My parents retired to this little island right next to Quebec city, where they could be closer to their family. It’s a calm and peaceful place filled with nature, deers, érablière (maple trees plantations), agricultures of all kinds and lots of history. The island was discovered by Jacques Cartier, back in 1535. The land and its microclimate makes the island ultra fertile and a great place to cultivate.
I’ve been going around for a few years now and I felt I knew enough about the island to make a top 10 of the best places for foodies to visit from summer to fall. The top 10 isn’t really in order of preference. Since it’s quite a seasonal place, in the spring, the island opens a few Cabane a sucre (house where they make maple syrup and brunch with music on sundays) to the public, in the spring time. In the early summertime, it’s the berries season (except blueberry which is in the end of summer) picking season, then the sweet corn in august. In the fall, it’s apple and pumpkin season. The island has so many of those “pick it up yourself” places, which is a great activity to do with the kiddos.
It’s also great to experience by bike, it’s about 70km and quite easy, if you have all day, you can add a couple of nice stops along the way. Otherwise with the car might be easier to bring back lots and lots of nice products from the island.
In 1610, the island became the first place in north America to receive a shipment of cows from Europe, resulting into having the oldest North American cheese, a quite special one. Talking about cheese… Let’s start this top 10 with the cheese factory from the island.
#1 Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans (the island cheese factory)
I’ve explained in the introduction, the oldest cheese produced in north America originates from the Orleans Island, although not exactly in the fromagerie. Back in the days, 38 families from the Island would make their own cheeses, at home. They all used the same French recipe resulting into 3 different cheeses or ages; a young cheese ricotta style, a 6 days dried cheese and a fairly young (28 days) refined cheese. This ancestral method result into unique cheeses, which only can be made on this island because of its special bacterial flora. Many tried to reproduce the cheese outside of the island, in laboratories and they couldn’t succeed. After years of studying why, they came to the conclusion that the island had this special element, a bacterial flora that was giving the cheese it’s uniqueness.
The island’s residents make cheese since 1635, although the fromagerie store only started in 2004. In the 60’s the cheeses from the island couldn’t be sold in stores or markets because it wasn’t refined long enough for canadian regulations which asked back then for a minimum of 60 days to refine cheeses in order to be able to sell it. So there was a dark period for this special cheese, on the other hand, the families kept making some at home, and give / sell only to family and safe particular.
This cheese is not only delicious… the Paillasson (the 6 days dried one) is quite particular because it needs to be grilled before consumption. Yes, grilled! First, you cut it into small triangles and quickly grilled it in a non stick pan about 2 minutes on each side. Strangely, it doesn’t melt or loses its form and gives the crust this irresistible caramelised flavour. The grilled Paillasson cheese goes perfectly on a green salad. Sadly this cheese is made in such a small amount, you’ll only be able to find it around the Orleans island and Quebec city.
The Fromagerie also have a couple of other delicious cheeses, going from soft fresh cheese to strong cured ones, without forgetting the famous “Squich Squich” cheese. The famous cheese to make poutine or in other words; a cheddar cheese curds fresh from the day. We call it by the sound it does when you chew on it : Squich Squich. The fresher it is, the stronger the “squich” sound will be. My personal favorite snack from back home.
So if you ever pass by the cheese factory called Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, stop by, they usually offer a bunch of freshly grilled Paillasson cheese to try. Also in summer time, they offer this delicious frozen fresh cheese (frozen yogurt style) mixed with fresh blueberries, strawberries or raspberries from the island, a pure delight!
Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, 2950, chemin Royal, Sainte-Famille
#2 La Nougaterie
This is a fairly new shop on the island. It’s a couple from Europe, she is from Belgium, he is from France, that just started this delicious nougat shop/factory with great products with a touch of the island flavors. You can see the factory in the back of the shop, and some of the best sellers of theirs is the maple sugar nougat, blueberry and the fleur de sel nougat. My personal favorite stays the normal “pistachio” one. They also sell some handmade marshmallow, meringues and other sweets. This is a winning stop for kids.
La Nougaterie 1367 Chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre
#3 Cidrerie/Orchard Bilodeau
This cidrerie (where they make cider) and cultivate apples is the first place to do so on the Orleans island since 1970. The apple orchard is one of the best thing to do with the kids in the fall, 6 acres of small apple trees to pick up all types of apples from is a great activity you can do from mid august to mid october. The Bilodeau cidrerie won many prices, especially for their ciders. Some are maple syrup flavored, strawberries flavored,etc. They also make some other types of beverage ranging from sparkling ciders to stronger digestives. Another strong point is that they offer a free degustation of most of their products.
If you go on the weekend during the apple season, you’ll have to try the “chausson aux pommes” a one of a kind apple turnover served with a maple butter. Simply divine! They offer also pie and other apple sweets. The place is open from may to december.
Cidrerie Bilodeau, 2200 Chemin Royal, St-Pierre
#4 Cassis Monna & Filles
This is a well known place, a blackcurrant specialists and awards winner cellar selling all kinds of products base with blackcurrant; from mustard, jelly to fortified wines and digestives. To taste their product and see the cellar, you have to go downstairs, upstair they have a small restaurant/bistro and an ice cream shop. In summer time, they serve a delicious blackcurrant ice cream in many forms (soft ice cream, gelato, double) and it’s simply divine!
I use their blackcurrant syrup and add it to some sparkling water or Kir Royal, it’s quite addictive you’ll see. The cellar is open from mai to october and the restaurant from june to september and the view is spectacular. There is a big terrasse in the back with some picnic tables. All the items on the lunch menu highlight a product of theirs.
Cassis Monna & Filles, 721 Chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre
#5 The Confiturerie Tigidou
This is a new discovery of mine, and unlike most of the other places on the top 10, it’s on the other side of the island. It’s not directly on the side of the road so it can be quite tricky to find, but once you enter this beautiful confiturerie (marmelade factory), a beautifully renovated barn, you’ll never want to leave. We entered by the coffee side which is rustic and warm, in the back we could see 2 nice strawberry peelers doing the fruits one by one. The charming lady made me taste pretty much all their concoctions, they call… it’s like a marmelade but with less sugar. There products are all made with products from the island, organic cane sugar and no conservatives of any kind. They make some interesting mix like strawberry and mint or a blueberry rosemary even a whiskey apple butter. There is a secret behind the recipes of those little pots of delight, lots of love.
Confiturerie Tigidou, 5508 chemin royal, Saint-Jean
#6 The Vignoble de Ste-Pétronille and Panache Mobile restaurant
This one is a 2 for 1 place, the first being a degustation place with all kinds of wines from the island and also ice wine. You can visit the cellar and walk around the vineyard. One of their best sellers is a white wine called “Le voile de la mariée“. The second part situated in the back of the degustation room is a foodtruck restaurant serving great dishes with the view on the vineyards. It’s called the “Panache mobile” and it’s an other seasonal place which is open from spring to fall. They offer many upgraded typical from the province, food like a duck poutine, a lobster roll with avocado, etc. Then you can wash all that down with some delicious wines from next door. The view is spectacular, it can get quite busy on a sunny weekend so come early.
8705 Chemin Royal, Ste-Pétronille
#7 Le Canard huppé
Another great product from the island is the duck, in this place you’ll get great products ranging from cassoulet, rillette, confit to foie gras. The place is mainly a Bed&Breakfast place own by a nice couple, the guy is a great chef. He prepare many sous-vide duck meals ready to go. It’s also a great restaurant, on reservation only, and the boutique where you can buy fresh duck prepared a million ways, and other poultry, also some conserved duck products from the Canard Goulu and other nice products ranging from hot sauces to salts.
Le Canard huppé 7325 chemin Royal, St-Laurent
#8 The chocolaterie
This says it all, it’s a Belgium style chocolate heaven this place. They actually have 2 shops on each extremity of the island. One is situated not too far from the entrance of the island in Ste-Petronille and the other one is in Saint-Francois completely on the opposite side of the island, which takes about 30 minutes to reach by car (the whole tour is an hour). They are also a seasonal place, opening only from april to october (Ste-Petronille) and june to october (St-Francois). They sell exquisite fine chocolate of all flavors, ranging from blueberry to maple sugar. They also offer ice cream covered with chocolate and sorbets. A great relaxing spot to enjoy the St-Lawrence river scenery.
The chocolaterie, 8330 Chemin Royal, Sainte-Pétronille / 3497 chemin Royal, Saint-Francois
#9 La Boulange
This is a sinfully delicious coffee place/bakery situated in an ancestral Canadian house with cracking floors and a beautiful terrasse. They make some of the best Danoise and brioches I’ve ever tasted and also they have a delicious cheesy pizza for lunch. They offer a great variety of breads and much more. The highlight of this place is for me, personally, the abricotine, which I forgot to take a picture of because I was too busy devouring it. Next time… So if you are doing the island by bike, I recommend this place for a lunch stop.
La Boulange 2001 Chemin Royal, Saint-Jean
#10 Polyculture Plante
The last one but not the least, the shop/farm/cidrerie my family and I go to the most to pick up fruits, veggies and pies, the farm Chez Plante we call it. Over there, you’ll get every fruit and veggie the island has to offer plus some extras like theirs own maple syrup, some fresh bread and pies, juices and much more, going strong for 3 generations. For each season they have a massive amount of fresh and delicious products, for example, apple time is filled with different apple types, and on Halloween they have mountains of pumpkins of all kinds in front of the store.
For corn season, they have the 2 succulent types of sweet corn in mega big wooden boxes in the shop, those beauties come everyday freshly picked from their land. It’s like most places on the island, another seasonal one. The store closes its door in winter times when the snow comes. A great place to fill up the car with goodies!
8683 Chemin Royal, Ste-Pétronille
This island is simply filled with flavors and beauties that will make pleasant memories for the whole family.