Sunday, August 21, 2011

Burger Quest ...

Un vrai été pourri, as one says over here, at least in our little corner of the country: Saturday was lovely and fine, so I went off and quite shamelessly nicked Stacey's lawnmower (no, I have not yet got around to replacing ours, it will happen, get over it) and then, as she was coming over for dinner that same night, decided to get some food on the table first. Whatever you can, thought I, put off until tomorrow.

A mistake, as the day dawned grey and sullen, and I hastened down to do the deed, only to find the mower choking every 50m on undigested wet grass and myself covered in a thick mist of what I can only describe as grass soup. Not pleasant, I'll thank you not to remind me of it.

On a side note, times are indeed hard: Russian oligarchs are apparently reduced to towing their gliders and caravans around with mere Cadillac SUVs. At least, that's what I saw heading up to the office on Sunday (don't ask). But maybe it was just the gardener, in which case things are as they ought to be and all's well with the world.

Anyway, after a particularly soggy Monday (public holiday, of course it rained) it's starting to heat up again, climbing up in the 30s. And humid too, which is a killer - for me, at least. But just maybe, as you're apparently enjoying the snow, you do not want to know that.

So I had to go into town today to pick up a new chequebook - I had actually thought ahead and tried to do it on Saturday, being as what I was in town anyway (drinking with Stacey at the Refuge, if you really want to know) and the bank's but a hop skip and a jump away. Of course I was to be disappointed. The branch in the centre of town is open Saturday morning (there'd have been precious little point my going there specially if I knew it to be closed, would there?) and closed Mondays: this Monday being a public holiday they decided to close on Saturday to make up for not having the holiday they were having anyway. There's a twisted logic of sorts in there, I suppose: anyway, this is what passes for customer service in France.

That's by the way, what I meant to say was that I was lucky to  get out without killing anyone. For some strange reason Chambéry is hosting the 11th world orienteering championships or some such, so the centre of town was in lock-down and crawling with the gendarmerie. most of the carparks were closed off as well ... add to that the fact that the temperature was something near 34, it was humid and stifling, and the roads were clogged with elderly tourists ... I'm pretty sure my blood pressure is OK, maybe I should get it looked at one of these days.

And it's been a busy week down at the cemetery down the road: that makes two so far this week. Have to wonder what the graveyard scene in Hamlet would be like set in modern times: have to imagine him lounging back in the bucket of the little Kubota digger as he muses on Yorick's remains.

Ate out yet again - god, how we suffer for you - at Elea's Cafe this time: I know I've already told you about the place and their BLTs and such (and Margo can now confirm that their burgers are, although gigantic, definitely better than the run-of-the-mill crap most places offer: nicely crisp rather than soggy so you actually can eat them with your fingers if your mouth is big enough) but I did not mention (for I did not know) that they also serve wine by the glass.

Something which normally I wouldn't consider getting - I'd rather go for a pichet of the house rosé or somesuch, sooner than bankrupt myself - but I was so surprised to see Villa Maria up on the blackboard that I just had to succumb. On top of that it was only 5€ the glass too, so very reasonable. Only comes to 30€ the bottle, for godsake.

Still, we had a glass apiece for old times sake, and I'd have to admit it wasn't half bad. I'm still going for the house red next time, mind you.

Random neurons fire again, reminding me that I tried something new for dinner. I had some more vitelotte and  there was some hampe in the fridge and a gleaming piment fort lying around, so I started leafing through the cookbooks. The potatos were destined for a salad, that was pretty clear, and when I came across this sort of Thai sauce (authenticity not guaranteed) I knew I had to try it.

It is remarkably simple (but unfortunately involves no wine, can't have everything): chop the chili pepper, a spring onion and a clove of garlic and mush them all in a mortar and pestle with 2 tbsp of brown sugar, then add 1 tbsp of lemon or lime juice, a bit of nuoc mam to taste and set it aside for a bit.

Then fry the steak and slice it thinly, arrange the slices on some of the nice crisp lettuce leaves you just happen to have lying around and drizzle the sauce over it. And lotsa mint. Simple spicy bliss. For me, anyway. I think the heat kind of of snuck up on Margo and surprised her somewhat.

Just on the off-chance I called Bryan as Margo and I left the office, and somehow the word rosé was mentioned, so we wound up at his place, joining Beckham to watch him DIH and demolish a couple of bottles (to be clear, we demolished the bottles whilst he demolished a wall), which were all he had in the fridge. (And I'm not joking. Apart from those two bottles, his gleaming new fridge was empty. Some people have their priorities right. Although their vision may be inadequate - I mean, just two bloody bottles? For four?) Then Beckham decided she needed a burger, and she needed it NOW, so we trooped off into the centre of town to find this place of which she knows.

Didn't look too promising on the face of things - just a glorified pub, sort of place you'd expect to be served something pretty mediocre, so I was rather surprised to find it excellent. I opted for the potato burger, which used a couple of potato galettes instead of a hamburger bun: Margo, rather greedily, went for the burger Rossini which, as its name suggests, had a slice of foie gras in there. At only 13€ for that, salad, copious chips and a huge beer, not too bad at all. An honourable mention then for au Bureau.

Currently Saturday, and after a hard-earned apéro around midday I decided, rather foolishly perhaps, that it would be a Good Idea to give the paddock another short back'n'sides before we leave. Is it just me that has that sort of idea? Whatever, I'm sure it meant well, but quite frankly ... it must be up in the 40s today, and the sweat started running off me just looking at the expanse of sun-drenched grass. And of course, it was just when I'd finished that Jerry turned up, looking fit, bronzed and quite capable of a bit of hard work.

Silicone's a bitch, as Anna Nicole Smith doubtless remarked on a number of occasions. I say this only because I had the absolutely brilliant idea, on a day when the temperature is, as previously noted, up in the low 40s, to make pizza for dinner. Even better, individual pizzas. And what better for that, given that we have hundreds of the little suckers down in one of the cellars, than to use a slate tile for each pizza?

Not, in itself, a bad idea. I must admit that I shall have to perfect the delivery system, for the little bastards did not really want to slide off the papier sulfurisé onto the slates, despite being heavily floured; I shall look into that. No, the real problem is that, once cooked, those little slate tiles with the pizzas on top are, basically, 500gm slabs of stone at 230°C which you have to get 10 meters to the table, negociating the dog as you do so. Burny burny! Those posh silicon oven gloves do not do the job, I can tell you.

Still, I managed to do a reasonable version of a flammenkuche: sour cream, onions, diced bacon chunks and goat cheese with a bit of redcurrant jelly drizzled over the top. I liked it, anyway. But I must admit that the heat radiating off that slab of stone was kind of impressive. Maybe go for something a bit lighter tomorrow, especially as Stacey gave me a recipe for a spicy peach salsa and I just happen to have some peaches begging to be used, lying around in the fridge ...

Whatever, better go pack I suppose, as we head off tomorrow to the country seat. Ten blissful days wandering amongst the turnip fields. Be still, my beating heart.

Update: cockup on the communication front, turnips delayed for two or three days. Oh bliss.


  1. we demolished the bottles

    Some (unreasonable, I'm sure)people might say you had the easier job.

  2. BTW, I think "Burger Quest" sounds like it would be an awesome video game, where two stoned college kids kill evil gnomes in their quest to find the perfect burger.