Statues and placards of Bonhomme, a pudgy, smiling snowman adorned with a red tuque (hat) and ceinture fléchée (a colorful sash) at the waist, are ubiquitous in Québec, particularly in the days leading up to the city’s annual Québec Winter Carnival, a winter celebration running through Feb. 17 on the Plains of Abraham, a sprawling park.
The festivities center around meet-and-greets with Bonhomme, the ambassador of the 18-day festival, visits to his ice palace, a magical castle built from 1,600 blocks of ice shipped in from Montreal, and winter activities like dog-sledding, tobogganing, and ice and snow sculpture carving contests. One of the highlights of Québec Winter Carnival is sampling Québec quintessential wintertime treats.
Those who wish to sample locally made craft beers can get their fill at the first-ever Brassèe du Carnaval Feb. 7 to 10, but daily treats not to miss include:
Maple Toffee Pull: Québec and its area Sugar Shacks are known for serving up maple syrup dinners during the height of maple season (mid-March to mid-April), when the sap in sugar maple trees begins to rise, but the naturally sweet syrup is enjoyed year-round, particularly at Carnival. The sap, which is more than 97 percent water, is boiled to create syrup. To create a maple toffee pull, the syrup is boiled to 232 degrees Fahrenheit and poured over snow. After 20 seconds, revelers use a wooden Popsicle stick to roll the sticky maple syrup into a lollipop of sorts.
Caribou: This boozy concoction of red wine, maple syrup, and hard liquor like brandy, whiskey, or vodka, is mostly drunk during Carnival but can be enjoyed hot or cold year-round. Produced in bottles by the Société des alcools du Québec, it’s served in spirited red and white plastic canes topped with a plastic Bonhomme. The plastic canes have a dual purpose — they hold 17-ounces of Caribou (or other liquids) and can serve as a cane to steady drinkers who have indulged in several canes-full to keep them from slipping on the ice and snow.
Cheese Fondue: Though the tradition of enjoying a cheesy fondue comes from the Swiss, carnival-goers can enjoy the comfort food at the aptly named Carnival Fondue Booth, which features gooey goodness from local fondue restaurant La Grolla. To make the treat portable, there’s no dipping here; melted Swiss cheese is served stuffed inside a warm baguette. The shack also offers a ready-to-eat pre-packaged version of its famous cheese fondue to recreate the experience at home.
BeaverTails: Served in a paper wrapper, BeaverTails are made from dough that has been stretched out to resemble a beaver’s tail. The dough is deep-fried and slathered with sweet toppings like maple syrup, peanut butter, and chocolate. The taste is similar to a donut but a finger-licking messier version.
Lauren Mack is the Special Projects Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.