City Bites

EAT THIS: Strawberries, sausages, pizza, and homegrown vegetables — a guide to good eats in Aylmer, Quebec

Inspiring and delicious: Hyper-local vegetables and urban farming in Aylmer

Last Saturday morning I was on a quest for fresh local strawberries and my research led me to Alymer, Quebec. I live in Ottawa’s west end so it was as easy as crossing the Champlain Bridge and hanging a left. I was in Alymer within minutes. Who knew there would be so many wonderful foodie surprises? Here’s a whistle-stop tour of three great food finds in Vieux Aylmer, that are right on the way to the pick-your-own berry farm.

Everyone in Aylmer seems to know what's coming out of the oven at 11:30.

STOP#1: Boulangerie Aux Deux Frères (146, rue Principale) is an artisanal bakery run by brothers Etienne and Emmanuel Lavoie. Bread baking apparently runs in the family — their father is Alain, the now-retired former owner of Boulangerie Pain d’Alain in Hull. It was breakfast time so I bought a warm walnut sourdough and some buttery French pastries to take home. After chatting with a few regulars, I discovered that the magic hour for this bakery is 11:30 a.m. when huge slabs of pizza topped with tons of chunky fresh vegetables emerge from the ovens. I peeked in the kitchen and saw the impressive pans of pizza being prepared. Walnuts, spinach, red onion, and cranberries were being heaped onto a crust made with the same long-fermented dough as their baguettes. I already had lunch plans but I will definitely be back. I’ve got my eye on the pissaladière. The bakery is closed Mondays and Tuesdays; Wed-Fri 9am-6pm; Sat-Sun 9am- 5pm.

STOP #2: You’ve heard of the 100-km diet, how about the 2-km diet? That’s the dream of Anne Janssen, who calls herself an urban farmer. She is the mastermind behind Aylmer Backyard Farms a volunteer-run operation dedicated to growing organic vegetables, herbs, and plants in three Aylmer yards, all plots totaling about ¼ of an acre. In 2010 she launched a community project that includes a CSA (this year she feeds 16 “shareholders” with weekly baskets of homegrown goodies) and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm, Janssen sells vegetables on the porch of Boulangerie Aux Deux Freres, less than 2 km from where everything is grown. She also sells mason jars of Andrew’s Granola (Andrew is her husband), a wonderful sesame-studded blend of organic oats, nuts, and seeds made with local sunflower oil and local honey. A one-litre mason jar costs $8.75.

STOP #3: When you walk into La Maison William J. Walter (104, rue Principale, 819-557-0626) you won’t believe your eyes. The sheer variety of sausages on display is truly astounding. There’s lamb, duck, deer, turkey, chicken, veal, and boar, but it’s the flavour combinations that really impressed me. Imagine Bison Chocolate Port (it really contains 70% dark chocolate), Lime and Coriander (my favourite!), Goat’s Cheese and Mango, Ginger and Orange as well as long-smoked pork and veal sausages stuffed with bacon and cheddar. These are just the handful I sampled — there were dozens more. The shop feels like an independent gourmet food boutique, but apparently it’s a family-owned company with 30 locations across Quebec. More than just sausages, they have the most extensive collection of Epices de Cru spices that I’ve seen outside of Montreal, as well as other unique Quebec products like Naked Lunch duck smoked meat in a can and frozen items from Le Fougères.

STOP #4: Potager Eardley is a fruit and vegetable grower that welcomes visitors to pick their own berries as well as offering seasonal produce (not to mention homemade gelato and frozen yoghurt) for sale in the shop. I took home an enormous basked of the sweetest, juiciest strawberries imaginable. I’m not ashamed to say, all were devoured within 24 hours. Now I have a great excuse to go back. Address: 398 chemin Eardley, 5 km from the centre of Aylmer; Open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am – 8 pm and on weekends from 8:30 am to 5:30.