Thursday, 25 August 2011

Coup de coeur: Le Clos des Cours

When Dad and Sharon decided to come and visit in January for my birthday I immediately panicked. Not because they were getting a Ryan Air flight and thus would have less baggage allowance for Cadbury's chocolate supplies and copies of Closer magazine, but because I knew this would involve the obligatory 'let's go somewhere nice for dinner' , and being just a shiny new Santaise I had no idea where to go.

But who to ask? The answer was collègue Le Barman of course. That's the great thing about barmen (English and French alike). They always know everything about everyone and everywhere. And mon Barman didn't disappoint.

"If you're looking for good food, try Le Clos des Cours. It's right next door to chez toi."

Once Dad and Sharon were back at l'appart we wandered down to the restaurant to check out the menu. Pan-fried foie gras, fish fresh from the market, raspberry millefeuille...Table for four it was then!

Apart from Dad's (loud) attempts to speak French, everything was perfect about the evening. From the personal and friendly reception by the salle, to the varied and interesting menu options and the exquisitely prepared and presented dishes, we were unable to find a fault. Despite the complexity of the menu, the wait between courses seemed relatively short and everyone was left with a feeling of being satisfied but not stuffed.

We were so impressed with Le Clos des Cours that when Taté and Tonton came to visit we didn't even hesitate before booking a table. This time due to abnormally hot May weather we got to experience dining on the extensive terrace (even bigger than the whole inside) and due to the seasonal changes in the menu I tasted pigeon for the first time in my life...Verdict: delicious!

Our third visit with the family, the evening of Steve and Zoe's one-nighter on the way up to Nantes, was as sublime as the others. The waiter was extremely attentive and charming, and the food was once again cooked to perfection: steak with forgotten vegetables, scallops in a citrus dressing, asian tuna fritters. The assiette gourmande Chéri and I shared for dessert had literally Zoe drooling.

The ultimate compliment, however, came from Steve: "It's not bad, really, this French food."
No, not bad at all.

Address: 2, Place du Théâtre, 17100 Saintes
Budget: 25-30£ (with wine)
Greedy rating: 5 spoons

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pass the snails / Fais passer les escargots

Having dinner as a family is one of the main things I thought I’d miss when crossing to the other side of La Manche. Not just for the meals themselves (though they play a big part I won't lie) but for the time spent talking and laughing together. 

So when Chéri asked me if I'd like to experience a traditional family Sunday dinner à la française, I jumped at the chance. was everything I’d been missing: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes drizzled with Bisto gravy, all topped off with a massive helping of homemade trifle. I could hardly wait.  "Mais, Chouchou", Chéri reminded me, "I said à la français. »  Oh yeah...

Sunday morning found Belle-Maman and Taté  busy chopping and mixing like women possessed. Despite Chéri's advice to leave them to it, being a curious cuisinière it didn't take me long to pop my head around the kitchen door to see what was on the menu. 

Snails with garlic butter / Escargots au beurre aillé
The first thing I saw were the snails. It was hard to miss them, piled high in pride of place on the kitchen bench. Now I like to pride myself on giving most things a try, but the thought of eating something that leaves slime trails behind when it moves just seemed a step too far even for me. 

It was with a certain reticence that I took my place beside Chéri at the table, knowing I’d have to face the slippery gastropod sooner or later. And sooner it was, for starter to be exact, smothered with garlic butter and roasted. Keeping my eyes fixed on anything but the fellas themselves, I took the mini skewer held out by Taté and impaled my snail.

A delicious aroma of sweet roasted garlic rushed up my nostrils, combining with the pleasant crispiness of the snail flesh cooked in the herb-infused butter. I swallowed the second one to make sure this wasn’t just a mistake. But no, this was in fact another one of those moments when I had to admit that the French may just be right about all things food.



“Pass the snails.”

Snails in Garlic Butter Recipe

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Let the eating begin

I first knew I was a greedy guts when I realised I enjoyed the weekly food shop more than shopping for clothes or CDs...Food, eating it, creating it, tasting it, buying it, has grown ever since from a basic need for fuel into a real passion, inspired no doubt by the generous meals made for me by my Mam and Nanna (generous both in the emotions put into them and the dishes themselves).

Life has taken its twists and turns since high school, and as fate would have it, I washed up on the Atlantic coast of France in 2009 in the Charente Maritime region. What started out as a summer job (accompanied by a summer romance) has turned into a permanent change of country, a change of language, a change of lifestyle, but most of all a change of cuisine!

Well, speaking thruthfully, not really a change, more of an evolution, a fusion, a mixture of all that makes me miss my mother's British cooking and all that excites me about France and it's opportunities to let my tastebuds roam: new restaurants, undiscovered ingredients, balades gourmandes, enormous markets, delicious wine.

Let the eating begin...