Moncton: Tradition, With A Twist

As you walk into Black Rabbit bistro in Shediac, N.B., or Les Brumes du Coude in nearby Moncton, you get a different feeling than at any restaurant in, say, Fredericton or Saint John. For one thing, you’ll hear French being spoken — most likely chiac, the local cross between English and Acadian French, peppered with old words that are rarely used any more in France, or even Québec for that matter. For an anglophone who loves food and drink, it’s a pleasantly foreign feeling, like the adventure of dining in another country. And if your first language is French, well, it simply feels like home.

It may come as a surprise to some Canadians that New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, and that about one in three New Brunswickers speaks French as their first language.

Of the bigger cities, Moncton has the strongest Acadian culture. One-third of its 70,000 inhabitants are francophone; and its sister city, Dieppe, is more than 70 per cent French. Acadian dominance continues east to Dieppe and such coastal towns as Shediac, Cocagne and Bouctouche, all under an hour’s drive from Moncton airport.

This creates a distinctive aspect to the food culture, particularly as the language split is quite regional, with the francophones concentrated along the Québec border and along the East Coast, all the way from up north on the Acadian Peninsula to down south past Shediac.

Modern dishes at Les Brumes du Coude include roasted bone marrow and snail au herbes.

Acadians have their own French dialect and their own cuisine, rooted in their history, which differs significantly from that of Québec francophones. Acadians were expelled from Atlantic Canada by the British in 1755, heading south and giving rise to the Cajun culture in Louisiana. Many eventually came back (and some never left), which explains the thriving Acadian community, particularly in New Brunswick.

Restaurants like Black Rabbit and Les Brumes du Coude illustrate the changing local French food culture, helping define so-called Acadian cuisine.

Black Rabbit has locations in Shediac and Moncton; Owner Luc Doucet (right)

The cuisine is rooted in centuries-old French gastronomy, but it has evolved with the culture, and it’s not even the same from province to province. Rappie pie (râpure), for instance, is a baked dish made from grated and strained potatoes, typically with chicken, pork, rabbit or shellfish. Poutine râpée — a related dish found at traditional eateries in francophone New Brunswick — consists of a large potato dumpling with a core of pork fat, or cretons, sometimes served with brown sugar. Smaller ones without pork are often added to fricot, the homestyle Acadian soup or stew.

Read more about Acadian fine dining in re:porter Issue 71, on flights now. Or, check out a food lover’s guide to New Brunswick.