Things we ate in Theford Mines~
It’s been three years since my original trip to Quebec and 1.5 since my partner saw his parents. So we figured it was as good of a time as any to visit, so here is our travel recapped in food.
There are three main pillars that make up Québec cuisine: cheese, potatoes, and bread. More often than not, you will find one of three, if not all three on your plate.
First cheese, it is everywhere and it is so good. Not just cheese sticks or bricks of cheese. But cheese produced with snacking in mind. They are available from any convenience store or gas station mart. They are often delivered fresh every morning with the brand varying from town to town, based on what their local dairy farmer and cheese producer is. They are available in small serving packets in flavours like barbecue, black pepper, spicy, or salty. Some of them come in sticks, others braided like rope. But I personally like the squeaky cheese curd kind. This is the proper cheese that goes into traditional Quebec poutine. If fresh they actually squeak when you take a bite into them, hence the name.
Second, potatoes. Potatoes make an appearance in almost any meal, easy to do given then are such a versatile ingredient. The French fry is the most popular. “cross crutes” (little convenience fast food counters) all around town offer brown paper bags of fries to go. They are enjoyed as is, with ketchup, or as part of the classic poutine. Fries are enjoyed on the side of burgers and sandwiches, a side to chicken, and even as a popular add on to an order of pizza. But you can also have your potatoes mashed for a nice creamy side or as a topping to a shepherd’s pie.
Next is bread. It is available in all forms, across all meals, the only requirement is that it needs to be fresh and spongy with butter available for spreading. You have bread toasted for breakfast, buns for buttering during dinner, and a bread-like crust on your favourite pizza, which too is enjoyed with butter.
And as an honourable mention ketchup is another fairly common sight in Quebec cuisine. It is a dip and a sauce that is so versatile in adding flavour to any dish. Quebec style pizza sauce tastes faintly of it and so does the red sauce in lasagna, they even have a type of salsa that is a mix of ketchup, vinegar, and fruits.
The following are a few of the meals we had, majority of it home cooking by my partner’s mother, which includes elements of the above.
The success of Quebec-style pizza is dependant on its crust. It needs to be fluffy and doughy like bread, as they eat it with butter. The family’s favourite is from “Resto Santorini”, a Greek restaurant in town. This is their “Pepperoni and all dressed “garnie” split pizza. The all dressed side has a variety of toppings like mushroom, pepperoni, green pepper, cheese, and the traditional red sauce. We had them with a side of fries and onion rings. I found the pizza sauce a little bland, and the toppings a little salty. At least the bread was perfect, it was the crust that made you reach for another slice.
For breakfast a collection of fried classics like bacon and seasoned potato wedges go hand in hand. Naturally bread makes an appearance here, but not just butter is available as a spread. In Quebec cuisine, creton (the white paste pictured above) is traditionally served on toast as a part of your morning. “Creton” is a meat spread made from a mix of ground and lean pork meat and fat. It is prepared by grinding, sieving, or puréeing said ingredients for the desired lumpy, slightly chalky texture. It isn’t as flavourful as paté, nor does it actually have its own distinct taste. I can see it more as a heartier, more filling spread used for texture.
A common homestyle Quebec lunch may feature a protein (in this case pork roast), some sort of potato side, fresh bread with butter, and ketchup to taste. Here the ketchup is an assembly of diced tomatoes, pear, peach, and onions in a mixture of ketchup and vinegar. Not to be confused with salsa. It is surprisingly good, enough that I want to take some back to Vancouver with me.
For in between meals, a traditional French Quebec snack is “orielle de crisse”, which translates to “the ear of Christ”. They are essentially pork rinds you fry crispy and they curl up like fusilli (the spiral shaped pasta noodles). I was able to bring a pack home with me to Vancouver. Where I was able to fry them in my own home, dip them into maple syrup (as is a popular sauce for these), paring it with a beer craft to best be taken with this treat, or any other salty snacks (according to its packaging). It is also called “orielle de crisse”.
For dessert my partner prefers the Canadian classic: sugar pie. I have only seen it available at French Canadian restaurants in Vancouver, but here it is offered at every local grocer’s. It is a delicious sugary-rich pie with a tender crust. A mixture of butter, flour, milk, eggs and brown sugar. The filling is so smooth that it melts into a pudding, from the warmth of your mouth.
But my partner’s favourite treat is the chocolate dipped, vanilla soft served cones from local, fast food joint “Dairy Joy”. I found it a little too sweet for my taste.
For those who only want a sample, they have these adorable “micro” ice cream cones. They are the tiniest serving they have, available in all sorts of flavours. I opted for the green apple twist flavour to match my manicure. It was slightly tangy to balance out all that sweet.
As my partner’s father hunts, he stores his kill in the freezer, after it has been broken down and processed by the local butcher. We were able to dip into his reserves having moose spaghetti and moose burgers. Both tasty renditions of this game meat. Given how lean and less flavourful the meat is, you can tell this isn’t beef.
Valentines is a popular cafeteria in Thetford, like all their other quick and easy restaurants, this one too offers meat sandwiches, crispy fries, and steamed hot dogs.
Here we had smoked meat sandwich with mustard and a side of fries and coleslaw. You can also have smoke meat in a club with lettuce, mayo and tomato. This is in place of the traditional chicken club.
The chicken club came with plenty of white meat chicken breast toasted and pressed tight between white bread with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. We upgraded and got the poutine as a side.
We had poutine a few more times, other than at “Valentine’s” above. We enjoyed an authentic at one of the oldest “casse-croute” in the city: the “white trailer” (as its translated to in English). It was established in 1948 and since has seen many renovations and upgrades to keep them trending with the times.
Here my partner had his classic poutine with gravy and cheese curds over French fries, along side a steamed hot dog in a grill pressed bun with ketchup and mayo. It was exactly as you expected it to be.
Where as if you are ever looking for the best poutine in Thetford it has to be “Sgt. Pepper’s” twist on the most iconic of Canadian dishes. This bar double fries their French fries so that it is extra crispy and stays that way for longer, under the weight of a thick peppery gravy and generous amount of cheese curds.
But my most memorable dining experience at Thetford had to be our sushi lunch at “Le Rouge Poisson” (the red fish). Here their sushi is more like the fusion rolls popularized in North America. It makes a cuisine better known for its simple flavours, over the top with unique ingredients and toppings with speciality sauces, not just soy and wasabi.
I got two rolls, served together with two option of dipping sauces. Each diner get’s their own sauce dish of each. If you are looking for soy sauce, you have to ask specifically for it, just like the wasabi, they don’t have the pickled pink ginger available though.
The sake roll had raw salmon (which they refer to as “salmon tartare”), shrimp tempura, spicy mayo, honey, cucumber, avocado, and peach. Sadly, I didn’t get much of the peach, considering how I ordered it for the fruit; never having had sushi with peach before.
The “strawberry” roll was one of their panko crusted, deep fried rolls. Filled with strawberries, shrimp, cream cheese, and avocado. I liked the crunch of it, and I noted the presence of strawberry right away.
For more detail on how they tasted and the experience of ordering at a French only restaurant, check out my YouTube channel: MaggiMei! Where I explore the sushi scene in small town Quebec, and lived to tell the tale!
On our last night we went for a fancier dinner, checking out the newest restaurant to open its doors in Thetford Mines. This was “La Face De Boeuf”, “The Face of Beef”. Sadly the service and the fare did not live up to the buzz.
The nachos that was ordered as an entree came well before the other dishes. So one person was eating, and would later have to watch the others do so. “The face of beef nachos” with salsa, tomato sauces, olive, mozzarella, red onions, green onions, tomato, hot pepper, bacon, and thin slices of beef. Sadly, only half of the beef slices were prepared well. Majority of it too tough to chew through and swallow. Sad, considering that I find nachos a safe dish and one that is hard to mess up, or at least it should be. Especially as they are claiming to be the beef experts.
The “Rib eye in jus” was just as disappointing. This was a thick slab of meat that had so much fat to it, that you were left feeling like you did get your money’s worth. Plus the jus made it too salty. Luckily it came with two sides to help balance things out. I opted for the baked potato and the veggies of the day. But had to to pay extra for the potato to be dressed with sour cream, green onion, cheese, and bacon bits.
The “New York strip loin” was a better cut, 12oz or meat and most of it lean, served with a Caesar salad and in house fried crispy chips.
“The face of beef ribs” ended up being the best dish of the night, a full rack with a baked potato and Caesar salad. They were slow cooked on low, after a slow marinade of homemade spices and their special “face of beef” sauce. They were seasoned in a salty and sweet sauce that thickly coated each fall off the bone rib.
Overall I enjoyed all that we had in Thetford, but after a week’s stay I was missing the diversity that Vancouver allows. Travel always makes me appreciate home and the city that I have chosen to live in. Don’t deny your cravings!