One of our favorite restaurants in Lyon, France, is owned and operated by a Paul Bocuse-trained chef, Brigitte Appaix. Here she explains how her resto came to be, and her commitment to fine, but not fancy, dining. Hosted by Courtney Spring, shot & edited by Don Connors; subtitles in French and English (when needed). I shot this video while staying in Lyon for two months in 2010 – one of many restos in this often tourist-overlooked city.
Courtney Spring takes us on another taste treat trip!
10, Bis Rue de Cuire
Tel: +336 14 80 03 47
Maison des Canuts
When I first came to Lyon, I kept hearing about Canuts but it registered as Canucks. This I vaguely knew was a name for Canadians. Derogatory? Ice hockey? Of course I then associated Canuts with Cajuns or Acadians, the French who fled Canada for Louisiana. All of this has absolutely nothing to do with Canuts.
Canuts were the silk weavers of Lyon. And they are famous for several work-related things: making beautiful silk cloth, embracing the Jacquard loom–a precursor to computer technology, and organizing the first worker’s revolt of the industrial revolution. In addition, they actually owned the means of production, working and living in lofts with soaring ceilings that accommodated their own Jacquard looms.
The Maison des Canuts tells the Canut story from Croix-Rousse, the hilltop that was populated by the Canuts and their looms. The small museum is spread between two buildings and consists of a boutique where mostly silk scarves are sold, a classroom where the guided tour stops to learn about the life of the silk worm, and two galleries with fabric samples, memorabilia, and antique equipment, including a working Jacquard loom for demonstrating the weaving process.
The standard French language tour, which is given twice a day, begins in an original Canut workshop. Visitors are provided with a brief history of silk weaving in Lyon and a demonstration of the Jacquard loom. The French silk industry grew in response to the financial drain of importing silk fabric. To keep French wealth at home, silk merchants were charged under royal decree, to buy from French weavers. In addition, mulberry trees needed for silk worm production were planted throughout the warmer parts of France. When Louis XIV built Versailles, the industry kicked into high gear to meet the huge demand for silk tapestries and brocades that covered the palace’s furniture, walls, and windows. Other European royals and eventually, the new wealthy Americans would not be outdone, and a steady market for fine silk fabrics built the wealth of Lyon’s silk merchants.
The artisans who created the fabric benefited little and lived in poverty. Yet a new loom that would streamline the silk weaver’s work was under development when the French Revolution suddenly shut down the silk industry. The royalty and church clients who could buy silk left the country, and lost their properties and their heads. When Napolean III brought luxurious silk fabric firmly back into vogue, the Canuts had embraced the Jacquard loom and over 90,000 people worked in Lyon’s silk industry.
Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the loom, benefited his fellow silk weavers more than himself. The king put the patent in the name of the people and paid Jacquard a small pension. But the loom revolutionized the life and industry of the Canuts. The more efficient one-man loom with the support of family and apprentices made weaving more productive and more profitable.
But the industry was marked with prescient unrest. When silk merchants began slashing pay, Canuts joined together and rebelled in 1831, demanding a fare wage. Described as the first worker revolt of the industrial revolution, the violent uprising was eventually quashed and only better economic times improved the worker’s situation. Two more revolts in response to the weaver’s exploitation by the silk merchants occurred in 1833 and 1848 (one of many worker revolts throughout Europe that year). The Canut’s actions marked the emergence of a communal worker response to capitalism — and of modern socialism, communism, and anarchism.
Silk weaving was industrialized towards the end of the 19th century. Today there is still a Croix-Rousse workshop owned by the luxury silk manufacturer Prelle that uses both antique and modern, computerized looms to create reproduction and other silk cloth. Clients for reproduction fabrics include historic properties in Europe and the US.
So, where did the Canuts get their name? According to my tour guide, a likely origin is that Canut is a form of the word canette which means spool, the small cylinder that holds silk thread.
La Maison des Canuts
10 &12 rue d’Ivry 69004 LYON-France
Check the Maison Des Canuts website for hours, fees, and additional information.
Olives from Nyons, chickens from Bresse, local farmer’s cheese, fresh bread, and vegetables and fruits that mark the changing seasons– these are among the products at our Sunday food market. Each Sunday morning, our Lyon neighborhood, the hilltop “village” called the Croix-Rousse, hosts a busy food market. Block after block of foodstands offer whatever is fresh and local along with produce that expands the growing season by drawing from Southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The Croix Rouse hosts markets everyday except Monday. But Sunday is the biggest market and the focus is food. Located along the edge of the Croix-Rousse plateau, just before the landscape takes a steep dive towards central Lyon, the Sunday market attracts hundreds of food shoppers with meat, fish, bread, wine, spices, and lots of vegetables and fruit.
Last week we bought early carrots and spinach, eggs, and farmer’s cheese to make a vegetable terrine. We bought ripe avocados, lemons, and écrevisse with tiny black eyes for an amuse bouche of guacomole and crawfish. For our main dish we chose cabillaud (cod) from the North Atlantic, some baby potatoes and haricots verts (french green beans) from Kenya (via the Croix-Rousse).
Sunday dinner with friends and family was fun to prepare with so many really good ingredients. We served the meal with some white wines from the market and a neighborhood wine shop. For the apéritif, a fragrant, Alsatian Gewürztraminer accompanied the amuse bouches and meaty Nyons olives. Then a white Burgundy was a good partner for the terrine first course and the main course of poached fish. Dessert was a chestnut mousse that we whipped up from ingredients on-hand, followed by a digestif called Genepi that was brought to us from Savoie. Genepi is a pale liqueur made from Alpine plants that is a favorite for aprés ski–it also worked aprés this meal.
It was un bon repas that was simple to prepare and tasty. We look forward to cooking and eating from our Sunday market as the season progresses.
250 grams carrots (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
250 grams spinach (about 10-12 oz of spinach)
250 grams parsnips (1 1/2 c)
200 grams farmers cheese (1 c –or use sour cream, creme fraiche, whipped or light cream cheese, fromage blanc–something mild enough to let the vegetable flavors through)
salt and pepper
Chop and cook each vegetable independently until soft. Add one third of the farmer’s cheese, one egg, and salt and pepper to taste to each vegetable, separately, mashing vegetables or pureeing them as you combine. Lightly butter a small loaf pan. Make a layer of the first vegetable mixture and cook at 180 C (350) for 10 minutes in a bain de marie (set loaf pan in a pan of water). Add the next vegetable mixture and cook 10 minutes. Add the final vegetable mixture and cook another 40 minutes. Serve warm, tri-color slices accompanied by a small salad for a first course. Optional: Saute shallots and red peppers and garnish the terrine.
This can be done on the stove or in a hot oven. Heat enough water and wine (50:50) in a pan large enough to just cover the fish. (Stir in some seasonings and onion to the liquid for a real court bouillion) Add fish and simmer for 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Drain well and serve with a lightly seasoned sauce. We made a small amount of simple sauce with butter, heavy cream, and a little soy sauce. We served the fish with tiny boiled potatoes and almost crisp, very thin, cooked green beans.
Easy Chestnut Mousse with Fresh Strawberries
One whipped egg white
Optional: vanilla sugar to taste
Combine 2/3 portion well whipped cream to 1/3 portion chestnut puree. Add whipped egg white and vanilla sugar if needed. Divide into small serving dishes and refrigerate while preparing dinner. Strawberries: slice strawberries and mix with a few teaspoons of sugar to create a sauce. Serve with mousse.
On the plateau de Croix-Rousse is another amazing, little restaurant. We tried Les Enfants a few days after stopping to ask directions from a small group of laughing and chatting smokers standing outside. It seemed like a friendly place and the name is taken from a classic French film favorite. Good choice. This paradise features a tasteful, simple décor and food that is fresh and beautifully prepared. The young waiter managed to single-handedly serve the first two courses to a full house that arrived almost at once. The simple chicken dish that I enjoyed as the main course had the real taste of chicken that is rarely available back in the States.
2, rue H. Gorjus
Tel 04 78 29 99 47
Des Galets bleus la nuit, a small restaurant in Croix-Rousse area of Lyon, is one of our favorites. Run by Brigitte Appaix with the able help of Monique, the resto is small and comfortable. The food is fresh and delicious.
Typical of small restos throughout Lyon, there are only two or three main dishes on the menu, which changes each day. By keeping her mine small, Brigitte can focus on providing fabulous, classic home cooked dishes, sometimes with a hint of Moroccan spice. All desserts are created by Bridgette and are divine.
Des Galets bleus la nuit Restaurant
18, rue Pailleron
Croix-Rousse, 69004 LYON
Tel: +334 78 29 60 14