Saturday, 9 November 2019

Seafood. And Steak.




One of the delights of popping across the channel, be it to St Malo - the location of our most recent jaunt - or elsewhere in France, is to sample the food. The French are famous for many things, but I'd argue that their food is top of the list. Any decent blogger worth their salt would produce lengthy reports on the culinary delights they sampled, reviews of the restaurants they visited and rave about the wonders of the French food scene in general.

Alas, I'm not worthy of any salt. Not the table, rock or sea varieties. My palate has the sophistication of a single celled organism. I'm as easily pleased in a hamburger joint as I am in a multi Michelin starred restaurant. This does at least make me a cheap and cheerful dining companion. My scale for rating food stretched from 'absolutely delicious' to 'well, I didn't spit it out'. The latter would, of course, be muttered quietly and even then only to the most trusted of dining companions.

I am ever so British. I could be served a broth scooped from an unflushed toilet, topped with maggots and a sprinkling of dustpan debris and I'd likely still inform an enquiring waiter that 'everything is just fine, thank you'.

The best I can do for you, should you happen to be curious about foodie options in St Malo, is inform you that they are very famous - unsurprisingly for a coastal town - for seafood. Mussels and oysters top the bill apparently. The photo above is of a couple of bags of mussels and a box of oysters (I think), dropped off outside a restaurant early in the morning. Most restaurants seemed to have a sack or two awaiting the arrival of the chef.

When we dined that evening, we were presented with a menu filled with different fish and shellfish options. I, ever the contrarian, ate steak. Which was 'delicious'. Mrs P went for the oysters, seeing as our home town on the northern side of the English channel is even more famous for mussels than St Malo. We like going to a local Loch Fyne restaurant where she can eat unlimited mussels on Tuesday when they are in season. I will eat steak. Or traditional fish and chips if I'm trying to 'fit in'.

Nothing during our short stay came close to 'well, I didn't spit it out'. Prices were reasonable - neither cheap nor expensive. There is a shop that sells butter which is very famous. We brought back a packet of their smoked stuff, which also fits in the 'delicious' category. I rather wish we'd brought back more of the stuff. What else can I say? I think I'm done on the topic.

If I were ever to branch out into the food blogging scene, I do know the niche I'd like to occupy. The title of the blog would be 'Cheese I've Eaten', which tells you pretty much all you need to know. I could live on cheese and bread. I've yet to find a cheese that my taste buds object to. Creamy cheeses, hard cheeses, blue cheeses, smoked cheeses, processed cheeses, mature cheeses, stinky cheeses, stringy cheeses - I like the lot. I've always liked cheeses.

I have fond memories of working on a delicatessen in a posh convenience store in the late 80s/early 90s. No off cuts were wasted. And there were a lot of off cuts. Indeed, if I am going to be absolutely honest with you, dear reader, then I must confess that what I refer to as an off cut would possibly be described as theft by the store owner. But it was all such a long time ago, let's simply describe the whole thing as a matter of semantics.

Still, my single celled palate developed a certain degree of hitherto undiscovered sophistication during my time working for that delicatessen. I discovered many new cheeses there, Roquefort being my favourite. But ultimately, nothing quite beats a real top quality extra mature cave aged cheddar. It's such a versatile cheese too. You can slice it up for a sandwich with some Branston pickle. You can melt it for the perfect Welsh Rarebit. Or just chop a big chunk off to go with a Cheese Ploughmans.

I don't think we actually ate any cheese in St Malo. The French are currently engaged in a national sulk having done so poorly in the World Cheese Awards. Perhaps the nations stocks of cheese have been removed from public view until the shame has passed. The awards are not to be taken too seriously though. An American cheese won, after all. The best thing I can say about US cheeses is that they're not Mexican cheeses. But when all is said and done, once all the insults in the world have been offered and received, after tempers have cooled - there's still not a cheese in that list - or any list - that I don't like