quebec before, stayed in Montreal and also Quebec City itself (eons ago). When I had attempted to speak French then, and the people realized I was anglophone, they would automatically switch over to English.

Well this trip is slightly different. I have my French Homme with me and I have asked him to only speak French. When people approach us or we need to speak with them, they will automatically begin the conversation in French and this time, instead of me using my broken French to try to communicate, Mon Homme steps in and voila, the francophone conversation is sparked. I stand there, absorbing as much information as possible and add in a “oui” (yes) or ‘merci” (thank you) here and there. The thing I find most fascinating about all this is that I can actually understand! And answer and ask questions back! The waitress asks me, in French, what I would like to order, and I asked back in French, “Do you have fruit?” (Est-ce que vous avez des fruits?). She answers back with a “Non, bla bla bla bla bla bla petite dejeuner” (No, ……….breakfast) I didn’t catch the whole sentence. But I definitely know that it means we only serve it at breakfast and I proceed to order the French onion soup. Awesome, I mastered my first French conversation! My months and money investing into private French lessons is completely paying off, and this confidence was well needed. Thank you Quebec City!

If you want to travel to Quebec City and do not know French, do not worry, most people will speak to you in English. Try to know a few phrases though because it seems obvious to my bf and I, that when we speak in French, all the Quebecois’ faces light up and we are treated better.

Is the food in Quebec divine?

The food in Quebec City is divine! Most of it is authentically French and from what we have had, it is all just simply wonderful. There are not chain restaurants in the old city and when you sit down at a French restaurant, expect the freshest food!

I guess, because this is a very large tourist hot spot, the prices are quite high. We have yet to find a cheap French restaurant alternative. With little or no alcohol, the average bill for a lunch or dinner we have had it $35-$40. But this is generally choosing the lower costing items on the menu.

Before I go on I must tell you about the latte from heaven that I had (Cafe au lait en francais). Starbucks lattes go from around $3.20 and up. What is the outcome of paying that price? The same boring drink, every single time, mass produced, a long line up, a headache from the smells of over processed foods being grilled and an average taste. For the same price here in Quebec, I had a latte, plus grande (bigger), made with the richest espresso I have ever tasted, served with the flare of adding latte art to top the drink off, and what tasted like the freshest milk ever. We ended up ordering two! Starbucks has lost my business.

Corner convenience stores also sell baguettes and cheese and wine and everything divine. To save some money today we will grocery shop for breakfast and lunch.

Accommodations

We are staying in a two star hotel, I found for an extremely great price on Expedia.ca. I honestly was not expecting much. The pictures online were not that awesome, although the place did look clean and the location was extremely ideal. Seeing that the reviews were mainly good, I decided to book. My main focus, of course, is getting to France, so I simply do not want to splurge on a last-minute four-day trip.

We walked in, Mon Homme spoke French and the woman we dealt with was wonderful. She signed us in, gave us the key and even listened to our conversation and provided us with the internet password without us even asking. On top of this, before we headed up stairs, she asked us if we knew the city or had a map. We didn’t, so she gave us an awesome map and directions on how to get to the old city (less than 10 minute walk away!). So far, so good!

We unlock the door to our room and to our delight, it was and still is, charming, way more than we could have asked for. The room in spotless, it comes with a fridge and cable TV (with every channel). The bathroom is spotless and well equipped. The bed is comfy and has a giant, bright white duvet to add to the awesomeness. Well worth the price (which was not much).

Getting around the city on a budget

The first thing we decided to do was go shopping. There are plenty of cute shops and we had to check them out. Upon exiting the first show store, I already had a new pair of shoes in hand (or on my feet this time!). I simply couldn’t resist the French flare the shoes had. They were perfect for style and comfort! A girl has got to invest in a pair every so often to keep her sanity!

The weather here this week is terrible so indoors has been the theme. We checked out some awesome art galleries, featuring Inuit sculpted art and another gallery with abstract painting. This of course, was free (gratuit).

We were hiding out, from the cold in the bottom level of the Chateau Frontenac where there is a strip of stores to be seen. After following the corridor (and checking out the stores) we arrived at a crowded area with a woman in costume at a desk. Castle tours were happening! We had to check it out and for $20 for two people, we would be entertained for an hour. Three words for you: DON’T DO IT! It was boring, we were led through a couple of hallways and given the boring (yes boring!) historical facts. We didn’t get to see the awesome suites, the swimming pool or anything that would, as Mon Homme says, “Make us dream”.

We then proceeded to the tourist information office across the street to see where the nightlife is in the city. Not only where we told where the nightlife is (too tired to check it out yesterday), but the kind gentleman also told us all the free museums we could attend and how to take the local bus to get to the waterfalls. Awesome! Today, we have a busy (low-cost) day ahead of us!

With all this said and done, if you have the chance, GO! This city is fun, funky and quite easy to navigate, I might add. My eagerness to hop on the airplane to arrive at my real destination has and is growing with every step on these Quebec streets. Now I know for sure, I MUST go to France! The real deal lays across the ocean, no anglophones chiming into the French conversation, no choice but to order my food in France, espresso and baguettes and food that I can only imagine, and a zest that I’m sure cannot be compared to this small Canadian city. My confidence is up and I cannot wait.

Until I write again, thanks for reading!

Useful links:  for travel to Quebec City check out these two websites: Quebec Region and Bonjour Quebec

French Spinach Turnover

Last Friday and Saturday were crazy days for me. I was to host my sister’s bridal shower beginning at 1pm on Saturday afternoon and I had a lot of work to do come Friday evening. I was really set on making the shower as traditional and awesome as possible. Now writing about the shower almost a week later, I can say I completely accomplished this goal!

I was keen on having all the food homemade, rather than store-bought. I wanted all the guests to go home feeling the love from their food. I swear by this method of cheering people up. I am known for needing my space while cooking in the kitchen and I tell people the same thing every time they pick on me for it, “I have to concentrate on putting my love into the food!” Its understandable, right?

I made 48 homemade chocolate cupcakes with a pink butter cream icing I whipped up. They were sure winners! I also had other family members whip up some delicious meals to bring to the party.

Among all of this delicious, love-filled food, was Julia Child’s French recipe for a spinach turnover. This recipe took the most labour (well worth the labour I should add), it took the most love, the most time, and it also got the best rave reviews from my hungry guests.

In total, the recipe took about an hour to prepare and once prepared, it sat waiting for a couple of hours getting ready to be baked. Once the guests arrived, I plopped the turnovers in the oven for 1/2 hour and they came out ready, warm and delicious, in time for lunch.

I browsed through the pics of the shower, but not one of the turnovers was captured. The picture up top is exactly how it looks though, if you need a reference. I have also posted the original video before if you want to watch Julia.

Here is the recipe:

  • Enough pastry for 2- 9″ crusts (you need dough, not the shells! I bought a package of puff pastry and it worked well, you can also make your own)
  • 9 oz fresh spinach
  • 4 oz mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 2/3 cup hot milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1-2 egg yolks for glazing
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk (I used milk because I forgot to buy cream, Julia uses cream)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Here is the method:

  • Start by washing the spinach and removing the stems. Plunge the spinach in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain spinach and plunge into cold water. Squeeeeeeeeze out all excess water. Chop up aggressively!
  • Clean mushrooms and chop them up, chop the ham too
  • In a saucepan, saute the mushrooms and ham with the tablespoon of butter. Set aside.
  • In another, larger saucepan, saute the one onion in low heat with a 1/4 cup of butter (no skimping!)
  • Remove half of this onion mixture and place in another saucepan with the spinach. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or so.
  • SO! Going back to the onion alone in the saucepan. Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and beat quickly until it is a thick paste. Take the pan off the heat, add an egg, whisk right away! Add the pinch of nutmeg.
  • Take about a 1/2 cup of this mixture and stir in with the now cooked spinach. Set the spinach aside.

It is now time to make the sauce to pour on top of the finished dish…

  • In the thick flour/milk mixture you made, add the cream and simmer for ten minutes. Season to taste. Take it off the heat and sprinkle with the cheese to prevent a skin from forming. Before serving, bring the sauce up to temperature again by using low low heat.

Now let’s assemble the pastry!

  • Roll out the dough into a long rectangle. (10″ by 15″) about a 1/4 inch thick. Glaze with the egg yolks
  • Smear a thin layer of the spinach on one half. Leave about a half-inch of edge bare on the dough. Add the ham and the mushroom and then more spinach. Turn over the other half of the dough and pinch edges to seal. Glaze with the egg yolks.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees

For a party, make a few, and cut into thin slices. Don’t forget to serve it with the sauce!

Et Voila!

Bon Appetit and thanks for reading!

It Was a Successful Bridal Shower

Happy mother’s day! I am so lucky to have a mom who supports me running away to France!

I am also very happy to report the total and complete success of the bridal shower I held for my sister. This has been the key factor in preventing me from my consistent blogging for the last couple of weeks. But, all in all, I pulled it off. It was a blast for everyone involved, with fun games, awesome decor, and a plethora of food (not to mention a lot of left overs as well).

I served many different dishes for lunch, and as expected, Julia Child’s French dish won over the crowd. I made her spinach turnovers as featured in her television series “The French Chef”. Here is the link to the recipe.

The cupcake display looked magical with rich homemade chocolate cakes topped with bright pink buttercream swirled on top. This was definetely a little reminder as to how much I love cooking and baking for other people!

I also learned this weekend, that my little sister (who would like to become a pastry chef herself) dreams of moving to France as well! How cool that both of us share similar aspirations.

Pictures of the amazing food will be posted shortly along with the recipes.

I am also itching to start another blog devoted to my adventures on the kitchen(but more on that later)…

Adventures with Julia Child: French Crêpes

I really need to get a camera and take my own pictures for these posts because I made crêpes yesterday (curtesy of Julia Child) and they were awesome. It could have only been more awesome if I took pictures.

The actual recipe is called Crêpes Fines Sucrées. This recipe comes from the cookbook I am currently obsessed with,  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

There is nothing I enjoy more than making French food for my French love, and really learning and perfecting the technique as I go. This food ordeal is my passion and I want to pursue it. Testing out these recipes is a great way to get my feet wet before I jump in the pool (the pool is France by the way).

The batter was very easy to make (the recipe is posted below). I just put all the ingredients in to a blender, in the order they were listed in the book, and blended. Voila! A yellowish, creamy, sauce-like, batter emerged from the blender, ready to be cooked….Non! The batter actually needed to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Good thing I made this batter before dinner! It would be ready in perfect timing for dessert.

In the past, I learned interesting things to do with crepes, although I never actually made crepes, I would watch chefs and other cooking fiends crepe up a storm in the kitchen on numerous occasions! If I could recreate their flare for crepes than this night was going to be awesome!

Just as planned, the crepe batter ended up being ready right when dinner was finished. I told my boyfriend that I was going to go make the dessert and he blew me away with a surprising fact. Little did I know that I had a master crepe flipper, with years of experience, on my hands! Oh la la! C’etait bonne chance! (It was good luck!)

As he laddled, buttered, and flipped, I prepared fresh whip cream (3/4 cup 35% cream, a teaspoon or so of sugar, the less sweet the better) and cut a lemon. I heated another pan, threw in some butter (not a literal throw), added some lemon juice (go light on this or your lips will pucker like a fish), a tsp of sugar and a cap full of rum. I quickly tossed the competed crepe in the pan, flipped it, flipped it again out on a plate, added a dollop of whip cream, and served. Délicieux! This topping variation is not a Julia Child recipe, just to let you know.

Mais (but), although this variation was awesome, I would like to let you know that it wasn’t the best way to eat the crepes. My FBF showed me just to sprinkle some sugar on the crepe, and role it up. With a dollop of whip cream, this variation was divine! It was a lot more simple but I was really able to appreciate the taste of the crepe itself. This is the real French way!

All in all in was a complete success. I do recommend, though, that if you are to make these yourself, a personal French boyfriend master crepe flipper will come in handy!

Julia Child goes on to say that the crepes made by that batter are good for Crepe Suzette (and than she provided a recipe). This is not a feat I am ready for yet, but updates will surely come along with my growing kitchen courage.

And now, let me present to you, Julia Child’s Crêpes Fines Sucrées!

Crêpes Fines Sucrées

(Light batter)

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tb granulated sugar
  • 3 Tb orange liqueur, rum, or brandy (I used rum and it was yummy!)
  • 1 cup flour (scooped and levelled)
  • 5 Tb melted butter
  • A blender
  • A rubber spatula

Place all the ingredients in the blender in the same order they are listed. If ingredients stick to the side of the jar, scrape with the spatula. Blend and leave in fridge for at least two hours.

If you don’t have a blender: Work egg yolks into the flour with a wooden spoon, beat in the liquids by droplets, then strain the batter through a sieve.

Heat up a pan, add some butter, ladle a small amount on to the pan, heat through, flip and heat on other side. You want the edges to be a little crispy. Just repeat this until the batter is finished.

Bon Appétit!

Welcome back (from Easter)

Hi everyone! I hope you had as awesome of an Easter as I had.

I finally received my copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child (volume 1). And a review will be coming shortly. If you remember, the movie  “Julie and Julia” was based on a young woman making every single recipe from this book and blogging from it. I quickly browsed through the book last night and I am eager to get started on these recipes!

FL: être later today…

Stay tooned today for another French language lesson on the verb être (to be). This verb is extremely important and heavily used in French (as well as all languages).

Another Great Blog…

I have also found an awesome blog here on wordpress that has many posts related to French things. There are a lot of videos to check out I now have a long list of French movies to watch because of the info provided.

The blog is called French Stage and here is the link:  http://frenchstage.wordpress.com/

Until later mes amis!

Thank You + Upcoming Adventures In French Cooking

Thank you everyone for your wonderful support with this blog. You are greatly appreciated by me!

And now on to the post…

As I mentioned not so long ago, I will be hosting my sister’s bridal shower very shortly. I will be making a lot of food for nearly 50 guests and this will be a great challenge! As you know, I love cooking and have an intense desire to learn French cooking. Julia Child, although American, revolutionized cooking by introducing the French way; slow, fresh, and delicious!

For this occasion, I will be making a French recipe from Julia Child, spinach turnovers (spinach twins as she calls them). The spinach turnovers consist of  pastry rolled out into a square, topped with a spinach mixture, ham and mushrooms, more spinach mixture and finally half of the pastry is turned folded over and sealed for baking.

Here is a link to the full recipe on an online episode of “The French Chef”. Just click the pic below…

I will let you know how this goes shortly!