As the Editor in Chief of Dabble, I get to travel all around the world to taste-test food for upcoming Dabble destination features. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it…
1- Nashville: Locals claim Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack does hot chicken best, and I can’t disagree. A Nashville specialty, hot chicken is battered in buttermilk and cayenne pepper, and then pan-fried. Better have a beer nearby because when we say hot, we mean hot.
2- Barcelona: Cobalt blue water bottles cast a watery tinge onto crisp white tablecloths in the contemporary setting of Matamala. Asking the waiter for a recommendation yields what can only be described as fish donuts. Sounds weird, but the bite-sized cod balls are drizzled in honey and taste like heaven with the accompanying cold beer. A small, well-stocked grocery selection includes fun gift ideas such as the pa amb tomaquet (Catalan bread with tomato spread) kit.
3- Budapest: A must-visit gem of Hungarian home cooking is Cafe Kar. The restaurant is fairly small, not terribly picturesque, and the staff is not overly affectionate (have I wowed you yet?). However, the memorable home cooking makes these minor issues easily tolerated. Perfect goulash, sublime veal tenderloin and a Viennese style, thinly pounded Wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes are just a few favourites.
4- Toronto: Is there any better way to wrap up a long day’s work than with refreshments on a twinkling patio? Caren’s Wine and Cheese Bar is unassuming and casual in contrast to its chi-chi Yorkville setting. It boasts a varied list of reasonably priced wines and cheeses, as well as a spicy baked macaroni and cheese that’s worth blowing the diet over.
5- Charleston: You can’t go all the way to Charleston without eating some good ol’ Southern cookin’. Maverick Southern Kitchens operates two fabulous restaurants on East Broad Street: Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) and High Cotton. Try the shrimp and grits at both locations. Tip: Don’t fill up on the wonderful corn bread they serve…or do. If you feel like learning how to make a Southern dish, visit Cooks right across the street and participate in a cooking class.
6- Puerto Rico: Lusty describes the setting and menu at Dragonfly, Puerto Rico’s first Latin-Asian restaurant. Red walls, beaded curtains and fringed lamps are right out of Shanghai Surprise, but the food is delish.
7- Santa Monica: Always on a roll, LA food trucks are famous for their variety of fare. Quell midday hunger with a visit to Pennsylvania and 26th streets where you’ll find at least a dozen trucks Monday-Friday. The setting is meh, but $5.00 buys a feast–fish tacos, kogi beef skewers, fish and chips, even a green salad truck.
8- Quebec City: Seeking a truly French meal? Then make your way to la rue St. Jean to Le Moine Echanson. This restaurant comes highly recommended from locals, who tend to be demanding gourmets. Every dish is paired with a wine recommendation. Be sure to make reservations if you want to enjoy this unique culinary experience. Try a savoury dish like the Gratin d’Escargots et Fromage Chevre; you’ll swear you are in France.
9- St. Pierre et Miquelon: Dreaming of a trip to France? Moi aussi. So I pack my bags and do what any croissant-loving world traveller does, I fly to Newfoundland. That’s right. St. Pierre is a small patch of French soil in the province of Newfoundlad. The Auberge Quatre Temps’ award-winning chef, Pascal Vigneau, chats with his guests before dishing out heavenly lobster and salmon (best accompanied with a chilled Muscade or Sylvaner) and the fluffiest lemon-lime cheesecake.
10- Prague: If your taste buds are overwhelmed by hearty Czech fare, stop for lunch at Cukrkavalimonada Caffe. The imposing name translates to ‘coffee sugar lemonade.’ Perfect for salads, omelettes, grilled chicken and tempting desserts like palacinky (Czech crepes).
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One of Québec City’s best features is its walkability. “That is,” says Victoria Drainville, “if you have the right boots for the job.” Little else is required to enjoy this truly great Canadian design destination.
1. Start the day with a stroll in the Quartier Petit-Champlain. Lined with charming stores and quaint restaurants, the area has a European feel thanks to some of the most beautiful stone buildings in the country. If you love to cook, don’t miss a visit to Pot en Ciel. Many of the shop’s kitchen items are imported from France.
2. In the Old City, make your way to Un Fauteuil Pour Deux. Furnishings from all over the world reflect owner Nancy Ricard’s passion for travel. Victoria’s fallen for some pillow shams (left).
3. If you agree with the idea that a room is never complete without at least one antique, then you’ll love Québec City. The Antique District on la rue St-Paul is Victoria’s go-to spot and a must visit shop is La Nouvelle-France Antiquités for Québec folk art. Owner Yves Duval is happy to share the history of any of his pieces.
4. Mà Mobilier Actuel, located in the new and upcoming Saint-Roch District, sells contemporary furniture that reflects the look and style of the Orient. Their exclusive collection is predominantly made of tropical woods that originate from controlled forests.
5. After a satisfying day of shopping in the Old City and Saint-Roch District, it may be time to splurge on a cab ride back to the upper city. If you still have energy, make your way to Zone Maison and enjoy trendy home décor at reasonable prices. With fabulous gadgets and accessories for humans and our four-legged friends, you’re bound to find an inspired holiday gift.
Driving into Québec City, one feels suddenly transported to a quaint Paris neighbourhood, only with a shorter flight and way more snow. The cobblestone streets and whimsical shops are embellished with the most beautiful Christmas décor, helping our travellers to get into the spirit with ease.
1. Start the day on la rue St. Jean wandering in and out of shops, at whim. Driven by a desire to sample the city’s best pastries, Dee heads into Paillard Le Café-Boulangerie. Turns out Bill Cosby found his way there first but, thankfully, the award winning pastry Chef Sebastien Bonnefils has plenty of his melt-in-the-mouth croissants to go around.
2. Great food experiences don’t always involve eating. A pampered visit to Payot Institute at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for a maple sugar hand massage is a no-calorie treat. If you’re getting a pedicure, they’ll let you use their iPad, but don’t check email. Instead, it’s a great chance to catch up on your Dabble reading.
3. Next, find a seat at the bar and prepare for a cocktail experience at the St. Laurent Bar & Lounge on the main floor of Le Château Frontenac. The bar boasts amazing views of the St. Lawrence River and a roaring fire to warm the body and spirit. Try the signature ice wine martini, made from local wine.
4. Seeking a truly French meal? Then make your way to la rue St. Jean to Le Moine Échanson. This restaurant comes highly recommended from locals, who tend to be demanding gourmets. Every dish is paired with a wine recommendation. Be sure to make reservations if you want to enjoy this unique culinary experience.
5. For a night out on the town, grab your sexiest pumps and head to Savini Resto-Bar / Vinothèque on Grande Allée. Share a pizza with friends and dance the night away.
Did you know?
• Québec City was founded in 1608. In 2008, it celebrated its 400th birthday—and she’s more beautiful than ever.
• Kébec is an Algonquin word meaning, “where the river narrows.”
• Québec City originated as a fur trading post.
• The United States of America tried unsuccessfully to capture Québec City in 1775.
• Poutine originated in Quebec in the late 1950s and is now a staple dish across Canada.
“Clothed in a fluffy blanket of snow, it’s easy to surrender to Québec’s wintry charms,” muses our Dabble Dare contributor Kathy Buckworth, “but having my photo taken in a towel….now that takes courage.”
1. First on the agenda is a trip to theaptly named Sibéria Station Spa, located 20 minutes outside the city in a wooded sanctuary. The “Nordic Spa” experience involves sliding into an outdoor hot pool, before plunging into the cold water version. Kathy’s pretty sure she knows which pool she’ll like most before she even tries them.
2. Next on the agenda is Le Marché du Vieux Port. The local Farmers Market sells fromage non affine a pâte ferme (aka unpasteurized cheese), an item dear to Kathy’s poutine-loving daughter. If you are nouveau to poutine, it is actually French for “mess”, but the combination of fries, cheese and gravy… c’est magnifique.
3. Join the Bonhomme de Neige (official Snowman mascot) for the 58th Québec Winter Carnival, January 27 – February 12, 2012. The largest winter festival in the world features diverse cultural activities such as sleigh rides, skating, dogsledding, canoe racing, snow rafting and ziplining.
4. Directly behind the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the imposing statue of Québec City’s founder, Samuel de Champlain. His figure marks the boundary of Upper Town, characterized by the grand buildings and gardens of the Legislature. The best way to see this part of the city is with a somewhat ubiquitous horse and carriage ride. The ripe horsey smells and scratchy wool blankets to keep you warm are part of the complete experience.
5. After exploring Upper Town, a toonie (two dollar coin) is all it costs to ride the Funicular back down to Lower Town, where the scene is a magical, snow-filled holiday post card setting of shops, restaurants, cafés, and the occasional sugar shack.
Experience the old world feel of the city by staying at the Fairmont Le Château Fontenac (ABOVE) which dates to 1893. Québec City is a walking city; after a comfortable night’s sleep you’ll wake up feeling like a king or queen.
Dabble Savvy: While most of the views are lovely, the best is from the Princess Grace of Monaco Suite (Rooms 1401-02).
Québec City is loaded with history, but you’ll enjoy the contrast of a contemporary hotel stay with Hotel Le Germain-Dominion. Custom headboards sport digitalized photography that captures the city’s best architecture.
For many, the Auberge St. Antoine is the best hotel in Canada. From the outside, the unimposing building is deceiving, but enter the lobby and the crackling fireplace wins you over. Upon closer inspection, crisp white walls are an ideal backdrop to historic artefacts housed behind thick glass. The best of old and new Québec.
“There is a fairy tale charm to exploring Québec City in the wintertime.”
Little wonder Québec is affectionately known as la belle province. Its European style charms are many.
According to Executive Chef Jean Soulard the eager tourist is wise to begin a love affair with Québec with a stay and a meal at the exclusive Le Château Frontenac. After all, he says, “The food here is better than almost anywhere in the world.” Come and see for yourself.
The Petit-Champlain Quarter on a crisp winter’s night.
“You’re sending me to Sibéria?”
Kathy Buckworth, our Dabble Dare contributor, has flown a plane, surfed the ocean and walked on stilts. This time, have we gone too far by sending her to Sibéria?
I have to admit, I was a little afraid. But, I soon discovered that Sibéria is a cold and remote country, but it’s also an amazing health spa in a cold and remote part of Québec. ‘What’s so daring about a spa?’ I wondered smugly.
The Dare: Plunge into freezing cold waters. (And have your photo taken in a towel.)
The Sibéria Station Spa is located about twenty minutes outside Québec City and promises to leave visitors with an “unmatched sense of well-being.” After freezing you blue, of course.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a Nordic Spa, it is an experience where the bather alternates between hot and cold pools and relaxation periods. Having experienced it firsthand, I now know that Nordic Spa translates to, “pretty freakin’ freezing.”
As I change out of my perfectly warm, and appropriate, winter clothing into a fluffy white towel, I hear soothing French voices around me as other (warmer) visitors enjoy massages. Not for the first time I wonder, “Why can’t a massage be a dare?”
Although I am keen to reap the promised toxin cleansing results, I am more excited about the warm portions of the program. So, I start with a 10 minute sauna and allow my pores to open while toxins evacuate my body. (After a night on the town, this could get interesting.)
All too soon, comes complete submersion in a cold pool, which purportedly rinses said toxins (Who gets to clean out that pool filter?) away and tightens my pores. Tight pores mean younger looking skin, right? I muster my courage.
With a last deep breath of the warm, cedar sauna air I dash out the door, through snow and ice to the cold pool. I’m not even in the water yet and my toes are freezing, icing up with each staccato step. Though I’m tempted to turn around and run back, I take the plunge and, “Oh my god. It is really, really cold!”
How long do I have to stay in here? The suggested 10 minutes seems like an hour but eventually time is up and I race back to the sauna and the feeling of goose bumps all over my body is soon replaced by a feeling of true bliss.
The verdict? Yes, it is cold. However, nothing is permanently damaged and I tell myself my pores have never looked better. So, I Dabble Dare you to try it out too.
Québec City, Québec
Blue Mountain, Whistler, Mont Tremblant