Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.
I found myself in Chelsea last week, in search of white snow. Weary of the melting March mounds, crusted black and coughing up doggy detritus, I needed a reminder of how stunning early spring can be.
I found it at Les Fougeres, at a table overlooking the garden and woods beyond, the village of active bird feeders, and the snow maiden, with her mop head and lemon eyes, remarkably robust for late March. A groundhog loped by.The snow maiden at Les Fougeres. Photo by Anne DesBrisay
And crouched over a smoker, a chef who wasn’t Charles Part. But someone I knew I knew, from somewhere. Turns out it was Lucas Hornblower — he of the fabulous name! — whose food I so enjoyed at (the late) Bistro St-Jacques, now part of the Part team in Chelsea.
In addition to my search for snow, I had come to browse through Les Fougeres’ store, its freezers filled with options for dinner, shelves bulging with interesting finds, a shop that seems to me more intriguing at my every visit.
A young family friend, a freshman student at Carleton, was coming over for dinner. He’d be bringing his laundry and an appetite and had a paper to finish, he said, so he couldn’t stay for long. One or two loads worth only. I wasn’t going to fuss.
I found what I needed in the shop’s back freezer. Gourmet pizza. Particularly the one that captures all the flavours of Les Fougeres’ signature duck confit, the richly flavoured leg meat paired with spinach, goat’s cheese, pears, thyme, and with orange zest, peeled into long strips that curled and candied as they baked. And a second one, with lamb, rosemary, eggplant, sweet peppers and chevre, spread on a bechamel-coated multigrain flatbread.
The best pizza he’d ever had, he said. College kids are so smart nowadays.
Flatbread Pizza, six choices, $12.50 each
Magasin Les Fougeres, 783, Route 105, Chelsea QC, 819-827-8942