Friday, December 2, 2011

GMZ - Philouze Boulanger Pâtissier

If you can find good baguette within your usual shopping perimeter, you're golden. That said, over the years, I've come to discover that "good" baguette is a very personal thing: some like it dense, some like it light; some like a crispy crust, some like a soft one; some like it darker, some like it slightly underdone; some like a neutral flavour, some like it with a more distinct one... I could go on, but you get the idea.

So I can't really tell you about "good" baguette somewhere in the GMZ. All I can do is tell you about what's good baguette for me. Enter Philouze Boulanger Pâtissier, situated at 811 St. René Blvd in Gatineau, between de l'Hôpital Blvd and montée Paiement. The shop is on a weird bit of street; its neighbours are a pool and spa centre on one side, a print shop on the other, and the local RONA is a spitting distance away. BUT DON'T LET THIS FOOL YOU! Philouze, in my humble, bread-gobbling opinion, feels like it could have been plucked from the most idillic little European artisan village you can imagine. 

The baguette is the first element to help create the illusion. For me, it's the best in town, bar none. It's dense, crispy, sweet, baked to a perfect doneness, and, most importantly, it doesn't have the circumference of the baseball bat-sized behemoths you usually find at the grocery store. It's simply delicious. And it goes beautifully with all of the lovely products the store carries such as Québécois and French cheeses, beautiful patés and rillettes from Première Moisson in Montreal, fresh sausages that allow you to venture into the exotic with chorizo and chipolata and, most lipsmacking of all, cured meats including Corsican-style figatelli and cured chorizo from Les Cochons tout ronds, an amazing producer from Iles-de-la-Madeleine (you've GOT to try these - just be patient, they run out fast and it's sometimes a bit of a wait before the next order comes in). 

Philouze made dinner! Figatelli, Petit ménage and St-Morgon cheese.
Philouze also offers ready to eat extravagances such as pop-it-in-the-oven-and-you-have-dinner pot pies, ham and swiss flaky pastries with béchamel, pizza-foccaccia hybrids and more. Of course, they also have a beautiful pastries counter with truly delicious éclairs, religieuses, mousses, and ready-to-go cakes. Try their galette des rois around the feast of the Epiphany in January, or their Saint-Honoré cake anytime; with its rum-infused pastry cream, flaky pastry disks and cream puffs, it's fantastic (just make sure you order ahead for that one). And last but not least, run, don't walk, to get the best croissants I've been able to find on this side of the river or the other. Oh, wait, there's more: Philouze also carries specialities, local and imported, such as teas, madeleines, candies, jams, flavoured syrups and canned goods. Basically, if you've recently been to France or Belgium and you're suffering from Euro-food withdrawal, Philouze has the cure.

Finally, I can't tell you about Philouze without telling you about the staff and the owners. Service is always friendly, courteous, and highly efficient. And if you have a chance to chat with Anne-Marie Philouze - you can't miss her, she's the lovely woman who cheerfully cries "Bonjour" from behind the counter as you walk in - she will very kindly share all kinds of knowledge on how to better enjoy her shop's products (did you know, for instance, that you can stick fresh-baked croissants in the freezer, take them out 30 minutes before breakfast, and they'll still taste fresh-baked? Shocking, I know!) Every time I go to Philouze, I always leave with a big grin on my face, no matter how my day has gone. You can't buy happiness, but this place comes pretty damn close to selling it. I hope you enjoy it!

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