Sunday, October 11, 2009

Burnt custard

We don’t often eat out in restaurants.
Mysweet is a very good cook, and, with two nearly grown up children, it is an expensive business, so why bother?
We have eaten our way round the world at other people’s expense whilst working in the past, but this is less usual now.
When we do eat out, we like to go to somewhere special.
I have recently become addicted to a program on British tv called Masterchef. It might be the sound track, (it has some great music on it), or the ritual that it is always on at the time I come back from teaching my evening classes and I am sitting in front of tv hungrily eating a late dinner.
I still wince at the banality of those over emphasized phrases like “Now that is something I would serve in MY restaurant!”, heard for the thousandth time and Mysweet also has the habit of joining in the low vibrating buzzing noise which is presumably supposed to build the tension as the harassed chefs struggle against an artificially imposed time limit. He has never quite shared my liking for the program…
In spite of these minor irritations, it is still interesting to hear Michel Roux’s opinion on how something should be prepared.
Last week, it was crème brulée. We learned that the custard must be smooth and creamy but properly set and not tending to curdle like scrambled eggs. The sugar on the top must be a fine layer of exactly the right thickness. It must be evenly cooked to a uniform deep golden brown. Any patches of burnt black cause a bitter after taste and are to be avoided at all costs.
In two weeks time Mysweet and I are going on holiday to Sri Lanka to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. We have both been so busy lately that we decided to go out for lunch to discuss our plans. In the smarter area of St Brieuc, we found a restaurant attached to a wine shop. It was necessary to walk through the extensive cases of wine to reach the exclusive little dining room. The tables were extravagant glass tops over polished adapted wine barrels, the décor 1950’s chic. A table of six business people in suits were already addressing their sparkling cold flute glasses. We were looking a bit…British. Me in jeans and him in camouflage trousers. For some reason, the British are always easy to spot in these situations. The women always have longer and/or more untidy hair than their French counterparts. It is a question of finish. The Brits just don’t seem to have it.
The waitress arrived and we ordered. Her attitude was the slightly condescending one of tolerating an ignorant tourist.
Our first course was delicious. His jarret of pork and my salmon were slightly overpowered by the waitress’s decision to spray the glass top of the table next to us with cleaning fluid which we were then able to taste…
We decided to overlook this.
Our crème brulées arrived.
Mysweet’s expression passed from disappointment to glee as he examined his crème brulée, discovering the about to curdle interior and then the patches of black on the overcooked sugar coating. He peeled off the little burnt patches and arranged them in a pretty pattern round his plate, and ate some of the interior.
The waitress returned to ask perfunctorily if everything was all right- and Mysweet proceeded to tell her in polite detail and very good french exactly what was wrong.
She didn’t like it and started to argue. “But sir that is why it is called crème brulée, because it is burnt!”

Who said the British never complain? Thank you Masterchef! Watching Mysweet in action was the most entertaining meal I’ve had in a long time…

15 comments:

the fly in the web said...

Wonderful!
The perfect asnswer to the ritual response of a french waiter/ess to justified criticism.

Mrs. Chili said...

I know nothing about being a foreigner, having never left my country (or, for that matter, my region) of origin for any length of time - if at all - but I WILL say that I prefer the creme brule that *I* make. I find restaurants usually burn the sugar...

amy said...

Score! We had a similar experience yesterday in a restaurant in Rochefort - we're on bikes (Saturday afternoon) and looking a little disheveled (okay, downright shabby, but stylishly so) and spy a restaurant by the river - check the menu to make sure they have oysters. They stick us by the toilet in their overheated, overdecorated attempt at "chic" - I wanted oysters, but not that badly. For a country that reveres "artistes" it's funny how unless you look completely square you can often be treated with disdain.

Sri Lanka sounds wonderful, congratulations on your anniversary.

marja-leena said...

Great story! And congrats on the 20th, have a fabulous holiday. Sri Lanka sounds exotic and romantic.

Zhoen said...

(o)
grin.

Dingo said...

I can't wait to hear about the foods you eat when you go to Sri Lanka. I'm a rather unadventurous eater but I love to hear about food.

jacquiboydalden said...

My mum always swears that the best restaurants in France tend to truckers stops. No the prissy motorway ones but the one with loads of trucks outside. We tried a couple near Baud whilst we were there and she was right- the food was magnificent! Well actually most food is 100 times better than here in the States to be honest.:)

alison said...

Having recently found your blog and suspecting I would enjoy it I have at last found time to read the recent posts.
I don't get the chance to eat out very often but went to the 'best' restaurant in our local town a few weeks ago and must admit I don't think they had quite got that creme brullé topping right!! I should have pointed it out to them!
Looking forward to reading your future posts and catching up on some of the archived ones. Quite a cast of characters you have got there!

Meggie said...

I LOVE that he complained! I LOVE that he was SO right! How dare these mediocre 'help', argue with the custom.
I hope you have a wonderful time, with wonderful food in Sri Lanka! Congrats on the milestone!!

20th Century Woman said...

In my infrequent trips to France to visit a dear cousin who lives there (in Paris) I have noticed a decline in the quality of restaurant food -- at least in my price range. But there is no decline in the quality of the food at my cousin's table. She shops daily at the wonderful open markets with their fascinating array of tempting supplies.

hexe said...

Have fun planning your trip! And twenty years is quite an accomplishment. It is our ten here and no trip to Sri Lanka!

Cogitator said...

I went for a walk one Sunday morning and stopped off for lunch in a posh French (style) restaurant (no longer in business) in Staines. I was not looking my best, not having shaved either.

I asked for beans with my main course. "Sorry we don't have any beans" says the waitress. "Bring me the menu" says I. "Look", says I, "it says beans." She looks at me. "They're not baked beans, you know"

Deborah said...

Haven't met a French restaurant yet that didn't burn the topping. Most people, when they think of France, think of fabulous food and wine...eh. Glad he complained. I would have been proud as well, had I been there to witness it.
Brilliant!
Much Love,
Deborah
ps Cannot WAIT to hear about Sri Lankan food! Photos would be wonderful! I hope you have a smashing time...I know you will!

Dick said...

Good stuff. I'm all in favour of authoritative complaints where and when necessary! We dined very well chez toi so I'll vouch for the authority!

Rosie said...

Thanks for your comments all...sometimes its fun being the foreigner...