Bons Voisins lives it up

Corinne Laberge
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Published on December 15, 2011

The team behind the cabaret: Anne-Marie Angers-Trottier, co-founder, Sophie Laplante (in charge of the evening) and employee Diane Rhéaume.

Published on December 20, 2011

A cabaret-boutique with a style and ambience all its own

Published on December 20, 2011

The menu format at the cabaret is simply out of this world. Farm-fresh delights from the garden and upside-down apple cake for dessert.

Published on December 20, 2011

Another big attraction for visitors is the large number of local microbrews available on tap. Whether it’s white, blonde, amber, red or dark, the cabaret has something to go with everything on the menu.

Published on December 20, 2011

In the company of the night’s musicians Nathalie Khoriaty and Norm Zabala.

Published on December 20, 2011

Singer-songwriter Nathalie Khoriaty performs. Her natural charm and brilliant blue eyes are as expressive as her voice.

Published on December 20, 2011

Singer-songwriter Norm Zabala, the musical director for Florence K.

Published on December 20, 2011

Norm and Nath on stage. Him on the guitar, she on the piano.

Published on December 20, 2011

It’s been a successful musical marriage for the pair, who have great on-stage chemistry.

A true neighbourhood bistro in Pointe Claire

For about a year and a half now, the West Island’s best-kept secret has sat quietly in the heart of Pointe Claire Village – a vibrant little spot that has become THE place to check out a dinner show, or grab a microbrew, surrounded by sparkling ambience while enjoying high-quality locally-produced meals at a good price. It’s clear that by now, the Caberet-boutique des des Bons Voisins co-operative is setting itself apart in the urban – and suburban – landscape.

They’re the kind of neighbours you want on your street. They’re dynamic and passionate, show initiative, have audacity to spare and sell only organic and fair-trade goods and goodies. It’s an informal atmosphere when you drop by for a simple, yet succulent, meal. They’re the kind of neighbours we visited for the first time last Friday – and it’s definitely become an address to note if you’re in the mood for an evening out, a 5 a 7, or just a great meal among friends.

A warm atmosphere greeted us upon entry. The décor is lively and the space is beautifully appointed. With its cachet, monthly exhibitions of local artists’ work and contemporary style, the Cabaret-boutique brings to mind the esthetic tendencies of Plateau Mont-Royal’s trendy resto-cafés. Most of the spaces were full for the performance of local songwriters and musicians Nathalie Khoriaty and Norm Zabala grabbed the audience’s attention quickly. The longtime solo performers teamed up for this epical event – and the results were nothing short of amazing. Their universe and their instruments became one, and the magic was impossible to miss.

“We’ve known each other since. . .Oh my God, for more than 10 years,” Khoriaty said, laughing. “Recently, I needed to find a jazz guitarist for a show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival , and right away, I called Norm,” said Khoriaty, whose last album, Mississippi Love, was released in 2010. Zabala, for his part, was equally excited to take part. “I had to learn all the songs on her album for the show, and I fell absolutely in love,” he said, adding “We really work well together, and we’re hoping it will continue to be the case,” said the singer-songwriter, whose most recent album, The woodshed sessions, was released this year. With Khoriaty on piano and Zabala alongside on guitar, their chemistry is palpable.

Surprises on the menu

As the server slid me a menu, I only had but a few moments to take a quick look at it, identifying a couple of interesting items before my growling stomach forced me to order. Called P’tits plats à partager (little dishes to share), the menu may be small, but the list of delicious stuff is long at Bons Voisins. It’s the formula that’s worked for them so far, comprised of four sections: from the farm, from the garden, side dishes and sweet stuff. A seasonal table d’hote made exclusively from organic, fair-trade and local meat and produce. We settled on our farm selection of hot goat cheese coupled with honey and bacon alongside country pate with an elderberry jelly. Two choices that paid off in the dining process, to be sure. On the garden side, we opted for eggplant wafersw seasoned with garlic and cinnamon, pickled beets and cabbage and a Caesar salad of the day. It was, simply, an impressive array of delicious dished right in the middle of our table.

It was a menu as simple as it was surprising. It is pretension-free, but it would have all kinds of reasons to be snooty, because swankier, more expensive restaurants have nothing on Des Bons Voisins. Their standards of flavour and freshness in their ingredients are tough to equal, which explains why the pickled beets can rival Grandma’s for taste and why the country pate was very deserving of its name. It proved a great side to one of the excellent local microbrews available at the cabaret. Whether you’re looking for blonde, white, red, or even dark stout, chances are Des Bons Voisins has something to tickle your interest, expert or neophyte.

“Good ingredients and a good chef, that’s the secret,” said Des Bons Voisins co-founder Anne-Marie Angers-Trottier. “We only buy from small local farmers and cultivators, which is fantastic for beer, wine and food. With products coming only from our region, it’s a recipe for success! Our mission is to discover the natural riches of our region and to learn how to prepare and cook what is available. We’re also a place where people can go for organic farms, so people can come pick up cheese, meat and dairy products here at the same time,” she said. “The idea is to promote the talents and experience of local people and all that we have to offer in our region, which is a great neighbourhood. To create a space where locals can gather – an alternative to what’s going on in the West Island presently. An alternative from an ecological, community, cultural and social point of view.”

She continued, going on to say that she hopes to contribute greatly to the strengthening of social fabrics in the community.

“We’re looking to develop our neighbourhood, but in a different way, by promoting the social economy. It’s on that base principle that we can maintain a base of solidarity, and by re-investing all our profits in the community. It changes the way you work, when it’s not in the capitalist mindset,” she said. Angers-Trottier opened the co-op with partner Natalie Laplante nearly two years ago; Today, the co-op boasts 117 members, mostly locals, that contribute actively to the co-op’s success and its functionality.

“Our co-operative concept doesn’t exist anywhere else in North America. We think we’ve created a completely different style of <@Ri>membership<@$p>, in the sense that we have fewer members, but the ones that sign on do so feeling a sense of ownership. They spend time here, they take part in strategic and financial decisions and are involved. One member is incharge of managing the artists, another is in charge of the beer. Everyone brings their own expriences and their own savoir-faire to the project,” she said. “We’re attractive to people who really want to give back to the community and be an agent of social change. The idea, also, is to open ourselves up to people who are less change-minded and who are interested to learn. Sometimes, it starts with coffee. . . and then it progresses to conferences, book clubs, salsa nights and beer tastings,” she added

The cabaret-boutique des Bons Voisins is located at 247A Lakeshore Rd. in Pointe Claire. For more information: 514-505-0578 or vist them online at www.desbonsvoisins.com.

Geographic location: Pointe Claire, Mont-Royal, Ottawa West Island North America

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