A while ago I invited my friend Chris to go on a ‘down to earth’ food adventure. Not only down to earth, but also down and dirty!
For those of you who don’t know Chris Remington, he is the young, talented and modest chef who moved with his family from Vancouver a few years ago to take the helm at the Hooded Merganser Restaurant at the Lakeside Resort and Casino in Penticton BC. He has recently added a few more hours to his already busy schedule in order to oversee food operations for the whole resort. Anyways, as expected, he was all excited about the plan, which included mushroom foraging, and then cooking our bounty on the spot with the help of butter, garlic, thyme and of course, a white wine. The next step would have been to pile the fragrant fungi on a thick slice of country bread, close our eyes and enjoy the sounds of the forest and the noise of our chewing. This divine plan was missing a minor detail which proved to be a major one: neither Chris nor I had any practical field experience with mushrooms, so we were strongly advised not to attempt to recognize edible mushrooms from their pictures in a book! Well, Chris, this story is for you. . .
Rue Montorgueil is an eclectic street in the 2nd Arrondisement in Paris, which is a ‘foodie’s paradise,’ not only full of fabulous food shops, but also places like Dehillerin for cooking and baking equipment.
We started at Eric Kayser’s Boulangerie to pick up a half-loaf of his famous Pain du Compagne. Next door was a vegetable store with an amazing display of mushrooms including, Chanterelles, Trumpets, Girolles, and many others. My plan was immediately hatched: that night we would be eating mushrooms!
With two hundred grams of Chanterelles at E20. a kilo (Cdn.$30) in our bag, we continued next door to the herb emporium, where we discovered every fresh herb imaginable, including the perfect fragrant bouquet of thyme, still attached to its roots, and covered in soil.
We also threw in a fresh head of garlic and some baby greens for a salad, and headed over to the ‘Fromagerie,’ which we could smell from down the street. Inside, it was pristine, esthetically beautiful, and had a wonderfully rustic feel. I almost expected to see a cow emerging from behind the counter. The refrigerated cases were full of a huge array of different cheeses, some displaying thick layers of blue and black mold that would make even the toughest Canadian food inspector shiver, knees weak, and question the sanity of his profession. While Sharon got all excited about the different fresh, soft, and very smelly Chevres, I opted for a Vieux Comte, a flavourful hard cheese. Behind the ‘cheese man,’ I noticed two blocks of butter sold by weight, so we included a nice slab with our purchase. For dessert we found a very decadent Napoleon at Boulangerie de Monge – it had three layers of puff pastry filled with a caramel pastry creme, topped with a dusting of almond pralines. We hopped on the Metro and home we went, back to Neuilly-sur-Seine where we were staying with Sharon’s friend.
I headed straight to the small kitchen, sauteed the mushrooms in the fresh butter, garlic and thyme, and at the end de-glazed the pan with white wine. In another pan I whipped up a quick frittata using leftover potatoes and some of the moldy cheeses we’d bought. The salad was ready, the country bread was sliced, we poured some wine, and our dual-fungus-feast began. . . Chris, it was truly a down-to-earth shopping and eating experience. You would have loved it.