As you will know from previous posts, Nick and I recently went to Paris for a long weekend. Now one of our favourite things to do when we travel is to trawl the food stores of wherever we happen to be, and we are always amazed at the variation between what’s on the London shelves and on the Continental shelves. In London, grocery shopping is just another chore, but in a foreign land it becomes a wild adventure of hedonistic pleasure. This visit in particular, I was mesmerised by the pork rillettes and duck fat and all the things that are considered (and priced as!!) speciality items in London, but freely available on the shelves of a nondescript suburban supermarche in Paris.
So given our fascination with foreign grocery stores, it’s hardly surprising that we invariably come back with food – in fact, this time we took an extra bag especially to carry home our moveable feast! What did we get? Well, as you see from the picture, there was a definite tendency towards things in bottles, which is a really, erm, interesting choice when you consider the fact that we had to haul them home on our backs… but then I’m convinced you enjoy the delicacies all the more if you had to struggle to get them home!
From the back, then, we have:
* Two bottles of Cru Bourgeois wines from the Medoc and Haut Medoc respectively. When we are buying Bordeaux wine we always look for wines classified as Cru Bourgeois, and I guess this is my cue for a short explanation. In 1855, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce at the request of Emperor Napoleon III classified the wine producers in the Bordeaux region according to the quality (and price!) of their wines. The classification took the form of a Grand or Premier Cru designation for the top producers and after that a second, third, fourth and fifth cru. Naturally, you will pay more for wines from Grand Cru producers, sometimes purely because of the well-known name on the label. Wines that don’t fall into one of the 5 Cru’s (i.e. the majority) have been further classified into Cru Bourgeois Exceptionelle, Cru Bourgeois Superieur and Cru Bourgeois. Since with the Cru Bourgeois wines you are not paying for a label that gained a reputation in the 1800′s, they often offer better value, and seeing as I am not in the market for a truly astronomically priced Premier Cru Bordeaux, I will stick with the Cru Bourgeois! Even further down the ladder are the Bordeaux Superieur, Grand Vin De Bordeaux and the Bordeaux AC wines – be aware that unless you know your stuff, buying in these categories can be a very hit and miss affair, but you will still be paying a premium because the name Bordeaux appears on the label! So we stick with Cru Bourgeois – will let you know when we drink them how they turned out!
* Moving to the right of the reds, there is a half-bottle of Monbazillac – a sweet white wine along the lines of the more famous Sauternes, but once again without the price tag. Got this one because I’m just a sucker for a good sticky, and because it goes well with foie gras… see below!
* Further to the right is a beautiful little bottle of raspberry (framboise) vinegar, bought because I could not resist the lovely colour and because I love raspberry vinaigrette more than almost any other dressing. I have big plans for this little bottle once we finish our organic apple cider vinegar!
* In front, right in the middle of the picture is a saucisson – a French salami-style dry sausage. Somehow, the sausages that have the white Cambert-like rind, always taste about a million times better than the ones with a ‘skin’ that has to be peeled off before eating. This particular one had a lovely earthiness to the flavour, and far less salt than what you would expect. It ended up being eaten thinly sliced as part of a Mediterranean lunch, sliced into a pasta sauce, and on sandwiches with rocket and cheese – delicious!
* Behind the saucisson is a slab of melty, creamy milk chocolate studded with whole hazelnuts – Nick and I made short work of that!
* And last but not least, on the far left we have a tin of bloc de foie gras – foie gras that has already been processed and seasoned wth cognac, salt, pepper and spices, to be removed from the tin, sliced and eaten – no cooking required! The tin is also rather clever – it has a ring-pull at both ends. The reason for this is so that you can remove both the top and the bottom of the tin and slide the foie gras out, unmangled by your attempts to coax it out of the tin. I am looking forward immensely to trying this delicacy together with our little bottle of Monbazillac – and of course, I’ll let you all know how that turns out!
So that’s it – our little hoard of delicacies (already depleted as the chocolate and saucisson are now only a fond memory…). But never fear – tomorrow morning I am off for a week in the south of France! Lots to see, do, eat and drink. And of course a whole lot of food shopping to do!