Bistro and brasserie culture is vibrant across the province, with a focus on seasonal, regional, and often organic ingredients.
There are more than 300 varieties of cheese in Québec, made from goat, sheep, and cow milk. Enthusiasts of France's fromages au lait cru are thrilled by the province's permissive raw-milk cheese laws, resulting in the delicious Pied-de-Vent from the Magdalene Islands and Au Gré des Champs from the Montérégie region.
Famous among Trappist cheeses is Bleu Ermite, made by Benedictine monks in the Eastern Townships. For organic semi-firm cheese, don't miss Le Baluchon. Equally lauded are Le Migneron from Charlevoix and a washed-rind cheese from the Saguenay region called Kénogami. Prize-winning Cendrillon, an ash-covered goat cheese from St-Raymond-de-Portneuf, is world famous. And the triple-cream Riopelle, named for Québec's influential artist, is a favorite. Tour the province's top 50 fromageries, now mapped on a scenic cheese route (www.routedesfromages.com).
Best City Shops: Fromagerie du Marché Atwater, Montréal (514/932-4653); Yannick Fromagerie, rue Bernard, Montréal (514/279-9376); La Fromagerie Hamel, Marché Jean-Talon, Montréal (514/272-1161); Épicerie Européenne (418/529-4847) and Épicerie J.A. Moisan (418/522-0685), both on rue Saint-Jean in Québec City.
Best Country Tours: Fromagerie Au Gré des Champs, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (450/346-8732); Fromagerie du Ruban Bleu, Montérégie (450/691-2929); Les Fromages de l'Île d'Orléans (418/829-0177).
Québec's climate is ideal for making this sweet but pricey aperitif. Frozen grapes—usually from Riesling, Vidal, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay vines planted close together in the Alsatian manner—are harvested by hand once the temperature drops to about 10°C (50°F). Their high acidity is balanced by sweet aromas of apricot, mango, honey, and peach.
Québec's ice wine is aptly compared to wines of Germany and Canada's Niagara region and the Okanagan Valley. And there's a new star beverage called ice cider that hails from the apple orchards of the Montérégie region of the Eastern Townships, and Île d'Orléans.
Best Eastern Township Vineyards: Chapelle Ste-Agnes Vineyard (www.vindeglace.com); Clos Saint Denis (www.krugerws.com); Clos Saragnat (www.saragnat.com); Domaine Pinnacle (www.domainepinnacle.com); La Face Cachée de la Pomme (www.lafacecachee.com).
Best Québec City Area Vineyards: Vignoble de l'Isle de Bacchus, Île d'Orléans (www.isledebacchus.com); Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau (www.cidreriebilodeau.qc.ca); Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille (www.vignoblesp.com).
Carnivores are well fed in Québec, with the rich selection of bison, duck, lamb, wild boar, and elk—Canadians call it wapiti. Bestsellers include grain-fed quail and pheasant from Drummondville, Kamouraska lamb, Lac Brome duck, and veal from Charlevoix. Venison and caribou are favorites among top chefs. Organic farms supply turkey, guinea hen, and duck prosciutto among other delights. And Québec is home to all the principal foie gras producers in Canada, a steady source for the country's best chefs.
Aux Anciens Canadiens, Québec City. Try the pheasant breast, topped with cheddar and smoked bison, or the grilled stag with cognac red pepper sauce.
Club Chasse et Pêche, Montréal. This warm, sophisticated eatery features roasted wapiti, braised lamb, and boar belly—all from Québec.
La Traite, Québec City. Venison, duck, boar, and rare wild herbs make for inspiring meals in the stylish Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations.
L'Orignal, Montréal. True to the chalet-chic decor, the menu features venison, bison, and lamb burgers. Its version of shepherd's pie is pure Québecois.
Toqué! Montréal. Chef Normand Laprise made famous Québec's Boileau venison, regularly flown down to discerning New York chefs. Braised lamb and duck from the region also grace the menu of this trendy eatery.
Tucked into boutique hotels and refurbished warehouses, the bistros and fine-dining halls that create modern Québec cuisine are wildly eclectic and French at heart.
From foamy sauces to sheets of potato lattices, the variations are limitless. You'll find tartars, foie gras, and lobster lasagna served with traditional Lac St-Jean tourtières—meat pies made with ground pork. Poutine, once a traditional dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, is now jazzed up with designer toppings.
Laurie Raphaël, Québec City. Chef Daniel Vézina conjures up modern sugar pie topped with a 10-inch swirl of maple cotton candy! While the menu changes with the seasons, Vezina's classic Bellechasse pigeon, infused with chocolate, and his rabbit terrine, which is finely layered with shiitake mushrooms, are especially worth checking out.
Le Filet, Montréal. Claude Pelletier and Hubert Marsolais have fish-lovers clamoring for small plates of cod with parsnip purée, fluke with Japanese plums and wasabi, and hamachi with julienned cucumber.