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French Basque cuisine comes to Port aux Choix

Audrey Pittman, director of the French Room Cultural Centre at the bread oven, with French Basque Chef Gerard Couret. On Monday, they tested the bread to be cooked during the Gourmet Festival on Saturday.
Audrey Pittman, director of the French Room Cultural Centre at the bread oven, with French Basque Chef Gerard Couret. On Monday, they tested the bread to be cooked during the Gourmet Festival on Saturday.

PORT AUX CHOIX, NL – The Town of Port au Choix is getting in touch with its French history with the help of a chef introducing a special cuisine.

Gerard Couret is a renowned French Basque chef who originally hails from that area of France and currently lives in Montreal. He has cooked these recipes for over 50 years.

Last week, Couret came to Port au Choix to prepare food with various establishments and to help with the town’s first ever Gourmet Festival.

From Aug 14 to 17, Couret prepared food with establishment owners and chefs in Port au Choix as part of a workshop. Jeannie’s Sunrise B&B, Sea Echo Motel, the Anchor Café and the local bakery, Dot’s Pantry and Coffee Shop, all participated.

From Aug. 18 to 20, the town held the Gourmet Festival, which allowed locals to sample Basque cuisine, including moose served in a Basque style at the Visitor Centre on Friday.

At the tent near the French bread oven on Saturday and Sunday, the town continued to serve samples of gourmet for locals. The Qalipu Aboriginal Women’s Circle and other individuals from the community prepared this food.

Carolyn Lavers, owner of Dot’s Pantry and Coffee Shop, was one of the local chefs to learn recipes from French Basque Chef Gerard Couret.

Meanwhile, the newly trained local establishments put their recipes to use, presenting Basque menus to their customers. Some of this cuisine included enticing appetizers of fresh mussels of St-Jean-de-Lux, fresh capelin, moose axoa d’Espelette, koshkera (a fresh cod dish), a Basque cake, and plenty more.

There was no shortage of other entertainment and activities throughout the week, including an opening ceremony on Saturday at the French Rooms Cultural Centre and a parade to the French bread oven to commemorate the French heritage of Port au Choix on Aug. 19.

The Port au Choix National Historic Site tells the story of 6,000 years of history across various cultures, including the Maritime Archaic People, the Groswater and Dorset Arctic People, the recent indigenous people including the ancestors of the Beothuk, and the European people.

A significant part of that history is the Port au Choix connection with France. The area was one part of the French Shore from 1713 to 1904 and the connection to French history remains in place in community and family names.

According to Parks Canada, this event was an opportunity to recognize and celebrate that connection.

The festival was organized by Parks Canada in partnership with the Historic Site Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Town of Port au Choix, the French Cultural Centre, the NORPEN Aboriginal Women’s Circle, the Town of Port Saunders and the Port Saunders Catholic Church.

It was held as part of Canada 150 and the centennial of National Historic Sites of Canada.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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