I took French through school and I lived in Montreal for 8 years. So it kind of boggles my mind that I thought Stephane Levac had named his catering company after strawberries. It seemed oddly seasonal. He tells me he gets that a lot and that, in fact, Frais Catering means FRESH Catering. Suddenly it all makes sense. Fresh, local, lovingly prepared, the perfect synergy of what good food is meant to be.
I first encountered the wizardry of Frais Catering last summer, when I got to be a judge for Tastes of the Valley. M. Levac may be a genius with food, but his naming practices are strictly utilitarian. His prize-winning dish was Haddock Stew. He takes the same approach with his weekly offerings at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market, which is the only time I am able to sample his wares as Frais is inconveniently located in Wolfville and I work in Kentville. Rather than, say, “The King’s Hash Browns,” for instance, he labels this fit-for-royalty dish: “Duck Fat Potatoes, Pulled Pork, Sour Cream, and Green Onion.”
It’s almost like a bait-and-switch. Ordinary name, extraordinary dish. The “duck fat” gives away the decadence, but only the explosion of flavour truly fulfills the promise of foodie paradise. I’d forgotten my golden cutlery, but the plastic fork did the trick.
My sons ordered the bagels with lox, which M. Levac usually puts quotation marks around. Why? Because it’s not your Bubby’s lox, oh no, it’s a beet and vodka cured salmon from which M. Levac carves generous slices to place atop cream cheese, red onions, and dill on his handmade bagels. You read that right: he makes the best bagels this side of Montreal (maybe even better, if I’m allowed to say). Sometimes he even lets me buy one to eat with absolutely no adornments and I need to find a quiet place to fully appreciate the magnitude of the yummyness. Max and Solomon reported that their bagels were “awesome” and “amazing” and “the best lunch of my life.”
Because my eyes are bigger than my stomach, I also decided I needed to have a bagel to accompany the King’s Palace Fries. I ordered the goat’s milk yogurt, radish, and green onion option. I gave half to my friend who had fortunately happened by and she echoed my appraisal: delightful, tart, tangy, and surprising (the thin slices of radish). I loved the texture combination, too: crisp radish, creamy but light yogurt, and the densely warm richness of the “everything” bagel. I could weep.
In the interest of journalistic integrity, I must tell you that I had one tiny twinge of disappointment. See, M. Levac posts food porn photos on Facebook that frequently require me to restrain myself from attempting to lick the screen of my laptop. One such tease was just a description: Honey Lemon & Vanilla Panna Cotta. I suggested he should bring some to the market. He did not. He has promised to bring me one next week…
As a loving wife, I brought Mike home the Apple Fennel and Celery Slaw. Mike also adores delicious foods, and wondered aloud how M. Levac sliced his apples “like that.” Mike is not one for adjectives, though, as he referred to this slaw as “good,” which I’m taking as akin to him describing me in my wedding dress as looking “nice.” We can’t all be logophiles.
M. Levac can be found crafting Frais Catering deliciousness both at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market and at the Wool ‘n’ Tart in Wolfville. You, too, can drool on your computer screen at www.fraiscatering.ca or on Facebook.