Sunday, July 17, 2011
A trifecta of flavour sensations.
Apples. Tart apples.
Roquefort (or anything blue and moldy and STRONG!)
Honeycomb (this one was very floraly as the bees must have spent their time on some lavender and such)
Don't forget the wine. Sancerre is what we had but drink anything you want!
All lined up and ready to go.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Yes, I am that annoying person right now who is in the first few weeks of dating someone they really like. That someone happens to be a country.
So, basically the equivalent of making out on park benches and other public places, talking about the person/place ALL THE TIME.
Annoying as hell. I am in the honeymoon stage.
But, like all people in love I am oblivious to your rolling eyes and your under your breath’s and mumbling's of ‘whatever, lets see you in 6 months’ .
So here we go.
Why I am infatuated with France.
CHEEEEEEEEEEEEESE. Mmmm. CHEEEEEEEESE.
I don’t think anyone could argue this with me. Seriously. You could eat a different cheese every day of the year (true fact) and they all practically cost under 3 Euros.
Cheese is so good.
Runny cheese. Stinky cheese. Hard cheese.
Love them all!
Never get tired of them.
When I see this at the local supermarket, I imagine little Jean and Claudette* skipping off to school with these tucked away in their lunch boxes.
*Note: Totally fictional characters and by no means am I saying children here drink underage. They do. This is lunch box friendly and probably happens. Everyone leads a happier life because of it.
We have bottles of Bordeaux for $1.99?! Is this a dream?!
May I also say how wine in general, promotes family and social gatherings, which is one of the benchmarks of French society. European society, in general. (By the way I make this stuff up based on opinionated observations)
Yup. I realize I could say that in a less alcoholic way but, it is a fact.
Yesterday we went to a local village picnic. Locals got together in the town square. They brought some food, some wine and conversation and made it a good old time.
This sort of activity would be illegal back home, as enjoying a glass in public is against the law.
So lets segregate the kids and parents and pretend they don’t drink.
Enough of a rant.
I don’t want to hate. I just want to share this experience with the rest of the world.
Ian, Paul & Tom enjoying the picnic
Jean-Jacques (in scarf). He is one of my faveourite people here.
French Vogue? Blowing my mind. All the spreads are super inspiring, sexy and enchanting.
Yes, I realize this says Greece. But it is the current issue of French Vogue with a photo shoot in Greece.
It translates so well. I mean I WANT to be this girl. Sometimes I find fashion layouts to be so out there and far-fetched I cannot relate.
The men? Scarves, tailored suits, beautiful brogues.
Attention to detail.
They care about what they look like and appear to ENJOY shopping.
Lunch time!!! Here in France NOTHING, and I repeat NOTHING comes between the French and their mid-time meal. You could be giving birth and stop the show for a glass of red, some fromage, charcuterie and salad.
A few weeks ago we went to the local Brocante which is like a massive garage sale that everyone in the surrounding 100kms brings all their old Nana Mouskouri records, mismatched cutlery, dated clothing and other dust collectors to and sells them all in a big field.
By 12:00 all the vendors took a time out, pulled out a fold up table a bottle or two of vino and some grub and chowed down. Yup, food is priority number one.
Architecture and landscape.
So gorgeous. I melt and swoon everytime I pass a stone farmhouse, babbling brook, vineyard---you name it.
This country nailed it.
You can see why the French get a tad cocky about this place.
It is pretty idyllic.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
They are everywhere. Fields upon fields. Sunflowers and vineyards. They are the reason I get lost whenever I got out for a bike ride. Everywhere is a sunflower field or vineyard. You cannot tell one from the other. They are the best though. How can you not smile when you see them? Seriously.
I think if they grew sunflowers everywhere there would be no wars* because how can you be mad in a field of sunflowers?!
*based on my silly opinion and nothing else.
This is a fortified wine made with Cognac, and is the local aperitif. Tastes kinda like a sherry or port.
They have it everywhere. There is even a Miss PIneau contest. I don’t know what kind of honour it carries or what you have to do to qualify
but if consumption gets you points I need to try o
ut for Miss. Medoc or Miss. Puilly Fuse. I do like the Pineau but in small amounts.
It is very sweet. It is especially good on my next delight as a summer dessert.
I made some amazing mussels with this recipe from Epicurious.
You can substitute grape juice and Cognac like the recipe says if you cannot get the Pineau.
In this particular area I am in, cantaloupe is in season and so devine I feel bad calling it cantaloupe, because it is so much more.
I have never had cantaloupes’ this good. I think I have eaten more of it in the past few weeks than in my entire life.
It is like the difference of having Wonderbread and a fresh baguette.
I must do a comparison to illustrate how much better it is.
The incredible dairy here makes for an astounding selection
Aisles of it.
I mean look at this!
ALL yogurt (ok, some mousses and puddings as well).
I spent the better part of an afternoon inspecting the flavours, textures and brands.
I have a particular affection for the fromage blanc. They have it in a light version. It is smooth, creamy and tastes super decadent.
I get the plain version and then contaminate with loads of preserves.
This one has a fig, orange and walnut chutney in it.
Back in Canada I recommend getting the non-fat Liberty Greek yogurt and doing the same thing. A nice jam or honey or stewed fruit is such a tasty addition.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Sandwiches can be a 7-Eleven egg salad gag-inducing mess to something that rivals a 4 star meal. Seriously. When I bit into this deliciousness I experienced happiness that made me appreciate it as much as any culinary sensation out there.
Now the question was---what to put on said sandwich?
So many options!
I am surprised I narrowed it down to just two.
I purchased my ficille (see skinny baguette).
Half Number 1:
1 quarter chopped endive
1-2 tablespoons Roquefort or other blue cheese
1/4 beet sliced into matchstick size
4 cornichons sliced into matchstick size
Salt and pepper. Whatever aount you deem appropriate.
Assemble all as per picture.
I am quite generous with my mayo and mustard and even put in some blue cheese dressing I had made the other night. I like my sandwiches to have the perfect balance of moisture and crunchy bread.
Half Number 2:
Half of each a green and red heirloom tomato (I am being color biased here)
Mayo and mustard
1/4 sliced shallot
Brie cheese (as much as you want!)
Salt and pepper. Whatever aount you deem appropriate.
Assemble as per photo.
Now, DIVE in.
I must say the endive one was my fave. The crunch factor with the cornichons and hint of the sweet beets made me squeal with excitement. Yes, I really get that giddy over food.
If you don't want the carbs this i-s doable as a salad. But a good baguette takes it to the next level.
Friday, July 1, 2011
WHAT CANADA DOES BETTER
(I would love to hear your faveourites on my comments/posts)
Multicultural food. Sushi on Sunday. Mexican on Monday. Thai on Tuesday---ok. You get the point. We have global access to all things ethnic and delicious. What a treat.
Any ingredient, anytime. It can be a bit ridiculous with all fruits all year round but it is a real blessing. When you ask a French grocer for horseradish or corn (yup, corn) and they have no clue what you are talking about, you realize how spoiled we are. However the worst is NO MAPLE SYRUP!!!! This is devastating news to my Saturday morning pancakes.
Well marked street signs. Never thought I would appreciate this one but having been lost for half of my stay so far, I can attest we do this well. Even with a navigation system there is always confusion and it is mandatory I get lost once a day.
Customer Service. Usually bang on.
Well, we are told to be nice. The French actually go with their mood. Most of them are in good spirits but the ones that are not will sneer and practically spit on you if you piss them off. It is a real hit and miss here. Sometimes you get the “BON-JOUR Madame” “Avec Plasir” and “Enchante”.
Other times you go to the only café in some random town, population 17, and are totally ignored.
At Chez Gazois I felt like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Hey! Over here!!! Water? Menu? Anything??? Helloooo (echo, echo, echo)????
Now, to their defense I think the staff, all related, had a case of kissing cousins. No, seriously. There was something inbred about this crew, so maybe their vision was impaired. Needless to say there was a invisibility we all felt as we sat down and were totally disregarded until we finally made an executive decision to drive 27 kms to the next town and eat there as it would probably mean we would be served faster.
Another sound bite from my dear father…“This is no Global!”
No, Dad, it certainly is not. Ahh…the irony.
Nice teeth (smiles) and deodorant. We are huge fans of both and that is a very good thing.
Friends and family. Ok, so maybe we don’t do it better but mine are 95% from there so it is my number 5. Actually number 1. You are all my heart and raison d’etre. (yes, my throwing in French words is kinda pompous but at the same time relevant). I love you all and miss you dearly.
I really should be posting a Canadian recipe, but alas, I don’t eat poutine and as previously mentioned the absence of Maple Syrup in these parts has stalled me in my ode to Canada meal.
So the best I can do is post this grilled eggplant, red pepper-tomato sauce and fresh chevre dish as the colours are reminiscent of the flag. Sort of. I am trying. What is most important is just sitting down to a meal with a bunch of people that make you laugh and feel good, right? It could be cheap hot dogs or fois gras. If the company is good the food is better.
Grilled eggplant with red pepper-tomato sauce and fresh goats cheese
1 large eggplant sliced in half inch slices, lengthwise.
Place on cutting board and salt with fleur de sel to remove excess moisture.
This will make the eggplant less chewy. Let sit for 30 minutes. You don’t have to do this but it helps.
1 cup fresh tomato or store bought sauce
1 8 oz container of roasted red peppers
Puree the red peppers and add to the tomato sauce
1 head of roasted garlic (in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes)
Remove garlic from oven, peel and add soft cloves o tomato-pepper sauce.
In a sauce pan or bbq heat to medium-high temperature, ¼ cup olive oil.
Add slices of eggplant and fry 5 to 7 minutes each side or until soft and cooked throughout.
In another saucepan heat up sauce. Season with salt and pepper and ¼ teaspoon chili flakes.
When all eggplant has been cooked lay on a large serving platter and pour sauce overtop. Garnish with fresh basil or oregano, your faveorite olives and ½ cup of good quality goats cheese or feta. You can serve as is, on crusty pieces of toasted bread (bruschetta style) or pasta.