Friday, April 30, 2010

Food memories

For those of you who are Master Chef devotees, there is a suggestion of an association with food and memory. When you taste a particular food it reminds you of a time and place in your past. Food and travel are particularly evocative in this respect. Some places that you visit are even more memorable because of the food you ate there.
There was nothing quite like the first real Italian pizza that I tried. I was on a group tour in Florence and it was going to be our last night in Italy and we hadn't had a real pizza. It was raining and there was no restaurant in the hotel - a converted monastery - we were in the suburbs of Florence and there was no noticeable restaurant area. So we wondered around in the rain until we found a pizzeria (and the rest of our tour group). This pizza was nothing like Pizza Hut - it was simple, using only the freshest ingredients - and it tasted amazing. Really thin crispy pastry and such tasty tomatoes. You haven't tasted tomatoes till you've had one in Italy! These are rich red, with a dense texture and real tomato flavour.
Then there was the most amazing picnic by the side of the road. We went to the Sunday market in Annecy in France and wandered around inhaling all the delicious aromas of freshly baked bread, aromatic cheeses, rotisseried chicken. Pates, fresh fruit, vegetables, all types of fresh meat. We bought bits and pieces, hopped back into the car and stopped by the side of the road overlooking the lake in Annecy - unbelievable how fresh air and fresh produce can leave you feeling slightly heady - and we didn't even buy any wine!
We were told that when we go to the Dordogne region of France we needed to try their pate fois gras and to accompany it with a Monbazillac wine. This wine is made from three grape varieties semillion, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle all of which have noble rot. This makes it a sweet wine and not what you would normally think to consume with a savoury pate. But the combination is truly memorable. And it was made even more memorable by the fact that we were sitting in the spring sunshine overlooking the amazing Dordogne River and Valley. This was the perfect end to a morning of sight seeing.
Of course, you have Champagne - both the region and the drink. You have never tasted champagne until you have tasted it in Champagne. To wander through the "caves" and see the whole process from start to finish and to taste that amazing bubbly nectar. Sparkling wine just won't do - it has to be real French champagne. Grand Cru, premier cru - they all taste incredibly good. Food, memories are made even better with champagne.

To cruise or not to cruise