Posts tagged ‘Food’

Travels with Rocinante – The Wine!

The French wine regions are always a great draw for foodies such as us. We had done Burgundy, Rhone, Provence the Southern Languedoc and Roussillon in past years. On this trip we intended to take in the Loire and Bordeaux. My personal favorite wines all originate from the gravels to the south of the Garonne.  So Grave was a target for our travels but first we headed for the Samur region of the Loire.

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La-Cune wine domain.

We had joined an organization called: ‘France Passion’. For a small yearly fee one gets a list of places that welcome motor-homes or ‘camping cars’, as they are known in France. These are mostly vineyards and artisan food producers who will provide a place to park overnight for free. One can of course, taste their produce and perhaps buy some, but there is no obligation to do so. We headed for the village of La-Cune and the domain of Jean-Luc and Jean-Albert Mary.  We were given a warm welcome and parked up right beside the winery on the edge of the vineyard. We set up our generator for the first time and were therefore truly self-sufficient. Having spent an hour with Jean-Luc tasting his produce, we bought three six-bottle cases. Two rouge and one fizzy rose.  We popped one for our dinner of grilled veal chops. It was a wet evening but we managed a wander round the bucolic and pretty village peering at ancient homes and bemoaning the many high fuck-off walls that spoiled our nebbing and nosing curiosity.

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Tank museum at Samur.

Next morning we went to visit the city of Samur and the tank museum there. I hate war but love machinery – go figure – big boy toys I suppose.

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Chenonceaux.

We moved on to a site on the banks of the Loire at Montjean near Angers. Then another further east near Montrechard. The grand chateaux of Chenonceaux was the main event here. I have to admit great houses are not really my thing but B loves them so…

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Montjean on the Lorie.

 

Next stop a nice site 18k from Bordeaux city.

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Bordeaux.

We had a booking at a much vaunted restaurant in the city called La Tubina. This place is renowned for simple regional produce cooked over wood fires. B had a starter of scallops poached in clear and simple tomato broth. It was divine and I was green with envy. My choice of baby squids, and I mean minute little things, was great but didn’t reach the heights of B’s. I followed with a main of crisp coated sliced sweatbreads. (I’m a sucker for offal.) B had simple grilled-over-wood beef fillet. We had a great and very potent 14.5% Grave to wash it all down.

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La Tupina restaurant.

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Enjoying a great meal and big robust Grave.

The day was a scorcher 40c (110f.) We suffered on the walk back to the car park and drove only a little out of town before finding a shaded spot to park up and collapse on the bed in-back to sleep off the excess of wine, food and fierce heat.

We headed south through the Grave region and tried without success to visit and buy some of my favored wine. Everywhere was closed! Either for an extended lunch or for their pre-peak-rush break. We added a dozen bottles to our under-bed stash at a few supermarkets that kindly provided a sampling of the Grave that the producers didn’t want to sell to us direct.

Leaving Bordeaux we drove south through the scorched plains of the the Landes heading for the ‘supposedly glamorous’ resort of Biarritz.

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Food in Fiction

Squab) with foie gras and cepes

Squab) with foie gras and cepes

I read about food a good deal and love the books of people like Elizabeth David and Anthony Bourdain. Those writers talk food with passion and inspiration. I’ve been thinking about food in fiction and realized that I can think of few novels I’ve read that feature food in any significant way.

There was Portnoy’s Complaint, in which the horny protagonist used raw liver in a wholly new way to me!

Ian Fleming used it in the Bond novels as a crude way to display Bonds supposed good taste. However it tended to major on obviously excessive and expensive consumption. Expense taking precedence over any real worth. Caviar and Bollinger feature a good deal. Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer displayed a certain usefulness with the pans and could do a good omelette. Deighten choose to make him a kind of educated working class hero to Bonds upper class officer type and the choice of food was a great tool in showing that contrast.

I use food in my novels too, all of them feature it. It’s used to give characters depth and in particular it’s used to give men credentials beyond their fists and fighting skills.  Food can be a great tool as a wooing aid. Seduction can start with a good meal and if that meal is prepared with care and love by the man and precedes a bout of heterosexual excess in bed or on rug before a fire, that leaves the heroine panting for more, more food and loving – then we have a hero that’s got dimension and depth. Sensuality extends to appreciation of more than one kind of skin. I like a hero that knows his way round a woman’s curves as well as he knows his wines and cheeses. He can wield a knife to fillet a salmon, joint a chicken or the baddy with equal dexterity.

Somehow, good food self prepared rather, than simply bought is more meaningful. My Daniel cooking up a Provencal rabbit and truffle stew before a night of excess with Bonny, is sexier than Bond buying Beluga.

(The image: Hostellerie Jérôme at La Turbie on the Cote-D-Azure serve this: Pigeon(Squab) with foie gras and cepes. I’ve tried to reproduce dish’s like this often.)  Read more…

Premature Celebration.

Please forgive my indulgence but I am compelled to share my celebration of our anniversary. Both the date we met 2nd April and our wedding date 7th April.  No not that soon! A few years past between the dates. It may be corny and it may be romantic but I am proud to share my joy at finding Brigitte and my ever deepening appreciation and love for her.

The pink champers.

The pink champers.

It is our tradition to share a bottle of Rosé champagne on this day. Our first was on our wedding day and we’ve sought out a new one to mark each year since. They are lined up on high shelf in the kitchen.

An easy aid-moiré for me, who has trouble with numbers or knowing what date it is or what year.

This year we marked out meeting date by going out for drinks and dinner at a local hostelry.  Read more…

The food of love.

For one of B’s special birthdays recently, I prepared a special meal as celebration and consolation. You can see part of the menu in the first pic but it’s unreadable, so here it is:

Risotto of escargot

 Cep in pastry nests with red pepper sauce.

 Consommé

 Langoustine and salmon fumé in creamed scrambled eggs

 Pineapple sorbet

 Boned quails stuffed with chanterelle and foie gras served with vegetable aspic

 Venison sirloin – slow-gin flambé with braised potato

 Rum soufflé

 Cheese board.

 Special meals have been a feature of our lives together, both home cooked and in restaurants. We often have bed time memory trips to such times and places to ease us into sleep when the stress of life intrudes and brings on what we call ‘the dark puther’. Some of these meals have been reproduced in my novels too. They are a useful vehicle for establishing characters and relationships. Many a seduction in life and literature has begun over a table of fine food and wine.

Not all our memorable food experiences have involved fine-dinning.  In Rome at Christmas: A tiny place near the Pantheon.

Pantheon

They served take-away roast suckling pork in a crisp pizza style bread. The pork was infused with exactly the right amount of sage and included soft moist meat and crisp crackle skin. It was perfect. We went back for seconds then sat on a wall in the shadow of the Pantheon and enjoyed a sublime food experience.

piggy – heaven

Another great memory is B’s first taste of the underrated flat fish – Brill. When I first took B to  Northern Ireland, we spent some time in around the Mourne mountains. There I showed her the places of my youthful escape. (I used to rent a semi-derelict old farm-house in the heart of the mountains. It had one tap bringing water from a spring, which often spewed out live wriggling leaches! Heating and cooking was be means of an ancient wood or coal-fired range.) We found the old house again, now completely derelict. We peered in at the old rusting range. My big old coffee pot still stood upon it. I recounted how I used to leave this big enamel coffee pot simmering on the range and would top it up constantly and empty it only when the grounds filled it. I would throw old eggshells in to give the thick black coffee a wonderful sheen.

Mournes Silent Valley

After we drove through the Silent Valley and down to the fishing village of Kilkeel.

Kilkeel

On the harbour we found a shop selling fish fresh from the boats. I spotted a lovely big Brill and bought it. Later we set up a the picnic-table and gas single ring cooker. The big fish only just fitted in my fry-pan. It was stiff fresh and was, with doubt, the best fish meal we’ve ever had. Crisped butter fried skin, milky white flesh, firm and sweet. Finished with a splash of Sancerre, it was utterly fantastic. B’s still raves about it and when I cook Brill now she invariably says: “It’s good but not at good as the great Kilkeel picnic.”

 Memories like these, fuel for the body, feed the imagination and provide rich material for a writers creative efforts. Yes food and romance go hand in soft stroking hand.

            

Wooing with food.

As Christmas once more approaches, my thoughts turn once again to gastronomy and feasting. I was browsing one of our photo albums and found a menu tucked in it from Christmas 1999. We had taken the Bristol down to Nice for two weeks intending to get away from the usual family chores. As the person known as the  chef; I could rarely escape the cooking duties. If truth be told, I preferred it that way. I was always appalled by the cremated over-cooked dry flaking turkey served up if I didn’t cook. This year we plan to have our indulgence at home alone. Goose is planned. We will have recently returned from a seven-day break with B’s mother in Madeira. I’m looking forward to that. I have no mother in law issues. I get on well with Jean… mostly.

1999 was perhaps out most memorable Christmas holiday. We took the, then new to us, Bristol 412 for its first long trip. We had booked into a modest Nice city centre hotel, intending to spend on eating and travel rather than fancy sleeping arrangements. The hotel unfortunately did not have parking, I was appalled at the idea of leaving the precious Bristol in the chaotic anarchy that passes for parking there.  In the event I found a safe place for it, parked up and hired a little crappy Korean runabout for the city battle.

B and Bristol 412

This picture is B outside a splendid Château in Burgundy we spent a night in on the way down.

B, Christmas 1999

The main picture here is B at dinner on Christmas day in the Negresco. The menu is reproduced here and is fascinating for being priced in Franks. Remember those? There were about ten per pound sterling as I recall. This menu was 380F. I can’t recall which of these I had but have ideas it was the Capon for main. I do remember being amused and a little appalled by the shocking pinkness of the room, the old ladies in furs that smelled of moth-balls and the shaggy ancient French poodles under their tables!

 La Rotonde Hôtel Negresco. Samedi 25 Décembre 1999

Déjeuner de Noël

La Direction et les Collaborateurs de Hôtel Negresco vous souhaitent de merveilleuses fêtes de Noël.

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Ballotine de canard, gelée au Porto

Cappuccino de coquillages et croûtons aillés

Six Hutîtres spéciales à l’échlote et vinaigre.

Chapon de Méditerranée rôti, pommes écrasées à la fourchette, persil frit et jus de bouillabaisse.

Lotte rôti, boullion de champignobs des sous-bois, lard croustillant.

Loup crit sur la peau, ragoût d’artichauts au romarin, parfumé à l’orange.

Chapon fermier, gratin de côtes de blettes à la moelle, grosses frites au poivre noir.

Filet de bœuf rôti, gnocchis et cépes poêlés, sauce au vin rouge.

Bûche jivara lactée, créme légére au café

 Bûche praliné, créme brûlée aux agrumes du pays

Bûche chocolat, noisettes du Piémont caramélisées.

 Food and it’s enjoyment has been a great bond between B and I. She was wooed with food when first we met. Thai prawn red-curry and Tom-yam soup were the first things I cooked for her. As a wooing aid it was wildly successful!  Food, wooing, travel and loving are much used themes in my novels. I wonder why that could be?

Negresco