France

Lunch Chez Claudette

by Anne Maxfield on August 11, 2014

Accidental Locavore Claudette InteriorThere is a rumor floating around Manhattan that the space at 24 Fifth Avenue is cursed for restaurants. It’s too expensive a piece of real estate, in the heart of Greenwich Village, to be taking a chance on survival. The Accidental Locavore had lunch at the most recent incarnation, Claudette, a Provençal spot that opened recently.

It’s a very pleasant room, airy, whitewashed, full of hard surfaces and totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Provence (but, hey, there’s a lot of Provence, I’ve yet to visit). The staff is young, attractive and attentive. The menu, while concise, is physically large, with two of them fighting for space, on a table for two.

Accidental Locavore Lamb SaladI had the lamb salad – listed as an hors d’oeuvre, but which, with frites, made for an ample lunch. My friend had the Provençal chicken salad and helped with the fries.

The lamb was interesting – think of pulled pork but substitute lamb (my guess would be a shank), nicely flavored, and tossed with a minimum of frisse, a few chickpeas (literally three) and slices of the majority of an apricot, although the menu listed asparagus. The sherry vinaigrette could have used some more acid to balance out the richness of the lamb and I thought the salad was over-dressed (so not French!). Usually, I’m not a fan of fruit in a salad, however the apricots were beautiful and tasted great, so I’m allowed to make exceptions, right?

Accidental Locavore Chicken and Carrot SaladMy friend’s salad was chunks of white-meat chicken on a bed of greens, with ribbons of carrots (lots of them) and almost a crumble of ground pistachios and bulgur. The dressing was an orange vinaigrette with a lot of cumin. Cumin played a surprisingly large role in all of the dishes we had; it was in my lamb, her chicken (a lot!) and even in the fries.

Accidental Locavore Claudette FritesWe make a lot of assumptions about French food, one of them being that if someone is trying hard to replicate France in New York (or anyplace else), they’re going to have good frites. These looked good, in a paper cone, but were not hot, crispy, or salty enough. They were tossed in ras el hanout, a Moroccan blend of warm spices. Sounds good on paper, but fries with even a tinge of cinnamon are definitely weird. That plus the omnipresent cumin pretty much ruined the fries.

We split a piece of cheese for dessert that the waitress forgot to tell us was a blue cheese, but it was fine and came with some nice crusty bread and a fig compote. This lunch for two, with two glasses of rosé and a coffee was about $100, but could easily have been higher – remember you are on Fifth Avenue.

If you didn’t expect Claudette to be French, and more specifically Provençal, you would probably enjoy it. It leans more towards Morocco, with the use of spices, a lot of the dishes, the tiled walls and the tajines on display. This is not a bad thing, just not as marketable (or mark-upable) as France, I guess.

 

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Making Smoked Pork Tenderloin

by Anne Maxfield on April 24, 2014

Accidental Locavore French CharcutrerieWhile the Accidental Locavore and her husband were in Nice, we had to taste almost every piece of cheese or charcuterie that we saw. One of the highlights from Lou Froumaï, a great new shop, was a piece of what they called smoked pork filet mignon. It was unbelievably good! My husband gave me a week to recreate it at home, so I went right to work. I used my electric smoker for this.

 

For the brine:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Chopped garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence (optional)
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 ½ pounds)

In a large pot (tall and deep is good), add the water, salt, sugar, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer and stir to make sure all the salt and sugar are dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Put the pork tenderloins in the cooled brine, weigh down with a plate, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pork from the brine, and rinse it off really well (otherwise it will be salty). Pat dry with paper towels. Place on the lower rack of an electric smoker and smoke for 4 hours. Remove from the smoker, let cool, serve thinly sliced and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Smoked PorkMy verdict: For a (jet-lagged) first attempt, this was pretty good! Of course, I suspect the French have better pigs, so it’s probably time to go hunting for some heritage hogs. I used hickory to smoke the tenderloins and it seemed to work well; next time I might try it with some apple. We’ve just been eating it sliced thinly, occasionally with a bit of coarse mustard and some cornichons. I brought it to a party the other night and it was a big hit! Don’t you think that it would make great sandwiches, eggs Benedict, pasta carbonara – acting like a cross between bacon and ham. Use your imagination and give it a try!

 

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The Accidental Locavore in Nice, at Le Victor Hugo

by Anne Maxfield on April 14, 2014

Accidental Locavore Russan CathedralThe Accidental Locavore thinks that sometimes the old saying “no good deed goes unpunished” doesn’t hold true in France. Many of our most memorable meals  come when my husband and I have been exploring  places one of us has little or no interest in (all the F1 racetracks in France) and afterwards, as a reward we always seem to find an amazing meal.

Such was the case when we went off in search of the one big tourist attraction in Nice we had never seen, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. This was an adventure that the Locavore had wanted to do for a while, but Frank is not a big church guy and it was pretty far off our regular routes. Along the way, down Avenue Victor Hugo, possibly the most beautiful street in Nice, we came upon a little corner bistro, with a simple but interesting menu, a possibility for lunch later. Accidental Locavore Le Victor Hugo

After a mostly nice, long walk we came to the Cathedral. Built by Tzar Nicholas and finished in 1912, it’s big and beautiful, with azure and green tiled onion domes surrounded by an intricate cast iron fence…locked! Now why a church would be closed on Good Friday is beyond me, but it’s probably because the Russian Orthodox religion has Easter on a different calendar than we do. Back home we schlepped, with me hoping that lunch at le Victor Hugo would be good enough to erase his short-term memory of a long walk for a closed cathedral.

Accidental Locavore French CharcuterieYou had to know it was going to be fine when the musician (my husband) was seated under a painting of a conductor. You had to know it was going to be fine when there was no menu, just a recitation of the day’s three main courses. You had to really hope it was going to be fine, when Frank ordered a lunchtime pastis. And you had to relax and know it was going to be fine when you got really hungry, seeing what the guy at the next table was eating.

It was more than fine!Accidental Locavore Cold Asparagus

While Frank sipped his drink, the hostess/waitress brought an amuse bouche of salami and a smooth pâté on tiny slices of ficelle (a baguette’s skinny cousin) I had a starter of white asparagus with green tips in a simple vinaigrette. Then we both had the côte de boeuf, perfectly grilled, sprinkled with sea salt and served with béarnaise sauce on the side.Accidental Locavore Cote de Boeuf It tasted as good as it looked! But what would any steak in France be without a side of frites? These were small cubes, golden brown, hot, salty and amazingly good!Accidental Locavore Frites As Frank noticed, somehow each and every piece of potato was perfectly fried on each surface. Definitely in the top ten of potatoes I have eaten, and believe me, we ate all of them!

Dessert? No room for what looked like perfect pastries and tarts, just a very reasonable bill and a couple of very happy diners. Accidental Locavore Happy Frank

As we left, Frank looked at an adjoining table and said wistfully (and on a full stomach) “They got an entree portion of the potatoes….”

 

 

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The Best Lunch The Accidental Locavore Knows

by Anne Maxfield on April 26, 2012

Accidental Locavore Lunch

Because there haven’t been any recipes posted lately, you’ve probably guessed that for the past couple of weeks  the Accidental Locavore has done little or no cooking. Mostly because we were in France where there are a lot of people who can cook pretty well, and then when we were back home, there were charity events and birthday dinners. I finally hit the kitchen, made a batch of yogurt, have some bacon curing and am brining a brisket from Brykill Farm to make pastrami, so not entirely lazy, right?

Accidental Locavore Pate ForestierOne of the benefits of renting apartments in France is that you get to shop the marchés and actually buy some of the wonderful stuff they have there. We quickly latched onto a woman who had a wonderful selection of charcuterie. First up, a pâté forestier, a smooth duck or chicken liver pâté studded with mushrooms and to quote Frank, “made of deliciousness!” To go with, some sliced chorizo, a little local ham (made in the style of prosciutto) a wedge of Morbier, a chèvre rolled in herbes de Provence, and a wonderful St Félicien Fermier, a soft, luscious, local cow’s milk cheese, picked up from the local fromagerie. Toss in a great baguette, some good mustard and a few cornichons, et voilà, a great lunch!

Accidental Locavore French CheesesTrying to improve on our market choices, the next trip yielded a new pâté, a classic pâté de campagne, with a wonderful texture and great taste! We switched out the chorizo for some salami, got some tapenade, a bag of mixed olives and the Locavore added some local strawberries to make it look like a balanced meal.

Accidental Locavore Local StrawberriesI usually think strawberries are ho-hum, but the French ones have totally changed my mind and probably spoiled me for life. Interestingly, Celine (from the olive oil store) and I had gotten into a whole discussion about strawberries. She grew up next door to a strawberry farm and her childhood was spent picking strawberries (and eating most of them), so she was quick to sneer at the Spanish ones at the market. As stunningly perfect as they looked, I had gone right for the local ones, remembering how good they had been last spring when we were there and they didn’t disappoint!

 

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