Montreal Highlights Festival

Montréal Highlights Festival

For the last two weeks of February, Montreal lights up with culinary activity with an array of events, visiting chefs and etc. The themes this year are: visiting country Switzerland; city Washington DC, Que region -Lanaudiere, hurrah..  

A few dates featuring Les Jardins Sauvages

February 21, 22 :  A taste and meet with the producers of our region at Jean Talon Market on the second floor as of 9 :30am

February 22,  2pm : A workshop/recipe with chef Nancy Hinton at Jean Talon Market, 2nd floor

February 24 : Special event dinner at Restaurant Le 400 coups where Nancy&François will be collaborating with Chef Guillaume Cantin’s team for a 4 course wild menu featuring our products

Festival Programming


Mushroom aroma Magic

The magical world of mushroom aromas - A lot of je ne sais quoi

Tis the season. I am processing hundreds of pounds of mushrooms every week – cleaning, slicing, dehydrating, blanching or cooking, pickling etc. A ton down now, with another ton to go, I am living in a mushroom cloud. Boletes, Chanterelles, Hen of the Woods, Puffball, Hedgehog, Yellowfoots, Matsutake are all perfuming my kitchen, headspace, car, curtains  and clothes..

Some of my Mushrooms in pics..

After all these years at Les Jardins Sauvages, I know the 30+ varieties that we harvest intimately, and I am enchanted by their heady scents year after year.. I have a good nose but always have a hard time nailing the damn shrooms with words, reminding me of my first winetasting class. They are not only mysterious and elusive in the woods, but on the palette – each one characteristic and complex, so hard to pin down.

Unmistakable, unique, nothing smells like Matsutake mushrooms  for instance. Fresh, in the oven or dehydrator, they are seriously intoxicating on different levels. Cinnamon and Flowers definitely; one year I noted violets/lilacs, this year I say rose ?? plus a lot of je ne sais quoi..

My car still harbours the lingering odor of freshly picked baskets of porcini from a week ago - another mushroom that leaves its mark. Fragrantly earthy, nutty and sweet smelling, even better in the pan or yet the dehydrator, where an entirely different set of aromas develop: vanilla, soy, coffee and spice. Hen of the woods roast up like chicken and corn, wild oysters like almonds and chicken. Others smell like walnuts or citrus (Delicious Lactarius!), it’s crazy. Puffball can be pungent and black trumpets musky but like with cheese or truffle, there is such a thing as 'good stink' that translates into great taste.

When cooking, the aroma notes like 'chicken' are often associated with the Maillard reaction (caramelising sugars & protein) mixed in with what I call the forest (piney/woodsy/nutty etc). However, with many shrooms, especially in the bolete family, once dried, you get a whole other family of increasingly complex, often exotic aromas that you don’t get fresh or cooked – fruity flavours, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, butter, coconut on top of the nuts and earthy notes. This last group I call ‘sweet’ because I associate them with dessert. The red mouthed bolete, larch bolete, slippery jack and Maple scented Lactarious are incredible naturals in the sweet kitchen.

There is something hauntingly addictive about wild mushrooms. Many nature lovers get hooked in the hunt, whereas with cooks and gourmands, it is at the stove and table. Beyond their deliciousness, nutritional content and newfound medicinal properties, they win you over with their mystical aromas. Then with their flavours of course and omnipresent umami kicking in with protein and minerals, texture and mouthfeel, plus whatever bonus the accompanying recipe delivers. Mushrooms are fine dance partners, pairing well with a delicate fish or slab of red meat; they can jazz up a sidedish or take the leading role in a pasta, tagine or risotto, ice cream or cookie. There is a mushroom for everything.

I obviously love my shrooms and I have picked them apart, figuring out which ones are best cooked or dried, braised or roasted, pickled or candied, steeped or pulverized. I spend a lot of time cooking them and teaching people how to prepare them. Everyone wants to know how to pick and cook, but it’s the aromas that fascinate me most. I know them almost better than my family, but I have just about given up trying to describe their nuances. A few years ago, I had employees participating in my little shroom sniffing exercise like a wine tasting, but it got me nowhere beyond laughs. Ok it smells like my grandma’s apple pie (so you mean apple and cinnamon?, I guess).  I look at my notes from the early years and I see ‘maple’ for chanterelles or ‘pine nut’ for matsutake.. And this is true, but now I’m no longer objective, I know them too well, it’s that they just smell like themselves, like a ‘Chanterelle’ or a ‘Matsutake’, as a pear smells like a pear and an orange an orange.

And I guess, that’s enough for me. I’m at an age that I have no problem accepting some magic and ‘je ne sais quoi’ in seeking out and understanding the truth about things. There was a time too when I was bent on figuring out what molecule (a protein I thought) in certain boletes that creates a solid emulsion, to hear from a scientist that it was probably a complex saccharide of some kind;  anyhow now I've moved on, comfortable with what I understand, able to exploit or avoid its emulsifying properties without delving into the chemistry. 

Plainly viscerally, I have simply discovered a marvelous world of aromas with mushrooms that few people are aware of. I might be done with over analysing, but I do encourage you to sniff your mushrooms.. And I can’t help but think François Chartier would have fun attacking this one day. Let’s just say that a mushroom is not a mushroom and any one way more complex than a stick of celery or stalk of rosemary.  


My Stupid Mushroom aroma notes


Agarics Champêtre                  very mushroomy, toast, fruity chocolate (cherry blossom), truffle

Armillaire Ventru                      mild but with a bite, toothsome texture, nutty, ostie/church wafer; chemical off notes with high heat; dried: fruitcake, spice, citrus

Bolet baie                                buttery, fruity, excellent, rare (boohoo)

Bolet insigne                            moka, molasses, hickory

Bolet jaune                              toffee, vanilla, coconut, butter

Bolet orangé                            roasted nuts, major floral component 

Bolet à Pied Glabrescent          fragrant, subtley floral, honey, caramel, green nutty as in stone fruit pit, caramilk

Bolet à Pied rouge                   very fruity, vanilla, chocolate, playdo

Cepes                                     aromatic and meaty (roast beef), soy, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg

Cèpe des Mélèize                    very sweet, moka, chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, strawberry ice cream

Chanterelles                             maple syrup, almonds

Chanterelles Clavaires  earthy, meaty, maple syrup, almonds and coconut

Chanterelles en Tubes  hot milk, cappucino, caramel

Coprins                                   meaty, woodsy, walnuts, long cooking best

Hygophores                             apricots, chicoutai

Lactaire Délicieux                    brittle, delicate, floral, walnuts, citrus

Lactaire couleur de sui citrus, flowers

Lepiote lisse                            mushroomy, much umami, soy, nuts

Lobster mushroom                   firm texture, not much flavour, but yes lobster, earth, fresh esp dried: fresh, coconut

Matsutake                               particularly aromatic, unique: floral, fruity and earthy all at once, chewy texture, citrus, pine nut

Mousserons                             supremely delicate, coffee, honey, citrus, bitter almond,                                                           kirch

Morilles                                   deep and earthy, musty, intense but subtle, truffle, coffee, spice, chocolate, oreo cookie

Pied bleu                                 Strong, meaty, nutty, sapin, peppery, vegetal

Pied de mouton                        Mushroomy but fresh, acid, buttery even cheesy, cook low heat, dried: butterscotch, almond paste

Pleurotes(automne)                  delicate, almonds, bbq chicken

Polypore Souffré                     Watermelon, lilacs, corn, lemon

Polypore Poule des bois          Delicate, chewy, melon, corn, roasted chicken, almonds

Trompette de la Mort               Sweet and deeply earthy but fresh, complex, truffle, licorice, beurre noisette


How to change the world through food?

I was asked by Eater Mtl for my thoughts on ‘How to change the world through food?’ as a local annexe to a global feature on ideas for change on Eater.

Here is the unabridged version of my reply..

Yikes, a loaded question that I attack more wearily than say 15yrs ago when I was a young chef caught up in Quebec’s burgeoning cuisine de terroir. Inspired by Alice Waters (and our Quebec version, Anne Desjardins), I was embracing Slowfood, Fair-Trade  and sustainable  fish, I was dating a forager, hanging out with farmers, devouring documentaries and books that denounced the problems with our food system and offered solutions.. It all made me hopeful that life was rosy for the future of food in the world.


Despite the promising wave of interest in everything food, artisans are struggling more than ever and there is even more hunger in the world, a widening gap between rich and poor. All those books I read & documentaries seem to have vanished in a void. Thanks surely to the parallel growth/stronghold of the industrial system and big business, which I am convinced is not the answer.

So, THE ONE BORING THING I have to say to everyone in the western world is SPEND MORE on your food. Yes, as in $$ /% of income  (less on other stuff like shoes and Iphones etc).  But at least investment in terms of TIME and EFFORT. As in Sourcing & Shopping (farmer’s markets over superstores), or growing, connecting with people who do.  Not everyone needs to be out gardening or foraging for greens, but peeling your carrots is a minimum. Opting out of big ag and supporting local. Choosing Fair trade for imported, Café Rico over Nestle. Voting with your dietary dollar. Cooking real food and putting up.

This is the time of year to be revelling in the beauty of local harvests and investing for the winter. Celebrate abundance in season with J.Remillard at Jean Talon Market.. For example, a bunch of his green onions is the equivalent of 10 from the supermarket, same price and fresh, 25lb of root veg for your winter or a bushel of tomatoes for peanuts, check out my basil plant below. Learning to shop is the best thing you can do. Think less but better. Share a cow with neighbours or buy natural meat at Price Noir. Treat yourself to Quebec cheese.

Plus Spend More time at the table so that it’s worth it. You do not have to be rich to eat well, it’s often about priorities, planning..

Why do I think Spending More is the best way to positively change the world through food?

Win/win. It tastes and feels better. It spurs local economies. Everyone worldwide benefits from being  more self-sufficient, closer to the land  and community. For stronger communities, healthier soil, bees and biodiversity, a sustainable, traceable fresh food supply, we want Mother Nature on our side..

Especially that at the end of the day, it makes for food that is simply more delicious and healthy; it pays off! Quality of life/Joie de vivre is a major bonus of investing in your daily meals. Beyond wholesome, when food is pleasure, meaningful and soulful, it really does impact  lives. And once on the bandwagon of real good food that is ethical too, you do not go off, no matter how hard you have to work for it – holes in your socks, leaky roof, crappy car.

I have been preaching and blogging this for ever, now I just do my own thing. And that’s what everyone has to do. For their own good, and it just might slowly make the world a better place.


Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 03:56AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Spring and early summer greens

Well, that's what my article is about, fiddlheads and spring/early summer wild greens.

I wish they hadn't edited out that you need to cook the fiddleheads (boil/blanch/steam) before sautéeing and seasoning, but otherwise, all good.  One of my favourite pics of fiddleheads and François.

I also love my recipe for green soup that I use all the time so many variations..

And there is a host of other interesting articles there for bonus foodie reading..

Slowly changing seasons; winter to spring

The air is still nippy but the sun is shining; icebergs and tree trunks whiz by, the swollen river noisily confirming that this crazy winter is finally over; the sap is running and spring/summer is around the corner, weehoo.

A quick peekaboo to the spring edibles ahead.. In case you want to jump foreward and skip my rehashing the winter..

The winter wasn't all bad in retrospect; here are a few highlights (besides my glorious time snowshoeing in the woods which might be less of interest) winter snapshots

  • ·I discovered dehydrated onions - delicious as a snack (and healthy!) - straight up naturally salty and sweet with kick, very addictive.. Also nifty jarred for convenient home cooking (to flavour a soup or sauce, say..). All you need is a basic dehydrator (as in Country Harvest from Cdn tire) and a bag of spanish(type) onions to be won over.
  •  We cooked up our lama and loved it. Very much like young pastured beef/grainfed veal. Wish someone else would raise some.
  •   We ate a lot of oysters (and hence a lot of Rockefeller mix too). We like our oysters raw, but it was cold so we did half half. I was reminded of what a versatile recipe this is, adding mushrooms and other vegetables, using it not just for oysters but on pizza and in casseroles. A template for inspiration to riff on with the seasons, I will keep it in mind long after oyster season is done.. See below.
  •  I made a whack of soup, true to my monicker. Maybe it was the bone-chilling weather that made my soup a hot commodity. Our soups, prepared dishes and frozen sous-vide vegetables & mushrooms sold better this winter at the market too – you can see that a certain clientele is eager to shop local in winter.  Customers also seem to like the ‘ready to eat/just reheat’ aspect as much as the ‘local & wild even in winter’ thing. And they are surprised to see the quality unaffected by our putting up process. Especially with the fiddleheads, some said they would buy them like this even in season to avoid having to precook them themselves!
  • Whole braised rabbit - I rediscovered rabbit (since last year). But this time, I have a new local producer and thanks to my sister Maggie whom I watched cook it whole with success, I was inspired to ditch my former cheffy treatment of deboning, stuffing the saddles for sous-vide/roast and braising/confiting the legs separately, adopting her braise whole approach. A sear on all sides for browning, then deglaze, add mirepoix etc. and bake slow for hours. Much simpler, and better since those tough flank bits just dissolve. You pull it all off the bone and mix in with the super tasty sauce, and it will please even the pickiest eater (just tell them it's chicken if you have to, although I hate that - because anyone should just be pleased to eat better quality meat).
  •  Favourite tisane/medicinal plants: Burdock and Nettle (any time tonic), Green oat (by day) and Lemon Verbena or Labrador tea (by night). I got into Sapin Baumier for a spell, not for its purifier/tonic/disinfectant/pulmonary attributes but mostly because it was wintery and delicous. But then I suspected I might be reacting to it, so I gave it a pause..
  • Humble pie lesson wrt medicinal plants& natural remedies – I learnt that it is prudent to not be overzealous and fearless about dosage and random combinations. However studied, and only using myself as a guinea pig, the resulting cocktail can end up with consequences more severe than any experimentation in the kitchen.. Mental note: I have twenty years full time experience in the kitchen and only a couple part time with medicinal plants and essential oils. However, I have mastered several ointments and remedies, tried and true with my face & body cream, cold medicine, mouthwash, toothpaste, soap, house cleaner and a line of perfumes. Fun stuff.
  •  Best restaurant meal: At Le Serpent in Old Montreal, definitely.
  •  Best reading (magazine): The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollen in the New Yorker (see my B&B Feb)
  •  Best book purchases: Une histoire du Québec, racontée par Jacques Lacoursières; Power Plants, by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde (also best author names!)
  •  Biggest waste of time: Following the provincial election campaign in March

Now even this winter lover is officially ready to move on.

Although we do quite well in winter between our preserves and Daignault's fabulous hot-house greens being diehard daily veghead-salad eaters, there is nothing like the crispy crunch and aroma of fresh wild greens and vegetables. So yes, we are eager for the growing season. A good three weeks later than in previous years, it would be good to get the business rolling again.. With the river so high, we will have to fix our poor bridge which took a beating this spring, in order to get to many of our goodies. François has his boot suit out but the river needs to subside still.

Here's looking ahead to May when our race with nature will start in earnest: The first greens to show up are usually day lily sprouts in our yard and trout lily in the woods. Then the nettle and ramps; also spring beauty and ulvulaire, then dandelion, linden and violet, all for the makings of a great zesty salad.. The kind of food our body craves at this time of year. Hopefully, it will go down something like this:

Or this: A slideshow of wild spring edibles à Les Jardins Sauvages..

Soon enough, of course, the fiddleheads will follow - our star of spring!

And no, you don't need to be afraid of fiddleheads - so nutritious and versatile. Just eat fresh, wash and cook in lots of boiling water before seasoning or adding to any dish.  For quality sourcing, we will have two stalls at Jean Talon market this year for the season! Here is an easy recipe:

Fiddleheads with garlic, cider vinegar and tamari: Wash and blanch for 5min in lots of boiling water, refresh and drain. Sauté with garlic, olive oil and a touch of butter, add a filet of tamari and cider vinegar, s&p. Serve as an accompaniement or to top a composed salad. Add to an omelette, pasta dish, or chop up and make my Rockefeller mix.

If you want more on fiddleheads:

Or if you’re wondering why I am not going on about ramps:

Been there done that too often in the past. Yes, yummy but not the end of the world. Not to mention that we have the government agency on our ass every spring in case we might have a whiff of a ramp on a menu despite our sustainable source and knowledge, while urban chefs have ramps all over the place without either. In New York and Ontario, you still see uprooted ramps at public markets! Meanwhile, they are illegal in Quebec for that reason, because they were overharvested, a few idiots wrecking it for everybody. Although not exploited for our business, we will certainly harvest a few bulbs from the abundance on our property for home cooking, but mostly we are happy with the leaves.. We take advantage at the end of the cycle to garnish salads and just about any dish, making pesto for the winter.. 


Nancy’s Mushroom Rockefeller mix

This is a classic prep for me, kind of a like Rockefeller mix for oysters but with mushrooms. In May, I will swap the mushrooms for fiddleheads and in July with sea spinach. In winter, we eat a lot of oysters so I always have a batch on hand. I also use it to top crostini or pizza, to stuff crepes or as a layer in a gratin or lasagne.. Simply add more eggs and a touch of milk and it’s a frittata or omelette. Add more liquid and macaroni, top with cheese and its mac’n cheese or the binder for a gratin.  It's really a template for inspiration, a starting point.

With fiddlheads, blanch and chop, proceed to step 2.

1c or 12p

200g fresh mushrooms (of choice: eg. chanterelles, oyster, matsutake, lobster, button..), chopped

100g sea spinach, blanched and chopped (or spinach)

2 strips par cooked bacon, minced (optional)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

2 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

pinch chilli, pinch thyme

1 tablespoon (15 mL) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (60 mL) white wine

1/2c (125ml) whipping cream (35 per cent) for cooking

100g (1/2c) grated cheese (Menestrel or other mild aged cow’s milk cheese like even cheddar)

1 large egg (or two)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Drops soy sauce and worchestershire, tabasco

Juice of ½ lemon or drops cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped herbs (chives, parsley, dill or basil)

Baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Or 2 dz oysters


1. Wipe mushrooms clean. If mushrooms look dirty, immerse them briefly in a large container of cold water. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the container. Then scoop them out of the water in a sieve or colander, transfer to a towel and spread out to dry or pat dry before cooking.

In a wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot. Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to colour. If they are wet or release juices, keep the heat at medium-high, otherwise lower heat to medium, stirring often.

2. Add shallot and butter and continue cooking a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are uniformly coloured and cooked through, about five minutes. Add garlic for a minute.

3. Add wine and boil gently, uncovered until it has almost evaporated. Add cream and stir frequently until sauce thickens. Turn off heat. Add sea spinach, bacon and cheese. Add egg while stirring. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice/cider vinegar, a touch of soy and worchestershire, Tabasco..

4. Spread mushroom mix on baguette slices, dry or toasted bread and broil for 3-5 minutes until golden. Garnish with fresh tomato in season.

Or stuff oysters and broil for 5min.

NB. This mixture can also be used to stuff vegetables (say button mushrooms or zucchini rounds). Add a bit of stock and/or more cream and it can be the base for a potato/vegetable gratin or mac&cheese; in which case, top with more grated cheese. For a frittata, simply add more eggs and bake in a buttered dish for 20+min at 350F.



Bye bye salicorne, Hello shrooms

After a good month of feeling spoiled with a myriad of marine greens garnishing my plates, the season is sadly coming to an end. I have enough spicy sea rocket to make a salse verde for my current menu, a little Canadian sandspurry (that tastes like beet), the sea asparagus is done - gone woody. My favourite, the sea spinach is the only one I put up for the year, blanching and sous-viding it for the freezer so that I can cook with it, but best get my salad fix now..  

François was the first to put these greens on chefs menus twenty years ago, but now a new generation of chefs are waking up to them too..  They grow along the lower north shore, and from the Lower St-Lawrence to Gaspesie, and François has found the perfect spots managed now by Claudie (Les Jardins de la Mer). Taught by Francois and a part of our team, Claudie is ‘the queen’ who has made these greens her life in the Lower St-Lawrence. Picked by her or François, you know they are properly sourced, tasty and clean. This article featuring François’s August pickings (in French):

Now, it’s more than time to focus on the shrooms, and yes, they are sprouting.. The chanterelles are just beautiful, and the lobster mushroom too (not my favourite, but this year, I feel a soft spot), a good year for gypsy mushroom.. Now, the hen of the woods is taking over as star (a definite favourite!), autumn cepes are happening and there is a trickle of hedgehogs and yellow-foots, which will be the next boom. We have over a thousand pounds down (as in processed and put up), another couple to go, weehoo!


And as the mushroom season progresses, I will be posting shots from our 2013 harvest here:


Restaurant review

A restaurant review of Les Jardins Sauvages in the Gazette fine dining section, by Lesley Chesterman.

I have to say I am pleased. Thanks Lesley! Very encouraging..

After so many years of operating off the radar, I had almost forgotten about restaurant critics. Sure, we've had a good amount of media attention over the years, but the last actual 'critique' must have been in the Voir several years back. I wasn't complaining.

Since teaming up with Francois at Les Jardins Sauvages, I couldn't help but be wary of critics, like I found myself kind of shy with fancy pants world travelers because I feared our rustic décor, our plates and stemware might be an issue.. Then how about the spiders, mosquitoes, crappy sound system and leaky terasse roof.. But whatever, money doesn't grow from trees and we always believed in putting it all on the plate, food quality more than chichi details, in being ourselves hence a lack of pretense absolutely.  We do our best, hoping that the food, authenticity and ambiance will carry the day no matter.  Looks like it did here, and I am grateful for it, especially knowing she wasn’t there on the best of nights. 

When I found out at the end of the night, I was taken aback, slightly devastated, worried. It was dead, bad weather so no magical outdoor terrasse or dynamic atmosphere, no François telling stories (he took the night off after a big week of foraging/ weekend at the market), not to mention a new menu with final touches yet to be ironed out, no dishwasher, and me with a bad back. But it’s the kind of night that happens and any typical customer could experience it like she did, so I understand that a review is best anonymous and should be representative of what any diner could fall on.  For the record, I often stress out like this about `regular customers` too.. Anyway, I was relieved that it turned out fine.

A review is just a review, and you are only as good as your last meal, every day a new challenge in this crazy business.. but every pat on the back does help. It was particularly heartening after a slow summer.. I also appreciated her shout out to what's going on in the countryside and in our own backyard - it's so easy to be forgotten about outside of Montreal and off the beaten track.

Now I just have to find staff, and a bilingual waitress at that -pas évident out here!

Chop chop

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 05:57PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , | CommentsPost a Comment

August, Good eats

For a minute in August, I always get sad as many wild plants go to seed (the cycle over), which means fewer tender leaves for picking, but also that the array of beautiful flowers (some tasty too!) dwindles to a measly palette of golden rod, wild parsnip and aster for the tables, some yarrow for medicinal purposes.. You see, beyond cooking the wild edibles, picking wild summer flowers makes me happy – being surounded by the scents and colours, arranging bouquets for the house and restaurant. 

Thankfully it’s always around the same time that mushroom season starts kicking so I don’t have much time to wallow. Not that ‘normal’ means anything anymore in terms of nature’s timeline apart from that. You’d think with all the rain and intermittent nice weather, it would be a good mushroom season, but apparently it's not a given yet. Like with many summer plants, marine greens and berries, everything is late.  Looks like a good berry season though thanks to the water.  The blueberries are amazing; we’re picking the first wild blackberries and sarsaparilla.

As for the shrooms, around here, the early summer boletes (like yellow granulee, pied rouge and glabrescent) are on their way out while the lobsters, lactaires delicieux are showing up. Chanterelles and porcini have been present for a couple of weeks, the Flocons and Black trumpets appearing now.  Puffballs and Hedgehogs won’t be far off.  Some Chicken mushroom, so Hen of the Woods soon too. Looks like it might be a better fall season, fingers crossed.

Some photos:

Other things that make me happy in August, not just wild:

Ontario peaches and they are good this year. Especially when you have a forager guy that can choose fruit like François. Peaches are best eaten as is, but during the season, inspiring to cook with too. I put some in my berrry chaussons and some compound salads at home (with something salty, think melon proscuito).

Fresh peas and favas, however a bad season for them, but the few sacs we were lucky to get were good, always labour intensive but worth it.

Corn – you need to buy (Denault’s) yellow at Jean Talon Market, so good. Look for Le Roi du Mais..  Corn on the cob, a rite of summer; great in salsas and compound salads, in soup.. A favourite sidedish this summer has been a new potato salad with corn, yellow beans, sweet pepper, sea spinach and our wild herb chimichurri..  Corn is a sure crowd pleaser in soup too: I nowhave a corn and wild mushroom chowder on the menu at the restaurant, a good way to use up all the broth I make from the empty cobs.

Back to the wild: sea spinach of course!  My absolute favourite wild green, raw or cooked, especially just wilted with garlic, EVOO and butter  or chopped up and added to a salad or pasta/rice dish/omelet... If you've never tasted it, it's just like 'super duper' spinach - more flavour and a touch of salt and pepper built in.. Like with spinach, I prefer the bigger leaves of late season available now and for another week.. Hopefully I won't be sick of it by week's end, the last stretch in my race of putting up for the year, hundreds of pounds, a good chunk for Joe La Croute's popular Popeye bread.

The sea rocket and salicorne are good this year too, if hard to find; the stormy weather and tides having completely transformed the landscape, forcing Francois, Claudie and team to hunt far and wide.

The downside to the foraging trend


La Faune et La Flore

Another hurdle for Les Jardins Sauvages

Good thing we’re made strong and love what we do!

Profile: Les Jardins Sauvages, Pioneer and leader in Quebec Wild Edibles. 28 years in business, constantly evolving.. Now with a permanent stall at Jean Talon Market in Montreal & acclaimed Country Restaurant in St-Roch de l’Achigan; 100+ products fresh, 100+ products preserved; A Forager and Chef team with experience, long committed to quality, local and wild, artisanal and sustainable food..

I'm told I don't toot my own horn enough, see I'm practicing..  

In case you don’t know, Jardins Sauvages is the original wild foods business in Quebec.  Long before anyone heard of Noma, François was foraging, the first to introduce chefs to wild greens and many local wild mushrooms.  He spent years of walking the through the weeds & woods of Quebec to find healthiest spots to harvest each species; he intimately knows nature and how to pick for quality and sustainability – where, when, what time of day, what stage in the cycle. Working with Quebec’s top chefs, he refined his skills, learning what was best picked young, cooked in numerous ways. And now, I’ve been cooking his wild stuff for 13 years since I met him at L’Eau, on a full time basis since 2005. I’ve figured out what’s best how, say raw or cooked or dried, savoury or sweet, what mushrooms benefit from a sauté or a slow braise, how to put them up. We were the first to make mushroom ice cream and chocolate, to smoke mushrooms, to cook with cattail pollen, promote local teas & spices or pick and cook marine greens in so many ways - paving the way, showing people what could be eaten and how.  Unlike some of the newcomers jumping on the foraging bandwagon, we know what we’re doing.

Nonetheless..  a few weeks ago, we got a visit from a couple of officials from La Faune et La Flore, a governmental arm that regulates the environment, forests and fishing. We should have nothing to fear, buy nay and yay, another battle is before us.  They are banning crinkleroot and wild ginger, among other things, but these two affect us most, a dozen of our products, our menus.

The funny thing is that they were especially eager to pay us a visit because I had put wild garlic (ramps/ail des bois) on my menu this spring. In ten years, I never dared, but then I saw all Montreal chefs with ramps on their menu, and I figured if anyone should have them on the menu it should be us, given that the wild thing is our deal, we have tons on our property, and know how to harvest sustainably and all. Not to mention that it was just a few leaves from our field, ciselé as a garnish for a soup for 10 clients. Meanwhile, restaurants serving 100+ clients a night with anonymously sourced and less sustainable garlic don’t have an inspector in sight.  BTW apparently, whether it’s from Ontario or New York, the law stands, not allowed. Anyway, it’s not like I’m tattling on other chefs, I just want to be able to do what we do.  I have never even ever heard of a Montreal chef bothered by the F&F. It’s such a joke that they’re at our door. 

Like with wild garlic, they have decided that crinkleroot and wild ginger are endangered species and need to be protected.  We agree that they need to be protected, in that they need to be harvested with care and knowledge first and foremost, not completely ripping out the plants. Especially that the foraging trend means that there are new players in the game (many uninformed, unconscious or overly ambitious), evidently, some kind of general regulation is in order, maybe permits? In any case, there needs to be an official protocol for wild edibles, all above board, a traceability, an approved list of what can be harvested and how, where, by who, sold how and for what price, all registered.  A common code of ethics was enough before, but given the current climate, we are all for this. However, it is complicated to regulate; for the govt, much easier to ban.

In the meantime, it certainly isn’t fair for us, for François who has been doing it properly for 28 years professionally and plus.  He was the first to put most wild edibles on Quebec menus - before they were being imported from France (like salicorne, mushrooms) or simply weren’t known to chefs (like wild ginger, orpin, day lily buds, milkweed, arroche de mer, caquiller, the list is long..). He is in the same patches year after year, observing and taking care of nature while he harvests; he gardens the forest. We have more crinkleroot every year, more than enough wild ginger for our needs.  He has seen the progress of the crinkleroot for 50 yrs+ because they are family spots. His family has always eaten crinkleroot; we continue the tradition of making his great-great grandfather’s Henri Rochbrune crinkleroot mustard, but 100+ years later, now we’re not allowed.

All to say, these plants obviously aren’t endangered in François’ hands. There is a way to pick that stimulates the plant if it is in a healthy environment; he knows when to leave it alone. He invited the govt officials to visit his terrain, encouraged them to follow him and bring their scientists/advisors to study his reality, to open their minds.  He does not understand where they get their data.  They’re worrying about fiddleheads and spring beauty? C’mon, just come here and see. How much we harvest from the same land every year. Their sources are from controlled studies, another micro-climate, labs, foreign or outdated books, I don’t know. One thing for sure is that the pencil pushers and botanists aren’t in the Que woods on a daily basis like François.  

On top of it, we are a small diversified business, dealing in small volumes according to nature - a little bit of this and that, all sustainable, with our spots on private territory, maintained year after year, no big threat.  We led the way, and now because wild foods are becoming popular, we are penalized. Because there are others including some hacks who are just in it short term for a bang or because they think they might like doing this but don’t know squat or care to do things right, or want to exploit a lot of one thing. 

Not all foraged food is equal!  There is properly sourced, properly harvested and there is ravaged.  There is sweet, and threre is bitter. There is tender and tough; delicious and disgusting, nutritious and toxic.. Few in the marketplace seem to know or care about the difference. As long as it’s wild or Nordic, sounds good on a menu. Sadly, marketing seems to count more than quality or integrity.  Obviously we have some marketing to do.

We hate to see so many bad foragers around spoiling it for the rest of us, but, it is also important to note that most of the destruction of vulnerable plants and biodiversity is due to development/urbanisation. François has seen so much simply disappear because of autoroutes, Walmarts, condos and parking lots.., way more havoc wrought this way than any bunch of pickers could do.  More than once, François had proposed a solution to mayors/municipalities, say when they were bulldozing to make the 50, destroying so much rich land where there was tons of wild garlic, ginger, crinkleroot and much more; he wanted permission to go and save some of the plants. His project got bogged down in beurocracy and never worked out, but he said that in a day, he could have saved enough wild ginger to supply us and every chef for a lifetime. You’re not allowed to pick the wild garlic or ginger, but they’re allowed to bulldoze it. Doesn’t make sense.

It’s not just chefs and back-to-earth types getting into foraging. As the far away regions try to develop their resources and put people to work, the exploitation of the forest and land has become key.  Backed by Govt money, they have been training unemployed volunteers to forage, small businesses opening and they’re all trying to find markets. All dandy in theory, but it’s a mess.  Too many students expecting to make $$ picking mushrooms they can barely identify.  Detached investors wanting to harvest too much. We have no choice but be implicated.  François is working in Lanaudière and also with other regions as various agencies and business groups try to sort it out. They need his expertise, and he wants to make sure they aren’t making decisions that don’t stand up.  For instance, the tentative list of mushrooms allowed for sale excluded 30 varieties that we use (because the powers that be don’t know them well enough). Like when François started selling wild mushrooms 20 years ago, many didn’t believe him that there were wild mushrooms in Quebec. He’s come along way, but now everyone is catching up to him. All this is so much time and energy  in meetings and paperwork, just to be able to continue doing what we’ve been doing forever - now that the govt., big business, foodies, tree huggers and everyone else is waking up. It’s crazy and no one knows what’s going on behind the scenes.

I thought it would be smooth sailing for a while when we were finally fine with the MAPAQ (the food inspection part), but no now, it’s something else; I swear we have the most complicated business in the world!  You see, they just don’t know what to do with us because we do something so different they don’t understand and it worries them.  Whether it’s about picking nettle, cooking fiddleheads or milkweed, marinating mushrooms or smoking duck, they’re on our ass. All our products have passed all tests, but it was still a fight to prove that our mushrooms were properly dried, that our pickles and oils and etc are properly made, etc.  Meanwhile, cheap imports don’t get any scrutiny, Montreal chefs have toxic plants garnishing their menus. I understand that there have to be rules and inspectors, but why just us? I know what I’m doing and it kills me to talk circles around the inspectors who don’t have a clue about what they’re inspecting. We’ve seen it in the field, the guys thinking we’re picking garlic and its trout lily, they don’t know the difference. In the kitchen, it’s the same. They just want to check off lists: They check your fridge/freezer temperatures, soap and towels next to the sink, all the norms etc; do you have a ph-meter, a register for your products, sanitizer.. Yes, yes, yes. Do you douse everything in Javel regularly and boil everything for 20min. They want you to be a stainless steel aseptic factory that makes one sterile product en masse, easy to verify.  We do everything right but we’re not that.  You need to be a fighter to be an artisan in Quebec.

It seems to me that we’re the kind of Quebec terroir business that they should be favouring, but no it’s too complicated. They really don’t make anything easy for a small, artisanal business ‘thinking outside the box’ in Quebec.  Unless you’re in a far away region where there are subsidies (like most of the newbies). The rules, the taxes, the cost of having employees etc.- its all conducive to big business.  We manage to win them over, proving ourselves one person, one product at a time, one costly fight after another.  I wish I could just cut out the inspectors who are just doing their job and deal with their bosses, even better, exchange with their scientists.

I figure when I retire, I should get a job as a Govt inspector, I know more than most of them, and I bet the benefits must be nice.. But what a boring job, no thanks.  I’ll continue to fight to make a living while focusing on quality, delicious local food; maybe teach them a thing or two along the way.  And perhaps things will change one day;  Hopefully we will go on to survive and thrive. Others will surely profit down the line. We’re constantly breaking down barriers, teaching, making people taste new things, opening markets, developing.. all while taking the heat and struggling to stay afloat.  By nature, it is a difficult business venture; I could do without the extra headaches.

Our passion and vocation has become a cause, a crusade.  A fight for anti-industrial small community based business, and for quality, local food and traditions - especially wild things harvested and cooked properly, with a love and respect of nature. That is and will be our legacy if anything, whether recognized or not.  If only legacies paid the bills. Seeing L’Eau à la Bouche close after 35 years and a lifetime of Anne Desjardins’ visionary, pioneer work in promoting local artisanal food and top-notch authentic cooking, I know very well that life is not fair..  Oh well. I’m still not willing to trade my quality of life for another. Rant over.

Food day Canada

At les Jardins Sauvages, we are celebrating Food Day Canada Saturday, August 3rd!.

This is a national ‘holiday’ celebrating local food and good eating.  On the same day, across the country, both chefs and home cooks (whole villages even) will be simultaneously feasting on menus composed of fresh and local products while raising a glass to our rich and diverse culinary landscape.  Organized by Anita Stewart, acclaimed food writer and long time proponent of Canadian food, she has lots of great people and restaurants on board, check it out..

Of course, my menu is always focused on local, artisanal and wild foods, but I love this initiative.  We should be eating like this year round both for our health and happiness, as well as for the land.  I like the idea of fostering national and regional culinary pride, and I am all for another reason to get together over good food and wine, one day at a time.  At the height of the growing season, every meal is so easily a celebration, so why not join in!  

Our food day menu can be viewed below or at

To reserve, please call 450-588-5125

Other news:

We were honoured to be selected among Canada’s top 20 artisans to participate in the ACE Bakery Artisan Incubator, then as winner of the top award, a year mentorship to help our business grow..

Summer’s bounty is upon us with a wide variety of wild edibles available: the marine greens are peaking, the mushroom season starting.. Come visit us at Jean Talon Market, open seven days year round.

We also have several new products, like our wild steak spice, perfect for summer grilling.. And have you tasted our wild chimichurri, wild mushroom vinaigrette, wild mushroom oil and line of wild spices? All useful in summer cooking like marinades, salads, iced tea.. To see the whole list (retail/wholesale/vrac for chefs): Available at Marché Jean Talon, A la Table or on order, shipping extra.

Our annual mushroom event (11th edition) is coming up soon enough too! The official announcement and menu will be out in August, but the dates are set and reservation book open. Oct.18 to Nov. 3rd.

Hope to see you soon, and have a great summer!

Nancy and François, Les Jardins Sauvages


Nous célébrons ‘La Journée des Terroirs (Food Day Canada) A la table des Jardins Sauvages Samedi le 3 Août, 2013.

Ce jour, à travers le Canada, comme à toutes les années depuis 2003, c’est la fête de la cuisine canadienne, régionale et locale - les produits du terroir. L'idée c'est de créer un menu mettant en valeur de beaux produits de chez nous, bien manger et célébrer notre propre richesse culinaire - ensemble les chefs dans les restaurants avec leurs clients, et les gens au BBQ à la maison.  Cet événement est organisé par Anita Stewart, une grande doyenne de cuisine Canadienne.

C'est certain que mon menu est toujours basé sur les produits locaux, artisanales et sauvages, mais je trouve cela une belle initiative.  A la hauteur de la saison, c’est si facile de manger frais, d’embarquer les gens et les sensibiliser à la façon la plus saine et joyeuse de se nourrir..  En plus, une fête de plus au tour des plaisirs de la table - pourquoi pas?

Vous pouvez visionner mon menu ici en bas ou ici :

Pour réserver, SVP appelez 450-588-5125

Autres nouvelles Les Jardins Sauvages :

Nous avons été honoré d’être choisis parmi les meilleurs 20 artisans à travers le Canada invité au programme ‘Artisans en Croissance’ de la Boulangerie ACE, et gagnant d’un an de mentorat pour nous aider coté ‘affaires’.

C’est le temps d’abondance de plantes sauvages – le mesclun, les pousses marines et la saison de champignons sauvages du Québec commence tranquillement – venez nous voir au Marché Jean Talon ouvert sept jours à l’année maintenant.

Nous avons aussi quelques nouveautés comme nos épices à steak sauvages. Avez-vous goûté à notre huile de champignons, notre ligne d’aromates sauvages et Vinaigrettes Chimichurri sauvage, Champignons Sauvages? Tous utiles pour les marinades pour le grill et salades d’été, thé glacés..  Voir la liste complète ici (détail/en gros pour commerçants/en vrac pour chefs) : Disponible au Marché Jean Talon, A la Table ou sur commande; frais de livraison supplémentaire.

A la table des Jardins Sauvages, notre événement champignons approche.. L’annonce officielle et menu sera pour le mois d’Août, mais les dates sont fixes et le livre de réservations ouvert : 18 Octobre au 3 Novembre!

Passez un bel été. Au plaisir,

François et Nancy


Les Jardins Sauvages Menu

*Canada Food day*

August 3rd, 2013


Escabeche of turbot with sea asparagus and Canadian sandspurry,

smoked tomato and Nordic shrimp, wild salt herbs with lovage,

crinkleroot leaf and bee balm, Ontario Kernal peanuts


Corn and wild mushroom chowder

with cattail broth and sea spinach, sea lettuce 


Roast organic Muscovy duck from Morgan farm

and choucroute salad with kohlrabi, juniper and sea rocket,

daisy and wild berry mustard


Venison from the farm, wild steak spice,

eggplant and Moulin Bleu buckwheat crepe gratin

with wild lamb’s quarters and garlic,

caponata with pickled day lily buds


Option : Quebec Cheese plate – a selection

from the region, chutney and homemade bread

(100g for two; 20$ supplement,10$ per person)


Wild blackberry, blueberry and elderberry chausson

with sweet clover flower, sweetgrass milk jam,

elderflower jelly,

wintergreen chocolate pudding


Tea, coffee

Wild leaf & flower tisane, Fair-trade espresso

 (4$ supplement)


85.00$ tax included, service extra

(73.92 + 3.70 GST + 7.38 PST)


Bring your own wine


Your chef : Nancy Hinton


Your host and forager : François Brouillard

28 years the pioneer of Quebec wild edibles




Menu du 3 Août

 *Canada Food day; Journée des Terroirs*

3 au 25 Août, 2013


Escabèche de turbot avec salicorne et spergulaire,

tomate fumé et crevettes nordiques, herbes salées sauvages avec livèche,

feuille de carcajou et monarde, arachides Kernal (Ont)


Chaudrée de maïs et champignons sauvages au bouillon de quenouille,

arroche de mer et laitue de mer


Salade de canard Barbarie bio de la ferme Morgan,

choucroute et chourave avec genièvre et caquiller,

moutarde de petits fruits sauvages


Cerf du domaine aux ‘épices à steak’ sauvage,

gratin d’aubergine et crêpe de sarrasin (Moulin Bleu),

chou gras et ail, caponata aux boutons d’hémérocalle


Option : Assiette de fromages de la région,

chutney et pain maison (100g pour deux;

supplément de 20$; 10$ par personne)


Chausson de mures, bleuets et sureau sauvages aux fleurs de mélilot,

confiture de lait au foin d’odeur, gelée de fleurs de sureau,

pot de crème au chocolat et thé des bois


Thé, café  

Tisane maison, Espresso équitable

 (supplément de 4$)


Apportez votre vin


 85.00$ taxes incluses, service en sus

(73.92 + 3.70TPS + 7.38TVQ)


Votre chef : Nancy Hinton


Votre hôte et spécialiste de plantes sauvages: François Brouillard,

Les Jardins Sauvages, un pionnier depuis 28 ans

Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 08:46PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , | CommentsPost a Comment

ACE Artisan Incubator

The Ace Bakery Artisan Incubator in Toronto was one hell of a fantastic week end! So much fun, inspiring and enriching..  A select few of us artisans across Canada were invited to this event sponsored by Ace Bakery, and wow! did they show us off and treat us like rockstars, all while giving us tools to grow/improve our business with the conferences - a real treat.

I met so many amazing people and sampled an array of stellar Canadian products.  All of them are the epitome of what they should be, in that they are made artisanally with locally sourced ingredients, utmost attention to quality, and hands on traditional methods - so more tasty, natural and crafted than most similar products you might be used to.  You need to seek these out for your pantry or to offer as gifts, you won’t be disappointed..

  • A real traditional method Cdn balsamic vinegar –Venturi Schulze, BC
  • Cold pressed canola oil and flax seed oil (this is a revelation to anyone, just have to taste!) – Highwood Crossing, Alberta
  • Ontario Peanuts and peanut butter, fresh and natural and local! Kernal Peanuts Ltd, ON
  • Local, ethical and humble sausage and charcuterie: Chorizo and Saucisson sec – Seed to Sausage, ON
  • Cream cheese like you haven’t tasted before – Grey Rush, Primeridge Pure, ON
  • Other great cheeses (not only in Quebec!): Cow’s Creamery, PEI; Upper Bench Winery and Creamery, ON
  • Chocolate, fair trade with local flavours and lots of personality – Choco Cocagne, NB
  • A birch syrup that really is delicious – Uncle Berwyn’s Yukon Birch Syrup, Yukon
  • Kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented beverages – Pyramid Farm and Ferments, ON
  • If you’re into fancy salt, we have a Canadian ‘fleur de sel’ that tops any, great texture – Vancouver Island Salt Co.
  • Lavender condiments that are perfectly dosed – Sledding Hill, BC
  • More wild things: Origina spices, QC;  Candied spruce tips and oil – Upriver Commercial Fishing, BC
  • Gelato, traditional and local, neat flavours – Bella Gelateria, BC
  • Pub cider and Ice cider syrup (again, not only in Quebec!) - Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, On
  • Sour cherry spread – Over the Hill Orchards, Saskatchewan
  • Marinated oyster mushrooms – Champignons Charlevoix, QC
  • Apple vodka – Ironworks Distillery, NS

Check them out here:

Initially, I applied on behalf of Les Jardins Sauvages as an artisan for this contest/program without really knowing who Ace Bakery was. I guess because I live in Quebec and don’t shop at Loblaws. They mounted a campaign with chefs and food industry people, and were looking for the best artisans across Canada to celebrate and promote. We were of course happy to be selected in the top twenty among the 150 applicants, so I signed all the papers and kept up with what had to be submitted. When the date came, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was once again putting my energy in the wrong place, after filling out so many forms, writing recipes, sending out product and etc, while being so busy running our business on the side, not to mention having to close the restaurant for a week end and missing out on a best friend’s wedding. 

Lets just say, I left home ‘en reculons’, leery and weary. Only to arrive in Toronto to a series of surprises. First of all, there were the luxuries like the limo at the airport, the swish hotel, the package with taxi chits and spending money etc. – extravagant and superficial maybe, but very bonus to a poor artisan. It would have meant nothing if it hadn’t been for the rest. Most importantly, the Ace Incubator was a big, professional, hyper-organized event focused on us artisans, and it was fun! Ok, there were a few hiccups, but what they were doing was super ambitious. As a chef and caterer, I thought they were crazy given what they were trying to execute, with so many different venues, chefs, formulas and recipes etc. 

I quickly saw that all of us were winners simply by being there, to benefit from the exposure and the expertise/resources offered via the panels, to meet and share with others in the industry, mega networking that happens naturally, kinship throughout. I hardly had a chance to spend enough time with everyone I would have liked to; I wish I had attended many other workshops. So much to learn from others and not enough time. However I did have many inspiring conversations and forged some lasting connections.  It kind of felt like being at summer camp; when in a short time, you feel like you’re living something important and these people might be friends for life.

Some photo highlights via Ace Bakery

Wrap up video – Ace Artisan Incubator Launch Event

At the end of it all, it was an intense, stimulating, fun and inspiring weekend, and all thanks to Ace Bakery. So ironic, me the anti-corporate idealist.  It’s not like I don’t know lots of cool rich people (like my customers) and I do believe in capitalism to a certain extent, but I can’t help but be a bit disillusioned as an artisan in an economy that seems to favour the opposite. So, it was especially refreshing to me to see successful business people who are full of heart and still grounded, so warm and generous, who would want to put so much selflessly into such a project. Ok fine, there might be a bit of marketing in there, things they can write off.. But only a special kind of person and company, true philanthropists would choose such a complicated route to give back. It’s because they know what it is like to be an artisan starting from scratch, living the hard life of knocks and what a small company needs; they recognize the value and want to sustain, help support this integral segment of society. When you know the Ace story and see how they grew from nothing, all while sticking to principles (and giving), it all fits – them doing this today; but still, its rare and impressive, heartening. It actually floors me.

This is just what the doctor ordered to help me from becoming prematurely crusty and cynical after so many years in the business. And then there is my partner François, the pioneer forager with 26 years professionally and a lifetime under the belt, the first to put wild foods on menus, always sustainable and with respect to nature, now getting lost in the fray of newcomers less so.. Any recognition (and practical encouragement) is welcome; we needed this.

We will benefit from their mentoring and resources to help grow our business following our needs. This is huge because we are typical artisans caught up in the day to day, who are both lacking and only lazy when it comes to business-sense and PR-marketing. Because we are such a unique, complicated business with so many limited seasonal products, not one thing to mass produce, it will be a challenge to apply big business rules.  But there are many ways that their expertise can help to make ‘living the dream’ as passionate artisans more of a viable enterprise. And for that, I am grateful, because it’s something to start thinking about at our age.

A video of me via Ace Bakery

Good thing I got out of my kitchen this weekend and went to Toronto.  I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but the Quebec countryside, but I have to say that a visit to Toronto always provides a good kick in the butt (and there are no mosquitoes!). Everyone is so presentable and industrious, very nice, albeit stressed and rushed. The mantras wafting through the air can be annoying or energizing depending on your state of mind – Cruising around, I see, feel, smell and hear: ‘Show off your best. Make things happen. Polish your shoes and your nails. Get your business in order. Go to bed early. Don’t smoke..’  The camomile growing on the side of the road doesn’t smell like anything, not like ours. Its strawberry season and no one knows it. Whatever, I went home with renewed focus to work on our business, while staying true.  With a mental note that there is a lot to learn in the big city. In parallel, I will pay more attention to the rest of Canada. I love Quebec and everything local, but there is so much cool stuff going on across the country; we need to step out of the two solitudes and embrace it. It was so much apart of my identity before and then I slowly became more Quebecoise than Canadian. This weekend made me dust off the Canadian flag in my bedroom regardless of Harper.

More Photos from the week end


Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 02:17AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , | Comments1 Comment

June 2013, the month of plenty

What’s in season? So much! Our menu says it all.. Jardins Sauvages summer menu July

No actually, not even quite – there is only so much you can jam into one five course meal..

Photos:  Until I can find the time to fight with my blog, this will have to do:

C’est l’abondance! In St-Roch, this is the best time of year for variety of wild edibles – shoots, greens, roots, flowers, vegetables.. And with all the rain we’ve had, everything is green, the wild plants better than ever, gorged with water hence less bitter; things are going fast.  As long as there is the occasional sunny, dry spell, this is all good for us. Except that we have to be on our toes; if mother nature is on speed, we have to follow or miss out for the season, not to mention our mission of putting up for the year.

Our mesclun has morphed, officially more summer than spring now with lambs’ quarters, live forever, daisy, lady sorrel, garlic mustard leaf, some crinkleroot leaf still, a variety of petals for colour and zip.. The last of the spring beauty, violets and acacia, rose petals and day lily moving in..

The marine greens are starting to come in from Kamouraska: beach peas, goat’s beard, sea parsley.. It won’t be long before we happily add sea spinach and sea asparagus to the basket.

Thanks to a wet month of June, local mushrooms are showing up early – its still morel season in some parts of Quebec, but here already some choice boletes like the yellow (bolet granule) and orange cap, as well as wine caps.

Milkweed broccoli is out, daisy buds too. We have a few weeks ahead focused on the oh-so-popular (but labour intensive daisy buds). The cattails aren’t far off, another big job with a short window. We peel the young cattails and then harvest the next stage – the pollen, drying and pulverizing it to make a flour/seasoning. For a week, my kitchen is covered in yellow dust and I blow my nose yellow at night.  Goes with the territory, like black fingernails in mushroom season.

Let’s just say that cattail season (also elderflower, sweet clover, wild strawberries, the first mushrooms..) is not good timing to take off.. But as it happens early, François will be in ‘le grand nord’ for a week of fishing and prospecting, and I will be in Toronto representing Jardins Sauvages for the Ace Bakery Incubator Awards; hopefully we won’t miss out on too much with everything sprouting so fast..

Amidst it all, I try to occasionally get my coureur des bois and forager for the stars (or as he prefers to be called, Jardinier de foret) on tape. It’s all very on the spot and amateurish, but a fun start.. I promise we will make a point of capturing the moment more often and hopefully get better at it in time, with more English too once I get used to my phone/camera, keeping in mind that following François is never easy. So, anyway, here are the little videos on foraged wild plants we have so far.. (In French, although I usually throw in a word or two of English if I remember to): 



Finally, signs of spring

After a rough winter, it feels like spring is late, when in fact, it is right on schedule and 'normal' if that means anything anymore.  I'm a winter-lover, but this year, I'm more eager and ready than ever.

Well, there is still snow in the woods and chilly nights, but spring is definitely in the air.. We're not near tripping over morels, but François has picked his first sprouts and is getting ready for the first fiddleheads.  Everything is going to start popping in the next couple of weeks.

Trout lily/Erythrone, the first green: here François picks and talks - an impromptu video filmed by an amateur, sorry in advance for the yelling. In French. Francois à l'érythrone

Ramps peeping up

Day lily sprouts   


We have a field of these on our property, so we always pick a few to cook up as a spring vegetable – kind of like a leek but a shorter cooking time and milder taste.  We’re not sure if we’ll bring some to market or not because the problem is, it seems to inspire people to go picking any other lilies in the city, eating them raw and stomach aches bring inspectors our way even if we have nothing to do with it.


This is for my apothecary more than my kitchen, being a pulmonary tonic and good for a cough/sore throat.  I use it in my winter cold remedies, tisane and cough syrup.  It is the first bloom before dandelion. The spring beauty is starting, nettles are at the baby stage. 

It will be the first week end for our spring mesclun at the market, starting with dandelion greens, trout lily and spring beauty, evolving into a more colourful and complex medley, less bitter and sweet as the season evolves.

Although every season feels new, if I look back, I can’t help but think I sound like a broken record, getting excited about the same wild edibles and describing them over and over again eachyear.. So I will keep it short and sweet, but if you’re just tuning in now and want more detail about these spring edibles, here are but a few links to previous posts:

 Spring plants from 2012

Spring plants from 2011

And yUpload Filees, its that time of year again - to calm everyone down and reiterate About Fiddleheads.. Dangerous or not, How to cook

When the season peaks, I will make a video - maybe that will get the message across.

Our spring menu at La Table des Jardins Sauvages starts this weekend and the first workshop dinner is on Sunday the 28th at 4pm.


Les Saveurs du Palais

Les Saveurs du Palais

A must-see foodie flick that opens in Montreal theatres this Friday March 1st..

About a feisty female chef from the Perigord countryside who is called to cook for the French president, based loosely on Danièle Delpeuch and François Mitterand.  He wants his grandmother’s cooking, tasty traditional French food, nothing complicated, no superfluous sugar roses. She is perfect for the task, yeshe faces many obstacles with the male brigade in the main kitchen and his entourage heavy on bureaucracy, formalities and prejudice.  Nonetheless, she manages to seduce the President with her inspired old-school, ingredient driven, flavour forward, real food with personality.  However, her strong character, unconventional ways and disregard for protocol when it comes to the business of good food does not endear her with the stiffs that make up the oiled machine of the Elysée. Rumours swirl.  And then, the doctor and dieticians intervene, followed by the accountant. 

I won’t give away anything more, not that it really matters; it is much richer than any plot line.  The characters are well developed, the story is engaging, there are many layers of nuance and real life moments, food/societal issues and messages..  The sumptuous food just enhances everything, bringing the characters and themes to life in a deep and touching way.  Making you salivate the whole way through too!  I know François was having a hard time sitting still, wanting to jump out to make himself truffles on toast or go about layering beef with onions and anchovies.

Meanwhile, I was just thinking how this film struck so many chords with me, how it was about soo many important things.. About real food and authenticity all round, simple pleasures, and how meaningful that is.  Food that tastes good, with a story.  Food that connects you to real people, family and history.  Memories.  Terroir.  Personality over pretence.   How so much that is real and good can get lost in politics and business (diets too). 

And then in another of their few intimate sit-down exchanges, when the president says to Hortense, ‘Adversity is a spice of life’, I felt like that was a strong message too, considering her predicament, and his..  How she stayed true and kept on going.  The whole ‘female chef’ thing could be another topic brought up, be it with respect to food and history, nurture/nature, or just breaking down barriers in the professional world..  It was a part of the story, a woman with all her particular strengths and weaknesses, in a macho world.

This movie was above all just great, so very human, heart warming and funny.  I can’t recommend it enough.

I missed the official opening with Montreal en Lumière, I was lucky to see it with Cinémagique, a film club that shows interesting films not necessarily accessible otherwise – check it out!

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:49PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in | CommentsPost a Comment

Paleo diet  

The Paleo diet and ‘diets’ in general

Eating well in the Modern AFU age

The Paleolithic (Caveman) diet, inspired from our hunter-gatherer ancestors is naturally one our body understands and assimilates best.  It just might be the light for so many lost western stomachs.

For the record, I don’t believe in ‘diets’ persay.

However, a smart friend of mine who is also a good eater swears by this Paleo thing, so if you suspect your eating habits need an overhaul, maybe you will be inclined to read more (links via  As far as diets go, it’s as sensible as they get.

She seemed puzzled that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about her Paleo nirvana, figuring it would be up my alley.  It is true that many of the tenets correspond with what I promote.; the oldest diet in the world naturally excludes anything processed, all meat is natural/pastured, greens and vegetables are central. My eating habits align with Paleo  more than a conventional North American regimen.  Most of it is actually just normal to me, being the chef for a hunter-gatherer.  But there are just a few too many extraneous rules for my comfort.  There are too many lovely things not allowed or frowned upon (certain fruit, peanuts, dairy, rice and grains ie pasta, bread..).  No matter how wild we are, I do appreciate the benefits of agriculture done the right way.  I like to believe we have learned a couple of things in the last 10000 years.

Bottom line, I  firmly believe that food should be delicious and fun and relatively stress-free.  A daily celebration!  That said, in order to let loose and be carefree definitely requires some kind of investment first, that is a source of good wholesome real food and some cooking.  Because the truth is that our modern agriculture and food supply systems have mostly gone to shit, unfortunately.

But it doesn’t have to be so complicated!  If you eat a variety of real food and cook at home, mostly avoiding industrial crap, supermarkets and restaurants that serve it; with fruit and vegetables occupying a major role, natural meats, eggs and cheese in reasonable portions, then I don’t think you should have to worry about anything, be it salt, sugar, fat, cholesterol, digestive issues, energy levels or weight..  After that it’s just about portion size and exercise, maybe.

I feel like life is too short to make your life miserable when eating thrice daily can be such pleasure.  Not that I’ve ever followed any ‘diet’, yet I can’t help but observe that most extreme or painful diets don’t work long term.

Eating locally and seasonally as much as possible helps guarantee quality produce, makes it tasty and fun and easy to focus on the good stuff - growing your own and putting up, or simply knowing where your food comes from.  A lot of people accustomed to the superstore would say this is more complicated than any fad diet, but once you've figured out the sourcing, it's easy to work into any schedule.  Buying half a cow (or venison) is a one stop shop for the year. Going to the market or getting baskets delivered, putting two hours a week aside for prep - investing in your meals..  So that you have a fridge and freezer full of food that is good for you - all to easily put balanced, tasty meals on the table that will make you happy, no headaches..  Have fun cooking and get to know your vegetables! There should be a big splash of Green in every meal! Use lots of herbs and spices too – behind the flavour boost, there lies a natural arsenal of antibiotics, anti-oxidants, digestive aids and mood stabilizers. And then you absolutely don't need to worry about a peanut or a slice of good bread or banana muffin, an occasion potato chip. 

If the new normal weren't so out of whack, there would be no need for diets. Or as much medicine either.  Besides, there are plants for that too!

In the meantime, there is no doubt that it wouldn’t hurt most Westerners to embrace the Caveman diet.  If  it’s a ‘diet’ that it takes to make you eat local vegetables, pastured meat and avoid soft drinks, , Twinkies and packaged chicken fingers, to opt out of big ag and the industrial processed food corn sugar business - then ok, I’m all for it.  

I will however remain a ‘diet’ free girl or perhaps I could say a post modern Paleo (who also eats grains and dairy, albeit in small quantities compared to greens).. Or  'deluxe Grandma' (not so different from our grandparents with more variety).  Whatever.. My body tells me it is ‘right on!’  If ever not the case, there is always stinging nettle tea, slippery elm or Chaga and etc. to help out..


Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 01:42AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton | Comments1 Comment

'Live in each season as it passes..'

“Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”  Henry David Thoreau

The view from my smoker (smoking my duck)I’m doubly inspired to share one of my favourite quotes with you.. 

For all the winter haters out there, I’m tired of hearing you whine.  Get out there and enjoy it!  Soak up some of that bright sunshine, put on a pair of snowshoes or skis, play in the snow, and relish how sweet the crisp, fresh air feels.. Spend time in the kitchen cooking comforting dishes; share a hearty wine-soaked meal with friends next to a fireplace.  Visit a Nordic spa.  Snuggle up on the couch and read a book.  Like ‘The Kitchen Daughter’ (a novel I loved).  Root through your bookshelf and you're sure to find a long lost treasure such as my latest retrouvaille, ‘The Great Chefs of France’. Pick up a glossy, inspiring cookbook such as Jerusalem, Toque, Joe Beef or anything by Thomas Keller. Maybe some heartwarming foodwriting (Ruth Reichl), stimulating (Taras Grescoe) or laugh out loud (Jeffrey Steingarden). Or how about one of those 'Canada Reads' picks..

I love winter for all those reasons, and also because my cooking takes on a different tone, the kind of food that only feels right at this time of year.  Less inspired by all the fresh and local produce, it’s more about going back to the classics and creatively using inventory, making the most of my preserves.  There is less green crunch and more duck fat.  I dip into my freezers, reorganizing them.  I spend time admiring my gardemanger as I pull out a jar of pickled beans, smoked shrooms or crinkleroot canned tomatoes, enjoying all that hard work of putting up in summer.  With a lot more time alone in the kitchen too, I have time to take stock, to look back and think ahead, to play catch up – be it with cleaning, operation details or recipes.  To work on new and parallel projects – like my blossoming apothecary!

a glimpse of my witchery: medicinal plants, essential oils 

Back to the second trigger for the Henry David Thoreau quote..

Another annoying thing that has occasionally interfered with my good winter mood is all the premature maple talk, which seems to have started right after Christmas – in the media, themed dinners and events all over.  Granted, there is nothing wrong with celebrating one of our national treasures anytime if it makes you happy.  Rather, it’s the undercurrent relentless rush to 'the next thing' permeating our culture that bothers me.  Perhaps led by journalists and wannabe trendsetters who need to be the first to showcase what is new and hip..  Definitely, there is the commercial machine wanting to cash in on Valentine fervour as soon as the X-mas trees are down and on Easter bunnies as of Feb.14th.  Go to a boutique in winter and you only find summer clothes – this has always baffled me.  And local ‘market cuisine’ restaurant menus that follow someone else’s seasons?!! 

Why can’t we just savour the moment and take things as they come really. Like enjoy winter now and get excited about maple syrup when the sap is running in earnest in a month or so.  Next thing it will be morels, peas and asparagus on menus, magazine covers and blogs two months in advance. 

Trust me, following our own seasons tastes better.  And every season is beautiful if you take it in, pay attention and live it fully.  If there’s anything I’ve learnt living and cooking on the wild side in the country, it is this and I’m happy for it.

For myself anyway, I honestly cannot be inspired on an artificial timeline; I don’t ‘feel it’ until it’s in the air.  I have a hard time putting out a menu in advance, yet from a business point of view, I have realized I have no choice. I still wait until the last appropriate minute and inevitably make changes when the day arrives so that it absolutely rings true.  With a job/vocation fuelled by passion, integrity, and so much blood, sweat & tears, I just couldn’t have it any other way.  Besides, I just love the seasons, I don’t want to be thinking about the next one until it’s time, life is too short.. It would feel like a betrayal.  Maybe it is my way of staying grounded and paying tribute to nature and ‘God’ and all my blessings..

So, in the dinosaur spirit of hanging on to the moment, I will be cooking my Wild & Aphrodisiac Valentine’s menu until Sat. Feb.23rd, and then we close in March (at La Table, not the market), a break to take advantage of winter’s end and regroup.  And when the maple season is actually peaking and we have fresh sap and syrup, we will start again with a wild maple themed menu!

duck heart salad with duck egg, smoked duck, carrot, pickled mushrooms, wild mushroom vinaigrette

Posted on Monday, February 18, 2013 at 02:05AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Duck, duck.. And Recipes

I just love my duck

Moulard ducks

Pan-seared foie gras with elderberry/flower sauce, topinambour soubiseDuck is a winter tradition of ours, and it’s that time again.  No matter that I inhaled my share of duck fumes, cooking up an insane amount of duck during the holiday season, I have a few more weeks yet of bathing in duck fat with our duck themed dinners running at the table champêtre.. Duck menu at Les Jardins Sauvages

But really, I don’t mind; duck is hard to tire of.  It is hands down the best meat, so flavourful and versatile in its many forms, not to mention local, healthy and relatively easy to cook.   Susan Semenak makes a case for duck (with my help) in this Montreal Gazette article.. 

Every year, I change up the seven course menu, playing with four breeds and all their parts, the eggs, the skin, broth etc..  And the marvellous fat of course.. Duck fat is my all-purpose cooking fat in winter, rendered from the carcasses and skin.  I like to smoke it too, to have a block ready on hand for introducing that ‘bacon’ taste when you don't want the pigginess. 

For sure, there are standards that come back every year or two but always treated differently. For instance duck confit has to be present, but it might be as rillettes, in a salad, in cassoulet or choucroute, say..  Charcuterie (duck proscuito, smoked duck, jerky, sausage) as well as Foie gras, hot and cold are always featured, but with various seasonings and accompaniments.

duck proscuito

duck jerky

smoked duck my way, cooked not raw

Soup wise, I can’t help but feel the need to go with a consommé, which is pure essence of duck.  Duck broth is my base of choice (instead of chicken) year round and makes a great creamy soup or vegetable purée type as well, but I just love consommé; the extra steps are worth it.  I clarify the duck stock with more duck (ground) and duck egg whites(keeping the yolks for the garnish or dessert, adding aromates of choice to the clarification raft.  This time around it will be surprise, surprise – wild mushrooms!

duck consommé with duck egg and sea spinach, sumac

duck eggs

I used to put a whole duck egg on the menu as a second or third entrée - shirred, baked or poached - so delicious and appreciated by most customers but it is a bit much at 80-100g, like 2 chicken eggs..  In the last few years, I have favoured using egg as a component, going with a frittata, tortilla, egg crepe or an egg garnish..  This way the poor customer has a better chance of making it to the end. This year’s egg ‘noodle’ originated from a kind of accident turned experiment.  One day, I had an excess of egg yolks so froze them and saw that they turned opaque, almost half cooked.  Intrigued by this egg paste, I incorporated some fat and flavour (easily emulsified) and cooked up the cake sousvide/in a bain marie and loved the silky terrine results.  A myriad of possibilities opened up: carpaccio, sheets, terrine, skin, slivers, and noodles!

Obviously, there has to be a ducky salad of some kind on any night, as close to a signature I get in my relentless motion.  A classic at the restaurant anytime of year is the duck heart and gizzard salad, but it was time to give it a rest.  François loves Caesar. If the rest of the menu isn’t too heavy, I can swing it, replacing bacon with my house smoked duck, using some of the duck yolks from before in the dressing, kick it up with crinkleroot and cook the croutons in duck fat.. switch up the capers for pickled daisy buds.

I’m done with cassoulet for a while, but now choucroute is my coup de Coeur of ducky winter dishes, including the incontournable confit and homemade duck sausage.  Besides, I love cabbage and I’m into fermentation ever since my killer green beans from two summers ago.. As with proscuito, fermenting things is more conveniently a winter project when the room temp is easier to control and I have time to be patient and play around..  I haven’t had much success yet with cabbage, but I’ll get there..

mini choucroute: confit, saucisse maison de canard, choux & genièvre

I felt like doing a fried chicken type of entrée for a change, or maybe something like ‘General Tao’ -any thing fried being a crowd pleaser.  I’m constantly looking for  novel ways beyond jerky to put the filets that I remove from the good use.  And since duck is such a natural with ‘asian’ flavourings like soy, ginger, anise etc, there needs to be at least one course that goes in that direction.  The duck fingers with wild ginger sauce below (or nuggets as Melinda coined them) was the result – and a staff favourite so far..

Muscovy duck supreme and fried duck fingers with wild ginger sauce, salsfis sprouts and sesame couscous

Besides a Ferme Morgan’s supreme pan-roasted with a fruity-spicy sauce of some sort, definite musts on the menu, too decadent and delicious to pass on, are duck fat potatoes and the cracklings made from the skin.  I once served these as an amuse with the aperitif, bad idea! Everyone ate way too many of them. That’s another preferred snack among the waitresses that I have to keep an eye on, ‘Ca goutte le ciel, as Julie says. 

To wind down the feast, there are inevitably duck egg desserts; one using the luxurious yolks, the other riffing on the springy whites.  Watch out, these protein-rich whites make a surprisingly airy meringue! 

As you can see, the possibilities with duck are endless.  And with this cold weather, duck is just what the doctor ordered.

Here are some easy recipes (below) in case you are inspired to cook up some of this local-heart healthy meat over the winter. 

Now that many duck products are quite widely available – duck stock, duck fat, confit duck, smoked duck etc.., there is no need for you to get into tricky stuff like charcuterie, making consommé, rendering fat even how to confit duck legs or making stock to enjoy a gourmet meal. It’s ok if you leave that time-consuming, messy stuff to us - the producers, chefs and butchers, the duck store (Le Canard Libéré on St-Laurent)..

Of course, you can always go all out and treat yourself to the ultimate ‘duck’ experience at Les Jardins Sauvages!  Until February 3rd..

Duck recipes

Duck confit salad with ‘chimichurri’

6 p


3L                                             wild/mixed greens (or romaine, watercress, endive)

400g                                         cooked confit duck gizzards and hearts (or confit duck leg meat)

100g                                         smoked duck magret, julienne

300g (1)                                    potato (cubes)

250ml                                       duck fat

120ml                                       vinaigrette ‘chimichurri’ sauvage (spicy garlic and wild herb vinaigrette)*

100ml                                       pickled mushrooms

2                                              scallions, chopped

au goût                                     mushroom salt  (or sea salt) & pepper

Method :

Heat duck fat in sturdy pot and add potato; cook gently on stovetop or in oven for 30min.  Drain, season and finish in oven on baking sheet to crisp up.

Prepare greens (wash and dry, tear or chop).

Reheat the gizzards in some duck fat gently, or if in a vacuum pack, by submerging it in hot water 5min. 

Toss the greens with scallions and half the vinaigrette, adding more vinaigrette and seasoning to taste.

Serve warm gizzards and potatoes on top.  Garnish with smoked duck and pickled mushrooms.

*A garlicky red wine vinaigrette I make (and we sell) with wild garlic, chilli and a bunch of wild herbs (sea parsley, lovage, crinkleroot, garlic mustard leaf, bee balm..); could be replaced with any punchy vinaigrette that is sharp and slightly sweet with added herbs and garlic.


Duck Caesar salad with crinkleroot

6 p


3L                                             wild/mixed greens (romaine, endive, watercress)

100g                                         smoked duck magret, julienne

2c                                             day old bread (cubes)

60ml                                         duck fat

                                                wild herb salt (or sea salt)

                                                chopped herbs of choice

100g                                         Capra or aged cheese of choice (that grates well)

2                                              scallions, chopped

20ml                                         pickled daisy buds or capers    

Crinkleroot Caesar dressing:


2tsp each                                  minced garlic and crinkleroot

50ml                                         minced anchovy (3-4)

3                                              egg yolks

1tsp                                          crinkleroot mustard or Dijon

30ml                                         white wine vinegar/lemon juice

30ml                                         pickled daisy buds

60ml                                         grapeseed oil

60ml                                         EVO

                                                salt, pepper

                                                Tabasco, Worchestershire

                                                Extra lemon to taste

Make croutons by tossing bread in rendered duck fat, season with salt and dried herbs, cook in oven at 350F for 15-20min or until golden and crunchy.

Make vinaigrette by mixing ingredients in a blender.  Or combine yolks, garlic and mustard, half of lemon juice and slowly whisk in grapeseed oil.  Add rest of lemon juice and continue with olive oil.  Thin with a touch of oil or water to desired consistency.  Season to taste.

Toss greens with half of vinaigrette, some of the cheese, s&p; adding more vinaigrette to taste.  Plate salad and top with smoked duck, croutons and remaining cheese.  Sprinkle extra daisy buds around. 


Pan-seared duck supreme with elderberry/flower sauce

6 p


2 (1kg)                                      duck supremes, skin side scored; filets kept for another use (Terrine, Jerky or Fried duck)

2                                              shallots, thinly sliced

                                                thyme, peppercorn

20g                                           butter

100ml                                       honeywine or cider

500ml                                       duck stock

250ml                                       elderberries (or fruit/berry of choice, fresh or frozen)

10g (2Tbsp)                               elderflower (or peppercorn, juniper or rosemary)


cornstarch slurry

* In a sauce for duck, I like to combine something fruity and something spicy/herbal added later; instead of elderberry/flower combo, could be apple (1c chopped whole) and rosemary 2-3 sprigs, blackberry and juniper or raspberry and peppercorn...


Make sauce base: In a medium sauce pot, slowly caramelise shallots in a bit of butter/oil, add thyme and peppercorn and deglaze with wine, reduce down.  Add duck stock and elderberries (or berry of choice).  Simmer for at least 20min, allowing to reduce slowly.  Add elderflower (or rosemary/juniper/herbs of choice) and let sit 5min.  Strain.

Trim excess fat of duck supremes if necessary.  With Muscovy, it isn’t necessary, but with Moulard or Pekin sometimes; you don’t want more than ½-1 cm/1/4”.  So that there is some crispy but not too much flabby fat at end.  Scoring with a knife helps the fat render/even cooking.

Heat sauté pan to med-high heat.  Season duck supremes and add to pan skin side down (with no added fat).  Once you start to see color, turn down to med or lower and cook for 8-10min.  You want a slow caramelisation while rendering as much excess fat as possible.  Pour off rendered fat a few times during the cooking. Flip and cook for 2-3min.  Ideal is medium-rare. Rest in a warm place for 10min before slicing.

Degrease pan and pour in sauce base.  Bring to a simmer season to taste, thicken to desired consistency with cornstarch slurry if desired (maybe 1Tbsp), swirl in butter. 

Slice duck breast as thinly as possible against the grain of the meat, serve with sauce.  Suggested accompaniments: Root vegetables, mushrooms, wild rice..


Duck jerky

6 p


8 (450g)                                    duck filets (tenderloin) or one duck breast fat removed, sliced in 6x1.5cm thick strips

20g (1 Tbsp)                              brown sugar

5g (scant tsp)                            coarse salt

1g ea (generous pinch)               pepper, smoked paprika, steak spice

.5g ea (small pinch)                    cumin, thyme, oregano

big squirt ea                              soy sauce/tamari

small squirt                               worchestershire


Toss with seasonings.  Refrigerate overnight.  Pat dry and put in a 200F on a rack in oven for 2hrs or until desired texture (dry and chewy, still sliceable).

Eat as a snack as is or slice up to garnish a salad, sandwich or canapé.  Keep in fridge.


Baked duck egg with mushroom, smoked duck and tomato

6 p


6                                              duck eggs

30ml                                         olive oil

200g                                         wild mushrooms (or cultivated), chopped

2                                              french shallots, minced

15ml                                         butter


drops                                        lemon juice or cider vinegar/sherry vinegar

100ml                                       heavy cream

5ml                                           mushroom oil (and/or a few drops of truffle oil)


60g                                           smoked duck, julienne

200ml                                       chopped tomato

50ml                                         chopped chives and/or parsley

pinch                                        sugar, s&p, hot sauce


Sauté mushrooms in olive oil over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes; add butter and shallots, turn down to med/low and stew for 10 minutes; season.

Mix cream with mushroom oil (and/or a few drops of truffle oil), season.

Into buttered individual ramekins (4oz), divide mushroom mixture to cover bottom.  Crack an egg into each one.  Top with a tablespoon or two of cream mixture to cover.

Cook in a 325F oven for 15-20min until just set but still giggly.

Meanwhile prepare tomato salsa garnish.  Add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to chopped tomato with fresh herbs and a bit of olive oil or mushroom oil, hot sauce to taste.

Serve ramekins of egg topped with salsa and smoked duck julienne.


Fried duck fingers with wild ginger sauce

6 p


12                                             duck filets

1/2c                                          pastry flour (or half flour and cornstarch)

50ml                                         plain yogurt


50ml                                         soy sauce

50ml                                         maple syrup

30ml                                         lime juice

30ml                                         wild ginger mustard

5ml                                           toasted sesame oil

1tsp ea                                     curry, five spice

                                                hot pepper sauce (Sambal or Siracha)



2                                              shallots, thinly sliced

1tsp ea                                     minced garlic, wild ginger         

2c                                             duck stock

2                                              sprigs thyme

1Tbsp±                                      cornstarch slurry

30ml                                         butter


Cut duck filets into 1” thick slivers (in 3).

Mix together marinade ingredients.  Use half to season the duck filets, tossing to coat evenly with the yogurt.

Set aside for at least 20 min (or in the fridge hours or overnight).

Make sauce: slowly caramelise shallots in some butter. Add garlic and ginger, sauté a few minutes and add the rest of marinade. Deglaze with stock, reduce down by 1/3.  Add thyme and coriander.  Keep reducing another 5min to approximately half, tasting along the way.  Rectify seasoning, use a little cornstarch slurry to thicken to desired consistency. To finish sauce, strain and swirl in butter off heat.  Keep warm.

Pull duck from marinade, pat dry and coat with pastry flour.  Fry duck by either deep frying at 350F for 2-3min or by pan-frying in a skillet with a good slick of hot vegetable or peanut oil for 3-4min (1-2 min each side). Remove onto paper towels, and serve with sauce.  You can always coat the fried duck in sauce General Tao style but I prefer it separate. 

Suggested accompaniments: rice, sautéed mushrooms and mustard greens, or rice noodles, lettuce, red pepper, bean sprouts, coriander and mint.. Could be finger food too!



Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 04:00PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , | Comments1 Comment

Late Harvests and Holiday prep

Late Harvests
Yes, it’s getting cold out, but there are still goodies being harvested here!

crosneJewel-like little crosnes and knobby jerusalem artichokes, both a bitch to clean, but worth the effort.

Still alive in the garden are the hardy herbs like thyme and rosemary, as well as beautiful chard and sorrel that isn’t bitter at all..  My trusty favourite wild daisy greens are always available, and the last of the wild mint must be picked before the river rises too high..


From the woods, there is still a trickle of late autumn shrooms from around here, yellowfoot chanterelles from the Gaspesie..
Another big batch of ultra ripe and fragrant juniper berries just picked on the north shore – I’ve never seen juniper berries this good.. They cry out to be treated like a berry-fruit as opposed to a berry-spice. 

juniper berries

With the growing season coming to an end, and the mushroom festival behind us, now it’s about playing catch up,  preparing for the winter and most importantly, tackling my Christmas cooking.

Hubbard and Potiron

I need to finish the wild grapes, which get transformed into coulis, concentrate and our ‘balsamic’.  I have a beautiful mountain of winter squash that has been patiently waiting to be processed. And then, it’s time to focus on the meat. 
Two weeks until the X-mas markets open, which means an increased demand for all my braised dishes, charcuteries, soups and sauces.. As well as all our Christmas specialties like game tourtieres, turkey mushroom pot-pies, cassoulet and mushroom desserts – all with a touch of wild.. 
As of November, our customers naturally shift from the fresh produce to what’s put up, comforting and ready to eat.  We sell a lot of soup and stew.  Then in December, it’s fancy but homey festive food to share and gift bags that people want.  Oh, and ketchup!

For one month a year, my kitchen turns into a production kitchen for stuffed birds, pies, cassoulet, foie gras, terrines and the like..  I pull out my sarriette (savoury), which I only seem to use at this time of year. My soup pot is on a constant simmer, aromas of duck fat and quatre épices in the air, Christmas music in the background..  Now, all that is missing is the snow on the ground and I’ll really be in the mood.    
Holiday cooking is fun stuff, but like everything we seem to do, labour intensive.  For the tourtiere for instance, I need to first make the duck confit (which takes several days), breakdown and clean the venison then braise it, grind the other meat, make and roll the dough – it’s a week long process altogether.  Same for the cassoulet which also relies on confit and some serious pig work before starting (ie. breakdown pig, brine and smoke ham, braise shoulder, make sausage and bacon)..  Time to get to work.
Chop, chop!
Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 03:21PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton | Comments2 Comments

Moving on from Mac: my new Kikuichi

I just finished my first week end with my new partner, he's pretty cool. Actually, he’s definitely more of a she.  I have yet to see whether this Kikuichi will replace my beloved Mac whom I miss terribly. He just disappeared one day, I don’t understand.  I waited a month before looking for a replacement; now, I’m ready to move on.
She feels good in my hand and is sharp as all get out, but is perhaps a touch delicate for a brute like me. She seems less versatile too, more of a slicer than a chopper.  I’m not sure she's cut out to be my number one.  You see, I am not the sort of gadget girl who is reaching into my knife kit everytime I change tasks; I like a knife that I don’t have to put down much, that isn’t too fussy, that I can use for almost everything, that feels natural like an extension of my arm.  So understandably, I take this relationship seriously, get pretty attached to my right hand man (or whatever), my partner in life.
We'll give it a go with the Kikuichi, but she'll probably need help eventually and I'll have to go back to the boys. Not necessarily European, but I’m always looking for the perfect mix, kind of like Mac.  I love so many Japanese blades, but they all have unwieldy long handles I don't dig, not to mention that they are often not tough enough, high maintenance, too girly.
Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 02:47PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , | CommentsPost a Comment

Summer to Fall, Mother Nature and Mushrooms

Although there is no doubt that we’re still riding peak season at Les Jardins Sauvages, I guess it’s time to admit that the 'summer of summers' is now officially over..

now, less of this And more of this: cleaning & cooking mushrooms

The season change notably creeps in before we’re ready, and the calendar date passes while we’re still in summer mode.  It only feels real a week or two later.. When my soups get heartier and a hot app naturally replaces a salad on my menu.  When bread making becomes more manageable and my chef jacket is a welcome layer on top of my camisole.  When fresh wild flowers become hard to find for the table tops.. When there is more brown than green hitting my pantry.  When my favourite spot outside the kitchen moves from the river (or terrasse) to next to fireside.  Yup, time to shift modes, bundle up and focus on the mushrooms, maybe chop some wood.

less of this: salad with wild greens and flower petalsmore of this: Piglet two ways, wilted wild greens and mushroom jus I do adore the seasons.  I’m nonetheless always sorry to see one close, simultaneously feeling excited about the next one moving in, with all its novel spendour and contrasts, familiar comforts and certain surprises in store.

Looking back, summer 2012 was indeed beautiful, but!  For sure, the lamest for wild edibles I’ve seen since I embarked on this adventure with François.  No problem if you have all day/week and are foraging for your family dinner alone..  It was a struggle for anything green, not much better for the tasty toadstools.  Only the tomatoes and peaches seemed to flourish.  The non-wild revelation of the summer: these micro tomatoes François planted in our garden!  (one of the original heirloom varieties from Mexico)


Thankfully, in certain regions like the Gaspesie and further north, there was enough rain and alternate sunny weather for decent wild harvests.  It's a good thing that François has built a network of pickers across the province over the years, people he met on his travels and trained, or others - knowledgable kindred spirits he formed a partnership with..  To think back to the day when he had to be everywhere or miss out, living out of his truck and tent, picking everything himself!

In his primary foraging/family territory - the Outaouis and here in the Lanaudière, the blackberries dried before ripening, blueberries, and raspberries the same; the mushrooms were sparse.  This was definitely not a chanterelle year, for instance.   Normally, I cross the bridge and see mushrooms everywhere, not this year.  We had to hunt far and wide.  And when found, they were often piqué (worm infested) before anyone could get to them in numbers. The BC and foreign suppliers certainly did well on the Quebec market this year.  Those seeking out local mushrooms were all over François and his team at Marché Jean Talon; we couldn’t keep up. Which also means I hardly got my fair share of summer varieties at the resto/workshop.

airelles de marécage/airelles (cote nord)

chanterelles en tubes/yellowfoot chanterelle beauties polypore soufré/chicken mushroom

So, a thousand pounds in maybe, not counting what François sold at market.  Last year, I had processed over a ton by now, 2 tons by Oct - be it cleaned and dehydrated, with a first cooking and sous-vide, or pickled, put up somehow.  I’ve had an easy summer, hence the tan.  Only working 50-60hr weeks on average, mother nature didn’t make as many of her extraordinary demands with regular relentless abundance in short spurts, less cross over.  I got to deal with a couple of weeds/berries/greens at a time, usually keeping up despite my meagre staffing.   We nailed all our basics from the pickled buds, cattails in all forms, sea parsely pesto and sousvide sea spinach, all the flowers/greens for the tisane and sirops, just enough berries for my jams/coulis/vinaigrettes etc.  I managed to do quite a bit of preserves with the cultivated stuff too (peas, corn, tomatoes in many forms - ketchup, hot sauce, ratatouille..)


Not quite the mushroom nirvana I’ve grown accustomed to thanks to my forager of foragers, I couldn’t help but spend the last leg of the summer worrying..  Would I have enough for our monster mushroom festival and for all our products year-round?  A constant juggling game, I would certainly have to regroup and make do with what I have, reconfigure our products, ditch label inventory $$, oh the joys of the wild life in business..


Lactaire à l'odeur d'érable/Maple scented lactarius

Then there was the most welcome surprise - a formidable harvest of Amanite des Césars, the king of mushrooms and a rarity here.  Even in France, where it is prized above all varieties, it is a rare treat to see more than a pound, especially like these..  François definitely impressed some mushroom snobs this year in a bad mushroom year no less..  For our tenth anniversary, we will have this noble shroom on our mushroom menu for the first time.

bebe amanite des césars


And there is hope yet across the board - this past week was fantastic, the best of the year yet.  Cepes & Lactaires Délicieux are sprouting in the backyard.  The shrooms are coming in from all our pickers at a faster pace by the day and I’m managing to cover with less staff than in prior years.  We processed 200lb this weekend alone and there is a major line up for the dehydrator and my time.  Gorgeous yellowfoot chanterelles and hedgehogs!  Came across a good amount of a variety of small hedgehog (pied de mouton ombeliqué) that is a fun novelty.  A pretty stellar year for that rare maple scented Lactarius too, probably not enough to sell but sufficient for my restaurant needs.  A trickle of armilaires and matsutake, hoping for more..  Lactaires Delicieux, Puffballs and autumn cepes, slippery jacks and Larch boletes showing up on schedule here, weehoo.  Some beefsteak polypore a bonus!  The autumn oysters, smooth lepiota and shaggy mane will be next, fingers crossed.

pied de mouton/hedgehog, nice harvest from Gaspesie getting better by the day

pied de mouton ombeliquéarmillaire ventru/swollen stalked cat

She just might catch up that tricky dame nature.  And I will have no choice but to follow..  Which is fine; I am now used to responding to her whims, and it so happens that cooks looking for work appear to be coming out of the woodwork as they magically do in fall.  Forever grateful even if I have to scramble and go into overdrive this autumn season.  Let a new set of games begin!  Countdown to our mushroom festival Oct 12-28!


Beefsteak PolyporeHen of the woods, a favourite for a braise or to pickleshaggy mane; best when young (same day), no dark color - in soup autumn oyster (or elm oyster; although it grows on maple)another slimy/hard to work bolet that pays off in the dehydratorLarch bolete - one of the best flavourwise but it's a pain to clean (and expensive with 5% yield after drying).

Smooth Lepiota - to be picked with caution because it looks a lot like dangerous varieties like 'the destroying angel'

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:57PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , | CommentsPost a Comment