French Food

In Food by Brock Bourgase

Back in Toronto, it is nice to return to typical Canadian food. The cafeteria in the Hameau-St. Michel residence frequently deep-fried meals and served potatoes to the point of boredom.

The first night in Tours, I ate at Au Lapin Qui Fume, a small bistro that served traditional French food, pairing meat and game from the area with regional produce. The smoked salmon appetizer was fine, though in retrospect salmon with dill is not unique to France. The rabbit stew was flavourful, although I know now that this country cuisine is not my favourite. The apricot tart served for dessert was locally made and perfectly good.

A return to the bistro towards the end of the trip was equally enjoyable. The rabbit terrine was savoury and the lamb was well-cooked. Again, I suppose that lamb and rosemary is not a combination unique to France but the dishes were locally prepared. The raspberry shortcake was a memorable conclusion to the meal.

Another night, I dined at Au Chien Jaune, which was near the Lapin in location but not in quality. They served a salmon mousse profiterole, which was an interesting juxtaposition of textures. The duck was cooked exactly to specifications but the dish was plain. The lonely duck was only accompanied by a salad and could have enjoyed the company of a sauce. The crème brulée was only partially “bruléed” and whoever did this task had done it long before I ordered the dessert.

At Chez Roy, I enjoyed a duck in a red wine sauce with potatoes. It was the dish that I envisioned the first time; the savory red wine sauce accentuated the taste of the duck admirably. The escargot appetizer was plentiful, highlighted by a delicious pesto and garlic combination. The crème caramel seemed to have been lying there for a while. During the meal, a loud argument caused delays in the kitchen. When my friends returned to the restaurant, the oven was broken. The restaurant could improve upon these inconsistencies.

In Blois, some of us ate at Le Rond de Serviette, which was a bit off of the beaten path. One of their pizzas was topped with escargots. The snails were effectively cooked but the pie was lacking; too much tomato sauce caused the toppings to slide around.

On another field trip in Bourges, the bouillabaisse at Le Jardin d’O (not a typo) was plentiful and reasonably priced. A moelleux au chocolate in a crème anglaise sauce seemed homemade.

The final field trip to Chartes involved lunch at the ironically named Café Serpente, across the street from the cathedral. Moules marinière were bountiful but a little too salty. The hap-hazard fries should have been excluded from the dish and replaced with bread. A friend ordered the oddly named “Texas Style” pork. I recommended against since it seemed unlikely that anyone in the kitchen was from Texas, Oklahoma, or Missouri. The ribs weren’t really barbecued and only came with a mild tomato side sauce.

Over the course of the sojourn, Au Bureau became average brasserie where one could watch events like the Wimbledon final and the Euro 2008 championship game. They served a “Vesuvio” pizza with a fried egg in the centre which was surrounded by smoked ham and onions. They also served an “American” burger which came with a fried egg. I don’t know anything about how pizzas were topped in Pompeii but I don’t know why a fried egg makes a hamburger “American.”

The last memorable meal that I had was at La Bouillon Racine, which was recommended in class. The service was attentive to the point of almost being instantaneous. I wanted to have more escargots so I ordered the appetizer, which was similar in taste and quality to the other restaurants (which was what I was hoping for).

While walking by the Botanical Gardens in Tours, I had seen some lambs, chickens, and pigs socializing in the petting zoo. Why single out the lamb and duck by only eating them? They all seemed equal, in an Orwellian way. So, to spread fate’s cruel judgments around, I ordered the chicken with risotto.

Based on how often it’s fouled up on Hell’s Kitchen, I thought that risotto was a difficult dish to make. This one could have been a little creamier but was mostly delicious. The dish treaded a fine line between a fancy restaurant dish and something made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup but the depth of the mushroom flavour heighten the quality of this dish. Plus, the chicken was notably tender.

The crème brulée was exactly what I expect in the dish: finished off after it was ordered and a nice sugar crust on top of a rich cream.

A friend alerted me to this article about the economic value of experiences. So rather than buy excessive souvenirs or whatever, I focused on the quality of my experience. Relatively speaking, the good restaurant that is diligently sought is not much pricier than food of average quality. All in all, I am satisfied with my choices.