I can’t think about France without thinking of food. They are as inseparable as Asterix and the Gauls, Tin Tin and Snowy, Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther. I think my first forays into France was as a day tripper. I remember eating moules frites for the first time in Boulogne and marvelling at the vast array of food on offer at the markets. I holidayed in St.Malo and camped near the beach, living off barbecues, steaks and langoustines. I fell in love, in fact head over heels, with Rouen. I had never seen markets like it. There was a vast open air market that stood for centuries at the Place du Vieux, but there is now a covered market at the same spot and it is terrific. My favourite restaurant during the 1980’s was a place called Les Trois Rois. The owners were two guys, one always bedecked in bling and sporting long curly blond hair, the other, a rather sharply dressed, almost officer-type -both were real characters, and they used to click their heels together after taking your order. Slightly unnerving the first time! Their warm goat’s cheese salad with walnuts on a bed of the deepest green lettuce I have ever seen was exquisite. The dressings in France are always so simple and the most basic are often the best. The one on the salad was no exception.
My basic vinaigrette recipe is the one so common in France –
1 tablespoon of wine vinegar mixed with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of mustard, preferably Dijon. Just whisk together. My daughter likes me to add some very finely chopped shallots too.Any how, sadly the Trois Rois has long since closed down and another restaurant has taken its place. Not the same at all. Still, I managed to take my wife there before it closed and she agreed how special a place it was. It was just off a road by the Cathedral that Monet painted so many views of. Again, it was one of those magical places that I have experienced and will always live in my memory. I had some happy nights there in the bar too, drinking Wild Turkey bourbon and Jack Daniels with the barman…well, he just watched really! (Cue Frank Sinatra and ‘One for my Baby and one more for the road…..! )
Then in 2001 my wife and I bought a house in Hesdin in Northern France and we had a wonderful 4 years there. Hannah and Jack, my children spent most of their early years holidays there and they just loved the food too. We frequented a fabulous restaurant called Le Globe. It is still there but sadly the three guys who owned it are no longer there – a long sad story for another time. They were like the 3 musketeers when they were on form. Daniel, the owner, behind the bar, and Christian waiting on inside with Jean-Luc front of house on the terrace. The steaks there were truly to die for. Our favourite was the steak rossini, a very simple version of the classic tournedos rossini named after the Italian composer, Gioacchino Rossini. It was basically a fine rump steak with a slice of foie gras on the top placed on a pan fried slice of pain de mie.
The more expensive version, though ours was not cheap (!) has truffles, and the foie gras is pan fried lightly. Hey, but we still liked Le Globe’s version. Rossini is said to have given the recipe to the chef at the Cafe Anglais in the Boulevards des Italiens in Paris. He was not only a composer but a real lover of good food and he was equally well known in the field of gastronomy. He adored truffles in particular, which he enchantingly called, ‘the Mozart of mushrooms.’ I love that – the Mozart of mushrooms. No jokes, please about him being a ‘funghi’ to be around!