Japanese restaurants are in the main a very big let down in Toulouse. There are quite a few of them – Japoyaki appears to be the ‘chain’ with two restaurants in central Toulouse – but the offerings do not look good. Far better to make your own at home. Or to be more exact, far better to have your brother-in-law make some for you in his home. I watched, I learned, but I’ll admit I didn’t do a hell of a lot beyond shaping the sushi rice.
Archives for May 2007
Two British companies, Elsenham and Tau, sell fine "artesian" water. I saw these for sale in the window of an off-licence near Victor Hugo market in Toulouse, France this morning. The former flogs water for €6.85 per tastefully designed imported bottle, while the latter goes for almost half the price at a bargain basement €3.05. I have no problem with the sale of bottled mineral water. Some of it even tastes different from the tap or puddle variety. But, aren’t these two companies taking the almighty piss? And taking it by the bottle load. Is any commercial water really worth £4.64,148.000 dong or US$9.22 per bottle. Am I missing sommit?
Spotted on Victor Hugo market, Toulouse, France.
This may look like something you’d scrape up with a trowel, paste on bricks and confidently leave to stand in houseform for a few millenia, but strictly speaking, this isn’t actually cement. It’s cassoulet. A speciality from the Languedoc region of France, famed in Toulouse, but born just down the road in Castelnaudary. Cassoulet consists of beans, sausage, goose, sometimes duck or pork, also tripe. It’s a bit of a mishmashmosh and sits rather rotundly in the hearty ‘think-I-need-a-sleep-now’ category of foodstuffs. It takes shedloadsa time to cook and needs freezing cold weather to really enjoy. While it isn’t really used to fashion cement bricks, wolf that pot down and you’ll feel like you’ve eaten brick. A big one.
I have eaten a lot of cassoulet, but much of it is from supermarket and market tins and jars – which are cheap and very good, but this goose-stuffed cassoulet is from Le Colombier – "the home of cassoulet" – It’s served in a careful-don’t-burn-yourself terracotta pot and according to the restaurant website consists of,
"beans from Lauragais… mixed deliciously with conserve of goose, Toulouse’s sausage, shin of pork, sausage with skin, without forgeting pork skin."
Beyond the weight, this is most satisfying when eaten slowly – don’t worry, the pot will keep things warm – with a glass of something red and a comfortable chair. Le Colombier is efficient, a little impersonal and not all that attractive, but the main event is a solid hit. There’s more on this gargantuan dish at Food and Wine, BBC Food, New York Times, EGullet and a very good wee piece in Wine Spectator including a recipe. Just look at the ingredients list….
2 pounds dried white beans, picked over, washed and drained
1 small bunch parsley
5 sprigs thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed, plus 5 cloves garlic, minced
10 peppercorns, plus freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves, plus 2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1/2 pound ventrÃ¨che (or pancetta), quartered
1/2 cup duck fat, melted (or grape seed or canola oil)
6 fresh duck legs (or confit of 6 duck legs)
2 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds boned lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds garlicky pork sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 large cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained
2 to 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Dunno about you, but I’m ripe for a snooze just doing the reading… Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for this dinner. Bon Appetit editors Hugh Garvey and Andrew Knowlton coughed up the sobs for this while they were in town last month.
Meanwhile, back in food blog world… Susan Smillie, editor of The Observer website tells me about the forthcoming launch of Word of mouth a food blog from the Observer Food Monthly magazine. I think if any of the UK newspapers – and the US ones for that matter – have a chance of getting a food blog right, it’s the Observer. Alors, Susan says,
"Our first and rather unglamorous aim is simply to find our feet in the food blog world – as newcomers, we’re being very careful not to set ourselves up as the authority, although we will have various experts contribute and draw on our print product and contributors. I want to make the food blog a place that is properly welcoming and interested in reaching out to its community. It won’t just be about industry people or celebrity chefs, although we will include both, but I’m more interested in creating an unpretentious place for all people to gather and talk about food – from dining out to eating in, exchanging recipes, to food and wine gossip. I envisage a blog where you could drop in to find Jay Rayner and Heston Blumenthal discussing whether old media sensationalised molecular gastronomy, and at the same time, a couple of folk swapping their favourite sandwich fillings. We’ll invite readers to blog regularly, have events, run podcasts, and video … "
The blog is slated to go live this Thursday, 24 May.
I hope that the majority of the content is original and not just pulled in from the mag. I suspect Jay Rayner has the makings of a very good blogger, but time will tell. I’m told the blog design isn’t finished yet and apart from the sausage, it looks the same as all the other Guardian blogs. I hope that changes. However, what is particularly interesting about Susan’s comments above, and
what makes the possibilities for this old media food blog that much
more dynamic, is in the final sentence.
We’ll invite readers to blog regularly, have events, run podcasts, and video …
How will they invite readers to blog? Off the top of my head, this could open the mag up to a whole lot of niche regional content that the printed version couldn’t hope to accomodate once per month. And then there are "events".
If OFM can also use the blog to foster an offline life in that weird world without laptops and statcounters then I think they could really be onto something. Tastings,
cooking shows, workshops, lectures, films, flashmobs, tastemobs(?), competitions etc. Food bloggers make up a tiny, if obsessive, proportion of a magazine’s
readership. OFM needs to have far broader appeal than just other food bloggers – even if it’s the obsessives that drive much of the traffic to the blog.
I can’t think of an old media food blog that is a) much cop or b) gets any interest from bloggers, let alone normal people. Diner’s Journal, Grub street and possibly Between meals are notable exceptions. Whatever OFM does I hope they don’t do a Food & Wine or a Bon Appetit
– one of which accepts comments, while the other is barking in a
very lonely shed – no offence Hugh and Andrew from Bon Appetit, both
of whom are charming and were an absolute pleasure to spend time with in Toulouse
recently – more on that soon…
And, in the way of these things… I should disclaim that I was invited to a
meeting at The Observer about this blog in October last year. I’m
also talking, talking, talking with other old media outlets about
working on other foodcentric blog projects. Nothing signed or sealed
anywhere, so I’ll keep schtum. Suffice to say, I am still open to
Spent a few days in London this past week. Possibly the most memorable few hours were spent with my friend Dom in the Norfolk Arms in Bloomsbury nibbling tapas, quail, lamb, Spanish cheese & quince jelly, quaffing La Gitana and then… sinnin’ it with a sticky toffee pudding. The Norfolk Arms is excellent; très chilled, great service, quality scoff without any of that pretentious prima donna Londonitis. I did remark to Dom upon chomping the sticky toffee,
"This is the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever had. In fact this is the best dessert I’ve ever had."
As I blog, I’ll chasten my initial enthusiasm with a smidgen of reserve until I eat here again next month, but I very much suspect my opinion will remain unaltered. The quail was also superb. The menu changes regularly. Here are some more snaps and thanks Dom for an absolutely corkin’ lunch.
This weekend, on Victor Hugo market in Toulouse, France, I learned that a horse’s tongue is very, very big. About the length of my arm, from the elbow to the fingertips. And the width of a motorbike tyre. However, it’s probably not quite as tough. The Japanese enjoy horse tongue sashimi. As soon as I learn how to cook the thing I’ll order one, minus the rest of the horse. Talking of which, you probably can’t tell from the photo, but the horse’s heart, pictured behind the tongue, is bigger than my head, a football and most new born babies. There’s not much you can’t eat from a horse, here’s a horsemeat map from the stall on Victor Hugo. Horse fat is supposed to be very good and I am reliably told the meat is superb, "Better than beef".
They don’t look *that* black, but seen alongsie the more regular red variety they’re definitely darker. Admittedly, I had never heard of black tomatoes before I spotted these on my local market on Boulevard de Strasbourg, otherwise known as Marche du Cristal, in Toulouse, France. Cristal is one of five main open air markets in Toulouse, there are many other smaller ones. Must try these black tomatoes one day. Apparently, they have,
"an outstanding, salty flavor with a semi smoked
taste that is unlike any other tomato out there." link
More Toulouse tomato porn. Such variety.
Is this the first? The first of many? I wonder if Bentley will be required to supply supercharged car horns to Vietnam… the one in this vid sounds a bit weedy. You got circa $200,000 spare? Maybe a Lamborghini?
"Mr Cuong ordered the car as a wedding gift for his wife, the beauty and actress Tang Thanh Ha" Ahhh… Hope she can drive…
NB: post title explanation.