Saturday, July 30, 2011

Won't be fooled again ...

You may not be aware of this, but the French shamelessly adopted le fast-food years ago - even before we arrived here in fact, so I can't be held responsible, you know - and McDonalds has two indigeneous competitors pushily pimping crap food: Quick (and nasty) and Flunch.

For years, of course, McDo's have been promoting the "Happy Meal" (still waiting for the French to enact some sort of truth in advertising standards so that they'd be obliged to tout it as "Miserable not-quite food", still no luck so far), and just now I've noticed that Quick has posters up all over the place advertising their "Smiley Lunch". The mind fair boggles.

At some point Flunch will be forced to retaliate with their very own "Morning-after-great-sex Breakfast" (I so do not want to go into the menu for that one, although I have some ideas, some of them actually not involving custard and rude fruits) and it will all go titsup, I'm telling you.

In the "Other News You May Not Care to Hear" department, you'll recall that last week I'd left Bryan in his apartment, trapped with three great slabs of gib board and all his power tools. I thought I'd better check the other day on how he was getting on: when I rang he'd carefully drilled holes in the stone wall and fitted rawlplugs, and was busily taking measurements to the nearest millimetre and transferring them to the placo, so that when he stuck the screws in he'd be guaranteed to miss the anchoring holes by at least a centimetre.

At which point I thought - perhaps mistakenly - that it would be the right time to tell him that many, normal, people actually attach wooden battens to their walls and then nail or screw the boards onto those, safe in the knowledge that you've a much bigger target. The silence at the other end of the phone was palpably hostile; perhaps it wasn't really the moment.

Another note to self: do not make helpful suggestions, ever - and if you absolutely must do so, never prefix them with "But I thought everyone knew that ... ". It doesn't make you any friends. People can be so ungrateful, sometimes: it saddens me. Or it would, if I cared.

A stray neutrino passing through hits, by an incredible zillion-to-one chance, a still-functioning neuron in what I'm pleased to call my brain (it's the closest approximation I've got, and I'm happy with it), fires it, and another random thought is born (doubtless to quickly regret it, and run screaming for the exit). Ali pointed out the existence of wordle the other day, and just for fun I ran this lot through it.

The result, I'm sad to say, looks like a Tourette's Syndrome explosion in a cat-food factory (thanks, Mal, for those feeble-minded foul-mouthed rabbits) with bugger, shit, and arse in brightly coloured blobs. I suppose that should worry me: somehow, it fails to do so.

Once more unto the breach, and unselfishly giving all for you unappreciative lot, Margo (Mrs. Babblings? No, I somehow think not) and I sallied forth in our tireless quest to find the best cheap restaurants around Chambéry. Today's effort, "l'Ozone", is not amongst them, I'm sad to say. It was not exactly cheap and was definitely not the best.

In fact I'd personally be tempted to put it down as one of the worst. Going for the plat du jour I didn't expect anything out of this world, although it is usually a pretty good way to get a handle on a place: if it's decent you stand a good chance with the menu, but if it's crap ... you have been warned.

Put like that I had no right to be disappointed, for out of this world it was not. The ragout de porc was a bit chewy and definitely undersalted (rare in France, come to that, and no salt and pepper on the table either - what's the world coming to?) and a bit on the cool side, and the polenta was sloppy and positively tepid. Had a branch of parsley embedded in it, mind you. The guy in charge of the microwave must have been an horticulturalist. The ratatouille was at least edible, if undistinguished, which made a nice change.

I'd ordered the midday menu and was thus entitled to a dessert, but after waiting 25 minutes for it to turn up I was getting ready to move for the exit and settle up, firmly refusing to pay for the sabayon de myrtilles I'd ordered and not had, when unfortunately it finally turned up. A shame really.

I wish I'd thought to take the camera along, as it was one of the most garish spectacles that's ever been plonked in front of me: A bed of cold purple blueberries half-covered with a fluorescent orange sauce (I think that was supposed to be the sabayon, although I can't say for certain - it certainly bore no relationship to that with which I am familiar) and the whole lot topped off with a ball of sickly green ice-cream that was supposed to be Chartreuse. A picture of that technicolour monstrosity would have at least gone some way to making up for having to eat it.

Probably the most uninspiring dessert I've had in my life, and certainly the least aesthetic. Christ, I've eaten bowls of vomit that looked nicer. (Don't ask. You eat what you get in Africa. Even the eyeballs. And in any case, it somehow tastes better when it's not your own.)

So what with the inefficient service and food that I can only qualify as so-so at best (Margo wisely went for the pizza - as she said, it's not easy to make a hash of that, although they did their best) I rather think that's one place to be written off. So a word to the wise: if ever you happen to find yourself at the Chamnord shopping centre feeling hungry, go to the neighbouring Kentucky Fncked Duck instead, at least you know what to expect. Which is what someone of my acquaintance recently called "tongue-rape", which sounds kind of ambiguous to me but never mind, I merely report it.

Whatever, the gratin de ravioles de Royans au foie gras at le Modesto is still worth eating, which cheers me up no end.

Time goes by, and sadly the weather's getting no better. Thursday now, after five days of  more or less unremitting rain, and the high for the day is about 16°. Might as well be in bloody Hamilton.

Still, it perked up for Saturday. But to great general dismay, le Modesto is closing down for August!  Much wailing, and probably gnashing of teeth. Still, they were - very generously - open until 17:00 today so we shamelessly profited from that (and the fact that they weren't serving meals, so outside tables were still available): Beckham ran up her bar tab and we grazed on whatever came out as they emptied the fridges.

Calamar (not my thing, I admit - never really been able to find pleasure in eating a squid's rectum, even when bread-crumbed and fried), foie gras, some rather nice runny goat (cheese), some excellent ham, a bit of tapenade, more foie gras ... washed down, I'm afraid to say, with even more wine than usual. Mostly because we haven't actually seen the sun for a week, but also because it's such fun drinking.

But fear not, I'm still good to get dinner ready, and in fact I'm wondering just what to do. I have some ham, some soft goat cheese, poivrons and some fresh sweetcorn that I've just charred over a burner, and I think I shall probably finish by smashing the cheese with some herbs, spreading it over the ham, and then rolling it up with the corn, some caramelised poivrons, and a bit of tomato in the middle. Just calling it "ham rolls" doesn't really do it justice, though.

What's really causing me grief is the vexed question of what to serve with it. I do have some filo pastry, which I could always layer with grated parmesan and thyme, then bake and top with tomato and goat cheese, or I could always try this flat-bread from Smitten Kitchen.

Have not yet decided, but I must admit I'm tending towards the filo. Try the flat-bread another day - with Sophie perhaps, but definitely not when Margo's around, because it is not Her Thing. I'll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, time is pressing: I do have two people and an adolescent to feed, you know. Although I suppose I will not be able to call him that for much longer, his 17th birthday rolls round in a couple of weeks. Doesn't time just fly when you're having fun? At least he heads off tomorrow to see Amelia up at Mumblefuck - unless I got that bit wrong, quite likely: another week of relative calm in which to vegetate.

And just because it seems to be the thing to do, here's a completely gratuitous cat. And yes, if she looks as though she's sizing me up for an early death, it's probably because she is. You expected a nice cat in this household? She's border-line psychotic, of course. The drugs help. Your optimism never fails to amaze.


  1. the pizza - as she said, it's not easy to make a hash of that

    It is, however, possible to make a pizza out of hash. If you should so desire.

  2. Well, it's official: I hate French women. How can that woman be so effortlessly pulled-together-looking? For christ's sake, she's even mixing patterns and pulling it off brilliantly. UGH!

  3. Yeah, it's a bitch. She's not even trying. Why do you think French men have mistresses?

  4. The 'ham rolls' were looking good until you mentioned the sweetcorn...

  5. PS why does it take multiple clicks on 'Post Comment' before the sodding system finally gives me the 'type this daft code thingy' & actually lets me post a comment?!?!?!

  6. praaarrrp!

    back on topic - in a moment of desperation last night (coming back from giving a talk in Auckland, & it was late & I was hungry) I had a Mickey D's 'BLAT Angus' burger & it was OK... until it got cold & I had eaten all the good bits...

    chips were good :-)

  7. Anyone who will eat something called a 'BLAT Angus' deserves what they get. But I see your point: hot crap is edible (maybe only just), but when it's cold ... blech

  8. By the way, bloody blogger wouldn't let me post either. It took me some time to realise that it just didn't like the HTML tags I'd stuck in. That'll teach me to try and underline things.