Sunday, 28 November 2010

Partir, c’est mourir un peu...

One of the few thing I miss every so often in France is a snackbar. What would make me happier than being able to get a bag of French fries or a simple sandwich during the weekly shopping on the market, whereby the price should be well under € 5? Well, Burgundians think differently! Lunch time is the time for a good, solid meal, moistened with some red or white wine. The only alternative appears to be the omnipresent kebab shop, where one can get a sandwich or galette kebab for around € 5.00. However, we also had found a different alternative in Cluny. In the main street we found a small hole in the wall restaurant, called Cass’ Crout’ (casser une croûte = have a quick bite), where French fries, steak haché with French fries and sandwich americain were served. Very soon we had adjusted our shopping habits to suit the opening times of Cass’ Crout’. However, early this year, during one of our shopping sprees, we went in, when the patronne took us apart with the news that they had sold the place. He was just 60, she was 55, and they were getting fed up with the work. We were not very happy with that news, but on the other hand, what can one do about it? Anyway, in the weeks that followed, the place was still open, and we secretly hoped that the sale was off. Until a number of weeks later the lady who runs the shop told us, that this was going to be our last meal with her; she was closing down the next day for good.
Obviously this still came as a shock to us, and we wanted to go back the next day with a bottle of wine, to say properly good bye to them. However, when we reached Cass’ Crout’ the next day around 4 o’clock, the lights were off and there was nobody inside. There we stood like a pair of plonkers with our bottle of wine.... Anyway, we took another chance the next Friday, and this time we caught the couple who were giving the place a last cleaning, chatting with some of the regulars. Luckily we had a chance to say properly good bye to them, and drink a glass of wine with the other regulars. The bottle we brought was well appreciated.
Of course we feel happy for them, but since that time we are desperately looking for another alternative. And I can assure you, that this is not a doddle, but serious, hard work!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 20 November 2010


I have never been a great fan of pizzas, the reason being that in the Netherlands pizza bottoms usually resemble thick cardboard or leather, and the filling seems to be put on top for colour effect only. A holiday in Provence changed all that. A simple pizzeria, embedded with many other small shops in the building of a hypermarché sold pizzas with a thin, nice bottom, and the filling contained all sort of goodies, and was not just a thin layer of tomato ketchup.
That pizzeria was in an Auchan in Le Pontet, on the other side of the river from Avignon. Since my encounter with the first edible pizza, every so often I indulge in one. But only when I am convinced that the pizza baker knows his trade!
When we arrived in Cormatin, there happened to be a take-away Pizzeria, called Pizz’Annie. Of course one day, when we did not feel like cooking, Pizz’Annie had to be tried out. We should not have done that. The verdict over Annie’s pizzas was not very flattering. We advised her to close shop and move to the Netherlands; most Dutch people do not really mind a one inch thick pizza bottom.
However, we do not give up that easily. One day, more or less by accident, we found a restaurant in Cluny that served excellent pizzas. The bottoms are extremely thin, and the fillings are superb. As a little extra, on each table one finds a bottle of olive oil which apart from the oil contains a number of spices as well as some bird’s eyes chillies, to spice up the pizzas for those who like them a bit more spicy. The restaurant also serves other good dishes (including pastas) at a very reasonable price. The name of the restaurant is “Le Loup-Garou”(The Werewolf), and it is located near the postoffice, at the beginning of the main street (Place du Commerce). We recommend the place for a good meal, but also for a quick bite during lunchtime on a Saturday after the market is finished.
Among the ex-pats the opinions are divided. One half is adamant that Loup-Garou is the best one in this part of the world, the other half maintains that there are no better pizzas than those at “Le Maronnier” in Saint-Gengoux-le-National. We have also tried the latter, but we still prefer Loup-Garou.
We think that Annie has followed our advise. In any case, she has sold her restarant to Marco, who rechristened the place to Pizz’A Marco. His pizzas are certainly good, although not as good as Loup-Garou’s. Of course Marco has the big advantage of living next door, but apart from that, he also makes the pizzas while you wait. If you would like to have a different ingredient on your pizza than is mentioned in the menu, you can ask Marco, and he will certainly heed your call.
The amount of empty pizza boxes near the bin on the campsite proves, that Marco certainly draws some clientele from La Tuilerie de Chazelle!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Lost and found

The last few days have been rather traumatic. When we came back on Tuesday from the Tabac at around 17h00, we saw Fifi roaming around the house. Nothing unusual so far. Wednesday morning however, no trace of the cat to be found. What happens normally? One of us opens the front door, and either Fifi tries to walk into the house, or we hear a distinct click-click, caused by the cat flap, and afterwards some purring noises followed by Fifi jumping up the stairs towards our front door, begging to be stroked. But not that morning. We got a bit worried when we had not seen her at 10h00. After lunch Sue went out, walked around the property, looked in every gutter, but no trace of the cat.
A walk around the house, whilst ringing the bell that normally produces the cat approaching with Mach 5, wherever she is, had no effect. By the evening we were both more or less convinced that she had been killed by a car, a hunter or a fox; although neither of us dared to mention that to the other party. Thursday morning passed by without seeing a trace of Fifi. By the evening Sue had actually switched of the light in Fifi’s apartment under the stairs, but left the food in there. After the quiz Sue was about to go out to put some empty bottles into the recycling bin. And to our endless joy, when she opened the door, who stepped into the house, without even looking the slightest embarrassed? Fifi. We both almost cried with joy, but of course we were quite curious what could have happened to her. A thorough medical examination brought nothing to light. No broken bones, legs or other means of transport. Anyway, where she has been will obviously remain a mystery forever....

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Local specialities

Whoever has lived abroad for a while will recognise the following. Because no matter how adventurous one is, there are always highlights, or simply treats in international cuisine, that require an acquired taste.
Well known examples of for foreigners “inedible” Dutch goodies are liquorice and raw herring. Throughout the years I have built up quite some experience with international cooking. However, before I lived and worked in Singapore, a fried rice from the local take-away Chinese around the corner was the height of my adventurism. In Singapore I learned to know and appreciate the various multi-cultural kitchens, each with their own etiquette. Malay food, eaten with the right hand, Indian cuisine, eaten with the right hand from a banana leaf, EurAsian cookery, eaten with spoon and fork, the various Chinese cuisines, such as Hainanese, Cantonese, Peking and Cheochew with chopsticks from a rice bowl and from plates in the middle of the table...A few of the things I really hated were seacucumbers and little cubes of dried blood, leaving one with an after-dentist taste in one’s mouth.
Through my British partner I got to know some of the highlights of English cuisine. English tend to get all lyrical about things like Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and marmite; things an average Dutchman would not even look at. But I also cannot get excited about the rest of the yearly extravaganza, the Christmas lunch. As a child I never liked Brussels sprouts, and I still think it is a sneaky way of capital punishment to feed sprouts to children.
So let us analyse an average English Christmas lunch. Which wonderful things can one (I say one, but there is a whole nation eating the same thing on the same day at the same time - frightening or what? -) indulge in? There is dry turkey (give me a juicy steak any time), to be moistened wit gravy (beyond description), stuffing ( only one or two varieties deserve the word nice), Brussels sprouts (the bigger the more horrible), roast potatoes (nice, but not exactly exciting on a festive day), mashed potatoes (same), carrots (same), roast parsnips (same). No wonder the British lost their empire....
But even the culinary champion of the world, France, has things that do not arouse any form of enthusiasm with me. In this part of France, whenever there is something going on, wine is accompanied with something called brioche. Brioche is a bone-dry sort of cake, slightly sweet, and in my view as nice as turkey. Having said that, the French eat it like it is manna from heaven.
Even worse is andouilette, a sort of sausage filled with various sorts of offal. My partner had once told me she had tried it in Arles, but had to throw it away because of taste and consistency. We both like haggis, hence I knew it was not caused by the knowledge of what was contained inside the skin. Anyway, I wanted to try this local speciality (from Lyon) as well. We bought a can of andouilettes, not the cheapest, in order not to end up with low quality stuff. We were going to barbecue them on one of our long Burgundian summer evenings. Of the four andouilettes I ate two, and the other two disappeared in the bin. The taste was certainly not very nice, although not inedible. It was the smell coming from the sausages whilst eating them, getting stronger with every bite, that finally killed my appetite. A very strange experience indeed, knowing that most Frenchmen would commit murder to get hold of a good andouilette. Fortunately we have a cat nowadays. Whenever we make a similar mistake in the future, maybe Fifi will know what to do with the left-overs....

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle