Sunday, 24 May 2009

Cours Selaya, Nice: By Day and By Night

On a recent weekend in Nice I was taken aback by the Cours Selaya. This broad street is market by day and frenzy of restaurants by night, with the central stalls becoming outside seating. In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen so many restaurants on one street. The large, beautiful ochre-coloured building pictured right sits up high at one end and dominates the street. I was warned that it was a tourist haven, but although there were plenty - it also seemed to me to have the entirety of the population of Nice shopping, eating, sauntering and drinking.
I was impressed by the intense regionality of the food offering. They really only sell Nicoise dishes and in the market you can have any type of olive you like, so long as it's black (see the extraordinary selection on stall below left).

By day the restaurants are pumping out Pissaladiere (a pastry-based Pizza with confit onions, anchovies and olive) and Socca (chickpea pancakes). Then by night, out come the aioli (poached cod, hard-boiled egg and raw vegetables served with an eye-wateringly astringent aioli - below) and the seafood platters. With so many restaurants the competition is intense and an element of showmanship is evident - not to mention hard-selling from the restaurateur's prettiest daughter as you pass. Although not a purist's gastronomic destination, and just a tad on the tacky side, there is enough of beauty to make it worth a detour when in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Catavino Bloggers Meet-Up - Cheese List

An evening of merriment and good humour was organised by Catavino and Eats Like A Girl. Around 40 wine and food bloggers struggled from Excel in docklands (where the London International Wine Fair is currently taking place) to The Westbridge. A veritable wine-lake of eclectic offerings was swilled, swirled and mostly not spat, accompanied by my selection of cheeses, as below:

Tête de Moines Swiss alpine, rich and sweet from the Bernese Jura. Served on the Girole (above - the only cheese I know which has its own slicer, specific to it).

Tomette Agour Brebis du Pays delicate hard sheep from the Pays Basque

Camembert Artisan Gillot Noir AOC raw, strong Camembert from Normandy

Brillat-Savarin triple-crème Brie from Normandy

Livarot Graindorge a soft, pungent, washed rind cheese from Normandy

Banon Tradition wrapped in Chestnut Leaves, goat's cheese from Provence (the bounders from Cheese Cellar failed to deliver this so was replaced at the last moment by a large quantity of organic Parmesan)

Cloche Artisan Chevrechard piquant Touraine Goat

Rosary Ash Log light, fresh and our only British entry

The tasting was interspersed with shots of weird and wonderful teas from Henrietta Lovell (Rare Tea Lady). Perhaps she will comment on this and let us know what they were and their specific palate cleansing properties.

I will let others list the wines and comment on them.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

When Two Seasons Clash*: Butternut Squash & Sorrel Curry

Tired looking butternut squash in the cupboard. Googled. Found my dear friend, Niamh (Eat Like A Girl)'s squash, chickpeas and spinach curry recipe.

No spinach.

Then. A moment of what passes for inspiration in our house:

Feral sorrel from our abandoned vegetable patch (don't ask) growing outside the backdoor. It worked. No need for lemon juice - the acidity of the Sorrel balanced the appalling non-seasonality of the squash.

Thanks Niamh.

In case anyone thought otherwise, this is not a Tintern Abbey-style blog ("the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility."). It's real-time, and that Cotes-du-Rhone is 14.5%.

*For those of you who behaved at university in the early 80s the heading of this article might be a mystery. Or at least you may not get the full benefit of the play on words (this is really a stretch but stay with me).

The conscious reggae act, Culture, enjoyed their greatest moment with "Two Sevens Clash", which dealt with the appalling 1976-77 electoral violence in Jamaica between supporters of Michael Manley and Edward Seaga. Bob Marley famously forced the protagonists to shake hands on stage at Smile Jamaica (just a few days after being wounded himself at a rally). I once went to see Culture in Glasgow. There were twelve people in the audience. It was terrific.

Consider yourself educated.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Twelve Reasons to Eat at Le Cafe Anglais in May

  1. Jersey Royals. Or Cornish earlies. Since we can’t decide, we’re going to have both since a good new potato is worth every effort. With butter and mint. No frills, no caviar.
  2. Asparagus. English green and French white. We will serve them in a variety of ways, including as soldiers with a soft boiled egg, plain with melted butter, grilled with olive oil and Parmesan or in a fricassee with.........
  3. .......morels. just on toast or with asparagus, chicken or fish, these incomparable mushrooms will feature big time.
  4. Peas. In our lovely new salad, with Romaine & Parmesan, in risotto and soup, with duck, pigeon and lamb, let me count the ways.....
  5. Sea trout and wild salmon. Coracle caught in Wales or netted off the Pentland Firth or by rod and line, raw with ginger dressing, half cooked or ‘confit’: just occasionally, one cannot resist.
  6. Sorrel in soup, in omelettes, with fish, lamb and rabbit. Its sharp tang lets you know that spring is in the air.
  7. Spring lamb. Sometimes salt marsh, sometimes just sweet lowland meadow lamb, incredibly tender and usually simply roast. Look out for the Tuesday blanquette.
  8. Gariguette strawberries. I know English are supposed to be the best but the bright fresh acidity of these beauties, coupled with gorgeous sweet fruit flavour, they give them a real run for their money. Incomparable when coupled with rhubarb: look out for the Rosé Jelly with Rhubarb, Gariguettes and Pannacotta, a properly sophisticated pudding.
  9. Broad beans. Podded, peeled and coarsely chopped, stewed in butter and tossed in spaghetti with Pecorino cheese: a great hit from last year brought back by popular demand. Also with burrata, fish, lamb (again) and most other things.
  10. Mousserons, or fairy ring mushrooms. Tiny little mushrooms. Not much in the way of texture but a wonderful fragrance, perfect in omelettes or with fish and chicken.
  11. Gull’s Eggs. The perfect hors d’oeuvre, served absolutely plain with the option of a dab of mayonnaise and a pinch of rather good celery salt.
  12. Mackerel with gooseberries. Towards the end of the month the perfect marriage: rich oily fish seared on the griddle and a nice, tart compote of the fruit the French call ‘groseilles à maquereau’. Sublime.