The French toast at Café Bloom is good. Really, really good.
The outside is crisp and firm, pan-cooked to a golden-brown but looking more golden-golden under a layer of maple syrup. Every bite of its cinnamon and nutmeg coating crunches with reassuring weight. The inside is silk. Not silky, simply silk. Soft, smooth and not too sweet (but not unsweet) and unctuously decadent. It’s a trip.
“It’s my mom’s recipe,” says Samuel Barrette, the head chef at the Pointe St-Charles café, whose sister Maude Gendron is the staff manager. “I was raised on it.”
On the way from his mother’s kitchen to his own, the recipe has been modified — or enhanced, if you will.
Like the original—which he says his mom found in some cooking magazine in the ‘90s—the Bloom toast uses a cream base, with 35 percent cream instead of milk.
“That makes the inside of the bread so silky and moist,” he says.
The big change is the bread itself. In his youth in Longueuil, Barrette’s mom would make the toast from whatever sandwich bread was in the house. Usually whole wheat, in thin slices, so the toast would literally melt—more batter than bread.
At Bloom, the bread is more substantial: they use Carré au Lait from Hochelaga bakery Arhoma. “It's more dense than any old bread,” says Barrette. “It's a classic bread, milk-based instead of water-based.” That doubles down on the richness, flavour, and texture.
On top of that, the whole dish doubles down on family.
“When I started going out with my girlfriend, four years ago, the first breakfasts I made for us were the cream French toast.” Barrette says. “She made a maple-pepper bacon.”
His voice picks up as he describes it. It was so delicious. She would put it in the oven until it was almost cooked but still soft. Then she’d throw it in a hot pan, pour maple syrup in, and turn off the heat. As the pan cooled the bacon caramelized and hardened and then she’d sprinkle on some pepper.
“The two together are so good, salty, sweet, silky, crunchy,” he says, beaming. “It's everything you're looking for in texture and taste.”
It was also what the café’s brunch menu was looking for, says Bloom’s owner Jessica Bégault. When Barrette took over the kitchen in 2014, Bégault says the only comparable dishes at the time were waffles and granola. The french toast was the first thing he put on the menu.
It was a fitting addition, just as Barrette and Gendron were fitting additions to the team. Gendron joined after Barrette.
“We started like a family story,” says Bégault. When they opened four years ago on March 1, the first chef was Bégault’s cousin. He came from Belgium (she’s Belgian) for a year to build the menu. “We started with the recipes of our grandmother, like the chocolate pie, and the tartines.”
She had never run a café. She had never studied management. In the same way, Barrette didn’t study cooking: both he and his sister studied film. He worked in kitchens since he was 16, though.
“But always in seasonal jobs,” he says. His last kitchen job before Bloom was at Plateau breakfast spot Les Belles Soeurs, where he worked for three years. ”I kept the kitchen, but it wasn't anything creative.”
Now, at Bloom, Barrette says his art background informs everything in the kitchen. To him, the ideas and themes behind the food matter too, not just the taste. That’s part of why the French toast is so special.
“It's something that connects where I'm from with what we try to do,” he says. And so the food is grounded in tradition, and the place is grounded in the closest kind of community: family.
“That's one of our strengths,” says Barrette. “We've got a really strong base in knowing who we are.”
Bégault agrees. “It’s so sweet to have a heritage.”