Skip to main content

Swooning with Raymond Blanc

Every self-respecting French patisserie in Antibes sold them. Friandises: miniature cakes and desserts that we'd probably call petits fours. Eclairs, lemon and fruit tartlets, mille feuilles, chocolate and raspberry mousse - dozens of little bite-size delights. Everything you'd ever want a dessert to be but smaller. 

But I didn't truly appreciate them until I had my first Café Gourmand while I was living there: a dessert alternative that combines a kick (or two) of espresso coffee with three tiny sweet bites. It's an invention that restaurants in Britain haven't embraced. Or I thought they hadn't until I visited the Brasserie Blanc in Chancery Lane, London this week. 

I could go on about the grass fed Cornish fillet steak that Tony had. Or my grilled scallops, crushed new potatoes with prawns, and glistening dish of buttered french beans. In fact, we could perhaps just pause there:

But it was the words Café Gourmand on the dessert menu that really made me swoon. I'm not generally a dessert eater in restaurants - too much, too sweet, too filling. So I truly believe that Cafés Gourmands were invented for people like me. Just enough sweetness, cut with a shot of coffee, to satisfyingly crown a meal.

Tarte au citron, blackcurrant mousse, delice au chocolat.
Marks & Spencer do a range of mini-desserts that you can order: tartlets, macaroons, cupcakes. And Waitrose, as you might expect, offer a selection of Petit Fours by Didier (or Dennis as his colleagues prefer to call him - just kidding!). But it's not the same as leaning over a glass case and selecting your own friandises - trois tartes au citron, s'il vous plait. Attends, non, je prends quatre - and waiting while Madame places them individually in a white cardboard box which she seals with white or pink or yellow ribbon. Gently swinging a cake box between two fingers as you walk along Boulevard Albert does not compare to hoiking a carrier bag through a supermarket car-park.

So, thank-you Raymond Blanc and the staff at Chancery Lane for the sweet swoon of memory.

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about a meal which forms the background of scene between two or more people. Use each course as part of the dramatic structure. Close with the smell of coffee, something sweet and one person's memory. 

Popular posts from this blog

Pie, pie glorious pie

So often when we talk about food we are talking about family. In fact that was how the hungry writer blog began, nearly six years ago: weekly memories or life stories linked by the theme of food. Food is nurture and love. It can be celebration and anxiety too. It can also be a battleground, as the parents of young children know so intimately! Which is rather a satisfying segue into the family featuring in this week's blogpost: The Radfords. Because if anyone understands the feeding of children, really, really understands, it has to be Sue Radford who, with her husband, Noel, has 19 children. You can read about the family on their website but don't rush off yet as what I really want to talk about is pie. And specifically Radford's pies.
Noel Radford has been a baker for 25 years and opened his own bakery in 1999 in Heysham, Lancashire and makes pies with locally sourced ingredients. That, along with his skill as a master baker, means that the pictures of the 'filled to t…

The Mythic Biscuit: Oreos

My childhood biscuits were mainly plain but had lovely names: Marie, Nice, Rich Tea. Quiet biscuits. The kind of biscuits that would never interrupt a conversation. Polite, not pushy. At the other end of the spectrum, and only irregularly present, probably a result of practical economics, were cheeky Jammy Dodgers, irritable Garibaldis, and self-contented and reliable Bourbons. And even more irregularly, the flashy inhabitants of a Christmas Box of Biscuits: Pink Wafers. I ate them at the same time as not liking them very much, a bit like Miss World Contestants in sparkly dresses, too much eye make-up and a saccharine idea of world peace. 
I'm in the mood to think, and personify, 'biscuits' because the lovely team at Oreo sent me some samples of their new Oreo Thins. I hadn't heard of Oreos until the early 1990s when a friend asked if I would bring him back a packet from a Florida holiday. I forgot and pretended I couldn't find them. 'But they're everywher…

Eat, laugh, cry, remember: Baked Camembert

Once, on a holiday in Malta, I dressed Tony up in my gypsy skirt and stretchy white vest, used two satsumas for breasts and made up his eyes and lips with the brightest colours I had with me. Then I took a photograph. He didn’t seem to mind, in fact he seemed quite tickled by the fuss and attention to detail, but the quantity of rosé we’d shared at Snoopy’s restaurant on the seafront in Sliema earlier in the evening might have had something to do with that.

This was 1988. There were no digital cameras for instant viewing (and, praise be, instant deletion). The only instant photographs at the time came courtesy of Polaroid, with their packages of square film and box-like cameras, and slid out of the front of the machine on shiny thick card that everyone huddled over and watched develop. But they tended to be party cameras, appearing at Christmas, birthdays, engagements. You captured your holiday photos on a proper camera, one you had to load and feed film into, then unload and drop off…