Inspirations

For the new food truck I’m inspired by the following. As you can imagine (and as I’ve discussed with some of you) this is not a new line of thinking. I’ve been imagining this since the first year in operation.

In terms of functionality and practicality, I’ll be looking at the modern version of a traditional French market truck / food truck. Based on a modern front-wheel drive van, it’s practical and economical. The three main brands are Renault (not available here), Citroen (also not available here) and the Fiat Ducato. Which, as chance may have it, is sold as a Dodge Ram ProMaster here in Canada. Something like this:

or perhaps a more square body like this:

However, in my dreams I would use a modernized Citroen Hy van. Last built in the 1960’s [correction: they were built from 1948 to 1981!!], it’s become the iconic French mobile crêperie, and I WANT ONE! Unfortunately, high prices and higher maintenance costs are probably going to put this out of my reach. Especially since I’d need to buy the shell, transport it to Canada, then have someone else effectively replace everything but the body. But darnit, I find them so damned cute! There’s even a 100% electric one somewhere in the UK:

Of course, this being Port Alberni, I might need to have a slightly different version, to whit:

Until later, thanks for reading.

Bistro Breizh is CLOSED. Temporarily.

Right. Hi fans. Won’t be cross-posting to anywhere other than my Facebook page. Just a message to my fans.

Although the latest generator loading mishap was annoying, it wasn’t the only thing going wrong with my current setup. I didn’t rage-quit over not being able to load a generator. It was a decision that was made over a few months, and this just triggered it.

Over the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the truck and trailer setup I currently have is not suited to where I wanted to take the business. I was going to keep operating until I got some money in from the sale of my house in Nanaimo, then attempt a smooth transition. But over the last month a number of issues have cropped up that require that I either invest much more money in the current setup, which I know will not work in the long run no matter what I do, or stop until I have a better set of tools. I’ve elected to do the latter.

There was some discussion at home about whether I would even continue doing this, or take the money and just create a low-key retirement. But I’ve decided that I love doing it enough to build a better food truck and get back on the road.  Requirements and designs have started being drawn up, and I hope it won’t take too long once I get the money to do it. It’ll be a purely European style cross between a market stall and a food truck, and I’ll post drawings and pictures over time just to whet people’s appetites.

So Bistro Breizh isn’t dead. It’s just resting. I can’t promise for how long it’ll be resting, but I will be back, and Port Alberni (and the region) will have Breton galettes and crêpes again.

Regards,
Marc Donovan
your local crêpier.

Weather warnings?

I obviously wasn’t paying attention when I said I’d be open today. It’s going to be an interesting day, opening during a storm that’s earned a weather warning. I guess it’ll be a good test of how water proof the trailer is when the side is open… and how weather proof the crêpier is.

Yes, still opening. I said I would. We’ll be at Burde Beans today at least, and probably tomorrow unless something goes wrong. I’m going to try to open at the hospital on Friday.

Please note that Burde Beans has an indoor area where you can eat the crêpes or galettes. Heck, I’ll even deliver the items to you inside after you order. So you won’t need to brave the weather all that much to get your crêpes or galette.

Open at Tyee Landing

It seems there is a large event at Harbour Quay. Unfortunately, although Tyee Landing is visible from there, I guess it’s a little inconvenient for people to come visit. Nobody here. At all.

I’m starting to feel somewhat negative about this location. Especially since there still isn’t much here. It’s basically a parking lot with two benches. Not even a single table. The Port Authority even removed ALL the picnic tables that they brought over for Port Day, instead of trying to make Tyee Landing more welcoming. I’m simply not seeing the kind of activity or attempts to add the infrastructure I’d expect if someone really wanted to attract businesses like mine.

I don’t know any more. Guess I’ll give the Port Authority a little more time to act, but I know I’m not going to wait all summer. I’ll be more than willing to come back for events, but Tyee Landing as a permanent location is very unfortunately not looking that promising.

Which is truly a pity.

How to disappoint a pessimist?

I’m generally considered a pessimist by many, although I’ll consider myself a “realist” instead. But I can live with the “pessimist” label.  So after contracting to get one of the trailer leaks fixed (for the second time), and letting it sit outside for the last couple of days after plugging in the refrigerator, I just have one thing to say…

Everything seems to work. No leaks (so far). Not even the leak I thought wasn’t going to be fixed until later. The cast iron billig haven’t lost their polymer coatings (aka “seasoning”), although they haven’t been heat tested yet. The refrigerator I plugged in 24 hours ago works just fine. I even have some old flour (buckwheat and wheat) that I can use for testing, although I’ll need to get new batches before I’d be happy serving anything. So all I really need to do is tidy up inside since it’s amazing how messy things get when I’m fixing things all the time, and then start making crêpes and galettes (and chocolate sauce, and caramel beurre salé, and so on) again!

It’s nice, definitely, to have things going right for once. I guess even a pessimist can be pleasantly surprised!

More news soon.

Tradition to the rescue

There are two ways to look at a problem. From a purely analytical perspective, or from the point of view of “tradition”.

Analytically, the “seasoning” of the billig (crepe griddle) is simply the careful polymerization – or turning into a form of plastic – of certain fats onto the cast iron surface of the billig. This thin plastic coating is highly resistant if it’s done right, including the correct types of fat and careful temperature control.

It looks like the seasoning coats I’d created might have delaminated from the cast iron subsurface due to high humidity. Having analysed this and past failures, each time I’ve had this type of failure on the billig, it’s been at a time of very high humidity and fairly broad temperature fluctuations. I have a dehumidifier in the trailer, but there was a large water leak recently which increased the humidity beyond acceptable limits.

Of course, looked at from the perspective of tradition, it’s obviously because I didn’t follow the wisdom of my ancestors and didn’t season the thing correctly in the first place. I was not careful enough in my first creation of a magic substance called “lardigel”, a mixture of pure lard and egg yolk that has been used on billig for as long as there are records of these things. Instead, my first attempts failed, so I moved away from lardigel to other substances. I should not have discarded tradition.

The problem with making lardigel in Canada is that “pure lard” is almost impossible to find. Whereas it’s available in most supermarkets in France, in Canada what is called “pure lard” most certainly isn’t. It’s been adulterated with additives and other chemicals that change it in ways that are detrimental to a good billig coating. Even the local butcher who claimed to sell “pure lard” had salted the stuff! Not so pure after all! I had tried what I thought was lardigel previously and failed. It seems that this might have been because the lard I was using was not, in fact, “pure”.  Lack of proper labelling in this country is a real detriment to doing things correctly.

So I have gone right back to basics and located a source of pure, unadulterated pig fat (leaf lard) straight from the pig. I will be rendering it into the pure lard myself. Once I have the pure lard, I’ll mix it into the substance known as “lardigel” using traditional techniques. Knowledge which I was actually taught in my training, but have neglected to my detriment.  If I do this carefully enough, it should create a well bonded polymer coating that should resist humidity somewhat better. This process is known as the “culottage” in French.

Of course, I could be wrong, in which case expect another “arrrggghhh” post in the near future. We’ll see what happens. It also won’t fix the technical issues I’m having with the automatic temperature controls of the billig. That’s going to be another challenge, to say the least, especially since proper culottage of the billig requires fairly careful temperature control as well as the correct ingredients for lardigel.

Annus Horribilis 2016 continues.

I’m calling this “annus horribilis” because it has been. Everything broke this year, and I’ve been fighting a constant battle to keep things going. Bistro Breizh was only open a total of 6 days until I re-opened at Living Forest. Things are mostly working now, and I’ve been trying to keep things upbeat around here, which for anyone who knew me from before is profoundly unnatural.

But just to let you know that Thursday might be a little busier because my cooler stopped on me and I lost the entire load food in it. My fault, unfortunately. I’d left the fridge on battery power, and charger couldn’t keep up with the load. I thought I’d fixed this, but I hadn’t. Guess I’ll be getting a new, more powerful charger for the battery pack.

On the plus side, there should be fresh *everything* on Thursday, including sausage. Well, freshER everything, as I try to keep it fresh all the time anyway. So get your freshER galette saucisse or salmon/spinach/goat cheese galette while the getting is good!

Thursday. Be there, or be hungry.

What is galette saucisse?

When you look at it, you might think “hey, it’s just a sausage wrapped in a galette”. And you would be technically correct. But it’s much more than that. It’s tradition. Not really old tradition, it having only started in the 19th century, but still tradition. A tradition that has certain rules. Flexible rules for the most part. Sometimes quoted with humour. But still a few rules.

Sure, there are those who call any sausage in a galette “galette saucisse”. They fill it with stuff, they add ketchup or mayo, and they still call it “galette saucisse”.  But to those who care it’s not really “galette saucisse”. It’s just “saucisse in a galette”, which is not the same thing at all.

To enjoy a galette saucisse is to share a common bond with, first and foremost, the people of Rennes and its environs. Specifically, “Rennes, Est de l’Ille et Vilaine, Sud de la Manche, Ouest de la Mayenne”.  Here’s a handy map of the original distribution:

Original distribution of the galette saucisse in Bretagne.
Original distribution of the galette saucisse in Bretagne. (ref: Wikimedia Commons)

The real galette saucisse is intimately linked to the Stade Rennais, the Rennes football club. So the distribution of the galette saucisse today tends to be stronger in areas that have the most fans of the football club.

There is an association, the “Sauvegarde de la Galette Saucisse Bretonne” or SGSB. (Safeguard of the Breton Galette Saucisse), which promotes the original galette saucisse bretonne while trying to mitigate the impact of people claiming to serve galette saucisse when they are in fact serving nothing of the sort. To do this they wrote up ten commandments, as such organizations often do. The ten commandments are guidelines, and mainly meant for those in Bretagne. It’s understood and accepted that those us far from that centre of civilisation will have to adapt and overcome.

sgsb_galette-saucisse
SGSB Logo

The real goal, however, is to never forget what “galette saucisse” actually is. Here at Bistro Breizh, we try to provide the most authentic form of this dish as possible. We try to follow as many of the commandments as possible, just because we want people to share that connection. And when you go visit Rennes, you can have a galette saucisse there and say “yes, I’ve already had this back on Vancouver Island”, and when you describe what you had they’ll all agree with you.

Here is the annotated version of the galette saucisse commandments according to the SGSB:

I – Saucisse, moins de 120 gr, tu ne feras

  • The sausage must not be under 120 grams pre-cooked weight. Because the breton sausage is so lean, that’s also close to the post-cooked weight.

II – Point de moutarde, tu ne mettras

  • No mustard or other condiments applied to the galette saucisse. It is permissible to provide mustard on the side, although this is frowned upon by purists. It is never permissible to provide other condiments, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or non-Dijon mustard. That’s not just the purists, that’s almost everyone who cares.

III – Grasse, jamais, tu ne seras

  • The “saucisse bretonne” that forms the core of the galette saucisse is a LEAN sausage, with very little fat. Although easy to obtain in Bretagne, these have to be custom made elsewhere.

IV – Au Stade Rennais tu excelleras

  • Specific reference to their home, the Stade Rennais, the main football club in Rennes, where they are the official food.

V – A 2 mains et à toute heure, on te mangera

  • To be eaten by hand, at any time. No knife and fork for this dish!

VI – Un verre de cidre, t’accompagnera

  • Must be accompanied by a glass of cidre (“hard” cider, usually between 3 to 6% alcohol). Unfortunately, in certain far away lands with prohibitionist era liquor laws, this cannot be done.  Food trucks and others are allowed to serve cidre in Bretagne. Not in B.C.

VII – Maximum 2 Euros, tu coûteras

  • Should not cost more than 2 euros, about CAN$3.  Sorry, but it’s not going to happen here in B.C..  These rules are meant for central Bretagne, where high quality lean pork, good quality buckwheat flour, even the billig (crêpe griddles) are a fraction of the price available elsewhere.  Sadly, good quality ingredients are much, much more expensive here in B.C.. The buckwheat flour, for instance, is 9 to 11x more expensive here than in Bretagne. The quality lean pork is about 2 to 4x more expensive here.

VIII – Service, sourire, tu les auras

  • We do try to serve with a smile.

IX – Parfaitement on te grillera

  • The sausage is grilled, not boiled. It is then finished on a grill just before serving. To be perfect it should be done on a wood fired grill, but there are many issues with doing that, even in fixed locations.

X – A Rennes, cette charte, on respectera

  • The rules are meant for Rennes. It’s understood that in other lands, some of these rules might not be possible to follow.

So that’s what we here at Bistro Breizh are trying to accomplish with that most humble of dishes, the galette saucisse. Hope you enjoy yours.