Where to start? I didn’t want to write such a post, but hey, here we go. To cut a long story short, I had a fantastic French-inspired dinner on the 13th of July, was about to write about it on Bastille Day but didn’t, and woke up on the 15th of July in a state of shock when I heard about the horrible attack in Nice. Words fail me. I could have been one of the victims: the only reason why I wasn’t in Nice was because my teenage daughter is doing some work experience in London, and we’ll all go to Nice when she is finished, in about ten days or so. In fact, anyone could have been a victim, because going out to see fireworks on display on Bastille Day is as normal as buying your daily bread in my home country. That said, this time, I am angry too: I have yet to understand how a 19-ton truck could end up on the Promenade des Anglais without being stopped. As usual, politicians and representatives are all blaming one another, and this lack of accountability, together with what seems to be gross incompetence on the part of whoever was in charge of security, are pissing me off in equal measure (excuse my French).
So where do we go from here? Well, as an ordinary citizen, I initially felt powerless. But then I realise that maybe, just maybe, it’s the small things that matter, because they give way to the bigger things. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the things that matter stretch from the apparently anodyne, such as enjoying good food and wine, or feeling the sun on your body on the beach, to the much heavier weighted freedom of speech and democracy.
So yes, I will tell you about my lovely dinner in London, and I urge you to have a glass of Chablis to celebrate life in general and France in particular. Because that’s what life is about, and because that’s what our way of life is about. And yes, these things matter. Actually, maybe we have taken them for granted for far too long?
We began with aperitif, ‘Pas Si Petit’ Petit Chablis 2014 from La Chablisienne which really over-delivered, bringing a sense of lemon pep to Scandinavian-inspired canapés by Martina and Magdelena of ‘lavish, moreish, NORDISH‘ – miniature Norwegian fishcakes and remoulade, and curled cucumber filled with crab and avocado salad.
We continued with novel British starter by Hana of Pickled Plates of summer vegetable salad with roasted radishes, brown butter dressing, pan-fried whiting and tempura samphire. Moving on from a cooperative to a family run concern, this was matched with Alain Geoffroy’s 2014 richer Chablis. I must admit that this Chablis was my favourite as it stroke the perfect balance of strength of taste and freshness. And I also believe that Chablis is at its best with salads and summer dishes. That’s just me, I suppose…
Rosie of A Little Lusciousness performed the main course. Soy and miso-glazed pork chop on the bone with spring onion rice, Japanese raw slaw, rice vinegar and chilli dressing saw influences drawn from her recent odyssey to Japan. We had Julien Brocard’s beautifully packaged Chablis, La Boissonneuse alongside (also 2014) which showed a little oak influence from being part fermented in oak foudres.
We culminated with well-stocked boards of unpasteurised cheeses, England vs. France, alongside older and more powerful wines from Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites. Me being me, I must admit that having cheese without red wine was a bit surprising (What can I say? I am very traditional in my own way…), but I enjoyed the experience. So what did we have?
Stichleton from Nottinghamshire vs. Bleu d’Auvergne
Baron Bigod from Bungay vs. Camembert from Normandy
Montgomery Cheddar from North Cadbury, Somerset vs. Comté
Although, in my opinion, Camembert and Comté couldn’t be topped up, I have to say that I fell head over heels in love with Stichleton (once I knew how to pronounce it, that is).
The wines, drawn from communal ice buckets, included:
Domaine William Fevre, Vaulorent, Premier Cru 2012
Jean Paul et Benoit Valmur Grand Cru 2012
Clotilde Davenne Les Preuses Grand Cru 2008
Domaine Laroche Les Blanchots Grand Cru 2007
So yes, I had a lovely evening. And yes, I will continue to enjoy good food and good wines. There is something therapeutic in the quality of food and the beauty of life. And I want France to continue to be the glamorous and resilient country it has always been.