old salut!

Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

December 06, 2006

Decadent distractions

This site has now moved to Salut!

As culinary experiences go, it had the edge on fish and chips eaten out of paper wrapping, and not even newspaper, while walking from Shepherd's Bush to football at Loftus Road.

  Posted by PicasaPhotograph: ParisDailyPhoto (Eric Tenin)

Exactly one week on, just as fans had jostled for position in the fish shop queue on the Uxbridge Road, sharp-elbowed Parisian ladies in cocktail dresses were making their presence felt at the Hotel Lutetia in the grander St Germain des Prés.

But who's to blame them? They'd sat or stood loyally through the 40th annual Prix Culinaire International Pierre Taittinger awards ceremony.

Those able to squeeze into the small hall where the announcements were made had warmly applauded Charly de Wijs, the Dutch winner of this year's prize. The rest nattered a little noisily in an adjoining room.

Trophies presented, it was now time for the serious business of the evening, a sumptuous buffet in the Salon Président of this palatial hotel on the corner of the Boulevard Raspail and Rue de Sèvres.

I always feel slightly uncomfortable in the Lutetia. It's the thought that within these walls people were tortured by German agents during the occupation of Paris.

Last night's feeding frenzy deepened that discomfort, though not quite enough to ruin the appetite.

Guests surrounded each serving table, two or three lines deep at the most popular ones, presenting a formidable obstacle to satisfying that appetite.

Fortified by a glass of bubbly, I persevered. It was worth the effort.

The president of the judging panel, Jacques Pourcel, celebrated co-owner with his twin brother of the Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, was lurking close to the first table entering the salon, and this seemed as good a recommendation as you could expect.

With his fellow judges, a well fed looking line-up, M Pourcel had spent part of the day in the kitchens of the Ecole Ferrandi for the deciding round of what Taittinger calls its gastronomic Nobel.

The seven finalists were each asked to prepare a whole turbot cooked with two sauces, one of which had to be Champagne-based. Francophone foodies should consult the fuller description* below.

In any event, Pourcel looked and sounded the kind of man who knew a thing or too about la bouffe, so I hovered close by. He was sampling the duck foie gras creation** of last year's winner, Jérôme Ryon, from the Carcassonne restaurant La Barbacane, and it turned out to be as delicious as anything else on offer around the room.

Before making my retreat - the place was probably too crowded with people I didn't know to enjoy for long - I had muscled my way through to the agneau d'Oc cooked with garlic, watched huge plates of oysters being rushed through by waiters to replenish depeleted stocks and grabbed a slice of Tomme de Savoie from a cheese display that also had Cantin, Beaufort, Chêne and Pigouille.

In a city packed with beggars, it is difficult not to feel a pang of guilt when taking part in such a feast, even if you do leave early. But then, they're unlikely to ask me back again next year.

* Each finalist was asked to prepare: Turbot presenté entier, farci de homard et nappé avec trois garnitures libres, 2 sauces (dont une sauce Champagne et un libre) et une tarte au citron meringuée.

** Full description of M Ryon's contribution to the buffet: Foie gras de canard cuit au naturel, "chouchou" et marmelade d'orange sur une brioche tiède.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

This site has now moved to Salut!

28 Comments:

At December 06, 2006 1:33 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Sorry. Sarah....your comment about the Jardin des Sens in Montpellier was lost as I grappled with the mechanics of changing the picture to one I had permission to use.

 
At December 06, 2006 2:41 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

People are tortured in restaurants all the time. And then made to pay handsomely for it.
There's a fantastic bistro in Toronto run by two former Parisians. One was recently back in Paris and reports that a good number of the brasseries there are now owned, without fanfare, by a couple of chains which have standardized everything. He was not impressed. His best meal, hardly surprisingly, was at Alain Ducasse's Plaza Athenée on an evening when Ducasse was there in person. He was less impressed by the Ducasse bistro, Aux Lyonnais, which he described as too stripped-down for its own good.
My favourite place in Paris remains, as it has for years, Au Trou Gascon.

 
At December 06, 2006 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh ok, not to worry.

Basically I said that I have never eaten at the Jardin des Sens. The nearest I got was when I was in a string ensemble and we played for some businessmen there, and afterwards we were due to eat at the restaurant, leftovers probably...
Anyway, just as we were about to sit down, I got a phone call and ordered home to prepare dinner for my (now ex-) father-in-law who had arrived on a surprise visit (something he had not done previously or was ever to do again).

I never quite forgave him for that.

 
At December 06, 2006 3:47 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Surprise visits should be forbidden by law. Why didn't you just tell him to get stuffed, Sarah? With the stuffing of his choice, of course.
What instrument did/do you play?

 
At December 06, 2006 6:46 PM, Anonymous lynn said...

Interesting! I just wish i was in Paris to add another experience! From one (uk) journalist to another then...!

 
At December 06, 2006 8:54 PM, Anonymous Alain said...

I don't think anybody was ever tortured by German agents in the Lutetia.
You probably mean Hotel Meurice and Hotel Majestic which served as headquarters for the German High Command and for the Gestapo.

The Lutetia was used in 1945 as a dispatching center for the survivors arriving from the concentration camps. Lists were posted with identified names, missing persons etc and the families were going over these lists looking for whatever information they could put together.

 
At December 06, 2006 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness, Bill, I wouldn't have dared!
I would have had a really tough time and been accused of insulting the Family.
I play the viola.

 
At December 06, 2006 9:21 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

See, Colin, you needn't have left early. You could have pigged out in good conscience.
You know (well, of course you do)the difference between a violin and a viola, Sarah? A viola burns longer. This "joke" was told to me by a viola-player with the Toronto Symphony, who found it a lot funnier than I did.

 
At December 06, 2006 9:26 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Perhaps then, Alain, you can shed more light on this, from Wikipedia but only one of many references to what the Lutetia was used for long before the post-war purpose you identify (I simply didn't have the immediate resources to make more detailed research but you'll find similar text in the Le Monde archives)...........


Le 14 juin 1940, les Allemands entrent dans Paris. Le lendemain, l'hôtel est réquisitionné par l'Abwehr, les services de renseignement et de contre-espionnage de l'occupant, qui y installe leur QG. Il devient alors un centre de torture qui, cruel euphémisme, se cache sous le terme d ' interrogatoire forcé. A la Libération, le Lutetia est cette fois réquisitionné par le général de Gaulle, et accueille les déportés à leur retour des camps. C'est Sabine Zlatin, surnommée la « dame d'Izieu », qui assura la mise sur pied du centre d'accueil, vers lequel convergeaient les familles à la recherche d'information sur d’éventuels proches déportés. Aujourd'hui, une plaque posée à l'extérieur de l'hôtel rappelle cet épisode.

 
At December 06, 2006 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, viola jokes are many and varied. We are as the Belge to the French, and the Irish to the English... But they couldn't do without us, really. :)

 
At December 06, 2006 9:57 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

And Newfoundlanders to the rest of Canada, Sarah. But I didn't mean it at all personally. I'm fond of the instrument myself.

 
At December 07, 2006 9:23 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Why did my comment come out as anonymous??? Weird.

 
At December 07, 2006 9:40 AM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At December 07, 2006 9:41 AM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

It's gone haywire. I switched to beta yesterday and can now post comments but not get beyond a dashboard page that gives me lots of Blogger "Buzz" but no way of reaching/editing/creating posts

 
At December 07, 2006 2:49 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

I knew it was you, Sarah, anonymous or not

 
At December 07, 2006 3:38 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Colin, if you go to your blog and click on 'connection' it'll take you to the login and then to your own dashboard where you can post (theoretically...)

 
At December 07, 2006 3:39 PM, Blogger Louise said...

After setting up my blog, Colin, I switched to Beta the following day - nothing seemed to work. After making an effort to read the small print I found that I could no longer use Safari as my navigator and had to switch to Firefox - so download that and manage to get access to things that up to then hadn't worked.

Wasn't too happy with Firefox as it's so slow - however...after posting my blog last night my e-mail settings have now been completely modified and can I discover how to get them back? Have been fighting this wretched thing all day and am about to sling the laptop out of the window.

Fortunately my son's laptop works, so I can get my mail, but all the headings and the info. on the blogs are in German which is not exactly my strong language! I think adding a photo to the blog messed the whole thing up ...

 
At December 07, 2006 3:45 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

I can now get into it - by trial and error, but possibly by Sarah's route, though it doesn't seem right somehow and is certainly cumbersome. Having been busy with a bit of illustration for the archive, I now need to learn about straightening images before posting them.

 
At December 07, 2006 4:01 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Switching to Beta seems to be a major mistake all round. What are the supposed advantages? Firefox is a dead loss compared to Safari.

 
At December 07, 2006 4:17 PM, Blogger Louise said...

The problem is that if you go to Beta you have to have Firefox as navigator, as it doesn't recognise Safari. I still haven't sorted my problems out - tomorrow is a Bank holiday in Suisse and we have snow storm warnings for tonight and tomorrow so perhaps tomorrow as I shall be snowed in I will spend the day, undisturbed, trying to sort out this mess - if I still have a laptop!

 
At December 07, 2006 4:37 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....
So why switch to Beta in the first place?
What are the Swiss celebrating?

 
At December 07, 2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Tomorrow never comes! After rereading there were rather a large amount of tomorrows, weren't there? My brain is about to explode with this bloody internet connexion. Tomorrow in Suisse it is the fete of the Immaculate Conception.

 
At December 07, 2006 5:10 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

A fete worse than death!

 
At December 07, 2006 5:25 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Ha!Ha!

 
At December 07, 2006 6:19 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

Beta is only hifallutin language for untested. More fool you, if you spend your day sorting out someone else's mess.

 
At December 07, 2006 6:23 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Indeed. Just as Ikea is Swedish for "out of stock," Beta seems to be computerese for "more trouble than it's worth."

 
At December 07, 2006 6:45 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Right - my laptop has zipped back to life. I have managed to post a blog and I'm just poaching Colin's blog to see if I can post on it without a problem. Sorry, Colin!

 
At December 08, 2006 10:14 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

I had very few problems going to Beta and much prefer it now. Especially the ease with which I can add labels.

I was already using Firefox though, which may be an important factor.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home