At the same time, the province’s French roots run deep, with superb cheese makers and corner bakeries serving baguettes that would make even the most persnickety Parisian proud.
Nevertheless, while French cuisine is known for its tiny portions, in Quebec, the mantra appears to be “bigger is better.”
During an orgiastic feast last weekend at the Cabane, Martin Picard, the star chef and burly bad boy of Quebec cuisine, offered up a meal of 13 courses that was so extreme in its abundance and creativity, it was as if Salvador Dalí had been reincarnated as a chef on a farm in rural Quebec during Roman times.
When I asked the jovial manager, Laurence Desjardins, why the meal was such a marathon of Olympic endurance, she observed that in a French-speaking province surrounded by an English majority, the food reflected a culinary cri de coeur, an affirmation of Quebec identity that was akin to a giant exclamation point.
The Cabane also reflects another hallmark of Quebec, its spirit of generosity. Ms. Lawrence noted that Mr. Picard believed in “abundance,” and doesn’t want diners to have to reach for anything. There is little chance of that when the entire table is blanketed with food.
Newsletter Sign Up
Sign Up for the Canada Letter
Every week, receive a handpicked selection of news and opinion plus exclusive commentary from New York Times journalists.
Thank you for subscribing.
An error has occurred. Please try again later.
You are already subscribed to this email.
View all New York Times newsletters.
- See Sample
- Manage Email Preferences
- Not you?
- Opt out or contact us anytime
The first warning of bacchanalian excess arrived with the first course, the triple-layer almond cake filled with foie gras, one layer with dates and another with crème de volaille. It took four hours to make the cake, which was followed by an entire pig conjured from foie gras.
Most of the dishes were served, appropriately enough, on a tray made from tree bark. The tableware featured etchings of fornicating pigs. It was a vegetarian’s apocalyptic nightmare. There were pigs everywhere, both on the plate and in the dining room.
And just in case my stomach ran out of room, the waitress arrived periodically with a plastic funnel, of the type used to extract sap from a tree, so I could down a shot of cognac laced with maple syrup.
At the end of that meal, just when it seemed I was about to explode like a fattened goose on Christmas Eve, the desserts arrived, among them a rectangular plant-holder containing what appeared to be snow filled with maple syrup and adorned with mint.
Earlier, Mr. Picard had stopped by to warn me with a mischievous smile: “You won’t be able to sleep tonight.”
If the Cabane embodies Quebec, it is a Quebec of warmth, artistry, an ample supply of pigs and over-the-top expressionistic joy.