I am back again to take your mind off of running and anything fitness related and to distract you instead with fabulous foods that, if eaten in excess, would completely derail your attempts at health and fitness. You know you love it.
As you may know, we recently returned from two weeks in France and Italy, during which time I stuffed as many new (to me) and interesting foods in my face as humanly possible. I have already written about my favourite gelato, as well as my love for the Valrhona Cite du Chocolat. This week, I turn my attention to my five favourite random food finds. These were the things that I stumbled upon without intention, and which blew my mind in all the best possible ways.
Also, my list was incredibly hard to narrow to five things, so I had remove the more obvious things that I sought out en masse like ice cream, gelato, chocolate, macarons, pain au chocolat, croissants and such. I also have virtually no pictures of any of those things as I was too busy stuffing them in my face to even contemplate photographing them.
Without further adieu, here’s my list:
#5. Foie Gras, Chez Juliette, Nice . This wasn’t the best-rated restaurant but it looked warm and cozy and I had a good feeling about it. Turns out I was right for the foie gras alone. Now, this will the controversial item on my favourites list, since there’s a lot of bad things to be said for how foie gras is produced. I have nothing to say in defense of those practices. What I can say is that in North America I never order foie gras because I always find it to be too rich, which is saying a lot for me as I rarely find anything rich. I was determined to try it at least once in its motherland and our first night in Nice was when I realized that, whatever we’re doing to foie gras in North America, we’re doing it all wrong. In France, it is delicate, rich but not overwhelmingly so, and it has actual texture instead of just being a glorified block of pate. It was heaven, so much so that I had already eaten a sizeable portion before having the wherewithal to snap a photo. This experience ignited my love for foie gras, but only in France. Yes, I have all the makings of a food snob.
#4. Gorgonzola & Sesame Macaron, Seve Maitre Chocolatier Patissier, Lyon: Okay, okay, you caught me. I know I said that I wouldn’t talk about macarons but this is a savoury macaron which a) I have never seen and b) warrants forming a whole other category of macarons. First and foremost, I have to say I understand that people are either on the blue cheese bandwagon or they’re not. If you’re not, you’re already repulsed and doubting my sanity (and palate). I get it. Just move on to the next on the the list. However, if you’re like me and believe that the more foul-smelling the blue cheese the better, you will adore this and wonder where it has been your whole life. If macarons travelled better and lasted longer, and if they hadn’t been a whopping 2.25 euro apiece (!!!!), I would’ve brought back a case. Pro tip: follow the gorgonzola macaron with the apricot peach for a bright punch of flavour and a perfect contrast to the savoury. I’m changing lives one over-priced but sublime cookie at a time.
#3. Octopus & Potato Salad, Trattoria Billy, Manarola: I may lose all of you at this point since, like blue cheese, octopus isn’t everyone’s jam. If you love it, read on. If you don’t, I’m sorry…but maybe also read on because you may not like it because you’ve been eating crappy octopus your whole life. This salad was life-changing. You might be saying any coastal town should have fresh and fantastic octopus, so I should have expected perfection. I live in a coastal town with generally kick ass fresh seafood and I can tell you that at least 90% of the time the octopus is overdone, tough and chewy, and/or flavourless. It is hard to do well. This was perfection, so tender I can’t even put into words how tender it was, and so lightly seasoned that it tasted of nothing other than octopus, which is exactly what I wanted.
#2. Galette, La Terrasse, Tain l’Hermitage: Omg, these galettes. I admit when I first ordered one I was only 50% sure it was a crepe and thought it equally possible that I would get a stuffed pastry, as here in Canada galettes are most often open-faced pastries. I am so, so glad that I took a chance on this galette. It was so phenomenal that I went back two days in a row despite our commitment to not eating in the same place twice. These buckwheat crepes are heartier and nuttier than a traditional crepe and are stuffed with various savoury fillings before being topped by an egg whose yolk remains perfectly soft and runny. I am a sucker for a soft-cooked egg on its own let alone one combined with meats and cheeses. This galette was heaven. I even downed one with rich mushroom gravy and cheese less than half an hour after devouring 11 chocolates. That is the sign of food item that cannot be resisted.
#1: The “Brick”, El Cochino, Brignole: This was by far the most random of my food finds. We stumbled upon this restaurant and my beloved Brick only because I was on the verge of hangry-ness while driving between Nice and Chateauneuf du Pape. We pulled into a random town (Brignole) and walked until we stumbled upon a charming square with several restaurants. I chose this restaurant simply because it had a pig on the menu. I am easy to please. At any rate, once we were seated I kept seeing plates of these amazing looking deep-fried tubular pastries going by and wanted to get my hands on one immediately. I saw nothing on the menu (all in French, of course) that looked like an obvious match, so I did some calculated deductive reasoning and somehow lucked out with this brick. I’ve seen learned through Google that stuffing Feuille de Brick (which translates to ‘sheet of pastry’) with egg and other fillings is common in France. I don’t think it’s just because I was starving that this delightful, deep-fried wonder blew my mind. Imagine thin, crispy sheets of pastry folded lovingly around the most velvety egg, cheese, ham and potato filling. Imagine the divine contrast of that crunchy outer shell with a soft yet still textured centre. I ate the whole damn thing and I’m certain that if I could start a food truck making these here, I would be a millionaire. Highlight of the trip, all thanks to my need to eat immediately. It is the first time my hangry-ness has done anyone any good.
There you have it, some of my most unexpectedly perfect food finds. Now please excuse me while I cry over the fact that I cannot locate a single establishment in Vancouver that makes these Bricks.