July 30, 2011

On importing poverty...

walking into Dessureault's fromagerie with another family we hear him tell us "Our cheese is not tested on animals." We all wondered, why would cheese be tested on say a pigeon anyway? Then laughter. That is Guy, owner of Domaine Féodal, a mixture of pied a terre, humour like political caricature and a few life lessons.

Cendré des Près-light, creamy butter taste with a maple wood ash in the center lending a slight complexity to this light bloomed cheese.

Noble. Cows milk, cream, lightly herbal, mushrooms, with very little bitter accents due we are told to the low use of rennet in the initial process.

Guillaume Tell. Guy`s unique mark. 15 days maceration in ice cider from Ace du Vignoble De Lavoie for at least fifteen days. Each meule absorbs at least 200ml. Although I was never a fan of these treatments, I have to admit that the end product is something so distinct and powerful that it is impossible to ignore this unique incredible cheese.

As always the conversation veers afar while we are talking about the price of Québec and France cheese. We tell him that at Renard artisan bistro we serve only Québec cheese, even if many French varieties are ofter cheaper. The reason that they are cheaper he tells us is that French cheese have major government subsidies to compete on the international market. Something to ponder. We wondered about this new fact. We tasted more of his cheese, with glee, and he mentions that along with Walmart, all we are really doing, if we really thought about it, is importing poverty, we nod chewing such delicious cheese, thinking, about what it is that we are really doing.....

July 25, 2011

fresh and fermented-Québec sangria!

It may not be moose hunting but there is something satisfying about picking one's own raspberries (or anything come to think of it). We drove up rang St-Jacques to La Ferme Perron, were given cute little cardboard boxes and then pointed in the berry patch's direction. Roasting in this freaky July weather. Here is the trick. Don't squeal and pick the first little red things you see. Move into the patch, further, resisting the urge, hold off a little more and then....it should feel soft between your fingers and release easily. Any resistance is no good. Leave it, or taste it, still a little sour. Basically don't do what everyone else does. The nicer ones are always further off.

Two years ago I visited La Vallée de la Framboise, in the Matapédien vallée. They make tasty refreshing alcools using raspberries, currants etc...Renard artisan bistro still orders from them for our Québec sangria. We really have no recipe, but it goes something like this

blend fresh raspberries and pass them
le Matapédien raspberry wine
a few shots of Le Brochu (raspberry and cassis liqueur)
fresh raspberries
fresh lemon balm leaves

you see where this is going, dosages according to your whims and will.

July 19, 2011

vineyards in the North, oddity in the system

Recently I have been witnessing some weird shit. One of the ingredients written on the side of a box of salt was..sugar. Or something like low sodium chicken stock! Every classic text for chicken stock will teach you that there should never be...sodium. Imitation crab? Banks? Just a few things recently that are odd and unnecessary. I found myself at Domaine Les Brome. A québecois winery. Some people say that a québecois winery should not exist, that it is in fact abnormal, an oddity in the system. We stood upon a tiny hill overlooking the vineyard and beyond a vast expanse of lakewater beckoning. Everything looked, well, pretty normal.

Inside we are told about the wide variety of cépages they grow...Vidal, Geisenheim, Seyval Blanc, Seyval noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, St-Pépin, Maréchal Foch, De Chaunac, Pinot noir, Baco noir et Cabernet Franc. Impressive. And the wine?

vidal 2008 with its faint hints of litchee, white flowers and honey, and slightly peppery is fast becoming the Quebec grape varietal.

Cuvée Charlotte, a mix of Geisenheim, Seyval and Chardonnay, lemony, slightly woody, mineral. The freshness of acidic pears, pretty good with raw scallops.

Riesling, half which is aged in oak, 2009, very light, pears on the nose, honey but maybe still a little young. Too light.

Rosé péché...of hybrids of Seyval Noir and Maréchal Foch, saignée with its nose of cassis and strawberry with a dry snap to the taste we saw this perfectly with smoked duck.

Rosé Détente...fruity, easy. Think, a well made wine cooler.

There are so many more that we tasted. Baco. De Chaunac etc...But we agreed that the better ones to serve at Renard artisan bistro were the rosés which had that freshness of the season, short as it is in hand. The industry is still young, searching, creative, crazy...which is what the creative process is about but not necessarily for those who find comfort in a bottle of France or Italy, although having drank in many a bottega.....

I began wondering if it is really strange for Québec to attempt to have vineyards. Ok, let us get over the initial elitist attitude and we accept that there will never be amazing Québec wines. Granted, most of us can perhaps agree on that. Once we also rid ourselves of a sort of 'global' mercantile approach we can maybe witness the birth of something different, more like a great expressive folk song as opposed to a universally acclaimed play, both intense nevertheless. I mean imagine Finland with vineyards.....and yet....some things are really even stranger if you pay attention.

July 5, 2011

beyond the simple pleasures de la table

The door of the Sainte-Marie-Reine-des Coeurs boutique opens wide and a sister dressed in the white habit grabs my two hands and tells me how happy that we made it. I smiled, overwhelmed by such a greeting. Then she hesitates, telling me that my accent is not so very French. No. Are you not the father of sister .... Everyone looks at me. We laugh. I tell her that we are here to buy pottery. She invites us in with a warm welcome that I am almost envious of.

As we look through the boutique sister Lux Bruna (light + St Bruno) tells us about the order which began in the 1951 in France based on Pope Pius XII the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, but they only came to Québec in 1993. The story ended there and she wanted to know all about Renard Artisan Bistro. It seemed strange describing this to her, in a place that seemed to be beyond the pleasures of the table. I picked up a plate of pure stoneware and she asked me what I would serve on it. Elk heart. She smiles. Beauty, she tells me, can be translated into objects and are there to remind us of good things. When they make the pottery they are in a constant act of prayer. I have to admit that there is something very powerful about their collection, and do not doubt that in large part it is because they are passionate, dedicated and trying. As for the simple pleasures of the table, I think that such plates and bowls are an amazing addition and is an honour to serve food on them.