by Alison Kent

With good reason, Quebec City is often referred to as North America’s fine dining capital. Upholding this distinguished honour and contributing to the regions’ reputation for outstanding cuisine, La Traite restaurant at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations is a gastronomic tribute to First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal heritage and culture.

Located a mere 15 minutes from the heart of the city on the Huron-Wendat Nation at Wendake, Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations is strategically set amongst some pretty spectacular natural surroundings. This four-star boutique hotel is beautifully designed and furnished, with crackling fires, and plenty of blankets, fur pelts and moccasins to ward off any late autumn or winter chill. Each of its 55 guest rooms overlooks the rushing Akiawenrahk (St-Charles) River and there are 31 km of paths following the river and through the trees for hikers. A wealth of Huron-Wendat Nation culture and tradition is a must-see in the Museum.

Tonight though, I am mainly here for the food – and what an impressive dining experience it is! Scouring and sourcing naturally grown or raised ingredients from both land and sea, Chef Martin Gagné is clearly inspired by hunting, fishing and gathering, with native roots, berries, herbs, flowers, local seafood and game meats featuring prominently.

Gagné starts us off with cubes of delicately house-smoked salmon with sour glasswort, crème fraiche, and scattered with flower petals. This is followed by a luxurious torchon of foie gras with tart-sweet haskap berry spread and served with smoky, grilled bannock. (Bonus: I got to make my own bannock twisted around sticks over an open fire before dinner.)

Next up, a drizzle of deep, dark and earthy birch syrup complements perfectly cooked roasted squab with wild fennel and cattail sauce, while intricately flavoured elk tartare with crisp salsify chips and a tangle of young greens is accompanied by assertive thyme liqueur and slightly resinous-yet-sweet fir jelly. This food is not only an inspiration – it’s a revelation.

For dessert, local cheeses and crispbreads studded with nuts are followed up by sweets topped with frozen maple crystals and accompanied with Inuit herbal tea. Chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier, all courses are accompanied by local wines – many grown and bottled on nearby Île d’Orléans,

For Aboriginal-inspired fare, Torontonians are fortunate to now have Keriwa Café, but next time you find yourself in Quebec City, head to La Traite for a truly outstanding culinary experience.

Alison Kent is a food & travel writer and editor, recipe developer and cookbook author. Follow Alison at