Bistro des Artistes
489 Rue de l’Église,
Phone: (819) 320-0899
Cost: $54.29 (tax & tip included)
Chef Hats: 3.5
This is my second article in my series on day tripping around Montreal and Québec. The article may be a little late for a visit in the summer months, but just in time for the winter season. You can always revisit next year in the summer, when the snow has melted. Val David is charming in all four seasons, the little town is a replica of a small Swiss town, both in feel and setting; a true hidden gem in the hills of the Laurentians. The town during the winter season becomes the ideal spot for cross country skiing, with the P’tit Train du Nord being the longest of trails for outdoor sports such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing. In the summer it turns into a bicycle path, a hiking trail or a in- line skating track. You will experience miles of beautiful majestic scenery on Le P’tit train du Nord, which once served as railroad for a commuter train which ran from Montreal to the Laurentians for 90 years from 1891 to 1981. I just discovered that the area is also a very popular for rock climbing. The town has a vibrant artist community and some great dining spots. Except for skiing and aprés-ski, which are the only sports I do in winter, I would rather be lounging in a café or restaurant talking, eating and people watching.
Being the perpetual gourmand and always looking for a fix, for years, Hotel La Sapinière was my favorite go to place in Val David. I would venture there at least once a year for either brunch, dinner or to spend a long weekend during mid-term break skiing with family in the national park just next to the inn. I loved it; I thought the trails were perfect for small children. It was quiet, serene and calming to the senses; away from the crowds, with its picturesque overpass bridges and half frozen streams and super smooth trails surrounded by pristine and an undisturbed nature.
Unfortunately, in December 2013, after 77 years of being in operation La Sapinière closed and was put in receivership. The closure, I hear was due to the high cost of operations and millions of dollars in expenses for major renovations that were needed badly. The fact was that it had declined severely in popularity over the years and people stopped coming. I had stayed there one last time in 2010 after an office Christmas party in the Laurentians. I was really unfortunate to stay in a motel room across the street from the main hotel. The room was so outdated. The heating did not work, the comforters and decor were from the 1960’s and the room had mildew, moldy odor. I was horrified that they would even rent this room to anyone.
The next morning brunch in the dining room proved just as disappointing. The salle à manger looked dark and dingy with stains all over the carpets. No maitre D to greet you at the door. We were told to grab a seat. There was a small buffet with basic items, gone were the elaborate dishes of endless food. The food being served was basic b for the cost of $ 25.00 per person, obviously a rip off. Hailed for being a gastronomic destination in the early 2000, their dining room had won many gastronomic awards. After our experience there in December 2010 we nixed La Sapinière and I am sure many others did too. Although I was somewhat sad to see the little Dame fall, as we had many good memories of the place.
I did not return to Val David, until this year with a friend to visit the 1001 pots exhibit in August. Once there I discovered a different aspect of Val David with its artist community and little cafes and restaurant on de l’ Église Street. The 1001 pots exhibit is a must for all pottery makers and home makers alike. There is a big array of beautiful ceramics and art that you can purchase for very reasonable prices. Each piece is original in design and made by creative local Québec Artists. The exhibit held outdoors is visually appealing and stunning with all its different forms and shapes of pottery. Held in a beautiful hidden garden on the corner of De l’Église Street and Ruelle des Artistes, the location is expansive and beautiful with its different nooks and different gardens.
While at the exhibit, we stopped for tea and a snack at La Maison Camelia Sinensis located in a private corner of the garden surrounded by beautiful elephant leaved plants. The exhibit is held in partnership with teahouse Camelia Sinensis, which promotes many of the ceramics on display. The experience was totally soothing and Zen. You can take your tea in a newly purchased cup in the Mousse, Zen or Secret Garden. They also have workshops on tea discovery and floral ikebana or just listen to musical concerts and poetry readings in the Silica Garden.
After wandering around the gardens looking at the pottery and taking lots of pictures for the better part of the afternoon, we had worked up quite a thirst and went walking on restaurant row looking for a terrasse to have a brew and a casual bite. We found Bistro des Artistes which suited everyone’s palate.
Bistro des Artistes owned my Nathalie Monette is not a pretentious place, situated on Main Street /de L’Église in Val David’s town center it is housed in a store front building next door to a Boulangerie. We chose it basically for its lovely exterior teal green colors and its long terrace. Inside you will find the warm colors of cream walls, red chairs and wooden tables. The walls with its wainscoting give it a timeless classic look. The menu is casual mix of French and Italian dishes. Let us call it fusion cooking. You can find items like duck or bavette on the menu as well as pastas, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. Bistro des Artistes is a sure crowd pleaser for either the simple eater or the gourmand with a more sophisticated palette.
The chef Pierre Andre Cantin, who started at Le Lutéce, but has worked in some notable places like Bistro a Champlain, Le Club St-James and Fourquet Fourchette. The menu is a good mix of dishes and sure enough to please anyone. The presentations are modern and you can find some of the items served on some of Montreal finer table; like poutine with duck, salmon tartares, bavette and frites and of course all your Italian favorites.
They have a good list of wines and some good local and imported beers.
We started with the poutine with confit de canard at $ 12.00. We were served a generous portion of crispy homemade fries in gravy topped with shredded duck meat and cheese curds. This was delicious and very filling and satisfying on its own. The duck meat was tender and not at all dried out.
For our main meals, I had a beef burger for $ 14.00, with a mix greens house salad and aioli sauce served on a slate plate. The burger was a generous patty of Angus beef that was charcoal grilled on a sesame bun with fresh tomato slices, lettuce, and condiments on the aside. Just the way I like it and to compliment my burger a local pale ale beer- La Blanche de Chambly for $7.00, definitely the influence Chef Cantin from his days at Fourquet Fourchette or I like the fact that they are promoting local microbreweries. These days you can get Blanc de Chambly at your local grocery store as well and is one of my favorites.
The second main meal was a Chicken Croissandwich -$13.00. Not served on a croissant as led to believe, but on a multi- grained pressed Panini from the bakery next door. It was heavenly, served with grilled chicken breasts and bacon, cubed tomato, lettuce and their speciality aioli sauce. With a side order of crispy Belgium fries and an accompaniment a Yulupa Red Cabernet for $ 9.00, it was a really great lunch break.
The next time in Val David, I will try the new Tables des Gourmets that has been getting rave reviews this year.
But Val David has no shortage of great places to eat at after a day of visiting. You can always pick up fresh produce from the Farmers Market on your way home, held every Saturday morning on rue de l’Église and Academie.
You can pick up some local specialities like Gaspor pork and maple cream from Domaine Kildare. Otherwise there is plenty of other fresh produce from other local farms that would make a great addition to any meal.