Orleans Island is a calm and peaceful place filled with nature, deer, maple trees, agriculture of all kinds and lots of history. The island was discovered by Jacques Cartier, back in 1535. The land and its microclimate make the island ultra-fertile and a great place to cultivate. Situated right next to Quebec city, it makes it a great get away place for the weekend.
Since it’s quite a seasonal place, in the early spring, the island wakes up slowly with the ‘Cabanes a sucre‘ (sugar shacks) season. Join the earthy brunch of a sugar shack with its live music and maple syrup on everything! Finishing always with a tire sure neige which is the maple toffee made on snow. In the early summertime, it’s the berries season (except blueberry which is at the end of summer). Then the sweet corn in August and 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 loads 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 in 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’Ile d’Orléans (The Island Cheese Factory)
The oldest cheeses produced in North America originate from here, although not exactly the fromagerie. Back in the day, 38 families from the Island would make their own cheeses, at home. They all used the same French recipe of 3 different ages; a young cheese ricotta style, a 6 days young cheese and an older (28 days) refined cheese. This ancestral method results in unique cheeses, which only can be made on this island because of its special bacterial flora. Many tried to reproduce the cheeses outside of the island, in laboratories and they couldn’t succeed.
The island’s residents make cheese since 1635, although the fromagerie store only started in 2004. In the ’60s, 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 them. So there was a dark period for this special cheese. Although, 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 nonstick pan for about 2 minutes on each side. Strangely, it doesn’t melt or lose its form and gives the crust this irresistible caramelized 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 Orleans island and Quebec city.
The Fromagerie, nowadays, has a couple of different type of cheeses. Going from soft fresh cheese too strong cured ones, without forgetting the famous “Squish Squish” cheese. The famous cheese to make poutine or in other words; cheddar cheese curds fresh from the day. We call it by the sound it does when you chew on it: Squish Squish. The fresher it is, the stronger the “squish” sound will be. My personal favourite snack from back home.
If you ever pass by Les Fromages de l’Isle d’Orléans, stop by. They usually offer a bunch of freshly grilled Paillasson cheese to try. In the summer, they also offer frozen fresh cheese mixed with fresh island berries, a pure delight!
Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, 2950, chemin Royal, Sainte-Famille
#2 La Nougaterie
It’s a couple from Europe who owns this delicious nougat shop/factory with always a touch of the island products. You can see the factory in the back of the shop. Some of their bestsellers are maple sugar nougat and blueberry and fleur de sel nougat. My personal favourite stays the normal “pistachio” one. They also sell some handmade marshmallows, 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 Orleans island since 1970. The apple orchard is one of the best things to do with the kids in the fall. They have 6 acres of small apple trees of all types to pick up. Fun activity for family to do from mid-August to mid-October. The Bilodeau cidrerie won many prizes, especially for their ciders. Some are maple syrup flavoured, strawberries flavoured, etc. They also make some other types of beverages going from sparkling ciders to 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 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 based on blackcurrant; from mustard, and jelly to fortified wines and digestives. To taste their product and see the cellar, you have to go downstairs, upstairs they have a small restaurant/bistro and an ice cream shop. In the summertime, they serve 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 May to October and the restaurant from June to September and the view is spectacular. There is a big terrace in the back with some picnic tables. All the items on the lunch menu highlight a product of theirs. At the back, you can make a tour of their museum in the barn or sit at one of the picnic tables to sip on some blackcurrant iced tea.
Cassis Monna & Filles, 721 Chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre
#5 The Confiturerie Tigidou
Once you enter this beautiful Confiturerie (marmalade factory), you’ll never want to leave. The charming lady made me taste pretty much all their concoctions, they call… it’s like a marmalade but with less sugar. Their products are all made with products from the island, organic cane sugar and no conservatives. They make some interesting mixes like strawberry and mint or blueberry rosemary even a whiskey apple butter. There is a secret behind the recipes of those little pots, I saw it, lots of love.
7007 Chem. Royal, Saint-Laurent-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, QC G0A 3Z0, Canada
#6 The Vignoble de Ste-Pétronille and it Pizza 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 with a splendid view of Montmorency falls. 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 pizza restaurant serving great pizzas with a view of the vineyards. Another seasonal place opens from spring to fall. Their pizza is made in a proper pizza oven, with whole grain dough and topped with products from the island. Fantastic!
8705 Chemin Royal, Ste-Pétronille
#7 Le Vignoble de St-Pierre
Un autre vignoble avec un petit restaurant charmant mais ici, ils servent deux plaques seulement remplis soit de produit de la mer ou soit charcuterie et fromages. Une nouvelle trouvaille, avec belle atmosphere.
#8 The Chocolaterie
This says it all, it’s a Belgium-style chocolate heaven. They have 2 shops on each on the island. One is situated not too far from the entrance of the island in Ste-Petronille and the other one is in Saint-Laurant. 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 flavours, 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 / 1532 Chem. Royal, Saint-Laurent-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, QC G0A 3Z0, Canada
#9 La Midinette
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 some lovely duck pie. They offer a great variety of bread, croissants and much more. Next time… So if you are doing the island by bike, I recommend this place for a lunch stop, it’s mid-way.
La Midinette 2001 Chemin Royal, Saint-Jean
#10 Polyculture Plante
Last 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 their 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 every day 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 flavours and beauties that will make pleasant memories for the whole family.