Sunday, November 20, 2011

Anyone for kig ha farz ?

So off we went to le Rosabelle restaurant, a rather handsome, solitary old building out on the road that leads up to Erquy etc, perhaps half an hour's drive away.  Not a particularly attractive location in itself though set well back from the road, and so not really a tourist restaurant though they may get some passing trade from people going up to the coast, and they offer plenty of seafood.  It's quite a bit cheaper than the seafront places, and we got the feeling it's a place for people who like their food and probably go back regularly.  It's very spacious and quite simple, though quite elegant, and they've a second room for functions and loads of parking space and grassy areas outside so probably do well on weddings and other big parties.  A big fluffy black cat met us outside and escorted us in.

Tom opted out of kig ha farz (thanks Setu for the note in the comments before on the correct spelling; I'm happy to say they spelled it properly on the board and menu!) in part because he couldn't resist the oysters on the other menu, and in part because he was wary of the boiled meats.

Here I am going to digress into a bit of a grouch about the things French people often say to British people about our perceived execrable eating habits.  Along with the ideas that we are bizarre in enjoying sucré-salé (sweet and savoury mixed) flavours and that we breadcrumb everything, there is the frequent accusation that we boil all our meat.

Let's address the sucré-salé question first:  yes, we like chutney with all kinds of things, redcurrant jelly with our lamb and other meats, and indeed a number of other sweet and savoury combinations.  In doing so we are expanding traditions of spicing and sweetening from afar in space and time coming out of the cuisine of the east and dating back from the mediaeval period all over Europe (admittedly that was partly because the meat was half-rotten and spicing and sweetening it to buggery was one way to make it palatable, but that wasn't exclusive to Britain).  But I would also point out that there are many very traditional sucré-salé combinations in French cooking as well: pork with apple or prunes, foie gras with cherry or fig conserves, the Provencal (I think) speciality confiture d'oignons, the absolutely delectable practice of topping beef carbonnade with a piece of gingerbread spread with mustard to make a crust, even the addition of orange to beef daube could be seen as mixing fruit and meat flavours.  The very existence of the term sucré-salé  in French has no real English equivalent. So why time and again the snooty wrinkling of the nose and the 'oh but you English like sucré-salé...' 

(Marmalade or even maple syrup on our bacon is not common British practice, but I was introduced to the latter in new Zealand and it was delicious.)

The breadcrumbed coating, well yes I suppose I probably ate my share of fishfingers as a kid, though I liked the battered ones best, but there are plenty of those to be seen in the shopping trolleys of the young French mothers I see in the queues in front of me too, and chicken nuggets.

But it's the meat-boiling thing that really bugs me.  I think I can honestly say as an English person I have never at any time boiled any meat.  Neither did my mother before me nor hers before her, I'm quite sure ( with the possible exception of boiled bacon, which has to be boiled else one dies of salt poisoning).  You, my French friends of my dear adopted land, you are the ones who boil your meat.  You boil your meat in pot au feu, you boil your meat in navarin d'agneau, you boil your meat in poule au pot (as your good king Henri-Quatre wished that you should, every Sunday) you boil your meat in daube de boeuf and in boeuf  à la ficelle, and doubtless you boil your meat in sundry other regional specialities I know not of.

 J'accuse.  You boil your meat.

We, the English, we do not boil our meat.  We roast it.  That is why when you wish to insult us mildly you call us rosbifs.  QED.

Anyway, this is going nowhere, as I don't imagine many French people read here in any depth, apart from Setu, who is Breton anyway, and apparently at home in every language, place and culture under the sun, or at least in Europe, and hopefully will forgive me the anglocentric rant.

Not that I'm saying one shouldn't ever boil, or at least simmer it (mijoter is a nice word)  meat, because the results can be excellent, which brings me back to the kig ha farz.  The two ladies who were serving, who were super and very efficient, one brisk and a bit formidable, the other prettier and more kindly (she kept bestowing special smiles on Tom, we think it was his jacket), brought me a one huge russet-coloured earthenware pot containing meats and vegetables in broth and another plate with a slightly smaller dish containing the buckwheat dumpling (the farz, I believe) also in some broth and a little pot of mustardy sauce.

'It's all for you,' the more bossy one told me 'it's very copious.'

I looked at it.

'Can I have a takeaway container for the leftovers?'  I asked.

They happily brought me one, and brought Tom his oysters, then his monkfish, which very well cooked but the cherry sauce - hey, more sucré-salé! - was a bit strange both to look at and to taste, overall he was happy, though half wishing he'd been bolder and joined me in the kig ha farz.  They had served me very promptly, I had no starter and barely time to eat any olives and crackers with my aperitif, so my appetite, which I had been nurturing all day, was not spoiled.  I ate slowly, and my one course lasted through three of Tom's, and I just kept on and on eating it.

Among the meats there was a piece of beef, shreddingly tender and flavourful, a piece of ham hock, a good chunk of sausage and a small bit of demi-sel (salt-cured belly pork), which was the kind of thing Tom was fearful of because of fat and gristle, but which was so meltingly tender that the fat was almost rendered away.  So the meat was good but in one of the really nice things about it was the vegetables; there was a good quarter of cabbage, plenty of onion, a piece of fennel bulb, a big potato, a long baton of carrot, and several bits of cardoon.  It's quite unusual to get such a vegetable rich meal here, in fact, and because everything had cooked in and on the broth it was full of flavour and texture.  As to the buckwheat preparation, it was certainly substantial!  Not quite how I imagined, less crumbly - sometimes I gather people roll and pound the bag before they take the farz out of it, so it breaks into crumbs rather the consistency of couscous - with some sultanas in it (I'm not sure that purists go along with these, but I've seen quite a few recipes which add them) and a taste a bit like chestnuts.  I've eaten plenty of buckwheat pancakes and cooked the grain as an accompaniment, but this was different again.

As Tom was getting to the end of his cheese course ( a proper good-looking cheese board that you could have whatever you liked from) I announced that I was going to finish it all, and apart from a bit of broth and sauce and some trimmings, I did. Tom asked if I wanted any of his cheese which I declined that, but still ate some ice cream afterwards.  Ice cream can always find some gaps to slip through, I find.  The two serving ladies almost patted me on the head and said to one another

'Look, she's eaten it all, no leftovers!' and took the take away container away again.

It was just the day after the Beaujolais nouveau had arrived, and they were offering that, along with Côtes du Rhône nouveau (primeur, I think, strictly), which I'd not come across before.  I never cared much for  Beaujolais nouveau (I like the crus, don't mind the villages) but I was happy to try the other and enjoyed it.

When we got there at 8-ish there were a couple of couples already installed, but it filled up with a pleasantly mixed clientèle, a small group of oldies, a huge family group with babies and teenagers and all, all well-behaved at least while we were there, and then behind us two women, who were maybe a couple, with another elderly couple and a beautiful cream colour Alsatian-cross dog who sniffed at me politely and only got a little bit excited when the cat swept past rather teasingly.  The older lady made a very indulgent fuss of the dog who seemed to belong to the two women.  They all shared a kig ha farz and so then it came with the different elements in separate dishes which they dipped into as they wished, which would be a really nice way to eat it.  I've just got to find a few more people who'd like to join me...

( If you look at the menus on the restaurant site, the kig ha farz counts as tête de veau, which is prepared on  another Friday in the month.  We won't be heading out for that one, I'm afraid; I'm not that assimilated or adventurous.)


Rosie said...

I can't believe you managed to eat all of it.They only cook it once a month cause you don't have to eat for a month after it.
Tete de veau doesnt sound quite as bad as head cheese (fromage de tete) which I have never been able to face. I presume (or hope) that it means brains...

Fire Bird said...

what was it about Tom's jacket??

this sounds like a great eating adventure!

The Crow said...

Okay...okay...I couldn't get any farther along than this:
"J' accuse. You boil your meat." When I have finished laughing, I shall read the rest.

Give it to 'em, honey!

The Crow said...

Back again. Wonderful post, Lucy. I enjoyed dining vicariously with you and Tom.

I think you would be a very popular writer for food magazines. How do you say/write 'Madam Phantom Diner' in French?

Catalyst said...

Wow! That sounds like a lot of food. For both of you! But it sounds delicious, with the possible exception of the buckwheat dumpling. You both must have been mighty hungry.

julia said...

oh I did enjoy your little poke back at the French, all very true, very true, but if we don't bicker over food then it will be something else, we are as squabbling siblings

pop to Secretly Skint's blog where there is an amusing video which shows just how seriously the French take their food?

Roderick Robinson said...

Canard à l'orange of course.

I have now read your seminal long para three times to compensate for my bog-eyedness and still have no definitive answer as to whether you liked the farz. Oh sure it was big, less crumbly than you expected (A coded message to say it was like a cannon-ball?).Plus panegyrics about the meat and the veg. However the most telling comment occurs in the last sentence "this was different".

Which sent me back to Robert Falcon Scott's diaries. "We found the Pole challenging. A bracing walk, if you like. Quite different from the other Pole."

Come on. This is the culinary equivalent of reporting from the town square in Sirte while Good Old Muammar was still alive. You deserve a medal. But not for telling the truth.

Lucy said...

Thanks for reading at such length!

Rosie - well I was quite surprised myself! It was big but I had no bread or pre-meal titbits, and had eaten very sparingly all day... oh hell, I'm just a gannet really! Tete de veau, I've never gone near it, but browsing around even really hard-core Francophile gastronomes say they draw the line at that, that it is not only a fairly horrible idea (Creuzfeld-Jacob's waiting to happen) but its taste and texture are genuinely revolting also. Though I don't imagine it can taste any worse than andouillette. I've never quite liked to express what I thought head cheese sounded like...

FB - ah, Tom's jacket. It was part of a suit he bought when we got married, I didn't know he could still get into it - well perhaps he couldn't have done it up but it looked OK. The trousers went hopelessly out of style (too tapered with turn-up, sad...) but the jacket's still pretty cool, it's black with no lapels but a high turned up collar. When we were in the Perigord after we got married we were eating at a lovely place with a raised terrace in one of those riverside villages and there was an absolutely lovely young waitress who came up and said 'm'sieur, I have to tell you, you have the most adorable jacket, the collar... ah!'. He had it on the other night with a dark purply-red roll neck and it did look very handsome. We think it must be a waitress magnet.

Crow - thanks dear. Whenever I read food writers I think no way could I do this seriously, though.

Cat - well tom's meal was quite light, oysters are zero in filling or calories, and there was plenty of fish but not much accompaniment, mangetout and some other veg and a spoonful of rice, and he went quite easy on cheese. Yes, I did eat a lot. On the buckwheat, see below!

Mouse - thanks, I'll check it out. Really though, I don't believe we Brits argue back enough on this, by and large. We're too willing to self-deprecatingly and sycophantically roll over and accept that we eat rubbish and have no culinary balls whatsoever and everything the French cook and eat is inevitably marvellous. OK, so their chefs invented many culinary staples, but the Greeks invented democracy and no one can say they've led the world in political excellence for a bit. But you're right about squabbling siblings I guess.

BB - you're right, it's a flaw in the essay, and waxing on about the meat and veg, well that could have been any pot-au-feu, couldn't it?

I did like the farz, I ate it all for sure; it was a good flavour - I generally like buckwheat things - and one of the nice things was how it melted and spread into the broth and enriched it. It was pretty dense, but I quite like stodgy things, but at the same time quite soft so as I say, it smoothed out and blended nicely. I suppose my reservations, if I had any, were because I had nothing to compare it with, not having eaten it before, and it wasn't quite what I expected, so I wondered if it was quite as it should have been. I suspect perhaps it would have been better at lunchtime when it was freshly cooked, buckwheat galettes are certainly at their best when straight off the skillet. But I liked it and would recommend both restaurant and dish.

Canard a l'orange, of course, I knew there was another one...

earlybird said...

Hear hear!

Keeping this comment deliberately short. I have a lot to say on the subject too!

Never heard of kig ha farz so I was pleased to learn about that.

Julia said...

I simmered chicken tonight in an apricot broth and laughed aloud remembering your J'accuse. It was very well said.

herhimnbryn said...

I read this and thought sounds like a great meal apart from all that meat! Now I wonder what the response would have been if this english gal had asked for the vegie option! Seriously I am now hankering after cardoons.

the polish chick said...

i completely understand your little rant about cultural misconceptions. i detest hearing americans accuse us canadians of saying "aboot" instead of "about" because i have NEVER heard anyone outside of comedy skits say it that way. i suspect it's because americans draw their vowels out so alarmingly that anything close to the original short vowel pronunciation they find incomprehensible.

also, polkas are most emphatically not polish. they're german and czech and all, but not polish. no, i do not dance the polka. EVER.

'nuff said.

thank you for listening.