fig. a: Kamou view 1
Until this summer, Michelle had never set foot in Kamouraska. Oh, sure, she'd heard lots about it. In this part of the world, Kamouraska is a fabled region. Situated at the point where the salt water of the Atlantic mingles with the freshwater flowing east along the mighty St. Lawrence River ("entre la mer et l'eau douce"), at the beginning of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the largest estuary in the world, and encompassing verdant fields, lush forest, impressive rock formations that shoot out of the landscape, and fantastic views of the river, its marshes, a number of its islands, and the mountainous north shore, Kamouraska is a pretty striking place.
fig. b: Kamou view 2
Michelle felt instantly at home.
fig. c: Kamou girl
She took to the landscape, and the landscape seemed to agree with her. And she quickly adopted Kamouraska as a home away from home.
We were only in Kamouraska for a little over two days on that visit, but we had a pretty active couple of days:
figs. d & e: sowing seeds
We attended a traditional seed-sowing ceremony, featuring live musical accompaniment and an elaborate fertility ritual, at Patrice Fortier's magical Société des Plantes.
figs. f, g, & h: there will be eels
We visited a cultural centre dedicated to eels and eel fishing. (Eel fishing has been a staple of the local economy for hundreds and hundreds of years, long before the settlers arrived. Eel was a traditional part of maritime Quebec's diet, but has decreased in popularity over the last several decades, due in part to the misconceptions that surround it. Still, the eel hunt persists, with most of the catch shipped to either Japan or Europe, but mostly to Japan.)
fig. i: Boulangerie Niemand
We checked out Boulangerie Niemand, perhaps Quebec's very best bakery (and almost certainly its most beautiful), and a real hub for the local community,
fig. j: côté ouest de Côté Est
as well as Côté Est, right next door, a fine new addition to the local dining scene, with wonderful views on the river, a convivial atmosphere, and a menu that specializes in local delicacies like eel and locally raised salt-marsh lamb, as well as natural wines from Montreal's own La QV.
fig. k: got fish?
We made sure to pick up some smoked eel, sturgeon, and salmon before we skipped town.
fig. l: faire du pouce
And although the idea of hitchhiking from Kamouraska to La Pocatière to visit our friends at Fou du Cochon (the very same ones who'd made the wonderful charcuterie pictured above at Côté Est) held a certain romantic appeal, ultimately we opted for other means of transportation.
fig. m: golden age
When we got to Fou du Cochon we were blown away by how meticulous an operation it is, but we were especially impressed by the hand-crafted maplewood architecture they'd created to age their vast array of charcuterie, which not only looked beautiful, with its golden hues, its aromas also imparted an additional goût du terroir to their product.
fig. n: après Kamou
When we got back home, we celebrated our trip with an après-Kamou feast. And Michelle immediately started to put the plans together for an Hommage à Kamouraska menu for the fall.
Kamouraska is roughly 400 km away from Montreal along Autoroute 20/the Trans-Canada, but it pays to follow Hwy 132 along the river soon after you pass Quebec City--it's one of my favourite drives in Quebec.
fig. o: beauty queens
If you'd like to experience the flavours of Kamouraska, but you're not in a position to make a trip out to that region anytime soon, you might want to visit Seth & Michelle at Foodlab over the next couple of weeks for their Hommage à Kamouraska menu. That's right: it's now fall, and their Kamou menu has gone live. It features bread from Boulangerie Niemand, charcuterie from Fou du Cochon, smoked fish from Poisonnerie Lauzier, and a truly amazing array of fresh produce from our good friend Patrice at la Société des Plantes.
For an extra special treat, you might want to attend tomorrow night's (November 15) Fou du Beaujo festivities at Foodlab, featuring the entire Hommage à Kamouraska menu, plus some amazing Beaujolais wines from La QV. If you happen to be in Kamouraska that night, you can attend the tandem Fou du Beaujo event at Côté Est (!). How's that for inter-regional togetherness?
And if all that wasn't enough, the Hommage à Kamouraska menu features one my favourite Michelle Marek desserts in recent memory: a phenomenal maple custard with caramelized apples and pecans.
Fou du Beaujo info:
Foodlab, 1201 boulevard St-Laurent, November 15, hours: 5 à 7
Fou de Kamou addresses:
Boulangerie Niemand, 82 avenue Morel, Kamouraska, QC, (418) 492-1236
Côté Est, 76 avenue Morel, Kamouraska, QC, (418) 308-0739
Poissonerie Lauzier, 57 avenue Morel, Kamouraska, QC, (418) 492-7988
Site d'interprétation de l'anguille de Kamouraska, 205 avenue Morel, Kamouraska, QC, (418) 492-3935
La Société des Plantes, 207 rang de l'Embarras, Kamouraska, QC, (418) 492-2493
Fou du Cochon et Scie, La Pocatière, QC (available in fine food establishments across the province)aj