Three summer’s ago, my wife and I found ourselves at loose ends for the July 4 holiday. We’d been meaning to visit Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, but upon cursory investigation, Google Maps informed us that the most accessible, southern tip of this region — where the mighty St. Lawrence River meets the North Atlantic — sits fully 12 hours north of south/central Maine. Um, Quebec City is nice, I pivoted, and a plan was hatched. We left after work, sped north, saw a moose outside Jackman, Maine, and were sipping drinks in the Hotel Frontenac bar well before last call.

After two lovely days in the Old Town, we headed further north, up the St. Lawrence to the Charlevoix Region, where we lodged at another Fairmont Hotel property, the estimable Manoir Richelieu. We gambled in the casino, played golf, and ogled a massive south Asian wedding where the bride floated in on a swing more or less supported, in flight, by hundreds of helium balloons. Honestly. That happened. We got lost in the hotel that morning and stumbled upon the ballroom where all these white balloons were being filled for the occasion.

In any case, someone at the Manoir suggested dinner at Les Faux Bergers (False Shepherds), a fromagerie, working sheep farm and locavore restaurant that serves up expensive but exquisite seven-course meals. There is but one seating each night.

Our group first assembled for drinks and mise en bouche outside, on a beautiful patio overlooking a sheep pasture. The crowd numbered a couple dozen and judging from the entirely French welcomes and introductions, we were the only English speakers there. Halfway through the meal, our outlier status became clear to our hosts. Thereafter, the chef, Maurice Dufour, kindly visited our table to personally explain each course, in great detail, en Anglais, after doing so for the rest of those assembled, en Francais.

It proved an extraordinary, if surprisingly lengthy, thoroughly Quebecois experience.

First Course
Unless we missed one — which is entirely possible, considering our deteriorative mental, physical and immunological states following nearly four hours of fine dining — our drinks and apps there on the patio constituted the opening course. The cocktail was pretty memorable: a simple-but-bracing concoction of fresh basil, cucumber, brown sugar and vodka. The appetizers: a small cut of whitefish sprinkled with sunflower seeds and cassis powder, followed by lamb mousse paté with mustard and gherkin — served on a stone. Naturellement.

Second Course
After moving into the dining room and taking our places, Sharon and I were each presented a gorgeous salad of fresh cuke, tomato, crunchy puffed rice thingies and a purple flower we took to be nasturtium (which the French call pensee, we think; after a few days in France or Quebec, I’m good to comprehend about every fourth word). All of this was served on a bed of salty caviar that had been whipped into a mayonnaise-type consistency. Fabulous. Combined with the apps, two courses would have left us perfectly satisfied. We could have gone home right then.
Wine pairing: the first, an effectively dry Sancerre rosé

Third Course
Next came some poached salmon adorned with shaved radishes, finely chopped rhubarb stalk, and fried-then-pickled pumpkin seeds, which, according to our chef, smell like sesame seeds in wake of this process. Served in low bowl, this lovely seafood tableau sat only half-submerged in a milky-broth that recalled Thai tom kha gai, the famous chicken lime soup. Yum.
Wine: a dry German Riesling

Fourth Course
Three baby turnips festooned with shards of crunchy fried buckwheat crackers, kohlrabi shavings, asparagus and garlic scapes — all of it served over tofu that looks and tastes like feta. Bizarre. But effective! By this stage, aided by Chef Dufour, Sharon and I were live-texting details and pictures to our two children, in real time — if only to document this ever-so-baroque meal for posterity. 
Wine: another dry white, a Gruner-Veltliner from Austria


Fifth Course
Imagine, if you will, an array of seasonal greens rolled into an elegant rectangle shape, served atop a thick smear of smoked crème fraîche infused with balsam fir “essence”, then sprinkled with buttery fried oats — alongside a fermented apple chickpea miso remoulade.
Wine: Not sure why, but this course was paired with our first red, a scrumptious 100 percent Gamay blend from … I don’t know. There is no record.

At this stage in the meal, my date was really full — and increasingly antsy. We had been sitting and eating for nearly three hours. She got up and walked around at one point, then returned. In retrospect, she was also coming down with something…

Sixth Course
Finally, some proper meat: Lamb, grass-fed and raised on site, grilled over an outdoor fire (we saw this taking place from the patio) and served with black currant/blueberry sauce beside fingerling potatoes topped with bitter greens, the fromagerie’s signature Migneron cheese, and a purée of something that, from my notes, remains unintelligible. By this stage of the evening, after all these pairings (and much of Sharon’s), I was getting sorta tipsy myself. My date was fully soused, exhausted, antsy and, unbeknownst to us, already fighting a bug.
Wine: a chalky Spanish red, the further details of which I failed to record. Apparently.

Seventh Course
This was the final course — or we missed one, on account of Sharon getting up and walking around out of boredom and oncoming infirmity. We bolted right after this dessert phase, but what a dessert it was: sheep’s milk ice cream (for which the on-site laiterie is famous) with nuts and lemon-rhubarb-raspberry sauce — and a touch of paté, presumably lamb, which didn’t strike either of us as a great idea, before or after tasting.
Wine: A chestnut-infused champagne. What does chestnut taste like in this context? A lot like vanilla. Apparently.

The next morning, our penultimate day in Quebec, we checked out of the Manoir and went for a hike in a national park. Normally, Sharon sets the pace; this time, I was babbling on about something and suddenly noticed her lagging 30 yards behind. We rested, begged off the hike, then headed toward our next hotel near Baie St. Paul — stopping on the way to catch an outdoor jazz concert, but instead encountering (read: crashing) a wedding where the bridal party arrived and departed in a trio of late ‘60s-era muscle cars. Sharon was invigorated temporarily by this eccentric vacation activity, but never “right”. Upon reaching out hotel, she was fully green around the gills. I suggested we just make a break for Maine. She nodded in assent and slept all the way home.