Fête des fraises: mass production made good

Local (food) markets are fast becoming my fave places to explore in any new city we visit. These microcosms offer a great sense of food specialties in the region and, most importantly, there are invariably free or inexpensive samples to tickle your taste buds. On a mini road trip to Québec City over the Canada Day long weekend, Ryan A. and I checked out the Marché du Vieux-Port in Old Québec City.

Sunday morning (mornings are always the best time for market adventures), we set out on foot to 160, Quai Saint-André in Lower Town. The Marché du Vieux-Port, which runs daily year-round as far as I know, is housed in a large warehouse-style building. Vendors line both sides of the aisle, their stalls filled with fresh local produce, sausages, cheeses, ice wine, honey and maple products, as well as homemade preserves, jams, jellies and salsas. Indulging our individual vices, we purchased a bottle of ice wine and a little jar of honey almond butter, respectively. Regrettably, the 30+ Celsius weather threw a monkey wrench into any ideas of cheese procurement, but I was still ready to chalk the morning up as one well spent...

(Warning: The following serendipitous good fortune happens frequently in my dreams, but rarely in my reality, and therefore should not be held against me.)

Entering the market building, we had half-noted a poster announcing La Fête des fraises (Strawberry Festival) taped to the door, but thought nothing much of it at the time. Then, as we were politely nibbling (OK, inhaling) another of our purchases – this time a square of fresh and simply heavenly vanilla fudge – and wandering the aisles, a crackling loudspeaker announced (drum roll, please) a strawberry shortcake taste testing. We followed the trail of paper-plated shortcakes to one end of the building where, for the most agreeable price of a loonie, we enjoyed a flavourful mid-day snack and ate our way into history with what was surely the largest strawberry shortcake ever made.

The strawberry shortcake was different than any I’d had before in that the traditional sponge cake bottom was topped with a buttercream icing rather than whipped cream. Nevertheless, a sufficiently tasty version that could very well warrant home reproduction later this summer.

If that’s not mass production made good, then I don’t know what is.