Les Délices de la Mer: A Delightful Fish Tale from the Gaspé Peninsula
The moment the glorious snow crab season comes to an end, lobster takes over. Every spring, the arrival of the crustacean from the peninsula – followed closely by Magdalen Islands’ – is eagerly awaited. The season launches a few days before Mother’s Day and is in full swing until the end of June, as evidenced by the frenzy in the fishing ports followed by the ballet of trucks delivering to the markets.At Délices de la Mer, the counters overflow with delicious live or cooked lobster, not to mention the delightful house lobster rolls. “On weekends, we cook lobster from morning till closing time, it’s nonstop!” says the owner, Christian Servant, who points out that they only cook large lobsters for their firmer flesh in water that is salted to attain sea water salinity levels.
“The secret to the perfect lobster roll? Simply add fresh tarragon and stick to traditional hotdog buns,” claims the Gaspesian. “The blandness of the bread helps bring out the delicious flavour of the fresh lobster meat.”
Between Montréal and Sainte-Anne-des-Monts
Christian Servant has devoted his life to seafood for over 20 years. “At 25 I was working in a different field, a job that had me travelling throughout Québec. That’s when I realized what was being sold as fish and seafood. It didn’t make any sense, it was always the same stuff,” he recalls, being knowledgeable from youth of a vast array of fresh local seafood. “So I made it my mission to introduce quality seafood products to all Quebecers.”
That’s how Délices de la Mer was born in 1988, but with a different setup than the fish shops we know today. “I started by going to festivals,” recalls Christian, “I’d set up my food truck at the Festival Western de Saint-Tite, the Festival de la gibelotte de Sorel-Tracy, blues festivals, Christmas markets, etc. I did them all! 14 festivals, each with a different theme, 14 festivals every season.” He was offering no less than 36 different seafood dishes, from crab salad to shrimp poutine, including lobster rolls, clam chowder and even whelks. “I love seafood and I’ve always loved to cook. It’s a true passion of mine,” says the entrepreneur.
In late fall 2002, Christian parked his food truck for the last event of the year, the Christmas market in Québec City Old Port, where he decided to spend the winter. “I never left the place, I still have a shop at the Grand Marché de Québec,” says the merchant, laughing. Since then, he has been offering fresh fish and seafood as well as a few prepared dishes based on recipes he developed with his mother.
The following year, Christian saw an opportunity with the Jean Talon Market expansion and makeover and applied to rent a space for his business. His project is accepted. He operated his new fish shop for a few months, then decided to expand and rent the stall in front of it to cook lobster and crab and prepare ready-to-eat dishes such as breaded cod.
Since then, Christian lives and works in Montréal and Sainte-Anne-des-Monts where he opened a mixed boutique – fishmonger’s, coffee shop and gourmet specialties – currently closed due to the pandemic that will eventually be relocated. He also opened a new branch in Boucherville in 2018.
Focusing on the sea, local products and discovery.
With three shops, a production facility and about 50 employees, Délices de la Mer has positioned itself as the authority in seafood of unparalleled freshness and quality. “The fishing port is a kilometre away from my home, I can see the boats coming in,” stresses Christian, who often meets the fishermen on the dock and occasionally climbs aboard with them.
Délices de la Mer offers a wonderful dive into Gaspesian waters: 80% of the products are fished there. Depending on seasons and deliveries, the shops display a bounty of lobster, fresh scallops, Atlantic halibut, turbot, redfish and crab. You will also find specialties from Magdalen Islands, the Québec North Shore and the Maritimes such as seal, oysters, mussels, scallops and surf clams.
At the Sainte-Anne-des-Monts production facility, a cousin has replaced Christian’s mom and aunt to manage the preparation of ready-to-eat dishes; cod pies, Arctic char patties and gravlax, all delivered regularly to the three fish shops.
Délices de la Mer, a certified Fourchette bleue Smarter Seafood Establishment, also promotes delicious species that are praised abroad but sometimes shunned here at home. Sea urchins from the Lower St. Lawrence, seal from Magdalen Islands, anglerfish and whelks line the counters of the fish shops. “People aren’t familiar with them. Sometime these little-known products are simply poorly cooked,” says Christian. “A beautiful white-fleshed fish like turbot, for example, should be cooked ever so lightly!”
But for the next few weeks, lobster will be the star of the stalls and keep Christian very busy!
Quick Questions to Christian
Describe the market’s vibe in three words?
Family atmosphere, proximity with producers, guaranteed quality.
Your best memory of the St. Lawrence?
The opening of crab season! Going to get live snow crabs from the fishing boat with my family was very inspiring for me. It’s a tradition to eat crab at Easter in Gaspesia.
Name a product one must get when visiting your shop?
So many of them! Obviously, lobster and crab cooked directly for the customer, you can’t get them any fresher, but also oysters and fish, especially turbot. As for prepared dishes, the seafood shell is a must.
Text by Marie-Eve Blanchard, magazine Caribou Translated by Marie-Andrée Parent Photos de Dominique Viau, BODOÜM photographie Producers, merchants and artisans together make up the Montréal Public Markets’ extended family. For years, often for generations, they’ve been getting up early, experimenting, sometimes starting over, nurturing, harvesting and flourishing! Day after day, they stand proudly behind their stalls as if by their own dining-room table, inviting us to feast. They’re the heart and soul of the markets – their very essence – and the reason we keep coming back. The Family Portrait series aims to pay tribute to all the pillars of our public markets.
Text by Marie-Eve Blanchard, magazine Caribou
Translated by Marie-Andrée Parent
Photos de Dominique Viau, BODOÜM photographie
Producers, merchants and artisans together make up the Montréal Public Markets’ extended family. For years, often for generations, they’ve been getting up early, experimenting, sometimes starting over, nurturing, harvesting and flourishing! Day after day, they stand proudly behind their stalls as if by their own dining-room table, inviting us to feast. They’re the heart and soul of the markets – their very essence – and the reason we keep coming back. The Family Portrait series aims to pay tribute to all the pillars of our public markets.This project is funded through the Programme Proximité of the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation, a program implemented under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership according to an agreement between the governments of Canada and Québec.