19 Oct 2014

Monsieur Croque

They had been warned. They had not listened. And now they were facing the consequences - in the form of a bottle of red wine from Québec.

I had told my visiting family that the climate in my adopted province did not really lend itself to growing grapes, unlike that of the Niagara Peninsula or even the mild Okanagan Valley out west.

Nonetheless, in that oh-so-European quest for products from the local terroir, they could not pass on the opportunity to order the bottle on this Montréal bistro's wine list, and so here it was. "A solid table wine", opined the person responsible for ordering it, bravely taking another sip. At the end of a good meal, the six convives had managed to put away about half of the bottle (unlike the White Burgundy, which disappeared faster than our apéro nibbles...)

Winemaking is not Québec's forte, then. Something else, however, is. It makes for products that are no less authentic and delectable than wine. For the climate in the province (or at least its south-western parts) is perfect to grow apples. And grow they do!

This time of year, farmers' markets, roadside stalls, grocery stores and even town squares are overflowing with apples and derived products. A Honeycrisp Cortland Gala invites keen crunchers, with Macintoshs readily available for those who think different. And just when you believe you've had it all, the Empire strikes back!

When I took my parents to the market, they were offered an abundance of samples, both of the raw fruit and its various processed states: Pies, sauces, chutneys, jams, juice, chips... you name it, they make it. Grown-ups find a wide selection of still and sparkling ciders, and the late-harvest cidre de glace is one of the most authentic and unique local specialties.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as the saying would have it, and given Québec's average wait times in hospitals,  even die-hard PC fans like yours truly find themselves actively promoting Apples. 

If samples and my word were not enough, the warm endorsement of our local dining companion, who grew up amidst the orchards of the Cantons de l'Est, should have been enough to make the penny (or rather, the apple) drop. And yet, here was this bottle of Québec wine.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, goes the proverb. Life gave the Québecois apples. Better not to find out what they make out of grapes.

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