August 16, 2010

Maxim, l'Échaudé & Monsieur (can't remember his name)

Quebec City: Lower Town
Quebec City: Lower Town
Quebec City: Lower Town

Old Quebec: Auberge Saint Pierre

Weary from travel, but hopeful...We changed for dinner and made our way back down to the lobby.


The young man sprang from his chair. His uniform, a crisp white button down shirt and equally crisp jet black suit. He stood tall and pointed, all posture. His hair, dark and cropped short. His eyes framed by angular glasses, also black.

"Bonjour! I am Maxim. How may I help you?"

"Yes, we were hoping you could suggest a place for dinner?"

"Of course! Of course!"

With quiet finesse a map was retrieved from beneath the counter and a pen was clicked open.

"First there is l'Échaudé which is right down the street." Maxim smiled. "Yes. You'll want to stay in the Lower Town. Upper Town restaurants, well, they are as you say, tourist traps."

I smiled and nodded in appreciation.

"There is also SSS." Maxim searched for words. "They have an onion soup...It is...FROMAGE!...So much cheese!" He kissed his fingertips and giggled a bit to himself.

"Merci. Thank you." Roberto said.

Not knowing which we would lay designs on, we smiled and said merci once again before heading for the door.

"Au revoir!"

"Au revoir!"

"Au revoir!"


Frommer's Montréal and Quebec City 2010

The most polished of the necklace of restaurants adorning this Vieux-Port corner, lÉchaudé is like a well-worn cashmere sweater—it goes well with both silk trousers and your favorite pair of jeans. Grilled meats and fishes and the seafood stews are an excellent value. Among classics on the menu are steak frites, duck confit, and salmon tartare. Less expected are the grilled horse meat fillet or the Cornish hen with lobster juice and ginger. The owner keeps an important cellar with hundreds of wines, with the full list posted online. The bistro is frequented mostly by locals of almost all ages (the very young are rarely seen) and visitors are attended to by a highly efficient staff. In summer, the small street in front of the patio becomes pedestrian only.


All of the many tables were taken outside. Packed like sardines under umbrellas at 6:30 p.m. We were impressed. Everyone seemed to be drinking chilled whites. All smiles. All kinds of dress. Oh, this is going to be lovely, I thought.

"Bonsoir!" Said the man.

"Bonsoir!" Said we.

"How can I help you."

He knew. He knew! I was grateful for not having to trip over parlez vous anglais.

"Do you have a table for two?" Roberto asked.

"Is inside okay?"

"Of course." We said smiling.

We followed the nice man with the cleanly shaven head wearing a light pink button down shirt and black trousers (again, so crisp) inside. A table right up front, in the corner. We were to be window dressing. Lovely, I thought. I'm so glad I wore my new plum dress.

The man gave us two menus and the wine list before smiling once again and walking away.

"Bonsoir! Blah deed de blah blah blah..."

"Parlez vous anglais?" Roberto rushed out.

"Of course!" The man smiled. "You both said bonsoir so well!"

We were flattered and of course he was being very kind. He looked to be about 50 years of age. Perhaps the long lost brother of Hubert Keller, but he wore his hair slicked back in a tight pony versus crazy and frizzed. I would go with this. He would be Hubert's brother tonight, and always. This was, after all, feeling very much like a dream.

I wish we could remember his name.

"Would you like to start with something to drink?"

"Actually, could you suggest a wine?"

"Yes, what were you thinking as far as food."

"Well, we'd like a red. Something that will work well with beef or duck or fish..."

This was so new to us, asking for suggestions. First from the concierge, Maxim and now from Monsieur, can't remember his name.

"This is a very nice pinot."

PIERRE ANDRÉ " Vieilles vignes " Pinot-Noir, Bourgogne.

"Yes, we'll do that." Roberto said.

"Very good."

We perused the menu as Monsieur, can't remember his name, retrieved the wine.

"What are you thinking?" Roberto said, looking up from his menu.

The menu was split: du bistro and du marché.

"I'm thinking du marché." I said, looking up.

"I'm thinking du bistro." He said.

Our wine was at the table and being opened with precision.

A pour. A swirl. A smell. A taste.

"It's good."

"Blah deedy dee blah wa weedy wee wah blah." He said while pouring the wine.

We all laughed. It was all so French. Is this a dream?

"Any questions about the menu?"

"Yes." I said, looking him square in the eyes. "What is your fish of the day?"



"Any other questions?"

"I think we're ready." Roberto said nodding in my direction.

"I'll start with the scallops salad and then I'll have the fish."

"OH, EXCELLENT!" He said happily. "And for you sir?"

"I'll start with the fish and mussle soup and then the duck confit."

"Excellent!" He said while collecting the menus. Bowing just a bit and smiling before retreating.

The attentiveness of the staff was like none I had seen before. There, but never intrusive. Always water refilled and bread with butter. How they loved showering us with crusty baguette slices and little dollops of cool butter in Old Quebec.

Our first course arrived. Roberto dipped his spoon into a pool of Lobster Court-Bouillon swimming with fish and mussles. My fork dove tine first into a salad of scallops, cherry tomato, boconcini and olives, with pesto oil. We hardly looked up. Our exchange was brief and fluid. How is yours? How is yours? Taste this. Taste this.

My plate grew empty. I watched as the pool in Roberto's bowl grew smaller and smaller. And then, all things great and lovely happened. He ripped off a piece of bread, drenched it in some of the remaining liquid and passed it to me.

Oh, how I love this man, I thought.

"Oh, thank you!" I said.

Our bowls were pulled from the table, leaving us lonely. Unspoken, our charge was to finish the bread and carefully drink the wine while we waited for course two.

We waited. No rushing. Encouraged to linger. Digest. Savor. Relax. Our bottle ran empty.

And then course number two arrived...

A creamy polenta cloud was nestled beneath the halibut. I couldn't help but taste it first. It melted on my tongue. Amazing. I clipped off a bit with my fork and placed it on Roberto's plate.

Roberto's dish was a lovely display of duck confit, pommes frites and salad. Side by side by side. I was impressed. A simple display. So very matter of fact. I do not remember trying the duck, but the frites, yes the frites. I tried more than I should. They were so good. Crisp. Hot. Potatoes.

Monsieur, can't remember his name, flew by the table, sweeping away the bottle.

"Monsier? Can we get two more glasses of wine?"

"Of course!"

I looked up, happy. "Both of our plates are going to be empty when they come to take them away."

"Another Pinot." He said smiling, setting down two very full glasses of wine before us.

And another basket of bread. And another round of water.

Everything had disappeared from our plates and only a few more sips of wine remained.

The plates were bussed away. We both could have eaten more. Monsieurcan't remember his name, popped in on us once more. "Are we still eating?!" He beamed. The words in the shape of a huge French smile.

"Yes!" We said.


"Yes!" We said.

Presented with the dessert menu, we both, without much discussion, agreed that the tasting plate would fit us well.

"Two espresso's as well." Roberto said.

Once again the menu was swept away and we were left to wait. However, our wait was not long at all this time. Set before us in a matter of moments, our tasting plate of five lovely sweets, and two short espresso's.

There was the most tiny ramekin of creme brulee, a tower of dark chocolate ganache covered with more shards of dark chocolate, a strawberry/rhubarb sorbet, a chocolate/coffee ice cream and last but not least, sugar pie (sugar pie is on all of the dessert menu's in Old Quebec).

Our eyes grew large. Would we be able to finish? Finish, we did.

After another long, lingering, savoring, period of time, Monsieur appeared once again. "Are we still eating?"

"No." We said.

There were smiles all around and the inevitable had to be asked. "We'll just take the check when you have a moment." Roberto said.

Elated from our meals, we generously tipped Monsieur, can't remember his name.

"That was so good. I guess we can't come back tomorrow night?" I said.

We walked a bit before heading back to Le Saint Pierre.

"We need to get some sleep. Breakfast is from 7:30 to 10:00 and the man at the front desk said it gets really busy." I said.

"I think he said 7:00." Roberto said.


  1. LOVING your Quebec photos!!! :-) So amazing. Would love to go there one day. :-)

  2. It is one of life's true pleasures to have a very fine meal served to you with grace and refinement, enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I haven't experienced it a whole lot, but whenever I do, it is memorable beyond measure. I loved reading about yours at l'Echaude!

  3. Oh Tracy, this sounds like a lovely trip and a fabulous meal.

  4. Lovely post. Your travelog transported me to Quebec just picturing Hubert Keller's brother serving you this incredible dinner!

  5. Sounds like a great trip! Beautiful photos and a lovely story.

  6. Wow - sounds romantic! Where are the pics of the delicious food?! :)

  7. Montreal is on my places to must-visit, and you've made it seem so lovely and accessible and friendly with this one post. The tourism board should be paying you for such a great endorsement!

  8. What a delight to read this. Photographs are so lovely.

  9. Thank you for taking us along on such a magical and delicious vacation.

  10. Oh, I could just see the whole scene unfolding. How fun! And sugar cake? What is that and how do we get some? Did you nab a recipe while you were there? Can you sneak it to us? :)

  11. Oh I love it! My mouth was watering reading that, it sounded like a fantastic meal. I hope you went the next night. Welcome home.

  12. I'm onmy way to Montreal next week and these photos are making my stomach do flips! You look like you are having a great time!

  13. what a lovely meal and wonderful photos!

  14. Thanks everyone. I really appreciate your comments :) It was such a nice time. We truly miss it.

  15. This is wonderful stuff, beautifully written. I've always wanted to visit Quebec - we have third cousins there I think, I have made a mental note to visit l'Échaudé if I ever do. Meanwhile we are polishing off our Au revoir too, we are going to France at the end of the month, the creme fraiche throwing place for a wedding of the creme fraiche hurler no less - I am very very excited. Glad you had a lovely holiday.

  16. Quebec looks so beautiful but it's so far away...
    Seems like you guys had such a great time over there!

  17. rachel – I am green with envy. France! I am excited for you. I hope you have a wonderful time. I'm drowning in the Italian language at the moment. I must really buckle down. I keep meaning to say one thing, but something entirely different comes out of my mouth. Roberto just laughs and then corrects me.

    magda - It was a great time. One night we had dinner twice. I'll have to blog about that one day.

  18. this sounds so makes me want to splurge on some fine dining tonight :)


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