Toulouse is home to all manner of architectural eye candy and some superb markets. You won’t find the full-gutter-monty in this lazy, hip, southern French city. You will find fab fodder in fancy restaurants at fat prices. At the pieman end of the spectrum there’s also very, very good nosh for meager-minded munchers and readily available fresh ingredients are never far away for a session on the stove back at noodlepie chateau. A couple of reference points before we begin. Noodlegirl (a Toulousaine herself) and Pieman (about as un-French as it gets) got hitched in the building above some years ago. Inside the snazzy surround is the Salle des Illustres . Secondly, noodlegirl’s family includes four chefs and two restaurant owners among its throng of foodies. Alors… when we hit France – food comes first. Nice.
Within hours of landing in Toulouse the kitchen was in action. Knowing that mussels are missing from the Saigon shellfish selection, a huddle of noodles-in-law rustled up three tasty openers for their ravenous visitors. I didn’t take much in the way of the usual notes here, too busy salivating, eating or nattering away with a glass or two of local plonk. So you won’t find no recipes here. However, that fat saucepan above is chockfull of a big noodlepie fave – white wine and bouquet garni heavy Moule marinieres.
Next up is Moule Royale (basically just mussels with melted butter, I think.)
Then you’ve got Moule Gratinee (slightly larger mussels, grilled with a light gratinee topping). The big hit (as always) were the Moule marinieres. It’s not that hard to rustle up according to the recipe books, although I reckon it takes a deft touch to render a decent dish. I do tend to veer into the ‘chuck in whatever’s handy, any old amount will do and see what happens’ culinary school which is fun, but ultimately crap. Fortunately, noodlegirl is usually on hand to rescue my half-arsed efforts.
The markets in Toulouse are stuffed with quality oceanic eats – Saigon’s markets are sadly lacking in that respect – and so it’s stomach pleasingly super to find oysters by the hundredweight fresh off the farm at the superb covered market in the city centre. These fellas weren’t too fat (a good sign) once we opened them up and they slipped down a treat with yer regular shallot vinegar and lemon juice combo and a couple of buckets of vino blanco callapso.
Toulouse is famed for the winter warmer – Cassoulet – a frisky fill of sausage, haricot beans and duck confit. However, decent Toulouse sausages are robust enough to enjoy solo. We speared these meat-tastic Toulousaine chaps over an outdoor grill before slinging them on the table and rapidly devouring with mustard and béarnaise sauce. I seem to remember seeing a bit of salad along the way somewhere, but I was pretty much meat and shellfish focused at this sitting. We’ll get to the greenery another day.