Sunday, August 27, 2006

Five things to eat before you die

Some meme’s are bigger than Ben Hur.

This is one of them.

Helen tagged me on Melissa’s project at The Travellers Lunchbox and it certainly has captured the imaginations of food bloggers worldwide.

So here’s my contribution, and I’ve tried not to replicate some already mentioned in the growing list, like fresh porcini, dim sum in Hong Kong, the Muffuletta from the Central Grocery in New Orleans, fried zucchini flowers, proper buffala, the ubiquitous truffle (white and black), and meals at various prominent restaurants.

All of which I love and adore and thank you to everyone who’s already mentioned them, I agree wholeheartedly.

... and everyone is right, it’s so hard to whittle it down to five.

1. Kangaroo Island Marron.

This freshwater crayfish is some of the finest crustacean eating you will experience. Shaped not unlike a Maine Lobster or Homard Lobster, it’s sweet flesh is equally succulent boiled or grilled. Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian Coast, is free of introduced predators and other nasty stuff because it’s naturally isolated from the mainland.

Here’s a Tarte Fine of Marron as prepared by the very talented Manu Feildel of Bilson’s Restaurant in Sydney. Yum.

2. Mussel Boys Restaurant in Havelock, Marlborough Sound, South Island, New Zealand.

New Zealand Green Lipped mussels are great eating. They’re reputedly very good for you too nutritionally, and contain a natural substance that helps with arthritis. I don’t care, the health benefits aren’t going to put me off, because they taste fantastic. Problem is, all the exports are frozen so they tend to be tough and I reckon tasteless. Fresh, however, is a different story. This restaurant is across the road from the Marlborough Sounds where the mussels grow in the crystal clear, deep, unpolluted waters. You can’t get fresher than that. It’s a little shack with an outside courtyard at the back and you can usually choose from 4 varieties of “flats” – grilled on the half shell – and 4 varieties of “steamers” tumbled piping hot into a bowl. Fresh bread, sunshine, with the best sauvignon blanc you will ever taste. Bliss.

3. New potatoes and cloudberries on midsummer weekend in Helsinki.

Sometimes you have a food experience that makes you re-assess your good fortune and what you otherwise take for granted. In Oz we have new potatoes at the drop of a hat. In Finland, and as a tribute to seasonality of produce, when the first new potatoes come into the market stalls around the summer solstice in June, people go crazy. It’s such a fantastic treat, plain boiled and with lashings of butter and chopped dill. I went crazy too, although that was through chronic lack of sleep because it never gets properly dark at that time if year. For dessert, the fresh picked cloudberries, like an astringent vanilla flavoured golden raspberry, go with cream and ice cream.

4. Têtes de Violin as they come into season in Montreal.

Also eaten in New Hampshire and places up the north east coast of the US, it’s great to come across a new and fantastic ingredient to cook with. I visit Quebec frequently and love browsing the fresh food markets on 'The Plateau' round Rue Mont-Royal during late spring and early summer. The restaurants are preparing their terraces, the snow (usually) has melted, and the sun makes a welcome comeback. In the markets you can find these delights, also known as fiddlehead ferns, the coiled immature fronds of ferns plucked before they unfurl. A quick blanch and refresh, then a toss in hot garlic butter. They’re not unlike asparagus, with a nutty taste, and herald the warmer weather.

5. Risotto di Gamberi at the balcony restaurant at the Hotel Danielli, overlooking the Venetian Lagoon.

There’s something quite special about risotto in Venice. Maybe it’s Venice. Yes, that’s probably it. And at the Danielli, a grand dame of Venetian institutions, their balcony restaurant offers a sublime view of the lagoon looking out at the church of Santa Maria della Salute and onwards to the island of Giudecca. In Venice the risotto comes wet, almost like a soup, and that’s the way I prefer it. Sweet little prawns dot the pearly rice like carnelian jewels as the sunshine glints off the glossy, glistening grains. In late summer, a bellini to start, s’groppino to finsh and indulge in the sort of lunchtime suntan you can only get in Europe. Watch out for Romano, the maitre d’. Lived in Australia for a while in the 70’s, and a total eccentric as he works the room for fun. He may even recount some of his escapades at gay Sydney night clubs if he’s in the mood.

And the runners up are ….

It’s so hard to choose. Here are the ones that were very, very close, but didn’t make my list. Proper Gratinée in a Paris bistro – classic soup a l’ongion covered in a gruyere-coated baguette slice, grilled to crunchy perfection. Kir Royale at Les Deux Magots – ok it’s not food but it’s close. Cassis and champagne, Rive Gauche, watch the world go by, imagine Picasso or Sartre sat in your chair. The dining room at the Musé d’Orsay (left) – closest thing to having lunch in Versailles, the ornate chandeliered room of the former train station and bistro offerings are just the thing to whip up that extra bit of energy and enthusiasm for the Impressionists collection. Waffles and bacon at the Chateau Frontenac Quebec city. Explained elsewhere, ‘nuf said.

To tag: If you haven’t already been bitten, I’d love to hear what your 5 musts are:

Jules at Stone Soup

Vicious Ange – if such thoughts don’t bring on morning sickness

Kate from Vegie Friendly

Ed from Tomato

Deborah from The Food Palate

And if you haven’t read it, Stephen Downes book To Die For is one critic's attempt to do what we’re doing here. But he gets to name 100.


Anonymous deborah said...

mmm those cloudberries look tempting!

thanks for the tag... i shall get onto it quick smart.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Wow those fiddlehead ferns look amazing. So pretty!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Ange said...

Thks for the tag, will have to think about this for a while, there are so many fabulous foods in the world, how to limit it to 5?

12:07 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Great Deborah - look forward to seeing what you nominate!

They taste good too Helen. Very unusual!

I know Ange - 5 is torture, but some of my favourites were already up so I got to add a few more.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous jules said...

good list reb...very diverse... now you've got me thinking...can see why you had a runners up section

1:52 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

It was soooo hard Jules!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

Thanks for the tag reb; I'll have to ponder my choices. I saw Stephen the other day and he'd found a few other places to die for.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

I know how he feels ... the list can get endless! Look forward to reading your suggestions.

1:34 PM  

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