Monday, June 13, 2011

French Food

Published: 28th May 2011

Arriving in Paris early in the morning I sat comfortably at a table ina little café for a coffee & croissant.
It amused me to see Parisian’s dropped in, stand at the bar to drinkingcoffee, eat a croissant, read the morning papers, and off they would go. Such is a busy life when you don’t have thetime to sit and enjoy breakfast.

At lunch queues wind around corners at the best boulangerie for themost fabulous quiches, tarts, rolls and salads; eaten on a stool in the shop oron the go in the streets. Breakfast andlunch ‘on the run’ is obviously made up for at dinner when the sidewalk cafesare brimming with customers who live in minute inner city apartments and userestaurants as their social space.

A glance at the many restaurant menus showed consistency in traditional French dishes, but I was looking for a different food experience. Going solo infrance I was happy to gather fresh produce and have it at my apartment where Icould rest my weary body from walking the streets of Paris all day. I find markets and food stalls more exciting than tourist restaurants.

The fishmonger who sets up his stall outside a fashion shop, and thebutcher who has a wonderful selection of meats that are cut or prepared in manydifferent ways, rabbit, different styles of branded poultry (corn feed chicken quail, duck, goose etc). I loved how the fruit and vegetable stalls presented their wares, with masses of punnets of berries, water features to cool the lettuces and signs that tell you where everything is grown or produced. The vegetables are proudly presented as quality and the spring season at present is right for large white and small wild green asparagus and bright red ‘saveurs ancienne’ (heirloom) tomatoes. The Fromageries are to die for with a vast selection of cow, sheep and goat cheeses. Where milk is raw (not pasteurised) the cheese has a sensational creamy flavour. It was the chocolate and macaroon shops that I had to resist.

But now I am in southern France on the Cotes du Azur and ready to experience more regional flavours. I am here for a week with friends at a stunning location just outside the village of La Colle sur Loup in a beautiful house with an olive grove owned by a recognised architect/interior designer Jacqueline Morabito. This very chic house has views over the Mediterranean Sea and across the valley to the ancient
fortified village of Saint Paul de Vence.

Only two hours from Italy the cuisine is a blend of Provencal French and Italian with a growing influence of North Africa. Meals are simple and dishes reflect the bounty of produce from the region. Street markets stock only the best quality fresh products and in true French style, presentation and packaging are foremost.

Our evening meals are usually taken in the garden overlooking the olive grove (the oldest tree labelled approx.1,500 years old) and in this northern hemisphere sunlit evening we sit around a large weathered table to enjoy a simple traditional Nicoise meal. Pissaladiere, roasted peppers with garlic homemade olive oil and balsamic, red tomato and Mozzarella, white asparagus gently steamed and served with butter and parmesan along with a green salad, batard bread and a pinot noir.

Simple but magnificent! I need to pinch myself.

World's Best Restaurants

Published: 7th May 2011

The San Pellagrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants Award
has surpassed Michelin Star rating as the beacon of the ‘culinary best’ and
this year judged by over 800 industry experts, Danish Noma Restaurant from
Copenhagen seized the top position again for the second year running.

The restaurant they claimed the ‘One to Watch‘ due
to its meteoric rise, is the two Michelin star Frantzén/Lindeberg restaurant of
Stockholm, Sweden. So does this confirm
the suggestion of a new trend to Nordic cuisine? Noma’s Chef Rene Redzepi is noted for his
foraging approach to using quality local ingredients, applying innovative
techniques and a new term ‘emotive’ that arouses memories. However Rene and
many of his contemporaries claim inspiration from the Spanish movement?

The Spanish movement was popularised by doyen Ferran
Adria and his El Bulli restaurant just north of Barcelona. El Bulli (The Bulldog) held number one
position for five years in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant. However early last year, Ferran opted out of
nominations when he decided to voluntarily close his restaurant for two years
to simply revive his culinary direction. It has taken until July this year to
honour his reservations before actually closing. Yet the Spanish movement is not just about El
Bulli, in the past seven years, two other restaurants from the Basque region
have consistently been in the World’s Top 10: Mugaritz and Arzaks from the San
Sebastian food hotspot region. And in 2009 another Barcelona restaurant, El
Celler de Can Roca rocketed up 21 places to number 5 positions and this year
became the second best restaurant in the world. Proving the Spanish movement is still alive.

Sometimes you just have to indulge yourself and
this week I am off to Europe for a sensory journey around France, Italy and the
new food mecca; Spain. Spending a week
in both Barcelona and San Sebastian and I am going to indulge in some of these restaurants. I can’t believe I was able to get a booking
at Arzaks and at Ferran Adria’s new Tapas Bar Tickets & 41
°. So all I have to do now is
decide on either Mugaritz or El Celler de Can Roca.

In the next few weeks I will keep you posted on
these restaurants and my travels through this page and my blog at