While some newspapers may claim that Quebec cuisine is still a victim of stereotypes, Quebecers know that our cuisine is striving. Case in point? Our Montreal just hosted for a third year in a row the reputable Omnivore World Tour food festival.
Omnivore is an organization that uncovers and celebrates young cuisine, in France and around the world, through publications and an insane food festival that travels from city to city. The festival’s programming includes a number of cooking demos, foodgasmic parties (which I’ll provide a photo-heavy coverage of in the next post. prepare.) and, last but not least, a series of once-in-a-lifetime dinners. Dubbed “maudits soupers”, these uniquely created menus couple a local up-and-coming chef with an international counterpart, specially imported for the occasion.
And I was a hell of a lucky lady to be able to attend a souper right in my own ‘hood.
Master Pastry Chef at an establishment (his own) that carries his name, Patrice could well be an official spokesperson for Eater, judging by the frequency with which they feature him. Florent, the man with the rebellious topknot and the shoulders of a rugbyman, is also a proud new owner of an establishment in the North of France, which, hold on to your seat, just got Michelin rated. Both advocates of local cuisine, but with differing styles, their pairing promised to be a unique synergy, with the soignée Québécois meeting the wild Frenchman.The program for the evening was a 6-course menu that kicked off with a duo of amuses-bouches: oysters from Florent, poultry liver mousse from Patrice.
Unlike the usual strong tasting mignonette, Florent used delicate 25-year aged xérès vinegar to ornament its shell-bearing mollusks. This had the effect of bringing out the meat’s plumpy-ness while toning down its saltiness. With the result was a light, sweet, and
The mousse, velvety as we hoped it would be, was mounted in floors of various textures. Biting into it, we were offered a fun sense experience as the crispiness of the cracker and the crunch of the radish said hello to the smoothness of the mousse.
An entrée tiède followed: raw mackerel garnished with cucumbers, concord grapes and tarragon. The fish, from la Gaspésie, had a creamy rich smoothness and, despite what many may fear, a pronounced but not fishy taste. The grapes brought a hint of acidity to the plate, while the herb and the gourd freshened it all up. After handing over, half-heartedly, my empty plate, I looked over at the menu to see what was next. “Corn, coppa and potatoes,” it said. Translation: a mountain of fine baked potatoes, covered with stripes of capicola, and finished with droplets of corn cream. It was definitely a lot of potato for my itty bitty self, but what can I say, Patrice has a generous disposition. The organic cured meat, from Kamouraska, was a beautiful bright red and pinkish-white (le fat). Just salty enough, it gave the potatoes that savory side we all crave. The root vegetable was both crisp and cooked, allowing us to contrast its different textures. Same for the corn, creamed and natural, which made us experience two variations of sweetness. Before jumping to the next course, a word must be said about the bread and butter. Listen to this: whipped butter salted with Maldon sea salt. What can I say – divine! We’ve all eaten a lot of salt in our lives, me especially, but I’m telling you that this salt is unique. From the British city of Maldon, the flaky salt has an intensity of flavor like no other. The salty butter, spread on Hof Kelsten bread, turned into a spongy guilty pleasure I could repeat indefinitely. While waiting for the main course, Marie-Josée, the sommelier and also co-mastermind of Patrice Pâtissier, came by. She suggested I try the 2010 AmByth Estate Adamo, a certified biodynamic wine made from foot stomp grapes, Native Yeast, and kept far away from any additives. And boy did we ever find pleasure in it. Clean on the nose, it had a richer, darker, fruity side on the palate. It’s the sort of wine I imagine Hilary Swank would enjoy: feminine, assertive. It needed to be assertive because the plat de résistence was quite a showstopper.
Half a barbequed onion, stuffed with leafs of lambs half cooked by conduction. The meat and juice that it produced? Tasty and with depth. To those who wonder how does one comes up with such an idea, here’s Florent’s story. His initial idea was to prepare small onions stuffed with tartar. Surprised by the size of our vegetables while getting groceries at Atwater Market, he then changed to a more rustic concept with a stronger vegetable presence and, to match that, thicker slices of lamb. Sea beans were hidden under the dome for a salty side and a good crunch finished the creation. When the time came for desert, as you might expect, we were in for a treat. The presentation was such a beauty that even the man sitting on my left encouraged me to immortalize it adequately: “Too pretty to eat. Keep on taking pictures.” A Chantilly folded with white chocolate, our serving came with a spoonful of strawberry sorbet, beet meringues and a sprinkle of rose powder. The sorbet, placed on top, melted into the Chantilly (rather than into an uncontrollable lake at the bottom of the plate; quite clever). What is there to say about the Chantilly itself? Darling, you’ll just have pay Patrice a visit and try it for yourself. Pictures below. I guarantee collateral damage if you try resisting. That was part one. Part two was equally gorgeous. From the praline and the ice cream, to the crumble and the oil, not to mention the sprouts and petals, everything was an ode to the sunflower. Sweeter than the previous treat, it also came, appropriately, as a smaller portion.More than content, my newly made friend and I were about to leave when the staff came by with, last but not least, the ultimate treat of all: Patrice’s notorious puffs. Legend has it that he developed a unique process to make these light and airy. A real delight they were and a beautiful ending note for a lovely evening. The head to head between Patrice Demers and Florent Layden promised a unique journey for the senses. And so it was. With a much-balanced menu, the pair conveyed a common care for food and a desire to push its development forward. Not sure how long young cuisine can qualify as young,but if it were me, I’d simply hope it never gets old.
On a last note, I should mention the most pleasant encounter I had that evening. Straight from Quebec City, Heloise educated me on textures and flavours. If you read French (or are looking for a fun way to learn), I’d highly recommend you check out her food writing. Link can be found here.
All in all, a wonderful evening. If you happen to have missed Omnivore, it will be back next year. Or you can fly to Sydney next month, where it’s set to take place next.
PATRICE PATISSIER: 2360, rue Notre-Dame Ouest (Québec) H3J 1N4
AUBERGE DU VERT-MOND: Le Vert Mont – Auberge de campagne, 1318 rue du Mont Noir, 59299 – BOESCHEPE, 03.28.49.41.26
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