Friday, September 7, 2012

Food in Sherbrooke, Quebec

For those of you who know Kevin and me, you know we love good food (making it almost as much as eating it)! When we had cable television, it was always on the Food Network. Kevin and I own more cooking books than plates! We adore trying new foods! Not that the culinary culture is incredibly different from anything in the states, but we had to do a post on the food in Quebec and our experiences with grocery shopping as well as dining out. Also note, we have been here a week and a half and I am certain many of our observations and lack of ability to communicate beyond pointing and grunting could easily have led to cultural misunderstandings! (Please forgive us Canadian friends!)

Grocery Shopping
When moving, you tend to need the basics when you go shopping for the first time. Kevin and I decided to make a quick stop for some fresh produce, meat, dairy, and bread. Here is what we noticed:
1. Fresh produce. I mean fresh produce. Fresher than Fresh Market Fresh. Fruit stand fresh! Not only is there a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but in many cases the prices were the same or cheaper than the states! Plus, there was no tax on fresh produce! From what we observed, they have stricter requirements on their produce than the states does (bananas are not chemically forced to ripen and yellow, tuna steaks are not treated with carbon monoxide, no color added to salmon, etc.)
2. Meat is a better quality and again, fresh! Pictured is a turkey leg...we never saw those in our local markets in the states (although I am sure it is available somewhere)! To the right is veal sausage! We bought some salmon today that was about 11$. It smelled  like it came fresh out of the water (or rather didn't smell like anything = GOOD) just minutes before I (Kevin) was breaking down the whole side of the fish (about 2 KG). For you sushi eaters, we could easily turned it into sashimi - it was that good!
Salmon is a local product but some things are much more expensive here. For example, chicken and eggs. In the US, a whole chicken is typically very cheap and the cuts that require more butchering increase the price. Here, there is no difference except the whole chicken is EXPENSIVE! Like a small 1.5 pound bird was around 15$. The chicken breast (already butchered) was 14.51$ kg! Yikes! The only thing more expensive was the dozen eggs for 3.99$ or 18 eggs for 5.35$!!!
"Unique" were also available readily - including bison, horse, goat and many other game-y foods not commonly seen in the states.   
3. Milk can come in a bag! We couldn't find whole milk but we did find 3.25%, which tasted 325% better! Yum! It was about 6.35$ for three bags (4L). We did find that the yogurt was a big more pricey.

4. Cheese is a cultural favorite! There were two isles of it! (Sorry no picture, I got enough stares for the camera!) You can even get "illegal" cheese here! They have a soft, raw milk cheese that is unpasteurized that is a delicacy. It is made locally and you eat it before it hardens within 60 days. Totally illegal in the states! Can't wait to try it! Quebec has gotten many awards for their local cheeses and they even host cheese tours! Wisconsin, eat your heart out!
5. Fondue is popular! I wish we had brought a pot! I have never seen so many different things available for fondue in a store! There were fondue chocolates, fondue cheeses, fondue bouillon (pictured), fondue sauces (pictured to the right), fondue matches and sticks (pictured, but above), special fondue gas, fondue toppings, fondue EVERYTHING! 
6. For Canadians and many Europeans, wine is tradition for most every meal. Each grocery store we visited has had its own massive wine section (that is something you won't see at Food City!) Don't worry, you won't see me there...I will not forget that baby eats what I eat/drinks what I drink! We even saw a couple of guys bring their own wine to a restaurant.
Soda can recycle machine. 
7. Recycling is HUGE! When you go grocery shopping, you have to take your own bags, otherwise, expect to carry your food out in your hands. No bags! They even have machines like a CoinStar where you deposit your empty aluminum soda cans and you get money back immediately! We need those in the states! That would clean the streets up pretty quickly!

Dining Out (sorry, no pictures)
1. Because Quebec is proud of their French history, many dishes have French influence (Shepard's pie, meat pies and stews, and baked goods).

2. Dining out is a more formal experience. Etiquette and formalities are very important to the Quebecois! You never have to wait on an available table, so few people go out. Also, it is rare to see children in a restaurant. We were obvious Anglo-tourists with baby!
Okay, I lied. I had to sneak in a picture of this adorable baby!
3. Expect to wait. And wait. And wait some more. When you go into a restaurant, you will see a wide selection of periodicals (newspapers and magazines). They are for your benefit. You order your food and drink at the same time and then read. You get your tea or coffee and keep reading. Your wait is usually a minimum of 10 minutes! But expect excellent food!

4. Sip, don't chug your drink. Remember the whole French origin? Think etiquette-pinkie up! The Quebecois people will sip their single glass of what ever they are drinking for their entire meal. If you order a wine, you also get a glass of water, but I have yet to see anyone finish both.

5. Since dining out is a more formal experience, people will sit and eat for long periods. Also, you won't see anyone standing or walking with their food. It is bad form! So, no street car vendors here - slightly disappointing after our last street car vendor experience in Washington, D.C....or the delicious taco truck in Idaho!

6. Taxes and tipping. Dining out does not count towards the no tax rule, so you will see about a 15% tax. GST (Goods and Service Tax) and QST (Provincial Sales Tax) which combine for a grand total of 14.975%. But that doesn't allow you to skimp on your tipping here! Tipping is still customary when dining out:10% minimum, 15% average, 20% exceptional.

What do you think of the differences?


  1. I think you should go for the fondue experience! Have you started classes yet?

  2. #5: I think you mean "Provincial" Sales Tax. Providential implies God did it.

  3. Thank you Anonymous, Noted and Changed-But we had to do something to get people to comment!! Thanks for reading!!

  4. 10 minutes seems like a pretty short wait to me. Glad you're enjoying the differences in Quebec. So many things were familiar to us there; we found the culture differences to be very real, but more subtle than say, Congo. They are certainly proud of their culture, so learn as much as you can.