Friday, August 14, 2009

West Coast Conclusion

In an attempt to not only share the culinary aspects of my summer vacation but also get caught up so I can talk about what's happening in the here and now, I will try to be brief about the rest of my holidays. But I don't want to short change my four weeks of eating in France. No way no how. It was just too good.

So we continue on the west coast where I prepared savory breakfast crepes, enjoyed a splendid lunch at Restaurant Le Belem, had my first taste of Gateau Nantais, a delightful little cake that packs a powerful punch, ate more cantaloupe, scarfed down a bunch of sauteed haricots verts, drank half a bottle of Clarette de Die, and ate delicious, organic saucisson intermittently with tart and crunchy cornichons--all over the course of several days, I'll have you know.

It is practically sacrilege for a French person to buy store bought crepes. In fact, Alan had no idea you could even find prepared, store-bought crepes until he saw them in the supermarket and asked me if I thought we should try them as dessert (with melted chocolate inside) for the meal we were preparing for his family in our rented camper (the mini mobile home pictured above). You have no idea how long it took him to make the decision to buy the darn things. He kept saying, "Should we?" and then "But no, crepes are so easy to make - we should make our own," and then again "But we are sort of camping so it would be okay." It went on like this for at least five minutes until I grabbed the package and threw it in the cart. Store bought it is! They turned out quite good crisped up in a pan, spread with squares of dark chocolate, folded, and served with vanilla ice cream.

The next day Alan left early to visit Papi Emile, his maternal grandfather, which left Anatole and me alone for breakfast. I put a crepe in a pan, cracked an egg on top, and left it on the heat until the egg was cooked. Then I folded it and spread it with butter. I made one for Anatole and one for me. I served mine with tomatoes and his with Apericube cheese. If you haven't had it, Apericube might just be the most fun way to eat cheese. It's another Laughing Cow product (referred to in my last post) and while it's a simple, processed cheese, it tastes good and everyone--young and old--likes removing the foil wrapper from the cube (and seeing if they can keep the cube perfectly in tact). In theory my idea was a good one, but what I didn't realize is that the crepes are slightly sweet (naturally I didn't notice when eating the dessert crepe) and not a wonderful match for the saltiness of the egg and butter. And that's from someone who adores salty and sweet combos. Nevertheless I enjoyed it because after all we were in France and why not have a fried egg crepe for breakfast?

Papi Emile treated the three of us along with Alan's father and cousins Florian and Aurelie to a delightful lunch at Le Belem. Other than Anatole--who didn't need to order because he had enough nibbling off everyone else's plates--we each ordered a four course meal. I started with an artistic rendition of crab and avocado; for the main course I chose fish stuffed with shrimp and served with veggies; the cheese course was a small plate of mixed greens topped with breaded and browned Camembert. And as if I hadn't gorged myself enough, I tore into a chocolate box that was filled with the most delicious creamy mousse (you'll have to excuse the terrible photo). For a family that almost never eats out in Denmark, this was a special treat indeed.

The day after we arrived, Alan's Aunt Michele presented us with a pretty box to take back to our camper. She said it contained a cake called Gateau Nantais that, in old times, the wives of fisherman would make for their husbands who were out at sea for long stretches of time. A key ingredient is rum and in addition to the sweet rum and almond flavors the cake keeps well. Thus, it's the perfect cake for seamen. We enjoyed it for breakfast along with strong black tea.

One evening Alan came home from the supermarket with fresh haricots verts (green beans), which I planned to steam until he said he wanted to prepare them in the traditional way. He poured olive oil in a pan, added the trimmed beans, sprinkled with salt and pepper and sauteed until the beans were dark and almost crunchy. I've always liked fresh green beans, but these were different and incredibly good. At every meal Alan and I said to each other how good the food tasted. The flavors really came alive, and we noticed this most of all with fruit and vegetables.

Finally, let me tell you about one of the finest alcoholic beverages I've ever put to my lips: Clarette de Die. A natural sparkling wine (akin to Champagne), it's characterized by its peach and apricot flavors and rose and honeysuckle aromas, according to Wikipedia. We served it at our summer wedding three years ago. We also returned to Denmark with two cases.

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