Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Where Champagne wishes come true

Turns our 2 weeks in France was just what I needed. I spent the majority of October immersed in the French terroir, enjoying the local food culture paired with wines I never dreamed of drinking.

Freshly baked breads complete with a cracking crust, butter rich pastries, macaroons, guimauve (hand made marshmallows), foie gras, mushrooms of all sorts in shades of autumn, scallops, cheese and charcuterie, Champagne and other local exquisite wines were all present, naturally.

In between long hours of lectures on the local food culture, history, science, theory, testing and tastings, visits to markets, vineyards and wineries I barely had time for to pinch myself, keep track and make sure this was all really happening. The experience was grand, rich and full, so this is merely an amuse bouche.

A food gypsy at heart, life seems to be the time I spend in between travelling in search of good food; local, seasonal, contemporary and traditional, Haute and bas.

In France, as we all know, mealtimes are never taken lightly, the forks face down (long story), wine is always present on the table to help wash down the food and much of the food is unapologetically drenched in as much butter as it can absorb (it tastes good).

Some of the highlights included an all night guided tour to Rungis market, the largest wholesale market in Europe, exceptional food & wine pairing pedagogical meals, fascinating lectures by leading professionals including Hervé This, the French chemist that in addition to the discovery of the perfect temperature for cooking an egg also coined the term ‘Molecular Gastronomy’. This link is an interesting read.

Rungis market is situated on the outskirts of Paris and we spent a night wondering through the various oversized warehouses, passing by an astonishing cornucopia of fresh fish and seafood, poultry in all shapes, shades, breeds and colours, feathered game birds and cuddly hares, hanging beef carcasses, pork slices, endless stacks of cheese, glistening innards, local and not so mush fruit & vegetables, some seasonal and some less so.

During mealtimes we had a chance to sample the local culinary tapestry, always accompanied with a choice of local wines, sparkling water, bread and at times, butter. Last but never least was dessert, flans and tatins, salted butter caramel, crème brulees, Florentins, glaces & sorbet, tarts and chocolate, it was always there and along with everything else, never taken lightly and never forgotten. Just as I’d have it when I rule my own country.

I could go on forever about the fantastic food, the new friends I've made, the places I saw, the wines I had, the pastries I devoured, the foie gras that melted in my mouth, the Chateau Margaux, the Champagne and all but instead I'll let the images speak themselves.
Au revoir France, until next time.