The city of Montréal draws a lot of affection and interest from people all over the world! North Americans, especially, are struck by its European charm, and appearance — it seems, indeed, like a piece of Europe, stuck in North America! And, it’s not just the appearance of the buildings, the streets and the French language signs everywhere, but the fantastic food choices from the continent that abound here, amongst other things! If you live here long enough it’s possible that you may become pretty selective in your everyday food choices, and with a little experience are able to distinguish between the excellent and the ordinary. Let’s take something as common as bread, for instance. Why would I buy an ordinary loaf sold in a grocery store, when there are ‘artisan bakeries’ (boulangerie artisanale) where the bread is made by skilled craftsmen who make high-quality and distinctive product in small quantities. (And yes, they exist in many towns and cities, but not as plentiful as here.)
One of my favorites is ‘fougasse d’olives noires’ — a kind of bread stuffed with black olives, and this one is also spiked with rosemary — super special :)! This isn’t your breakfast bread to make toasts with. Just take a look at the left, and see what I bought today from the specialty food store, Fou d’ici — the name is roughly meant to imply ‘crazy about local produce’, its owner had explained, when the store first opened in 2011.
The fougasse* is traditionally from Provence, and may be found baked with cheese, olives or anchovies. Some versions are sculpted or slashed into patterns resembling an ear of wheat, and some like a leaf, as shown in the pictures. It has many similar sounding ‘cousins’ in almost all European countries, with a slight variation in recipes and names.
A fougasse d’olives noires is perfect with some good quality extra virgin olive oil, for dipping — here’s some in the picture, in my favorite oil dipping dish, with a puddle of aged balsamic vinegar. In fact, I’d bought some cheese as well to eat it with but didn’t even get to open it! Bon appetit!**
*Fougasse (pronounced foo-gahss) was traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven. The time it would take to bake gave an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread could be loaded.
**Bon appetit – This is what the French say to their companions before beginning to eat! This lovely expression literally mean ‘good appetite’ but freely translated says, ‘Enjoy your meal!’ We should all use these niceties more often, I think! 🙂