Aug 242015
 

Kamouraska

Là où il y a des joncs au bord de l’eau

French translation of the Algonquin word “Kamouraska” meaning “Where there are reeds at the waterfront”

Low tide on the St. Lawrence River, Kamouraska, Quebec

Low tide on the St. Lawrence River, Kamouraska, Québec

The name “Kamouraska” hints at the essence of the village (and the county of the same name) with its access to the rich bounty of the St. Lawrence River. Kamouraska was settled by the French in the 17th century and much earlier by the Algonquin First Nations peoples and fishing, particularly eel fishing, has long been important to the inhabitants. It’s also a beautiful name that aptly reflects the picturesque village and its position on the banks of the St. Lawrence with views of the Kamouraska Islands and the distant mountains across the river,

Characteristic weather vane on a Kamouraska home along one of the its short and lovely residential side streets; Kamouraska sign and Québec flag

Characteristic weather vane on a Kamouraska home along one of the its short and lovely residential side streets; Kamouraska sign and Québec flag

Although I had only an afternoon to visit Kamouraska on a three-day road trip in Québec’s maritime region, I was captivated by its charm, scenic location, and delectable culinary offerings.

The charm

Walking along Avenue Morel, the main road through the village, and the few side streets leading to the shoreline, it’s easy to see why Kamouraska is one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of Québec” and why National Geographic Travel’s former editor in chief, Keith Bellows, listed it as one of his favorite Canada places.

Lovely location of L’Amuse Bouche, a bistro on the Kamouraska waterfront

Lovely location of L’Amuse Bouche, a bistro on the Kamouraska waterfront

I loved the vibrant shade of blue and the classic white picket fence of L’Amuse Bouche, a bistro on the waterfront on Rue Chassé.

One of the charming and beautifully-maintained homes on Avenue Morel in Kamouraska

One of the charming and beautifully-maintained homes on Avenue Morel in Kamouraska

The homes and small inns of Kamouraska are beautifully maintained with colorful facades, decorative trim, and pretty flowers and plants. Many of the buildings have very distinctive roofs that resemble a boat’s hull, an appropriate design for sea-faring Bas-Saint-Laurent (region of Quebec on the lower St. Lawrence) communities. The curved eaves extending beyond the roof are designed to keep rain from the sides of the building and protect from the wind.

Curved eaves and ladders on rooftops are characteristic features of Kamouraska buildings

Curved eaves and ladders on rooftops are characteristic features of Kamouraska buildings

I noticed some of the buildings had ladders on their roofs which were historically important aides for access to chimneys for cleaning or dousing fires.

Magasin General, Kamouraska's General Store with a wide variety of items

Magasin General, Kamouraska’s General Store with a wide variety of items: Top left — gifts, household items, accessories; top right — a tasty selection of cheeses

Kamouraska’s General Store has a perfect old-fashioned small-town feel, and especially around the 1930s, it was the main local gathering place. They carry a diversity of products — gourmet foods, including cheeses, cured meats and sandwiches; household goods; accessories; and gifts.

Café du Clocher and Altelier du Clocher

Left: Outside seating at Café du Clocher with the spire of Église de Saint-Louis-de-Kamouraska in the background.; Top right — Atelier du Clocher boutique; Bottom right: Café du Clocher

One of my travel companions showed me one of her special places, Café du Clocher — a stop she always makes during her travels in Québec. It’s cozy inside, but the outside seating area is also lovely for a quiet lunch while enjoying the gardens and views of the river. Next door to the café is Atelier du Clocher, a boutique with unique jewelry (in exotic woods, silver and gold) from Québec designers and craftspeople.

Quai des Bulles exterior and artisan soaps , Kamouraska

Quai des Bulles and a selection of their colorful and fragrant soaps; California Dreamin’, a patchouli and poppy blend is shown bottom right

The soaps made from rice bran oil at Quai des Bulles look good enough to eat, don’t you think (see above)? As soon as you walk up the steps to the door, you begin to smell the fragrances. Quai des Bulles carries a range of natural and organic body care products. My personal favorite was California Dreamin’, a patchouli and poppy creation adopting the name of the Mamas and Papas 1960s song.

The tastes

Côté Est

In Côté Est, located in a lovely Victorian home built in 1848 as a presbytery (a rectory, or home of Roman Catholic priests) and library, Chef Kim Côté and co-owner Perle Morency serve regional dishes to residents, summer vacationers, and travelers passing through. It is a gourmet dining experience in a comfortable and charming setting on the St. Lawrence River.

Bistro Côté Est

Bistro Côté Est

On the Côté Est placemats is printed, “s’unissent pour faire de votre sejour un moment inoubliable” (“unite to make your stay unforgettable”), a statement of the bistro’s philosophy. Côté Est’s menu is inspired by the traditional cuisine of maritime Québec using fresh local meat, fowl, and seafood prepared with innovative recipes. The bistro’s mixologist has also created regionally-inspired cocktails using local ingredients.

It was the first time I’d ever seen seal on a menu. The most popular menu item is the “Phoque Bardot Burger” (“phoque” is the French word for “seal”), a seal meat burger with foie gras and plum jam. Seal meat, high in protein and Omega-3, has been a mainstay of sustenance for the people of Québec for generations and the restaurant showcases foods of the region. The owners say the name was clearly intended to be a humorous reference to French actress and activist Brigitte Bardot who long has been a critic of the Canadian seal hunt. However, there was some controversy a few years ago when news of the seal burger reached animal rights activists who took offense to Bardot’s name being used and incorrectly believed that baby seals are being hunted in Québec. I was very surprised to learn that there are seven million seals in the St. Lawrence River (an all-time high) and the seals here have no predators.

From top right: Guinea fowl burger with sea parsley, lemon zest, tomato and cheese; Guinea fowl liver with jam, peppers, cheese; sampler of regional meats, seal appetizer, and cheeses, olives and condiments

From top right: Guinea fowl burger with sea parsley, lemon zest, tomato and cheese; Guinea fowl liver with jam, peppers, cheese; sampler of regional meats, seal appetizer, and cheeses, olives and condiments

I didn’t have the seal burger, but I tried a taste of the seal appetizer (top left in the photo above). Washed down with a French Chardonnay, I’d say it tasted fine (a bit like beef liver, I think), but I don’t feel a desire to try it again.

My favorite food of the day was the grilled cheese sandwich with regional cheeses, ham marinated with rosemary, and accompanied with pear butter.

Grilled cheese and ham sandwich with pear butter

Grilled cheese and ham sandwich with pear butter

Côté Est also has an impressive selection of wines, including several organic vintages from the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec, the government’s alcoholic beverage sales agency) as well as private imports. With lunch, I sampled two French wines recommended by our friendly and knowledgeable waiter Steven — a floral chardonnay from Domaine de la Patience and a crisp and food-friendly rosé from Domaine des Béates.

Lovely and welcoming interior of Côté Est; Steven describing wine selections

Lovely and welcoming interior of Côté Est; Steven describing wine selections

The terrace would be a great place to enjoy dining with an amazing view. It was a little cool for that on the day we visited.

Bistro terrace

La Fée Gourmande

La Fée Gourmande is more than a chocolate shop. The store sells specialty chocolates, other candies, ice cream and sorbets that are made in the on-site “chocolate factory” in the adjacent building. The enthusiasm of owner Jean-Philippe Champagne for making chocolate is infectious. Just a few years ago, Jean-Phillipe was a frequent customer of La Fée Gourmande. When the owner decided to sell the business, he eagerly expressed interest in acquiring it and began learning the trade from the owner as well as taking classes in France. The La fleur de lavande (Origine Rare Tanzanie 75% cacao with infused lavender flowers in dark ganache) chocolates were irresistible to me and I came home with a small box to share with Mr. TWS. At least it was my intention to share.

Jean-Philippe Champagne at La Fée Gourmande

Jean-Philippe Champagne at La Fée Gourmande

I’ve tried my hand at bread and pasta making before, but this was a first experience at attempting to make something on the sweet side and I really enjoyed it. Each person in our group had a chance to get hands-on with various steps of chocolate making, including picking fresh mint from the garden, the task in which I excelled. Sadly, I don’t believe that I’m cut out to be a chocolatier, but I appreciated that Jean-Philippe was very patient and cheerful in his instructions. A few in our group seemed like naturals in easily grasping the art of chocolate making. There are many time-intensive steps and culinary skills involved and Jean-Philippe clearly has a passion for his work.

Butter, cacao chips, fresh mint --- all part of chocolate making at La Fée Gourmande

Butter, cacao chips, fresh mint — all part of chocolate making at La Fée Gourmande

Reasons to return to Kamouraska

View of the St. Lawrence River and Kamouraska Islands from the terrace of Côté Est in the late afternoon

View of the St. Lawrence River and Kamouraska Islands from the terrace of Côté Est in the late afternoon

Be amazed: Because we headed back on the road to our night’s lodging in Rivière du Loup in the late afternoon, I didn’t get to witness the famed gorgeous sunsets for which Bas-Saint-Laurent and particularly vantage points in Kamouraska have gained notoriety. Imagine what this view from Côté Est would look like at sunset.

Visit: The Musée Régional de Kamouraska has exhibits about the history, cultures, and traditions of Kamouraska

Eat: I’d like to go back to Côté Est for another grilled cheese sandwich and La Fée Gourmande for lavender chocolates, but there are other cafés, restaurants, and bakeries such as Boulangerie Niemand for me to try.

Sail: There is a Zodiac boat adventure that sounds like a great way to see the area from the waters of the St. Lawrence River. I’m told the view of the villages along the shoreline are beautiful.

Hike and bike: For the outdoor enthusiast there are a number of activities including kayaking, camping, hiking and my favorite — biking.

Relax: Although many shops, restaurants and inns may not be open in the winter, if you’re looking for solitude and beautiful winter landscapes, this may be the place for you! Steven at Côté Est referred to Kamouraska in winter as a “white desert”. It’s a rather tempting thought. Or start making your plans now for a road trip in maritime Quebec for spring, summer, or fall.

Film buff bonus tip

Check out the 1973 film “Kamouraska” starring Geneviève Bujold, an adaptation of a novel by Anne Hébert based on the 1838 murder of Achille Taché, the seigneur (lord) of Kamouraska, by his wife’s lover and the events before and after. It’s an intriguing movie with captivating scenes from all seasons (I particularly like the winter ones) that were filmed in various locations in Québec.

Disclosure: My afternoon in Kamouraska was hosted by Québec Tourism, but my opinions and perspectives are totally my own — as always.

  29 Responses to “On the Waterfront: A Taste of Kamouraska”

  1. Kamouraska looks delightful. I have not been to this part of Quebec, but it looks like I should consider a visit. I don’t know that I would even try the seal, but all the other food looks delicious.

    • The food at Côté Est is really exceptional. For me, sampling the seal appetizer was having a “locals” experience, but as I mentioned, I’m going back for the grilled cheese! 🙂

  2. I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Kamouraska until now – I’ll have to add it to our list of places to visit the next time we are in Québec!

  3. What a perfectly charming place. Everything looks so sweet and delicious too. I’m a big fan of Genevieve Bujold too. Now to see where I can find that film – it may be as close as I get to Quebec for a long while.

    • If you’re a Bujold fan, you’ll definitely want to see the movie. I did a 24 hours rental on iTunes.

  4. Kamouraska is totally charming. I will have to find the movie before we go to Quebec and get in the zone.

    • The movie’s a little on the dark side due to the nature of the subject, but the scenery will get you in the zone. Your actual experience there will be much more upbeat, I’m sure! 🙂

  5. Lovely place…

  6. Hello,

    Kamouraska looks very nice. I haven’t been to Quebec, but it looks like I go.

    Did you have a chance to taste the eels?

    I assume your expertise in relation to chocolate is eating it with red wine!

    Tom

    • No, didn’t try any eel dishes. Maybe next time. Actually, chocolate and red wine is Mr. TWS’s specialty. I like my chocolate by itself. 🙂

  7. I never before heard of Kamouraska. Either you have a knack for finding the most interesting places or you make the places you visit sound uber-interesting!:-)

    • I was lucky to get this wonderful introduction to Kamouraska by my Québécoise hosts. Glad I could convey how much I enjoyed it.

  8. I simply love the maritime provinces of Canada. Holiday spent in Nova Scotia was one of the best in my life! Such a beauty and interesting heritage! I enjoyed every minute spent there.

    • I was in Nova Scotia last year. Yes, there does seem to be something very special about the maritime regions. Hope you get to experience maritime Quebec, too.

  9. OH MY GOSH what an extraordinary place. We just returned from Quebec and will HAVE To explore this area next time!

  10. After the crazy summer I’ve had, Quebec looks like a place I’d finally learn how to relax in!

  11. I love Quebec! I first visited in 2011 and returned in 2013, and 2014. I could spend months visiting all the villages and towns. Kamouraska looks charming – would love to spend some time there.

  12. Kamouraska sounds enchanting, ideal for big-time time travel (and those soaps, oddly enough, look good enough to eat).

  13. Sounds like an all round wonderful destination! You had me at the old-fashioned small-town feel – love walking around small towns and marveling at Victorian architecture, though I was totally sold by the time I got to the photos of the grilled cheese, and then the chocolates definitely sealed the deal :D!

    Really does sound like an extraordinary place, so I’ll add it to my list of stops for Canada 2016. Thanks!

  14. Wow, this place looks beautiful! I’ve only ever been to Montreal, guess I’ll have to return to Quebec. I loved the pictures of the homes and of course, the food!

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. So cool! I’ve never heard of Kamouraska but was just in Quebec and plan to be back soon. Putting it on my list!

  16. What a charming place—-that I’d never heard of. I’ve only been to Gatineau, Montreal and Quebec City in Quebec. There is obviously so much more to see. I’m not sure I’d be wanting to eat seal. I know I’m a total hypocrite, but they have such beautiful eyes. I think I need to devote more time to exploring my own continent!

  17. I’m completely sold. But I prefer spring and summer I think. Any place on the water with a lot of color, great food and good wine is a no brainer!

  18. I can see how it is easy to fall in love with the charm and history of this village. The food looks delicious and the scenery is magnificent! Thanks for the post.

  19. […] I had only an afternoon to visit Kamouraska, I was captivated by its charm, picturesque location, and delectable culinary […]

  20. […] Québec: A Feast for the Senses” on Dave’s Travel Corner and “On the Waterfront: A Taste of Kamouraska” right here on Traveling with […]

  21. […] our day relishing the charm and cuisine of Kamouraska, my travel companions and I spent two more days experiencing the food, wine, and natural beauty of […]

  22. […] my first day in Kamoursaska to my final night in Rimouski, I enjoyed the food, wine, art, and natural beauty of maritime […]

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