08 Jan When a cuisine clueless savage eats a Fancy 5 Course French Dinner.
Before I begin, full disclosure. I am not a culinary professional or even a world-wise consumer of culinary delights. I have a very non-refined palette. My favorite dessert in the whole world is the vanilla ice cream and red jello they serve at the Auckland hospital Maternity Ward. (And I’m a bit wistful that I will never get to eat it again. Not unless I go steal food from a pregnant lady or a newly-popped lady.) I know nothing. I eat canned tuna and rice 5 days a week. Sometimes I snack on raw saimigi noodles straight from the packet. So, in other words – nothing I say in this particular blog should be taken with any salt grain of authority. If the amazing celebrity chef should somehow stumble across this blog, he should not take any offence – because I am a cuisine savage who has no idea what I’m talking about.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, here we go.
A fabulous friend invited me to a super fancy 5 course French dinner at a fancy resort, prepared by a super fancy celebrity chef who had been flown in specially for the occasion. Now, I love this fabulous friend, but I admit to being doubtful about the invitation. Super fancy French cuisine in my (limited) book, means super expensive and most probably a leaf, a sliver of snail and a sniff of pepper. Beautiful, artistic and le maoga.
But hey, it’s a new year and a time for being adventurous…trying new things…getting out of your comfort zone!
So I said yes.
How does one prepare for a super fancy 5 course French meal? One friend said she starved herself all day, “So I will have enough room for all that food!” (We all know I never have that problem. Honey I got room and EXTRA rooms.)
Another friend said, “Should I go do an exercise class at the gym before this dinner? So I can earn it?” (Now there’s a foreign concept…hmmm… I don’t workout before I eat the twin pack fried chicken from Chickalicious. Why would anyone need a workout for a beautiful leaf with a snail on it?)
So I prepared by eating a Big Ben meat pie. And half a chocolate lamington from Lucky Foodtown. Just in case.
Then I freaked out trying to find something to wear. The MENA top I bought to wear to my son’s wedding (the top I basically had to sell an organ on the black market for so I could afford it) was the only thing in my closet worthy of a 5 course French dinner. Let me see: Fancy French dinner? Or wedding of my firstborn child? Sorry son. Sacrifices had to be made.
Then, it was extra hot and humid and my hair was extra bushy and ugly. So I last minute tried to get a salon hair appointment but they were fully booked. Probably because everybody else had the same idea and they too wanted to look their best for snail slivers and pepper sniffs. So I had to try and iron my hair myself. Which was an exercise in futility. Like, I don’t know why I bother. As soon as I step outside the house, it all frizzes up again, shouting at the sky, LOOK AT ME!
But I had to go all the way. In honor of the fancy dinner. In honor of my bravery venturing out of the cave to go somewhere I had never been before and eat food I had never eaten before. Maybe I had seen it slithering in my garden, but that didn’t count.
So, I put on lipstick. I got out the breast fillets. Those inserts that promise to transform your tired chest into something exciting and energetic that stands up to attention. (But instead you spend the night worrying they’re going to slip out of your bra and fall in your soup. So again, I ask why do I bother??)
I even dusted off the Spanx from the back of the drawer and contorted my way into it. Only to find that it must be broken because it wasn’t working properly?! Thanks for nuthin. For a moment I considered cancelling the French dinner. But I had fabulous friends waiting on me. And I was worried that if I cancelled, then they would never invite me to dinner again.
Finally I was ready. Malfunctioning Spanx, sticky breast fillets, ironed hair AND a red flower. ‘Bye kids!’ I didn’t wave at them because my arms were very sore from trying to iron my own hair.
I got to the place late. The regular parking lot was full so they made me park on a different island. “Dont worry, we will drive you across to the resort in a golf cart!”
I got in. The drive was quick. Bumpy. And windy. The ironed hair was blowing ferociously everywhere. The red flower threatened to blow away. I had to hold on to my flower, my hair, and my fillets. Then I realized, if I didn’t hold onto the rail of the cart, then I was going to fall out. I let go of the fillets. I felt them slowly migrating south.
Finally, I got to the resort in one piece. Unscathed.
It was beautiful. And there were beautiful people everywhere. Let me tell you, their Spanx wasn’t broken. I wanted to go home again.
But no! New year, new me, fresh courage take! It was a blessed relief to join my fabulous friends at our beautiful table where we commiserated on the sufferings and disappointments of Spanx. (None of them need fillets so I couldn’t share that sorrowful tale.)
I was hungry. The pie had worn off. I had long ago burnt away the lamington with my freaking out preparations. I was ready to eat almost anything!
First there was bread. Soft, satisfying, wonderful bread. And butter with black truffles in it . (Take one Anchor butter and whip it up, throw in some black things, voila!) One bite and I was delighted. Maybe this French food wasn’t going to be so bad after all!
The chef came out to mingle with the guests. He said, “How are you ladies tonight?”
I said, “I’m feeling a bit worried about the food that we’re going to eat.” I was looking for reassurance. Something along the lines of ‘Don’t worry, it will be divine! Nothing to be afraid of!”
He was confused. “Why are you worried?”
I said, “Because of the snails. I’ve never had them before.”
He said, “Just close your eyes and think of mushrooms. Bite and swallow queekly, you won’t taste it at all.”
I hate everything you just said. Close my eyes and think of
England mushrooms? Just swallow quickly and I wont taste anything? (Is anybody else thinking that they may have heard those lines before somewhere? No? Ok. Never mind. Moving right along.)
It was time for the appetiser. Burgundy Snail Pie and Alsace tart with creme fraiche onion and speck. (Otherwise known as a snail inside puff pastry, a piece of pizza and a dab of green moss.) The pizza was yummy. I could have eaten a few more slices. The snail pie did taste like a mushroom and the puff pastry was light and flaky. But I kept thinking about the giant African snails that climb up the walls outside – so I only ate one. Just so I could tell my children that yes their mother ate a snail.
There was a longish wait for the next course. I ate some more bread and butter. Drank a Diet Coke. Listened to the soothing sounds of the amazing duo band that was playing right next to our table. Talked and laughed and then, the first course!
Le Steak Tartare with taro chips. (Otherwise known as raw meat, a raw egg, grass and a scattering of seasoning.) The chef explained we were supposed to mix it all up so the egg got into everything. (Like when you’re making a beef pattie.) I tasted a tiny smidgeon taste of the raw meat. It was tender and pretty much melted in your mouth. If I was a wolf I would have loved it. I love oka and sashimi and poke so I can handle raw fish. But this? It was a #NoThanks from me. I followed the instructions and mixed it up. Then it looked like this.
Yuck. Then it was a #HellNo from me. Two of the fabulous friends ate theirs. But two of us asked if we could take it home. “So we can fry it up and eat it that way.” The staff looked aghast.
I asked for more bread and butter. It was very good.
Course number two! Lobster Mousseline, vegetable mirepoix and lobster jus. (Also known as two bites of lobster meat, half a claw, some chopped vegies, gravy, and some mousse that’s actually a mound of scrambled eggs.) I’m a lobster devotee. This was the course I had been looking forward to. The two bites of lobster meat were divine. The claw was too. But the mousse reminded me of egg foo yong and hey, I already had scrambled eggs for breakfast thanks.
The lobster frustrated me because I can eat a whole lobster no problem. I wanted to get everybody’s two smidgeons of lobster meat and eat them all. I wondered just how many lobsters they’d used to make the dinner for the whole restaurant? Three? I was a little bit disgruntled. But then I reminded myself that ocean crustaceans are in decline and greedy guzzlers like me who want to devour an entire lobster by ourselves are contributing to the earth’s destruction. So I asked for more bread. And drank another Diet Coke.
It was getting late. Plodding your way through five courses of food is quite time consuming. Thankfully my fabulous friends were scintillating company. Apologies to everyone else who had to be subjected to our yahoo laughter and chatter.
Course number three arrived.
Local snapper with shallot confit and parsley and red wine jus. (Otherwise known as a piece of fish, a sprig of limu, and the decorative moss again.) Finally a dish that was familiar. Nothing adventurous about this one. I ate every bit of it. It was nice. Not the bestest fish I’ve tasted though. The Hot Man caught a fish at the beach once and then slapped it on the BBQ right away. THAT was a fish to remember. (And it was free. Which always adds extra flavor to a dish.)
I had another piece of bread.
Slow roasted duck with peas Francaise, carrot puree and orange sauce. Duck, peas and carrots. It was okay but I really wanted some kalo to go with it. Only ate half.
I had some more bread. And another Diet Coke.
Can we have dessert now?
I am a Creme Brulee lover. I first tasted it when I was in Kansas City and then again in Philadelphia and now, every time I go somewhere and it’s on the menu – I order it. Scalini’s here in Samoa makes a delicious Creme Brulee. So I was excited about dessert.
It came served in a massive soup bowl. As in, it was the biggest creme brulee I had ever seen. Now we’re talking! #FistBumpOfAwesomeness yes!
But it was not like any Creme Brulee I had tasted before. The caramel crust thing on the top didn’t crumble with a gentle tap of my spoon. Nor did it melt in my mouth. Nope. That stuff was rock solid. It wasn’t melty and crumbly, it was hard toffee and like chewing through a mouthful of stickiness. I had to stop eating it because I could feel my root canal fillings starting to come loose. Not to mention, digging toffee out from between my teeth was very undignified and difficult to do discreetly in a nice restaurant. So, quite unlike me – I didn’t finish my dessert. Maybe that’s how they do it in France? (If so, sorry, I am very not masagi.)The dinner had come to its triumphant end. We had dined, laughed and drank our way through five courses of fanciness. My broken spanx was struggling to even stay alive after all that bread and diet coke. We paid our bill. I tried not to yelp at the astronomical sum.
We were making our way home when two of the fabulous friends started getting sick. As in, violent stomach cramps. As in I want to throw-up. They both had a miserable night. Those of us who DIDN’T eat the raw meat, were fine. So either the meat and egg was bad. Or the rawness of it all just didn’t suit our le masagi stomachs.
My friend fried up her takeaway raw meat and fed it to her dog. He loved it. So maybe all it needed was some applied heat to make it a fab meal?
Even though I didn’t like much of the food, I’m still grateful for the experience. The resort is beautiful and they explained that this will be the first of several chefs they bring over to make a special dinner with the cuisine of a different country. So I do think they should be commended for trying something new. Now, if I never make it to France, at least I ate a snail!
In closing, what do we learn from this? If you are a clueless cuisine savage like me then:
- Never eat raw meat and eggs. Even when it’s served by a celebrity French chef.
- Next time eat TWO Big Ben meat pies and a whole chocolate lamington before you go.
- Good bread is manna from heaven. Give thanks and savor it.
- It doesn’t matter how much you prepare and how fia fancy you dress – no amount of hair ironing and breast fillet filling is going to turn you into a fancy person that can eat French cuisine and like it.
- If you must try new foods, make sure you go with fabulous friends who can help you laugh your way through it. Thank you ladies!