I’m back. The last two months have been filled with travel, reunions, fast food, poutine (it gets its own category-lets call it ethnic super fat food) great and not so great wine, changing time zones and a mildly upset tummy.
Not the easiest of tasks moving a family of four over 10,000 km to the east but we made it in one piece. And it feels so good to be home. Not that I didn’t enjoy the three years we spent in the interior of BC. It is an incredibly beautiful region of pristine lakes, wild mountainous terrain and natural beauty with an arid, sunny climate and loads of fabulous wines. But this place, I realize now, is home.
Many images come to mind over the last two months; the incredible send offs we got from all our friends in Kelowna, the pristine, natural wonder of Bowen Island and the great cooking of Françoise, the stellar pinot noirs from Prince Edward county, Black River cheese, the ethnic diversity of Montreal and the fine home cooking of Huron county. It was all a bit quick and I was never quite sure where I was on awakening each day, but it was great fun.
One of the more interesting discoveries I made was Prince Edward county. This pres’qu’ile close to Belleville, Ontario boasts over 30 recently opened wineries, an artisan cheese producer and a score of organic farms that sell their produce as far away as Toronto. The poor, stoney limestone soil on the western end of the county is perfect for the fickle pinot noir grape. The wines have a good local reputation and within a few years could prove to be world-class.
When one puts food and Montreal together two specialties jump to the fore. The renowned beef brisket called Montreal smoked meat and the recently trendy poutine. The standard version takes crisp, golden fries then smothers them with thick beef flavoured gravy and cheddar cheese curds. This strange mélange was invented in 1957 by a creative guy named Ferdinand Lachance. He might not approve of the modern variants; Italian poutine, Mexican poutine, the T-rex and even a foie-gras poutine for the gourmet on the go. I wasn’t a fan in the past but I can see the attraction, especially after a cold day on the slopes.
Arriving back in France, however, poutine faded quickly from my mind. Even the first humble pain au chocolat that I devoured at the airport waiting for my daughter was excellent. Stunning pastry shops (I’d walk miles for a great florentine), fabulous green grocers and top artisan butchers are encountered throughout the city of lights.
By the end of a long Saturday afternoon walkabout that stretched past dusk to darkness we were famished, tired and a touch désagréable. But Sylvain, our host, insisted our sore muscles and aching feet would vanish after dinner at Chez Chartier. And he was bang on.
This storied 114 years old Bistro serves up simple, well prepared bistro classics at very affordable prices: veau normande, tête de veau, escargots, raie au beurre noir, ile flottante and even compôte de pomme. Serious French comfort food, quoi! And the menu tops out at 13€50 for roasted sea bass with fennel.
Not the best bistro in Paris but perhaps the one that transports the guest to a time of horse-drawn carriages, mustachioed gentlemen and ladies of the evening. A must do in Paris. Highly recommended. 7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, tel: 01 47 70 86 29, to reserve write to firstname.lastname@example.org
After a lazy Sunday picnicking in the Parc de Vincennes and an exciting World Cup final, we boarded the TGV to Avignon to begin the last leg of a long journey. The grey, rather damp day was perfect for daydreaming. Images of smiling faces, heartfelt reunions, tall trees and a certain small dog swept by as quickly as the blurry French countryside. In what seemed like an instant, the sun was shining and the train was slowing into Avignon. After a teary reunion with friends we and our bags were loaded into two small vans, direction St. Quentin. A red and white Canadian chapter of my life was closing and a more sensual, chaotic and vibrant French one beginning.