Do you ever find yourself brimming with stories to share, but tripping over your tongue when trying to get it all out? That’s me right now while trying to write about my recent trip to Quebec.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to say that while the trip was not officially sponsored, I did go as a guest of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. I’m under no obligation to say anything in particular about the trip, products or experiences I had, but my travel, accommodations and food were covered, and my itinerary was set up by the Federation. I was joined by two other writers from the U.S., Sherrie from With Food and Love, and Kelly from Livestrong.com, as well as a couple of journalists from the U.K., Jez (road.cc) and Hugh (Cycle Sport, Cycling Weekly and Cycling Active). You never know who you’re going to end up with on a trip like this, and boy, did I luck out with a fantastic group on this adventure.
Instead of an attempt to wax eloquent about my four days in French Canada learning all about maple syrup and watching some of the world’s best cyclists take on two seriously intimidating courses, I thought I’d kick things off with a little “My Quebec Trip by the Numbers” rundown.
But, don’t worry! I’ll have plenty more to say about both cycling and maple in the coming weeks, both here and on Fit Bottomed Eats!
My Quebec Trip by the Numbers
201.6 — Number of kilometers ridden (fast!) in the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Quebec
16 — Laps ridden by the cyclists over about five hours
186 — Meters of altitude … per lap. Oh my quad.
6 — Miles walked on our first day while watching the Grands Prix Cyclists in Quebec City
2 — Gorgeous Canadian cities toured (Quebec City and Montreal — can’t wait to go back!)
3 — Fabulous dinners featuring local ingredients with touches of maple
27 — Age of Chef Louis Pacquelin, who spent about 30 minutes with us before our dinner at his restaurant, Panache (in the Auberge St. Antoine in Quebec City — highly recommended on all fronts), talking about his use of ingredients from his own garden, how he utilizes maple in cooking, and what rules he follows when creating a new recipe. And yes, there will be more to come from that interview over on Eats!
4 — Versions of each meal served to accommodate all of us on the trip: Standard, gluten-free, pescatarian and vegan. Huge props to our hosts who made that happen and to the chefs who weren’t afraid to get a little creative to suit our needs!
Also 4 — Varieties of pure Canadian maple syrup on the market (but keep in mind that the grade each is given refers to color, not quality, so it just means each is best suited for specific purposes, like topping pancakes vs. baking)
100 — Maple Masters worldwide (select group of culinary artisans who are passionate about using local produce and incorporating maple into their creations)
40 — Liters of sap required to make just one liter of maple syrup
71 — Percent of the world’s maple syrup that comes from Canada; 91 percent of that comes specifically from Quebec
35 — Total minutes spent in the gym during the trip. Hey, we were busy!
0.5 — Hours spent at the Marche Jean-Talon, a huge and amazing open air market in Montreal at which I could’ve easily spent half a day or more. Like I said, busy!
15 — Minutes spent in the press tent interviewing the president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Serge Beaulieu, about the articles I’d seen recently regarding a maple “cartel.”
(For the record, his answer — through a translator as he speaks French and I really do not — was, “Cartel is a big word that’s not really appropriate. What is a federation? It’s an association of the producers, and the producers — all of them, collectively — decided to give themselves some rules to market their maple products internationally. There are more than 7000 maple producers in Quebec alone, with about 10 big buyers, so if the producers don’t work together, there’s a real lack of balance between the buyers and producers. When the producers set rules together, it was to divide up the production and make it worthwhile for everyone, so everyone contributes and everyone gains.”)
1.5 — Days it took me after arriving home to get out on my own bike. I was just so inspired by the pros … and it only took that long because I was majorly sleep deprived my first day back.
There’s so much more to share, like healthy recipes (so many!), facts about how maple can help with athletic performance (yes, seriously), awesome maple products you had no idea even existed (kombucha!), and tips for watching a professional cycling race.
But for now, let me ask you — have you ever used maple syrup for anything other than pancakes? Let me just say right now that it would not be a bad decision to try it the next time you need to sweeten up a cocktail. At. All. —Kristen