Friday, 16 December 2011

L’Homme Cheval..

Having mostly written about classic American food whilst in Paris I’m going to break with recent tradition and actually talk about a wine.

L’Homme Cheval comes in a Burgundy bottle, it’s a Vin Francais (the lowest possible appellation status). It doesn’t have a vintage. There are clues though.

Vinifie et Recolte par un Girondin. LQY9, the 9 having a little 10 scribbled in biro on it, could we be circumventing labeling regulations relating to Vin Francais not being allowed to show a vintage? Hmmmm.

The wine is a 50/50 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Cotes de Blaye, the vineyard is 5100 vine density (pretty darn high), cultivation is organic and the ground is worked by horse.

Vinification is in concrete tanks and is pretty simple, there’s no oak related flim flummery and I’m guessing a very low pre bottling sulphur addition, as there was a very natural like funkiness on initial opening.

Initially a slightly muddy earthiness with some Cabernet herbaciousness, there was a definite gravelly old pencil case character, and a nice grittiness to the tannins, I liked this a lot, though stylistically it brought to mind more the earthy complexity of Domaine du Puech in Buzet than much I’ve had from Bordeaux, even Les Cotes.

Appendix relating to double entendres, lesbians and back passages:

On meeting the ex lesbian beauty queen Elena, who’s book launch the evening was in aid of I was momentarily put off guard when she asked where she knew me from.

Also I got to have a poke about in Springs tradesman’s entrance (see also innuendo relating to back passages) fnar fnar.

A panoply of Spring related punning

(also an update on my mini quest to actually track down a proper @lecamionquifume burger)

Dark jacket zipped up to my neck, my very best don’t fuck with me face, I’m in the back of one of the less regulated phone shops on the boulevard Barbes. I’ve handed over my old iphone in return for a scrap of hand written paper.

An hour or so later I’ve been safely reunited with her (she’s always been called the Pirate Jenny) and I’m now on my way to the centre of town to locate a suitable SIM. The guy in Phonehouse has sent me to hell.

I’m assuming that, like me, you know of les Halles from Zola’s Le Ventre de Paris (the belly of Paris), and as such have visions of porters ferrying overloaded carts of vegetables, flues of sea scented ice, hard eyed merchants and charcuterers all liver cheeked in the morning cold.

Well there is another les Halles, this is a subterranean shopping complex, low ceilings, cheap shop fittings, shops selling even cheaper high street fashion knock offs. MacDonalds and Quick burger vie for the fry supremecy, both shoehorned into badly ventilated little corners, the scents of fry grease edging outwards like black rot up a damp wall. No maps and hoards of teenagers gabbling excitedly, I had actually located Hell, thankfully Hell has an Orange shop.

So to Spring, the early night gloom hung heavy in the sky, the oily lacquer of rain and streetlights was glistening on the pebbles of rue Balliol, and there across the road was @LeCamionQuiFume, and several French police officers. No doubt they were doing their civic duty, but I’d be lying if I didn’t momentarily consider civil disobedience, no French police officer was going to deny me my burger for the fourth attempt in a row.

Thankfully it appears that rather like a beautiful girl working at a bar, le Camion has had to get accustomed to the unwanted attention of Paris’ finest, papers were produced and the frying continued.

As it was early I got to introduce myself to Kristin as she was getting into her stride and very lovely she is, she recognized my name as the dope that’s been traipsing around Paris chasing burgers.

Onto the meat of the issue.

I plumped for a Classique, patty medium rare, chedder, lettuce, tomato, dill pickles and mayo (not very much mayo for those who get angsty about these things). In retrospect I could have been more adventurous, the BBQ version looked particularly appealing being put together with an onion ring and sexy as fuck crisp fried streaky bacon.

The bun had been anointed with melted butter and fried to a delicate golden, the patty was pretty spot on and the veg additions all worked well.

Minor quibbles, the chedder wasn’t 100% melted, but it wasn’t really obvious, especially with the juiciness of the meat. The bun did a fine upstanding job of soaking all the juices, but did leave me with an ear of squishy bread to finish up with, however seeing the extra sauce/juice factors in the fancier versions I imaging that it’s pretty essential for them.

@lecamionquifume sorted me an excellent burger, I will be going back in the new year when they’ll have upped their capacity to deliver. Apparently part of the issue at lunches has been people arriving and ordering 8 – 10 burgers to take back to the office, this really hammers their mini kitchen and has seen them run out very early on occasion (see last post).

I don’t score, but if I did it’d be an 8/10.

Oh and within 45 minutes of my being served, the small wine bar was slammed with people queuing for half an hour or more for their fix.

Go, but go early. Oh, and pray that someone else starts doing good burgers otherwise poor Kirstin is going to get destroyed by the huge Parisian demand for good burgers.

And yes it did out a spring in my step J

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Le Camion qui fume (pas pour moi)

So abstinence makes the heart grow fonder, but does delayed gratification make the hype grow stronger?

Last Thursday, when I thought it was Friday I managed to go to entirely the wrong bit of Paris in my attempt to furnish myself with burger goodness. You can read what happened after that.

This Tuesday I took myself down to Place Madelainemy ten euro note gripped in a palm sweaty in anticipation. There was the burger van, there was a small crowd of people by the front but no discernable queue, I worked my way through the waiting people, and stood, quite possibly looking a bit gormless.

No one spoke to me, the people cooking had the dead eyed look of people just finishing a crazy service (I know the look, I’ve had it myself). They were finishing their last 3 patties, it was just before 2pm.

Yesterday, third time lucky?

I set off at 12am for Place Maillot, on the edge of the city, surely there’d be no one that close that’d want burgers, sadly we weren’t that far from La Defense, there was a television crew filming the admittedly huge queue of smartly dressed bankers and diplomats.

Not to be dissuaded I stood and waited, within five minutes there were another ten or so people behind me. Twenty minutes later. ‘Desole, on a plus burgers pour au jour d’hui’.

The less spoken of what I then had for lunch the better. Still it was a short hop back into town for a late second lunch at Racine (2), then I popped into the Spring wine shop, to be reminded that today (the 15th) they have @lecamionquifume serving burgers for a book signing.

Fourth time lucky? I only hope the delayed gratification won’t have created expectations that the burgers wont be able to match.

In the words of the French/American diplomat I was chatting to in the queue.

‘Oh, yes, they really are worth the wait’

Consolation crab..

Booby prize boudin noir
I did make it to the hallowed van a couple of days later finalment il fume pour moi 

Monday, 12 December 2011

The efficacy of the hot toddy and proof thereof

Oxymel : improved.

When suffering from an excess of cold earthy humours, leading to an excess of phlegm (i.e. a cold) it is suggested that heating drying foods should be consumed, so as to balance the body.

Luckily both lemon and honey neatly fulfill these demands.

Annoyingly my list of where foods sit in the Hippocratic schema is lacking a listing for whisky, however I cannot envisage of it being regarded as anything other than a panacea, especially in how it combines all four of the principal humours. Being at once warming, while still evoking the ancient chill of the Caledonian hills. It’s almost unique ability to slake thirst and yet dry the body out at the same time fulfills the other two humours, thus neatly replacing the vinegar which completes the classic oxymel compound.

Therfor, we can safely say that the hot toddy, or Oxmel to give it it’s medicinal name is proven (so long as you work on a two and a half millennia old, and discredited, theory of medicine) to rebalance the body and cure one of a cold.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

33 euros for a fucking burger...

Many years ago when I was at primary school we visited an old church in (I think) Nothumbria. There was a carving of what looked like an imaginary fruit. On querying this we discovered that it was a carving of a pineapple. However, the carver had only ever read descriptions of pineapples, he’d never actually seen one, and as such it bore no actual resemblance to anything that you or I would recognize as a pineapple.

I was reminded of this today, having had a slight diary related day identification issue. I thought it was Friday (actually it was Thursday) and as such I trotted over to place la Madelaine to try and find @lecamionquifume who, for reasons that ought to be evident wasn’t there.

Still, having set off in search of a burger and being hungry I was looking for somewhere to eat. Wandering the streets of one of the posher bits of Paris I found myself looking at a menu at a place called Bread and Roses.

My eyes were drawn to their 33 euro cheese burger. Yep, 33 fucking euros. I actually returned to the menu three times, as each time I walked away, the rational bit of my brain refused to believe that anywhere that wasn’t on a luxury yacht could have the audacity to sell a burger for 33 euros.

Finally after a short amount of twitter conversing (thank you @eatlikeagirl and @ginanacrumpets) I decided that for shits and giggles it needed sampling.

Inside Bread and Roses was a little like wandering into a luxury boutique run by amateurs, there was a counter at the back selling the sort of couture pastries that plague Paris like a fungal infestation, the front contained a small service bar (zinc topped, of course) and a host of closely spaced tables.

The maître d, sensing that the unshaven n’eer do well with whom he was talking was only interested in eating, sat me at the bar.

One incredibly badly poured bottle of imported Guinness later (the other options were Bud, Corona or Carlsberg) I ordered my burger. To their credit I was asked how I wanted it cooked. Saignant, and that is how it arrived.

There, I’ve said the nice things, now I can get onto the wrongness.

The burger arrived with bun half on, a wooden spear cleaving the toasted topping, the lower half accented with cheddar (of a reddish hue), shredded lettuce, thick tomato slices, then the patty.

The patty was odd, thin and irregularly formed, I got the impression that the beef was probably very good, but fillet or another top end cut (I regard chuck steak as being the burger cut d’excellence, the connective tissue being minced into a mélange of happy tastiness that can then melt under cooking), it was a trifle thin and very under seasoned, adding to this was the fact that it was cooked on a grill/pan that was too cool and as such it had very little maillard/caramel related flavouring.

Above the patty was the most contentious of additions, a sort of creamy oniony mushroomy sauce/duxelle, now I like mushroom sauces as much (possibly more) than the next man, but there is no place for them in a burger (I will return to the issue of things being where they shouldn’t later).  A fried egg, actually an excellently fried egg, both yolk and white in the most perfect of fried conditions. Unfortunately they were on a fucking burger not a slice or two of nicely fried back bacon.

An aside:

I fucking hate potato wedges, when dealing with fried potato products it’s a matter of surface area versus volume. The surface area is where the taste (and salt adhesive potential) resides. Potato wedges call to mind ill advised health drives, and sorry but I don’t order burgers when I’m feeling like being healthy, try to reduce the calorific intake of my burger and I will politely tell you where to shove it. Well my (33 euro) came with shitty potato wedges.

Looking around the room, I was far from the only person eating the burger. However I was the only person trying to do so with it in my hands. Queue several repeat requests for more napkins as, first the egg yolk, then the creamy mushroomy oniony imposter started to ooze all over my appendages.

Being in Paris, I couldn’t just fell ill afterwards, I needed to come face to face with the full on nausea of self identification. Well, staring at a bill for £42 quid for a few beers and a bad burger brought it all on. The horrible sensation of needing to look at ones self in a mirror, knowing that you’d delegated decision making to twitter, that you’d contributed to some downright fuckwits take home pay, but even more than that, knowing that ones simple act of purchase had added to some chef/proprietors self belief in his misguided burger mission.

A resounding 2 out of 5, which is particularly galling because all the ingredients were obviously of quite a high quality.

As I mentioned earlier, it brought to mind how I imagine a burger made by someone who’d only ever read about burgers might try to make one.

Oh and 33 euros is wrong (very fucking wrong)

what do you call

What do you call a pile of Vietnamese baguettes?

A Bahn Micelle…

Shockingly bad jokes aside, I was at a slight loss as to what to do for lunch yesterday. A week in Paris was leaving me with no great desire for more French food, quite apart from the ease with which 50 or 60 Euros can be dropped on a couple of plates and a glass or two of wine.

One slightly joking suggestion from @LoveLELUU later I was on the Metro to the Vietnamese part of town. I’d seen a review of the Bahn Mi from Hoa Nam on rue de l’Ivry and it looked pretty much exactly what I was after.

The area around rue de l’Ivry is shockingly similar to bits of east London, Vietnamese restaurants and supermarkets, high rise tower blocks and loads of students.

2.80 euros later I had a baguette stuffed with pork belly, lacquered pork, cucumber, shredded marinated carrot, persil Chinoise (Chinese Parsley?) and lots of spicy sauce.

Fuck me it was good, I very nearly was back five minutes later for a second.

I think I want to move to the 13th district….