The Lyonnais can’t eat like this every night, can they? Well, Quebec certainly seems more than capable. Channelling the joie de manger of Lyon’s famous bouchons – Beaujolais and cochonaille and checkered tablecloths for everyone! – Louis Bouchard Trudeau and Thania Goyette have expanded their modest Pied Bleu charcuterie counter into one of the most convivial, playful, unabashedly fun dining experiences I’ve had anywhere in North America.
As you sit beneath lampshades made from upturned metal pails and admire the antique 1947 Moffat oven against the wall, a parade of a half-dozen lovely cold salads arrive à table in giant white bowls. Devour as much creamy julienne of celeriac as you want, but I would advise you to save room for the plate of tender-crisp purple artichoke hearts with foie gras and green beans, an outdated Lyonnais classic brought back from the dead. Resurrection never tasted so good.
Just when we think the meal might be ending, sommelier Alexis Hudon lines up a dangerous dozen-strong fleet of potent potables – VSOP Bas-Armagnac, Vieille Prune plum brandy, organic Quebec honey wine – along with two adorable antique crystal stems. And then he leaves us to our devices. “Just try to remember how many you’ve had.”
Sure enough, a sharp hit of Poire William (was it three glasses or four?) is like smelling salts for the gut, sending me back to the all-you-can-eat dessert buffet for one more slice of pie. Chef Bouchard Trudeau sidles up with his own tiny glass and pours himself a Calvados. “Eating makes people feel good, doesn’t it?” he says. Spoken like a true Lyonnais who just happens to be a Quebecer.
SWEET DEAL: Le Bouchon du Pied Bleu’s dessert buffet
It took three strong men to carry in the maple butcher’s block upon which Le Bouchon du Pied Bleu’s self-serve desserts are displayed. “Our place is all about sharing,” says Thania Goyette, proprietor and chief pastry maker. Grab a plate from Goyette’s antique collection, and go to town.
- BUTTER PLUS: Adding fat to butter? Whether duck fat (Supply and Demand) or barbecue drippings (Electric Mud BBQ), we say the more, the merrier.
- FOOD-FRIENDLY REDS: Versatile, high-acid, low-tannin red grapes, like zweigelt, lacrima, frappato and gamay, have moved to the top of the sommelier’s speed-dial list. Don’t call us, cab sauv, we’ll call you.
- LAMB BELLY: The new pork belly.
- SMALL PLATES, SMALLER TABLES: If you’re going to ask us to order four dishes per person to share, you’d better have a plan for where to put them. Yes, we are still working on all of these.
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“Clafoutis, made from a flanlike batter dotted with fresh fruit, is baked in a ceramic dish. The cherry version is Goyette’s go-to, but pear and fig enter the mix from time to time.”
“Local plums – whatever variety is in season – marinate in gamay from Beaujolais and absorb a spicy kick from star anise and black peppercorns.”
“For her peanut-butter brownies and cookies, Goyette doesn’t use store-bought peanut butter; she grinds her own in a blender, “grandmother-style.””
“The Bouchon’s twist on the French classic, Île flottante: meringues bobbing in a base of crème anglaise.”
“Custardy crème caramel makes a regular appearance on the dessert list.”
“Whipped cream, subtly flavoured with maple syrup, is perfect for the all-butter pies like our favourite with a moist grape filling.”
“Wedges of praline tart come spread with a not-too-sweet almond paste. The colour, verging on crimson, evokes Lyon’s famous pink pralines.”