Saturday, 17 September 2011

Some like it hot

Sue had recreated a dish which was one of our favourites when we still lived in the Netherlands; a fiery dish with chicken livers spiced up with Madam Janet, a very hot small bell shaped pepper which is very popular in Surinamese cuisine. It is something which is not available in France, at least not around here. Around dinner time one could smell a very strong smell of something extremely hot: that was the smell of cooking a dish with Madam Janet in it. The taste was as hot as the smell did suggest. It was actually so hot, that Sue had difficulty eating it. Sheer luck she had taken the seeds out before cooking!
When we talk about hot food, the conversation always ends with remarks about the quality of Indian restaurants in the neighbourhood. Sometime ago we received through Facebook a suggestion for a good Indian in Chalon. We followed this suggestion up, and had indulged in a buffet, which seemed to be a good way to sample the available dishes. Of course, there were no hot dishes available at the buffet, because that would most certainly scare off their French clientele. The verdict was, not bad, but also not very exciting. And because we had to go to Chalon today, with the taste of Madam Janet still burning on our lips, we decided to give the place a second try, this time ordering à la carte.
We had to go to Chalon for a financial problem. We were, incorrectly, charged to pay € 7.00 for some medical care in Chalon. The Michelin road planner told us that petrol cost for a trip up and down to Chalon would be around € 8.00; so whether the trip was economically sound is debatable. But no excuse is weak enough for a good lunch, so off we went.
My knowledge of Indian cuisine is based on my three years stay in Singapore, and Sue knows Indian cooking from the UK and from India itself. In most English Indian restaurants Vindaloo is top of the range when it comes to spiciness, although some restaurants offer Phal, which is hotter still. On the menu of Bollywood the rating was different. The hot curries ranged from bottom end Madras to Vindaloo, with Jalfrezi at the top end. I was a bit surprised to find a whole range of beef curries on the menu, but I have eaten Malaysian beef curry in the past, and of course Muslims would have no problem eating beef, as opposed to their Hindu compatriots. So I ordered a boeuf Jalfrezi for a change, and although not as hot as Sue’s dish the day before, this curry certainly deserved the designation “very hot”.
The beef had the consistency of a beef stew; pointing at is with a fork already made the meat disintegrate. All in all a good choice.
For those readers who are hesitating to go to Burgundy, because they will miss their local Indian too much: forget your fear, and eat out in Chalon. The same holds by the way for good Chinese food, with an excellent Chinese (buffet) restaurant in Mâcon. Chalon as well as Mâcon offer now suitable substitutes for Indian / Chinese food addicts! The only thing we are still missing is an Indonsian restaurant. For an Indonesian take-away meal we will have to wait until one of our regular gite guests brings one from the Netherlands!

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Plat du jour

I have written about eating, restaurants and fast food on various other occasions, but I don’t think I have ever pointed out the advantages of a plat du jour or a menu du jour. Almost every restaurant offers these two things around noon: the plat du jour costs approximately € 8 and the menu du jour (starter, plat du jour, dessert, sometimes incl. a glass of wine) is approx. € 13. Since most French still have their big meal at lunch time, and since the prices are more than reasonable, plats du jour are sometimes sold out after quarter past one. There are even restaurants where one cannot order à la carte during lunch hours. Only the plat or menu du jour are available then.
But not only are the prices reasonable; the price-quality ratio is normally excellent as well. As an extra advantage I would like to mention that this is the occasion for the more adventurous to try out something they certainly would not order à la carte. An example is given below.
When we were forced by circumstances beyond our control to exchange our weekly lunch at Cass’ Crout’ (closed down) for something else, we stumbled upon La Petite Auberge, another restaurant cum pizza parlour in Cluny’s main street. On the first occasion we tried out this place the plat du jour happened to be a pavé du boeuf, which turned out to be an excellent piece of steak. After about ten weeks we had found out that they had a very wide range of different plats du jour, and even now, after about 4 or 5 months, I believe I had the same plat du jour only twice.
One of the ever recurring horror stories one hears whenever expats gather somewhere, concerns andouillettes. Every expat has tried it once, knowingly or unknowingly, and everyone agrees that they strongly resemble cut up car tires cooked in a rich crude oil. Because everybody seemed to be so horrified about those things, we bought them once in the supermarket. I strongly believe in not believing other peoples horror stories; I rather trust my own judgment. Anyway, the consistency was not too bad, but the smell that came off those things really put me off them after having eaten my second.
When I saw andouillettes as plat du jour one day, I reasoned, that if there ever was a chance to eat good quality and well prepared andouillettes, it was this. To my partner’s abhorrence I ordered the plat du jour and started to eat. The andouilettes were indeed filled with finely cut-up intestines and other spare parts of various animals, but the consistency was digestible, the taste was not horrible, and it did not smell awful. Had I known what they would taste like, I would not have ordered them, but given the fact that I wanted to try them once, I could not have chosen a better occasion.

The moral of this story: the plat du jour is generally a good bet for a good quality meal, and for those who insist on trying typical French horror story meals such as tête de veau or andouillettes, they have the best chance that these dishes at least are of good quality and well prepared.

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