This story originally appeared in Ottawa Magazine’s October edition. Order your copy here.
By Cindy Deachman
Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou, Seckle — and, apparently, a new cultivar of Canadian pear, Harovin Sundown, will show up on supermarket shelves by 2015. Crisp Asian and Ya pears seem completely different animals in that you can count on them for lasting crunch. The North American and European pears, on the other hand, can be devils when it comes to a satisfying ripeness.
First, buy them unripe. Once home, keep the pears separate, none touching another, to avoid bruises and cuts (there’s a reason shops wrap the fruit in paper). Then you must keep an eye on them. Please leave fingers out of it: meddling means damage to this fragile fruit. Wait and wait — their colour will gradually transform. According to British pear expert R.H.L. Gunyon, “It may be necessary to get up at 3 a.m. to find absolute perfection.” Ultimately, the pear should be not too soft but still giving, the aroma rich, and the flavour sweet but also proportionately acidic. Finally, if you can bear such impropriety, let the juice run down your chin. An exquisite pear! For delicious elaborations on this delicacy, enjoy visits to restaurants, bistros, and ready-to-go procurers.
Here’s a pear tartlet done in classic French style, albeit with a ground almond frangipani filling filched from Italy, in turn most likely stolen from the Middle East (think of baklava). Find these handsomely caramelized pear tartlets at Benny’s Bistro. Theirs stand out in that crème anglaise is folded into the frangipani for a not too sweet lightness. Roasted sliced pear is embedded on top. The contrast with the sweet crunchiness of the pâte sablée shell leaves us in no doubt that we’re living in the lap of luxury. So let’s have another, shall we? $8. Benny’s Bistro, 119 Murray St., 613-789-6797.
Duck Confit, Pear, and Goat Cheese Pizza
Les Fougères chef and co-owner Charles Part remembers how this pizza evolved — all components are part of a duck confit plate. And after five years, this pizza is one of their biggest sellers. Description? Well, the thin, thin crust (rectangular rather than round) is all crunchy-edged. As for flavour, the sweet duck confit matches the salty chèvre perfectly. Pears bring forth delicious fruitiness. Spinach, cooked, is strewn over all, making for a riotous combo that still keeps its balance. Keep some in the freezer for unusual party canapés or just plain snacks. As Part says, “You never know who’s gonna pop by!” $10.50. Les Fougères, 783, rte. 105, Chelsea, 819-827-2837.
Pear William Truffle
Used to be that Pear William liqueur was started by popping a just-fruited, still-on-the-tree Williams pear (known as the Bartlett in North America) into a bottle propped up with sticks on the ground and stoppered with wax to keep insects out. Times have changed, but the liqueur is still delightful. Even more so when made into truffles. Heinrich Stubbe, owner of Stubbe Chocolates on Dalhousie Street, says, “Every fruity truffle here uses real fruit.” He mixes pear purée with butter, cream, white chocolate, and the Pear William. And so a dark chocolate shell yields to a creamy centre with the bright, fresh flavour of pears. $1.50. Stubbe Chocolates, 375 Dalhousie St., 613-241-1040.