HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: All Content © Arnaud De Grave (Page 1 of 2)

Potuguese Food Road Trip

Portuguese Food Road Trip

Portuguese Food Road Trip

Days 3-4-5 – South of Lisbon, Portugal

I sort of specialize in border crossing, even triple border point. One of the highlights of my career in border-crossing was between Hungary and Slovakia, in a rented car. Epic. The one on foot at the triple border point between Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland still gives me the shivers. The one here and now was quite good, as it is a tiny tiny border, basically crossing a bridge. No custom station. Just a bridge and a guy with goats. Some goats had their legs hindered by rope, for, you see, “these buggers like to escape, especially this smelly one”, that was the old shepherd guy speaking, in a mixture of French (a little), Spanish (some) and Portuguese (a lot). And yes, it did smell like goat, even from inside the car.

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Spanish Food Road Trip - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Spanish Food Road Trip – The Good The Bad The Ugly

Spanish Food Road Trip – The Good The Bad  The Ugly

Day 1­-2 – Driving through Spain, not Portugal yet, so not the fastest way to get there, but still rushing, go figure…So the whole idea about the first part of the trip is to get to the south of Portugal as fast as possible. Then go up slowly and then get to France via Bilbao or so, then rush back. Therefore (and this is funny, you’ll see), I’m going to go north of Madrid via Contreras, which is a very very very small and lost village close by Barbadillo del Mercado, already far away from it all… You see, it’s to go to a fake cemetery. You don’t see? Alright, first things first, a recollection on how we got there, where we slept and, of course, what we ate.

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Pouring Across the Iberian Peninsula

Iberian Road Trip Preamble

Above is the tentative itinerary now (after chatting with Tiffany and my ladyfriend), although I need to have The Mom’s take on it but the general direction is there. I’d like to maximize time in Portugal so i’ll probably rush the part in Spain or at least try to. Here is the general direction of the itinerary:

Iberian Road Trip Preamble

  • Wine (Tiffany has a contact for me to get close to the production)
  • The good the bad and the ugly
  • Craft beer (if i can, not as many as in other parts of europe of course)
  • Tiffany in Lisboa
  • The ocean shore
  • Actual balls (because “les rognons” are not actual balls, they are kidneys basically, and i do love rognons)
  • Maybe some dancing/music because the ladyfriend would kill me if i do not see/shoot some
  • Porto! (with the port wine of course)
  • Gugenheim in Bilbao
  • Sausage in Toulouse with some cassoulet if we are not dead by too much food by then!
  • and more… and possibly not what is mentioned ahah…madness.

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Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

What is Coprinus Comatus?

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus, fried in butter and a bit of olive oil, salt (at the end, if not if becomes moochy of course), pepper, a few herbes de provence… sauté the whole stuff for 5 min. Eat on whole wheat toast. Precautions need to be taken when harvesting, for sure…

Read more from by Michael Kuo at Mushroom Expert site:

What is Coprinus Comatus?

: The Shaggy Mane [ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Agaricaceae > Coprinus . . . ]

Its distinguishing features include its shape and stature, and the fact that the gills “deliquesce,” turning themselves into black ink as they mature. Shaggy manes are frequently found in disturbed ground, and the edges of dirt roads can produce many mushrooms. In the Rocky Mountains, Coprinus comatus can be seen from the car during monsoon season by simply driving four-wheel-drive roads and keeping an eye on the roadsides.

DNA studies over the last decade make it clear that Coprinus comatus is fairly closely related to species of Agaricus and Lepiota, but only distantly related to most other mushrooms whose gills turn to black ink–for example, Coprinopsis atramentaria or Coprinellus micaceus. The genus Coprinus, which once held all such mushrooms, now holds only Coprinus comatus and a few similar mushrooms–and it turns out that the presence of a ring on the stem and a string-like strand of fibers inside the stem’s hollow cavity turn out to be better predictors of the genus Coprinus than deliquescing gills.

Description:

  • Ecology: Saprobic,growing alone or in clusters, lines, or fairy rings on lawns, wood chips, or hard-packed ground; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America.
  • Cap: 3-15 cm; oval to rounded-cylindrical when young, expanding to bell-shaped with a lifting margin; in age turning to black “ink”; dry; whitish with a brownish center; with large, shaggy scales; margin lined at maturity.
  • Gills: Free from the stem; white, becoming pinkish, then black; turning to black “ink”; very crowded.
  • Stem: 5-20 cm long; 1-2 cm thick; frequently tapering to apex; smooth; white; easily separable from cap; hollow, with a string-like strand of fibers hanging inside.
  • Flesh: White throughout; soft.
  • Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
  • Spore Print: Black.

There is a history here of searching out fungi in the dark recesses of far-flung countries.

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 - En passant par la Lorraine

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine

French Food Roadtrip 9 - En passant par la Lorraine

My grandma’s signature risotto @ Lorraine, France

En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots
Je ne suis pas si vilaine, / Avec mes sabots
Puisque le fils du roi m’aime, / Avec mes sabots
Il m’a donné pour étrenne, / Avec mes sabots
Un bouquet de marjolaine, / Avec mes sabots
Je l’ai planté sur la plaine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il fleurit, je serai reine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il y meurt, je perds ma peine, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine

There is something about going down memory lane and actually stepping back to where you were born and raised. I do not consider myself a rooted person, I am pretty much equally happy (or unhappy, depending on how one wants to consider it) wherever I am located at the time. However, childhood memories are childhood memories. In my case a lot of them are related to food, my grandmother’s mostly…

Because Grandma is one of my main inspiration for cooking. She rocks, as Heso Magazine readers already know from her lesson about gnocchi.

When we arrived at her place, meaning to stay over for the weekend, I had in mind to maybe cook a meal for her and bring her to a restaurant one day. There is a mighty good couscous place not far from where she lives. She is fairly old by now and I wanted to spend a lot of time with her without burdening her too much. However, when I mentioned my plans she said something along the line of: “Dude [she speaks like that, well, almost, that what she meant though…] there is no way on Earth I am not going to cook you stuff… Just shoot what you want and I’ll make it, and if I do not have the ingredients in the house you’ll just have to move your arse to the supermarket and get it! Silly young man…” Did I mention she is 92? So I did. Speak up my mind. And she did. Cook us some stuff.

We settled on two of her trademark dishes: the risotto (which she pronounces “risotte…” alla French…) and some stuff called pizette which is some sort of nan that is eaten with cabbage and sausages. It is beside the point of this series of articles for this particular roadtrip to give full recipes and whatnot but maybe at one point I’ll get myself to do a write up on the art of risotto. Grandma does hers with tomato sauce and some meat pieces in it, a mix of beef and pork. She is renowned to go to the butcher and ask him to mince some real good pieces of beef that one usually eats only grilled. Once she was, er, challenged by a butcher and she told him that if one wants to have a good tomato sauce one needs to put good stuff into it. Period. The poor man probably still has nightmares about it…

The pizettes are small blank pizzas, very similar as I said to the Indian nans… They are cooked in a pan, unlike the pizza and used as bread when eating the cabbage and sausage. After my Strasbourg choucroute frenzy it was a lot of cabbage and sausage.

Memory lane and childhood melancholy always sort of bring one back to the golden age of high school. Ah ah. Golden… Yeah right… High school was pretty dreadful actually. We were all perfect idiots at that time. I remember thinking that the USA was the land of the Free for real, while playing basketball with my Nike Air Jordan outfit, the whole thing, from T-Shirt to shorts to shoes (albeit the good ones, the all black ones from 1990). Quite amazingly I still have some friends who talk to me from that era, believe it or not. So one evening we went to visit some of those high school friends in a small village close to the border of Luxembourg. I mentioned to them we were doing this weird food roadtrip thingy and I was fairly certain we’d be treated with local stuff… I did not expect my friends to go to such extremes though! They indeed cooked a full Lorraine meal from the start to the dessert, including wine.

After an apéritif of Picon-bière –that’s actually sort of an heresy: the beer was a Leffe, hardly something you usually mix with stuff, and the Picon was a new kind with lime flavour or some other blasphemy… strangely enjoyable, probably the level of profanity involved is part of it– and some peanuts, we had an amazing starter. It was a pretty nice little dish made with local cheese and a fresh grape, in a cup. The cup is called “une casollette” and it is sort of cute. It was totally appropriate as an amuse-gueule but also introducing the rest of the meal on a fancy but still traditional way. The combination of savoury with the Munster cheese and sweet flavour of that one grape was pretty nice. It made us very eager to continue the meal…

Of course we had a quiche Lorraine as the main dish. Would it have been possible to do it otherwise? I mean, really, it would be like going to Strasbourg and not eating a choucroute. It needs to be stated that a real quiche Lorraine only includes lardons and certainly not either ham dices or pieces of cheese. Nope. Nothing but eggs, crème fraîche (or milk or both), lardons and a touch of nutmeg. And my friend would not be very happy if I were not to mention that the flour and the butter she used was actually also local products of Lorraine! Now, that’s dedication to the food roadtrip! We were served some local wine as well, from Moselle (one of the four counties that are bundled in the Lorraine region, there is a lot of History in there as some of the counties became German during all the mess around the world wars, etc.) I was not really aware that there was some wine around here and was pretty surprised. To summarize it let me quote my friend: “OK, so we tried it, can we have some real wine now, with the cheese, you know, it would be a crime…” Enough said.

We finished the evening with a clafouti aux mirabelles and some Mirabelle! Ok, so I need to explain this. La Mirabelle (capitalized!) is the king of liquor in my book, probably the queen as liquor is female in French. It is a 51% alcohol content white liquor made out of these nice small yellow prunes. I’d sell my mom for a bottle. Well, almost, you get the point. A clafoutis is a special cake originating from Limousin (another French region) and usually baked with black cherries. Of course in Lorraine cherries have to be replaced by mirabelles… So: clafoutis with mirabelles, fresh mirabelles and some Mirabelle. You cannot get more Lorraine-y than that.

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

That is actually the last post in France. After that memorable weekend we took off to Belgium. Little did I know what was to come. Little was I prepared for the grandeur of the Belgian beers… And I already have had my fair share of Belgian beers let me tell you… But that’s for the next posts in the mostly French 2013 food roadtrip.

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg

French Food Roadtrip 8 - La Maison de la Choucroute

French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute

I had to. There are things like that… places like that… food like that, even drinks… well, of course there are food and drinks like that!

I had to go and eat a choucroute at “La maison de la choucroute” in Strasbourg, Alsace, France. Since 2006 when I had my first taste of their choucroute (quite by mistake, or rather randomly) I kept on telling some anecdote or another about this place to all who wanted to hear about it and to all who did not care (more often the latter, true.) It became some sort of a Holy Grail to me. Difficult then not to go back about 7 years later, even if disappointment could very well be at the end of the road. However, I had to know, I had to go, I had to have choucroute at “La maison de la choucroute” again…

French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute

So why is a choucroute so enjoyable, apart from the presence of a lot of sausages in it? Jeez, I’d be damned if I can give a straight answer to that. That is probably a combination of geographically atavistic taste, melancholic musing about one’s youth (linked to geography, indeed), love for the art of sausage making and consuming, a recent interest in salt and brine and things related to… and because it is very good.

Choucroute is sauerkraut for you all in Northern America I guess… It literally means, sour cabbage and it is indeed some pretty sour cabbage. The way it is prepared, before the cooking, is fermented in brine. Thinly cut pieces are layered up with salt (about 2.5 to 3% of the vegetable’s weight) in a wooden barrel resulting in lacto-fermentation (a bit like kimchi). Then one has to drop a stone on top of a well adjusted lid and let the whole thing rest… It can take from 6 to 8 weeks. Of course historically it was all for shelf-life, to be able to get food all over the year as preservation was a big deal before the days of the fridge and other modern gimmicks to make man’s life easy. There are many legends and theories about where and when this was actually invented, from China to Korea to Alsace via Attila the Hun (yeah, I know it sounds far fetched but why not, after all everybody accepts the legend of Marco Polo and his bringing pasta to Italy from China…)

In France the term choucroute derives directly from the Alsatian dialect and refers to the actual full dish with sausages, various pork bits and potatoes. The one is was so keen on feasting on again… The choucroute is cooked in white wine or beer depending if one wants to eat it in a restaurant or in a brewery. At home you can do whatever you want but it will undoubtedly lead to some feud between people with different opinions about that. I know it for a fact as I often enters arguments over that matter with one friends whose origin are supposedly from Alsace and take it as an insult to use beer. Then one adds the sausages and the meat parts, some of it is boiled before, some of it is directly cooked with the cabbage, it all depends… There are as many ways to do it as there are cooks to do it.

In this particular restaurant your choucroute is introduced to you before the maître d’ serves it into your plate on a separate table. It makes one feel important. I have no idea whether the choucroute also feels important.

It was awesome. Enough said…

And Rowena had a coq au Reistling. I mean, she tasted the choucroute, but I think I failed to transmit my infatuation to the dish, but that’s ok. Better men than me tried to infatuate people to choucroute and failed. Maybe. The coq au Reistling (Rooster cooked in local white wine) is also a local speciality. I have no anecdote about it though, a rare thing…

Another local speciality is the kouglof, some sort of brioche with a very strange shape. The making of the special pan is said to be an art form in Alsace, they come in various material and some of them are, er, very heavily decorated. The cake itself has a soft texture, includes raisins and almonds and is often flavoured with kirschwasser, an alcohol made out of cherry. My grandma (the next step in the food roadtrip) then enjoyed a kouglof as a present from our (too) short passage in Strasbourg. It was delicious with coffee at breakfast next morning…

I wonder if it is only me or if a pilgrimage to “La maison de la choucroute” is necessary… However, the city of Krautergersheim apparently branded itself “capitale de la choucroute” (choucroute capital of the world, or something) which may very well be worth the trip. Why not?

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

And finally–though this is not the end–we must finish our French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine.

French Food Roadtrip 7 - le Buget & Montbéliard

French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget & Montbéliard

The next step was to be in le Jura because, as said previously, there is some serious sausage made over there. The driving is not particularly nice if one is to take the highway but if one has time and can take small roads one will be delighted with the landscape and could stop somewhere along the way for a nice lunch, of course. It is interesting, see, because the path goes through le Buget and one of le Buget‘s specialities are… frog legs! Given my ancestry (and nicknames) it would be some sort of an heresy not to have some, wouldn’t it?

So we stopped in Morestel and I had some cuisses de grenouilles au beurre persillé (frog legs fried in butter and parsley) served with some zucchini and a gratin de crozet. So the stereotypes are indeed true, we froggies do it frogs. Deal with it. Only the legs are eaten and those were absolutely delicious, quite meaty and soft, almost swimming in melted butter. It is vital to eat is very warm. The gratin de crozet was a perfect way to complement consistency and flavors. Crozets are a very special sort of pasta, locally made with buckwheat or durum, cut very small in little square and dried. Some people think the name comes from “croé“, an old word from Savoie (a French area in the Alps) meaning “small.” Well, they are small, so why not? I really like them in gratin with some Beaufort cheese. They can also be made as a croziflette: an equivalent to the famous tartiflette, replacing potatoes. Anyhow, cheese, crème fraîche and potatoes or crozet: count me in!

French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget & Montbéliard

The rest of the day drive was uneventful, only stopping to get gas and buy some vin jaune. Yes, at the same place, one can get both in a supermarket in France, and much more. Yellow wine is a very special wine from le Jura. It would require a complete post (and stay) to describe the differences between white wine, sweet wine, port wine, fortified wine, etc. So Heso Magazine’s boss will have to send me back there!? In a nutshell it is made out of Gewürztraminer grapes and it is then matured in a wooden barrel (oak mostly) but not topped. Then a thin layer of yeast naturally forms (called le voile in French, the veil) and partially protects the wine from oxidation. This is a slow process as the veil typically takes about three years to form and the wine is ready around 6 years and some. The aromas are very rich: walnut, hazelnut, almonds, etc. but also sometimes cinnamon and grilled bread. It is not, however, a sweet desert wine. Needless to say it is worth going there only for that and can be enjoyed with countless food specialities involving the yellow wine in the cooking. Le Jura is a very attractive area when it comes to food. However, we had land to cover and were supposed to sleep in Montbéliard (Doubs, France) in order to have an easy drive the next day and reach Strasbourg (Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France) and eat a choucroute!

Montbéliard delivered the goods in terms of food and drinks… Here is what my partner in food crime has to say about it…

[words by Rowena Koh] From Montbéliard, meditations on the French and food

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the French, it’s that as much as they love to eat, they equally love to talk about food, especially while eating the food they’re talking about.  Whether the conversation starts out on the mundane events of the day, the recent travels of a family friend, or something the neighbour said about the weather, always and eventually, the discussion reorients itself back towards the finding, preparation and eating of food. Yes, the French have earned a special place in my foodie heart.

A and I had our own culinary conversation at the simultaneously classy and homey L’Horloge in Montbéliard.

R : “That’s a whole wheel of cheese on your plate.”

A : “Yep.”

R : “A whole wheel! Just taken off the shelf and stuck in the oven. Just like that.”

A : “That’s totally normal.”

R : “But… it’s a whole wheel!”

I kept going on like that, with the Frenchman looking at me like an idiot. And in fact, it was explained to me, that before the wheel of cheese is stuck in the oven, it actually has a hole dug out of it into which white wine is poured.  Yes, a whole wheel of cheese AND wine! I suppose my astonishment had to do with the fact that a wheel of this fresh, soft, creamy, mellifluously yummy l’edel de Cléron would most certainly cost more than what we paid for the entire dish itself at a supermarket in Canada.

That wheel of cheese in fact made up a tiny portion of what we found on our plates that night. La grande assiette regionale lived up to its name alright, with several slices of tender smoked ham, a rustic, country-style pate paired with pickled pearl onions and cornichons, local sausage (of course) prepared two different ways, a potato and onion fritter affectionately referred to as une rejetée (literally, something rejected), a slow poached egg, perfectly cooked until the whites were set and the yolk golden and velvety, and real, sinus-burning, dijon mustard.  Oh yeah, salad too, served as a garnish more so than a side dish.

Such an overwhelming assortment of meaty and robust tastes and smells might cause the unfamiliar eater to gloss over the small pot of creamy liquid inconspicuously placed on the edge of the plate.  Cancoillote is a delicious cheese with a consistency that makes you want to play with your food, running your knife through it before picking it up quickly, then allowing it, both runny like a thin custard and stretchy like mozzarella, to fall lazily back into the pot.  It is made principally in the region of Franche-Comté by melting pure metton (the cheese) with some water or milk, and maybe salt and butter, then served either cold or warm.  In this case, it was warmed and meant to be drizzled over everything on the plate.

As the cook mentioned to us as she made her rounds, they’re good eaters around those parts. “Better to have too much food on your plate than not enough,” she said.  When the quality, diversity and coherency of the meal is as finely tuned as what we inhaled that night, it’s hard to argue with her.  Plus, the more food there is on your plate, the more you have to talk about at your next family dinner.

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg

And finally–though this is not the end–we must finish our French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine.

French Food Roadtrip 6 - Lyon and Grenoble

French Food Roadtrip 6 – Lyon and Grenoble

La Brasserie Georges, Lyon, France

La Brasserie Georges, Lyon, France

French Food Roadtrip 6 – Lyon and Grenoble

Whenever I am in Lyon (France) I need to go at least once to the Brasserie Georges. I got acquainted with this place twice actually before I could remember enough to become so attracted to it whenever in the vicinity, almost like iron powder to a magnet. Now I have even turned my dad into an aficionado. But come on! Look at this place. It’s like eating in a train station hall… with a hundred other people… in the 30s. Quite steampunk, so to speak. They also brew their own beers: always a blonde, a brune and a wheat/white, adding a seasonal one for good measure. If the beer is not amazing or anything that will have me discuss flavours for hours on end, it is just plain good. And it goes fantastically well with the food. “Brasseries” in France are not always what the name advertises, i.e. they most often do not brew beer on site. That is what “brasserie” means: brewery. Most of the time it is just a place where one can indeed drink beer but also get food that used to be cooked in breweries: traditional, everyday, simple cooking. Delicious cooking, that is. Being in Lyon of course it is based on pork cuisine. And “dans le cochon tout est bon !“, isn’t it?

I opted for a saucisson pistaché et sa purée de pommes de terre maison (sausage (yes, again… I’m an addict) made with pistachios and a side of mashed potatoes mashed with a fork, not a vegetable mill! in a restaurant…) and a fondant au chocolat et caramel au beurre salé (lava cake with chocolate and salted butter caramel). Of course we had a sample of the local brews but also a sip of the house red wine to go with cheese, a Côtes du Rhone as anything else here would be silly.

I was a bit disappointed that nobody got treated with a birthday cake that day. Indeed, it comes with the full monty: music from an ancient automated pipe organ, dimmed lights and the whole place clapping. The birthday cake is always une omelette norvégienne which is what Northern American people call a baked Alaska, do not ask me the reason for the two names and their difference… I would certainly not like to be the one receiving the, er, attention but it is always nice to see a maître-d’ in full uniform with bow tie and all, dashing along the aisles yelling with the cake lit with sparking magnesium rods. The whole thing lasts for a minute maximum and then all goes back to normal, the buzz of conversation and sound of waiters swooshing by the tables until another one comes.

To be complete we would have had to spend the night in Lyon and go for dinner in a bouchon lyonnais. These typical restaurants, most regularly on the small side, sometimes really really small. I know one that can host maybe 12 people maximum and then you are under the impression that you are eating on the lap of your neighbour, sometimes a good thing but most often not. Bouchons (meaning “cork” by the way, as in the stuff you seal wine bottles with) only serve pork specialities: saucisson en brioche, andouillette à la moutarde, paté de tête, etc.  Just thinking about it and writing it down makes me want to go back there and given that I already gained about 3 or 4 Kilos it would be a mistake…

However we had to go on because we were expected for apéritif and dinner at my best friend’s place, close by Grenoble.

We stayed there a couple of days to rest a bit and gather ourselves for the rest of the trip Northwards. We had some extremely good homemade food: amongst other we were treated to a fantastic ratatouille (which, as everybody found of rats who cook know, is pretty tough to make very good) accompanying a roti d’agneau (roasted lamb, baked in the oven with thyme), some amazing cheeses and the wine that goes with it (or the other way round). The ratatouille was especially nice. The cook did not just dumped all veggies in a pot and wait, she browned the eggplant and zucchini  in separate pans, only putting them in the final cast iron pot at the appropriate time to keep texture and not mix flavours too much. Such a simple dish but so delicious when well made. She had to omit bell peppers as I cannot stand the damn thing though. Many would cry for heresy but I’d glove them to a duel any time, my choice of weapon.

We contributed with our own brew, a Chocolate Stout brought all the way from Vancouver, BC, and some sample of patisseries bought from a local bakery… These individual cakes can be almost art and get better and better the more you go towards the North of France. Some argue the in the South they cannot make good cakes, something to do with the climate I gather.

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg

And finally–though this is not the end–we must finish our French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine.

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