Tuesday, 21 October 2014

My French Life - Eating out

We don't often go out for a big celebration in the evening, here in France.  Lunch menus are simple, far cheaper and just as delicious.  But it was a special occasion and we let out our impulsive selves for once.  My husband and I.  'Come to dinner!' we said to his mum and dad.  'Would you like to join us?' we asked our enormous teenage sons. 

The restaurant is local and is run by a fabulous couple.  One English, one French.  The food is well above the quality you would expect from a rural location such as ours.  Lucky us, I say.

I tip-toed downstairs in some ridiculous shoes and a rather clingy dress, the boys lumbered out of their bedroom paradises, unplugged momentarily from their alternative realities, and, keeping to their usual dress code of summer shorts and tee shirts, began grinning at the prospect of being fed.  The in-laws arrived in a burst of Heinz tomato soup, Cadbury's Dairy Milk and explosive joie de vivre.  My husband donned a jacket, shook his mane of very long, very messy hair, and looked his usual delicious self.  We were all set.

Our hostess was there to greet us, as were a handful of bright-faced locals and a small table of international friends, who were having a Sunday apero.  The atmosphere was immediately convivial.  Having kissed and caught up with a little news, we went through to the dining room and were seated, boy-girl-boy-girl. 

I was suddenly very hungry.  I think we all were. 

The menu was interesting, if a little scary.  We made our choices.  For the entrée I had bar mariné au citron vert avec condiment croquant et sorbet poivron rouge. (lime marinated bass with a red pepper sorbet, beautifully presented with crunchy vegetable garnish). I hated it - but it was my own fault for foolishly ordering raw fish, when I don't like raw fish. I blame this oversight on the fact that I am a Midlands girl with experimental tendencies.

Luckily, I was less adventurous with the main course: joue de boeuf braisé avec champignons des bois, carottes et moelle (braised beef cheeks with wild mushrooms, carrots and bone marrow).  Once I'd stopped thinking about the anatomy of a cow, pondering the idea of cheeks, and wondering whether I should be eating meat in the first place, I was more or less okay.  It was, after all, very tender and tasty. 

I had decided early on that dessert would be one step too far for the seams of my lycra dress to bear.  Needless to say, the stolen tasters I got from various disgruntled members of my party were the best part of the meal, for me.  My favourite: Chocolat 'guayaquil' parfumé à la citronnelle, avec marmelade de framboise (chocolat mousse flavoured with lemon, with a layer of raspberry jam).  Exquisite!

Of course, everyone else enjoyed the whole menu.  Why wouldn't they? They were obviously much less squeamish than I am and proper gourmets into the bargain. 

My education in the appreciation of the finer things in life is ongoing, although it has to be said that I have ruled out several delicacies so far, including oysters, snails (including snail jam) and all forms of black pudding, (having seen a documentary about how this is made, featuring a sturdy woman, a wooden spoon, a bowl containing blood and animal fat, and finally, a reporter who made a hilarious unscheduled dive for the door as the mixture thickened).

I have to say, also, that the urge to simplify, as I grow older, is sometimes extremely attractive. With this in mind, and turning my back on the notion of a calorie, tonight I'm cooking fish and chips with homemade curry sauce (à la Jamie Oliver/Comfort Food). Mushy peas, too.  Hands up who wants some!

Happy days.



  1. I'll go along with snails, had some once......never again! But black pudding? Delicious.
    Try cheesy chips instead of curry sauce, grate about three ton over them and watch it melt. :)

  2. I just can't stand the thought of black pudding. Al, my husband, can eat it until the cows come home:( Cheesy chips have passed me by, thankfully. Although, I'm sure they are delicious...