12/08/2005

Christmas Shopping and French Lunch

Monday we decided (hubby and I) to get some precious Christmas shopping done in the grand city of La Rochelle (pop. approx. 100,000). With it's pedestrian streets and active town center (downtown), it's an ideal place to go shopping.

Well compared to my other options:

Option 1: Coulonges is approx. 2000 inhabitants and ALL the shops are closed on Mondays, even the banks. (Hey, it's rural France!)

Option 2: Niort (50,000 inhabitants) better than option one, but not as good as option three

Option 3: La Rochelle (shop til you drop)!

La Rochelle has a plethora of excellent restaurants, being that it's a popular tourist town. (ah, the Vieux Port, the largest sailboat marina on the Atlantic coast in all of Europe, the sea, Ile de Ré...). So we could have chosen a quaint little restaurant with a menu du jour complete with first course, main course, dessert, coffee and un quart de rouge. But we didn't. We went to the best "restaurant" in town: my mother-in-law's!

It's a given that any French mother-in-law can cook. And it may sound very biased to say mine is the best in all of France (and a little pompous!) but in all humbleness, she is. Not only is the food good, the conversation light and pleasant, the table is set with careful detail, always colorful, always different than the last time we were there. Always a huge BIENVENUE! (welcome!)

Because in France, the food is only a part of the success of the meal. The setting, the mood, the extras make up the the rest. This is why (in my opinion) I think the French have succeeded in being so renowned for their cuisine. It's the whole package that makes it work. And my mother-in-law knows that.

We started off with a glass of red wine (it was lunchtime so it really was only one glass) and some margret de canard séché (dried slices of duck filet) made of course! by my mother-in-law.

We then sat down to a Christmas red themed table complete with assorted green linen napkins, a finely sliced fennel salad delicately flavored with olive oil and lemon juice, two types of bread (old fashioned baguette and baguette with poppy seeds and nuts).
You see the attention to detail here is the choice for two breads and the thinly sliced fennel, so finely sliced it only had one side to it.



The main course was blanquette de veau (veal stew). For a change she steamed turnips and rutabaga (of the turip family, also known as Swedish turnip-- cross between a turnip and a carrot in flavor and texture) to accompany the classic side of boiled potatoes. She tossed in two moelles d'os, a prime piece of bone with the marrow, a delicacy, to be eaten with fleur de sel and a slice of fresh peasant bread.



A light meal, because it was lunchtime on a weekday, we finished without cheese but with a sweet winter salad, complete with cheeries from her cherry tree that had flourished this past spring and from which she decided to freeze. Interesting, but next time, remove the pits before freezing (!)


And of course, she served her famous Meringue Kisses with the fruit salad. A meringue like you've never had before, these babies are crunchy on the outside, chewy and light on the inside. Heaven.

Like any good French meal, an espresso must complete the menu. And showing attention to detail, a chocloate covered almond on each saucer, the Christmas chocolates in a dainty serving dish for the gourmand.

And after that, we were supposed to go shopping? Ai! Ai! Ai! (translation: Ouch!) Well, it did me some good. I mean the meal and the walking.

The hardest part of the day? Coming home and having to follow that meal up with dinner myself! Tough act to follow!

2 Comments:

Blogger anon said...

I wish my French mother-in-law was such a good cook. I, unfortunately, have to argue that not all French mother-in-laws are as inventive and welcoming. Do you have any idea why many French families reuse the same cloth napkins without washing until a thick and crusty food layer is present? Count your blessings....

6:44:00 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Yes, it is sad but true, not all French women are gourmet chefs! That is why I'm sharing my adventures here, for everyone's enjoyment! As for the cloth napkins go, my experience has been that the French traditionally change them once a week, crustless. Since they would NEVER "jamais!" use their fingers to eat with, their napkins stay quite clean. As for the "cochons" our there, I always suggest paper towels and bibs!

12:10:00 PM  

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