Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paris! (with a side order of London)

This episode finds us visiting Gay Paris, capital of France, meeting Matt Preston in some pub toilets in London and getting you the top tips on gourmet culture en Paris by remote control.

Paris. What do you think of when I say that magical word? Hilton? The Iliad? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking about the city, la ville. Tsk. What are you like?

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge) ? That’s better. Monumental walks, that go on forever (perhaps you should have hired une bicyclette)? Large flocks of Americans at the Louvre looking for the Mona Lisa and the Da Vinci code? Maybe even hobos in phone boxes, sleeping on Metro exhaust grates to stop freezing in winter and cooking food in shopping trolleys?

That’s strange. Me too!

But there’s so much more. Food. Art. Fashion. Fancy ladies. People wearing lots of mushroom and brown. Neckerchiefs! Gerard Depardieu everywhere!! These things too await you in the world capital of “oh la la.”

We stayed in “gay Marais”, though on closer inspection we were closer to Temple than the Seine, on the Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, and the people there didn’t seem happy so much as cold and exhibiting a particular penchant for crotchless lederhosen. We were, however, a short walk from the Pompidou Center, surrounded by spaghetti Metro lines and found ourselves in a pretty amenable part of town.

Apres Lyon, I had, to put it mildly, a jaded palate. Since we were there for a few days, and had a kitchen, I made more than a passing acquaintance with their supermarches. Monoprix(es) are everywhere, and did a very palatable line in pate en croute, stinky cheeses, saucisons and had wine aisles that were full of French wine (!), to which I dedicated thorough study. Needless to say, not all French wine is good wine, but their mid-price Côtes de Rhone Villages, at around 13 Euro, were knock out value.

Champagne Tours
While en Paris it had been a dream of mine to visit the champagne district, particularly with Blue Vapours relationship with the French studies department at the University of Melbourne (Hello Dr Jacqueline!) and Veuve Cliquot.

But since a day tour was 160 Euro, only took in a couple of wineries, and a decent bottle of bubbles like Mumm demands a mere 30 Euros or so, I decided to acquaint myself with champagne if not in body at least in sp… wine (spumante? - Ed).

If you want to find out about the champagne region, stay there for a few days. If you’d like to take a winery tour, however, check out:

Paris was the business end of our trip, where we met our French contact in IT application roll out and financing Peter Savaas, who we were put on to by Austrade (Hi Peter!). Not only was he a font of knowledge on Parisian culture and the IT scene en Francaise, he also had some fantastic tips for where to go in Paris.

Paris Beaubourg
Place Igor Stravinsky

We met Peter at a bar outside the Pompidou Centre (which is itself a great place to pick up art chicks – see ‘the Official Slacker’s Handbook’). The bar is on a small square with a fountain featuring dada-esque sculptures, murals and Michael Jackson mimes. A very nice spot to drink beers as the sun goes down in the heart of happening town.

Six tentacles.

Café Charlot
38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris

This restaurant was recommended to us by Peter and was a ten minute walk from where we were staying. Located in an old bakery, it was frequented by a lot of locals. It was, in a word, great. Bustling with patrons, people even had the foresight to put little dogs under their tables. I ordered the most French things I could spot on the menu since we went there on our last night; pate de fois gras on toast, followed by Steak Tartare.

The waiter looked at me strangely:
“Are you sure?”
“I… think so.”
“Oh well.”

I should have known. By the time I’d finished the pate, I was not only full but water proof from lip to my nether regions internally.

Then the steak came, a lump of mince as big as both of my fists combined. Huge! And raw. I got about half way through and “that’s all she wrote.” While the small dogs at surrounding tables looked at me piteously, the extreme richness of their food prohibited their owners letting me feed it to them… no matter how much I begged.

Seven tentacles out of eight!

Peter also told us about L’Entrecote. Apparently, accoridng to Wiki, L'Entrecôte is the nickname of the restaurant Le Relais de Venise – L'Entrecôte, founded by Paul Gineste de Saurs in Paris's 17th arrondissement near Porte Maillot. I think this MAY be it (correct me if I’m wrong Peter!):

It had previously had a limited menu, but ninety percent of people used to order the same thing – the steak. Now, two generations later, all they do is steak with pommes frites. As you line up for a seat the only choice you get is rare, medium or well done. Who would ever have thought that steak and chips would be a popular menu item?

Obviously, our trip to Europe wasn’t all play (take note Australian Taxation Office!). We zooshed over to London on the Eurostar (five tentacles) to visit the British Museum on a strictly hush hush job we’re working on for the Melbourne Museum that’s coming out in 2012! But, can you believe it, while I was there, I learnt some more things about Paris’ food scene! But first, some celebrity spotting…

London, England!
We arrived under the enormous Olympic rings of St Pancras, and walking to the Museum spotted a fantastic old, black Bentley convertible driving with the top down in five degree temperatures. Closer scrutiny revealed it to be driven by none other than Jonnathon Ross, celebrity television and radio host in the UK. He went on to stall his car in the intersection - he must have noticed me noticing him and choked under the pressure. But our star spotting didn’t end there!

Matt Preston – Mr Master Chef gives us his five bobs worth after spending a penny!
For lunch we went to Soho, and settled on the Coach and Horses.

I tried three cask ales:
* the Gangly Ghoul (a toffee like dark ale);
* London ale (nice, easy drinking); and,
* Green Man IPA (“Indian Pale Ale” – I never knew! - not much chop).

These drinks combined to wash down some palatable fish and chips with mushy peas and is almost unworthy of mention... until we had the second celebrity spot of the day.

“Oh look, there goes Matt Preston, the guy with the cravat from Master Chef,” Jane said from her window seat. “Hang on, he’s coming back!”
The man himself came into the pub and made directly for the toilets. I decided to talk to him as he returned.
“Mr Preston! I hope you’re going to buy a drink and not use the facilities for free?”

He stopped and chatted with us, and was really quite charming. He was on his way to a TV meeting, and was very interested to hear we’d seen Jonnathon Ross (“Where???”), and commented it pretty much put their relative celebrity in proportion: Wossy stalling a convertible Bentley, him sneaking in for a free piss down the pub.

When we told Matt we were staying in Paris, he was full of great tips:

“Ah, you’ll have to look up this Australian woman’s tours of French bakeries. It’s a hundred pounds but absolutely worth it. Called UTE bakery tours.”

Here’s a link, but I see she’ll take you on a tour of anything you like:

He followed it with another tip:
“If you don’t manage that, there’s this gorgeous bakery you have got to try at the edge of the twentieth arondisement. It’s called “of bread, of ideas or something.” Here’s the site:

So he did pay for his wee after all, and I pass on to you what Matt Preston passed on to us after passing water. (Hello Matt if you’re reading this!).

One train trip later, we were facing our last day in Paris. But what to do?

Mont Matre, where else? It is the highest point in Paris, though admittedly too far away from the beating heart to give you an impressive view.

But it’s a tourist hot spot of food, architecture and art! It’s a long held bastion of artists – who are now all up there begging you to do a portrait or a caricature for only a few Euros (I remember when you could be franc with them).

“I am going to do your portrait.”
“No you’re not.”
“Mais oui, I’m already sketching.”
“I am walking away…”
“The best depiction of a retreating head I have ever done! You, madame, I am doing your portrait…” etc.

This is also the area, however, where they filmed Amelie.
Amélie film location
Café des 2 Moulins
Montmartre, Paris

We thought we’d swan up there, dig the Amelie scene and buy some tourist trinkets for our return and had a very nice time.

Cafe Chappe
8 Rue Tardieu 75018 Paris

We went for our last supper in a café that, on photo, looked similar to that whole Amelie scenario, both enjoying a lunch of the salads that the French do so well. Combined with a rosé, the meal was a fitting finish to our trip and well rounded with a pastis and black coffee.

Six tentacles.

So, bievenue Francaise, and merci beaucoup to you, you lovely person you, for sampling my humble ripailles d’Europe. A short hiatus in entries, as I’m now desperately putting the final touches on a short film for Tropfest, titled La Bicyclette. Never fear though, as I still think you are just wonderful and will send you some summer time eating reads in January! Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year! Au bientot! (your friend) Kit ///

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Lyon: The Two Faces of Food.

From Arles we travel North, via train past lush farms and nuclear power plants covered in paintings of children on the beach, to the culinary capital of “die Welt”. It’s here that Kit keeps running into Paul Bocuse, cream, and discovers that there’s more to food than meets the eye…

Lyon: cosmopolitan, rich, sunnier than Paris. Statuesque ebony women walk by in haute couture, rubbing shoulders with young men sporting military hair cuts and hip hop track suits, traditional old men in flat caps and women in brown scarves. This buzzing metropolis may not be the political capital of France, but it’s definitely the gastronomic capital of a country obsessed with food.

After the sleepy back waters we’d been travelling in, I was google eyed and licking my lips in anticipation of the delights that awaited us. All I could think was “Maitenant nous parlons, baby!”

Gastronomically, Lyon sits firmly north of the olive oil equator: i.e. everything comes in animal fat of one type or another. I also discovered one completely surprising thing about this gastro-capital. There are two types of food in Lyon (gasp!).

There’s the real type; with local markets, and friendly and cheap little restaurants the locals use (possibly with a preponderance of offal).

Then there’s the “theme park” Lyon eating scene, which is like going to Disneyland with a food theme that features cream and heavy going four courses. Painted harlot tourist restaurants ply their wares loudly on the strips, gathered together en force, shouting to jaded tourists “come into my palour”.

It kept reminding me of Luka in Cagliari saying: “Well, you could go to the touristy places, or you could go to a place that I’d eat”. And that pretty sums up the restaurant scene here.

First a quick thumbnail of the town itself. Sprawling in size, at the centre lies the ancient seat of Rome in Gaul on a hill (Languedoc), which was later the habitué of silk merchants in the Renaissance. Beside the old town lies a thriving retail and central business district sandwiched between the Saône and Rhône Rivers. Finally, there’s the new retail section in Part Dieu, around the main railway station next to which is a huge retail shopping centre akin to Chadstone.

There’s a palpable ebb and flow to Lyon society over the week, which climaxes with the mad bustle of Saturday shopping in the city. This gives way to leisurely markets on the river on a Sunday morning, the Sunday afternoon stroll around scenic areas, then the complete shut down of the city on a Sunday evening (“a proper Sunday” – as Anthonie at La Niche would describe it). Then it’s back to business as usual during the week, with the build up to Saturday.

How can you write a gourmet’s journey to Lyon without at least mentioning Paul Bocuse? Pardonez moi, mais ce n’est pas possiblement. Basically, Paul Bocuse owns Lyon.

Paul Bocuse is THE celebrity chef of the town. Avuncular, ancient (now in his mid-eighties), jovial, rich beyond the dreams of mere mortals, he made his name as a leading light in nouvelle cuisine, has cooked for Presidents and has been awarded the title ‘Chef of the Century.’

I first heard of Paul Bocuse through the Victorian Executive chefs’ organisation ‘Les Toques Blanches’, who sponsor and train a student to compete in the Bocuse D’Or, the world’s top chef competition.

His Michelin starred restaurant is located outside central Lyon. Those wishing to make a pilgrimage to the great man’s restaurant will need to take a trip by boat or road half an hour up the river. Apparently, he no longer ACTUALLY cooks there, but does come out and do hand shakes and photos with patrons.

Bocuse also has his own market in Part Dieu. I recall watching Maeve O’Meara’s terrific show French Food Safari (avec Guillame Brahimi), where they visited Lyon and “happened” to run into Paul Bocuse at the market. This should have been no surprise, since the man is a media machine and it is one of his private business affairs. Plus they rang ahead.

Want to find out more about the enigma? Visit his official site!

I leave it to you to decide which face of food Bocuse represents (see above).

On Sundays, there are markets – real markets - on either bank of the Saône.

On one side of the river lies the art market. Artists could variously be typified as:
“Oi make things out of wire, me!”
“Yeah hi, I’m a serious artist and would love to do your portrait if you could come to my studio… Oh her? She’s just my girlfriend, but don’t worry, it’s all art. You’ve got a great form for paint…”
“Hats! I’m just batty about felt hats!”

On the other side of the Saône on the Quai Saint Antoine lies a fresh produce market, which is absolutely amazing: chickens on rotisseries, goats cheese sellers, bakers, fresh fruit and vegetables, those yellow skinned chickens with the heads still on, ducks, oysters, you name it, it was there.

The produce market gets eight tentacles out of eight in my squidzy review scale (my first ever). French people, French food, a Francophile (moi), cheap, outdoors, beautiful. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.

There are signs on every second restaurant reading “original bouchon”, so I thought I’d better look it up just so I knew what was going on:

From Wikipedia:
The tradition of bouchons came from small inns visited by silk workers passing through Lyon in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

According to the dictionary Le petit Robert, this name derives from the 16th century expression for a bunch of twisted straw.[1] A representation of such bundles began to appear on signs to designate the restaurants and, by metonymy, the restaurants themselves became known as bouchons. The more common use of "bouchons" as a stopper or cork at the mouth of a bottle, and its derivatives, have a different etymology.

Since 1997, Pierre Grison and his organization, L'Association de défense des bouchons lyonnais (The Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons), bestow annual certifications to restaurants as "authentic" bouchons.[2] These restaurants receive the title Les Authentiques Bouchons Lyonnais and are identified with a sticker showing the marionette Gnafron, a Lyonnais symbol of the pleasures of dining, with a glass of wine in one hand and a napkin bearing the Lyon crest in the other.[3]

The following list, subject to some fluctuation as the certification is bestowed annually, contains most of the certified bouchons: Abel, Brunet, Café des deux places, Café des fédérations, Chabert et fils, Daniel et Denise, Chez Georges le petit bouchon, Les gones, Hugon, Le Jura, Chez Marcelle, Le Mercière, La mère Jean, Le mitonné, Le Morgon, Le musée, Chez Paul, Les Trois Maries, A ma vigne, and Le Vivarais.[3]

Here are some reviews of places we went to that rate a mention. None have websites (quel dommage!), so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Les Enfants Terrible
58 Rue Merciere, 2nd, Lyon, France
Tel: 04 7842 8813

Disneyland, here we come! Our first dinner was at a little restaurant around the corner, in the midst of many amazing looking restaurants, called ‘Les Enfants Terribles’. I opted for the Menu Gatromonique. From the various choices, I ended up with:
* snails and mushrooms, cooked in cream;
* steak with truffle infused cream and daubes of fois gras;
* my choice of cheese, which ended up being the stinkiest of drippy stinky cheeses; and finally,
* sliced pineapple (I begged for forgiveness from the waiter, and he brought it to me in the shape of my dessert).

I arrived back to our room as full as the proverbial. A strong six and a half tentacles with a recommended dose of antacid powder, Metamucil and a possible colonoscopy or heart bypass chaser.

Le Musee
2 Rue des Forces 69002 Lyon
Tel : 04 7837 7154

Le Musee – rated a marionette bouchon, was the top rated restaurant in Lyon by Trip Adviser. It was shut when we tried our luck. It was small, unpresupposing, and looked kind of homely, completely unlike the other larger more touristy restaurants nearby.

I suspect high tentacles and would recommend it to anyone who wants to go to a bouchon…

L’epicerie – Bistrot à tartines
2 Rue Monnaie, 69002 Lyon, France
Tel: 04 7837 7085

Frequented by young uni types, l’epicerie is a bistrot that specialises in “tartines”: basically toast with toppings, that you have with a salad and chase down with a dessert and coffee. It’s cheap as chips.

They had a couple of soups, and very French drinks (pastis, Cinzano cocktails), etc. It was simple and excellent. Jane had a chicken coleslaw on toast (with corn and mayonnaise), I had the pork spread traditional with cornichons, and we shared a green salad, half bottle of rosé, and washed down the lot with a coffee, and fantastic tart with cherries and blackberries, and a calvados.

The really nice thing here was the atmosphere: great service, young and upbeat, and a young, skinny, and local crowd – it felt more like what you would expect a bouchon to be. Cheap, friendly, warm, local and traditional.

Pukka. Six tentacles, an extra tentacle for the laissez faire environment, and a great idea for anyone thinking of opening a restaurant here in Melbourne.

So, sated (and with colds), we packed our bags and fell toward the finish line of our trip, Paris, trundling our bags onto the Metro and departing to the ‘Fuck You!’-s of a beggar (I told you it was a cosmopolitan city).

Next episode: Gay Paris, Capital of France!

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