Thursday, March 12, 2009

In which I put something in my mouth other than my foot

I have a standing assignment with an airline magazine to recommend places of interest for businessmen planning to visit Strasbourg. Each one requires that I write a bit about at least three restaurants, one of which should be accompanied by a photo.

While I do like food, and I do like writing, I must admit I’m not well equipped to be a food writer. I have a friend in Montreal who does restaurant reviews for numerous publications. She would occasionally invite Amynah and I out with her, in order that we could help give her our impressions. I drove her nuts, because all I could offer when being asked my opinions was “S’good.” I’ve tried to broaden my palette of adjectives since then, but it’s not entirely natural for me.

For my featured restaurant this time, I chose the Atelier de gout, a fancier place in Strasbourg. We’d eaten there once or twice before and loved it: I still salivate a little bit when I remember the first appetizer I had there. It was pretty much just a fried egg, but the owners handpick all of their ingredients, insisting that they be both local and organically grown, and that made a huge difference. It was easily the best fried-egg I’ve ever eaten, rich and flavourful.

I popped by at lunch, to speak to the owner to get her permission to take my photos. She said not now – the lunch crowd was in, and were mostly businessmen who she felt would not want to be disturbed – and told me to return at 7:30 that evening. I left, thinking “Does she think they’ll believe the camera will steal their souls?”

That evening, I returned with Amynah, intent on treating her to a long-promised dinner. I snapped some pictures in the restaurants back dining area, but as I made my way forward, the owner told me that I had to ask the other diners if it was ok if I took their pictures. I thought this odd, but as there was only two other tables, went for it.

At the first table was a British guy who, judging from his accent and manner of speech, was taking a break from his normal employment of hurling bon mots across the aisle of the House of Lords. I explained what I was doing, and asked if it was ok if they were in the background of my photos, to which they said yes, Lord Duckeater adding “We don’t think it’s going to steal our souls, after all.” Great minds….

The second table was a little more awkward. There was a French couple, about my age seated there. The woman was well along in a pregnancy. I made my stumbling request in French, to which she replied “Why do you ask? Do you think this is not my husband?” (Either that, or she said “This isn’t my husband.” Either way, she gave permission for the photos).

In any case, this is just a long-winded way of doing my first food-specific blog post. I obviously have to do something to get you people’s interest: I’ve received two comments in the last three weeks, both from the same guy, one of which was to request that someone else to do the writing around here. It’s enough to give a guy a complex.

Cow butt, discretely covered by greenery

After we dispensed with the complementary sushi samples, I started with Pimientos del piquillo farci de queue de bouef, roquette poivrée crunchy de “pain “brûlé”. This translates to red peppers stuffed with cow tail, served with salad and burnt toast; that, my friends, is why they write menus in French. Those peppers were more delicious than any dish featuring meat from that far back on a cow has any right to be.

For the main course I ordered a Chevreau de lait rôti, pommes grenailles, jus aux épices de couscous et huile d’argan. Basically, this is not just a cute fuzzy lamb goat, but a suckling lamb goat. And potatoes. Yes, I’m a monster. The meat was a little rich for my taste, but is was cooked to perfection, tender and flavourful.

Yes, meat garnished with more meat.

For her part, Amynah ordered the bar farci aux legumes “comme sur la Riviera” purée de pommes rattes à l’huile d’olive. In other words, fish. Specifically, sea bass, stuffed with vegetables. I only had a small bite myself, but Amynah was raving about it throughout the meal, so I can only conclude it met her high culinary standards.

Fish heads, fish heads, shiny happy fish heads....

For dessert, Amynah ordered something that I’m sure had a fancy French name, but it’s not on the menu I took with me, so I will have to resort to English:A giant lump of chocolate material bristling with chocolate wafers, sitting in a puddle of crême Anglaise. Wasn’t that poetic? It was too rich for my blood, but Amynah seemed pretty blissed out.

Feeling especially French, I ordered an espresso to finish off my meal, a tradition I normally avoid – it was almost 11PM at this point, but I was carried away. I ended up lying awake all night, but the owner threw it in gratis, so I guess it was worth it.


Natalie Joan said...

A suckling lamb? Wow. I'm no vegetarian, but that made me wince.
Mind you, it looked good.

Mark Reynolds said...

It was delicious - but only if I refuse to think about where it came from. Sometimes I wish I understood a little less French.

Mark Reynolds said...

Amynah and I actually came up with a phrase to describe French cuisine like this (snails, frogs, fois gras, suckling lamb, etc): "Horrifying and delicious."

Danielle said...

Even worse! You ate a suckling kid... a sweet baby goat
You're becoming very French indeed.
What did you call dandelion?

Mark Reynolds said...

That was a goat? That would explain why it tasted to different from regular lamb.
Dandelions were onthe menu as well: wet-the-beds?

Knot Knitting said...

Tycho would like some of your "birthday cake". Apparently, the only cake he gets is at birthday parties. So, happy belated/early birthday.

Mark Reynolds said...

We just passed my half-birthday - and technically, this dinner was a way-overdue birthday dinner for Amynah, so we'll take the wishes!

Beth said...

I had sea bass last night, but they neglegted to give me the head. Should I be concerned?

Love the food pictures!