Friday, May 30, 2014

A Post-Cruise Journey: Southampton to London

A Post-Cruise Culinary & Cultural Journey from Southampton to London
May 30 - June 6, 2014 

Scrumpdillyicious will be touring England's south coast from Southampton through Dorset to London, for a week of culinary and cultural post-cruise adventures. Join me online each day as we drive down country lanes through the idyllic Dorset hamlet of Plush where we'll enjoy a classic pub lunch at The Brace of Pheasants, then on the motorway up to London for five days of exploring galleries, museums and some of the city's best restaurants — Tally-ho!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Normandy's Bayeux Tapestry, Cathédrale & Calvados

Nestled in the northern French countryside, in the county of Calvados, not far from the English Channel, is the beautiful city of Bayeux with its perfectly preserved medieval centre, magnificent cathedral and world-famous tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Around the cathedral, the historic centre, untouched during the events of 1944, offers a rich heritage of cobblestone streets lined with small shops and Norman style timbered houses dating from the 17th century. As one approaches the town, Bayeux’s cathedral spires dominate the horizon. A spectacular architectural gem, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame is a mixture of Norman, Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and was also the original home of the famed Bayeux Tapestry. Woven in 1066 by Reine Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England, it's one of the world's oldest tapestries still intact. 

The magnificent Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Bayeux, inaugurated by William the Conqueror in 1077

The spectacular bell tower of the cathedral

The south transept portal features sculpted scenes that show the life of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral on the orders of King Henry II of England

The Gothic choir was built in 1230

The impressive barrel-vaulted ceiling

Ornate neo Classical carvings with a Baroque influence, decorate the sounding board over the pulpit at Bayeux Cathedral

A gated chapel inside the cathedral

Stained-glass window in south arm of transept, representing bishops and saints of Bayeux

Detail of a fresco inside the cathedral

Statue of St George slaying the dragon

15th-century frescoes in the crypt of the cathedral

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum 

The world-famous Bayeux Tapestry is the reason why most people come to Bayeux. Woven in 1066 by Reine Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England, it's one of the world's oldest tapestries still intact. The tapestry tells the story of William the Conqueror in 1066 as he conquered the English troops at the battle of Hastings, and is remarkable both as a source of 11th-century history and as a work of art, as it provides a true glimpse into life in the Middle Ages. The Tapestry stretches 231 feet long and was made of a seamless strip of linen, embroidered with eight colours of woollen thread, in a needlework panorama of 72 individual scenes, and 1512 figures, with identifying Latin inscriptions, of the Norman Conquest. The tapestry tells of Harold’s failure to honour the oath he gave at Bayeux recognizing his cousin William’s right to succeed Edward the Confessor, and the consequences that followed. Recognized by UNESCO on it's 'Memory of the World' register, the Bayeux Tapestry is one of the world’s greatest treasures. Formerly displayed in the cathedral, the Tapestry is now preserved in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum.  

Scene 1 : King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson at Winchester

Norman soldiers riding into battle

Harold before he became king, at the ceremony where he gave his oath

Sample of the stitching on the tapestry which is over 1000 years old

Bayeux is also known for it's many restaurants which feature traditional Normandy cuisine. Conveniently located across from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame on Rue Larcher, we discovered Le Petit Normand, a charming little restaurant with a menu of dishes typical of the region, and delicious wines by the glass. Starting with a chilled white Burgundy and deep red St Emilion, we decided on the Pâté de Campagne and Terrine de Foie Gras as appetizers, and followed with two of the restaurant's signature dishes — Tatin de Cochon de Bayeux Sauce Camembert and Côte de Veau à la Normande. The imaginative and delicious Tatin de Cochon was a savoury adaptation of a traditional tart au pommes, filled with a herbed pork and rich creamy camembert and topped with butter poached local apples. To finish, no trip to Normandy would be complete without a glass of Calvados, the golden elixir of Basse-Normandie.

Le Petit Normand in Bayeux

The charming original stone wall interior of Le Petit Normand

The menu features traditional French Normandy cuisine

A lovely fresh tulip on our window-side table

A glass of white burgundy

Pâté de Campagne

Terrine de Foie Gras 

Tatin de Cochon de Bayeux Sauce Camembert

The 'Tatin de Cochon' was rather like a savoury apple galette with a creamy Camembert sauce

Côte de Veau à la Normande with a mushroom sauce

A glass of Normandy Calvados

Calvados is a delicious apple brandy from the French region of Lower Normandy, and is distilled from cider made from specially grown and selected apples. The fruit is harvested, either by hand or mechanically, and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider, then distilled into eau de vie. After two years of aging in oak casks, it can be sold as calvados. The longer it's aged, the smoother the drink becomes, with a maturation that can go on for several years. After our lovely lunch at Le Petit Normand, we were inspired to explore the old centre of Bayeux for a bottle of aged Calvados to bring home.

Walking through Bayeux after our lunch, looking for a bottle of Calvados to take home

A medieval house in the centre of old Bayeux

Le Moulin de l'Hôpital, an old grist mill on the Aure River in Bayeux

We brought back a bottle of Marcel Breton Calvados Vieille Réserve, which we hope to enjoy with homemade apple galette this summer from apples from our garden

Côte de Veau à la Normande
Serves 4 

4 veal chops
2 tbsp Calvados
1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 oz butter
4 cups créme fraîche
2 tablespoons oil
1 bunch chives, minced
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil and brown the chops over high heat, then flame with the Calvados; remove and keep warm. Place the butter in the pan, then add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add the cream, salt and pepper, reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes. Place the chops in the sauce, cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the veal with the mushroom sauce and garnish with chopped chives.

Normandy Apple Galettes with Frangipane
Serves 4

1 package puff pastry dough, defrosted

2 tbsp flour, for dusting

2 apples
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg yolk

1 tsp cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds, ground in a food processor
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
pinch salt
1 tbsp cream

For the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add in egg, and mix until incorporated. Add in the ground almonds, extracts, salt, and cream. Mix well. Mixture should be light and creamy.

For the pastry, lightly dust the working surface with flour. Unwrap the puff pastry dough and lay flat. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out to about 10"x12". Using a small upturned bowl or mug as "cookie cutters", make four round disks of puff pastry. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate.

Peel the 2 apples, cut them into quarters, and with a paring knife, remove seeds and stems. Place them in a large bowl of water with lemon juice. This will stop the apples form browning. Pull each apple quarter from the water and cut into very thin slices. Return slices to lemon water and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Take the pastry disks out of the refrigerator, and using a fork, make several marks in the centre. Spread 2 tablespoons of frangipane on the center of each disk, leaving a half inch border around the edges.

With a paper towel, dry off a few apple slices at a time and place decoratively on top of the frangipane, on each pastry round. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl and set aside. Remove the pastries from the refrigerator, and sprinkle the apple slices with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry dough with the egg wash, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Remove to a wire rack to cool or serve while while warm with a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Le Bistrot Gabriel à Bordeaux: Classic French Cuisine

Located in Bordeaux's beautiful 18th-century Palais de la Bourse on the Garonne River, Michelin starred Le Bistrot Gabriel has one of the most spectacular locations in Bordeaux overlooking the famous fountain of 'The Three Graces' and Jean-Max Llorca's 'Water Mirror' installation, which reflects the architectural grandeur of Place de la Bourse. A flagship of French classicism in the heart of this historic city, the square is the work of Jacques-Ange Gabriel, Louis XV's architect who was inspired by the Place Vendôme in Paris, and built the gorgeous buildings in which Le Gabriel now resides over three floors, in the square's central pavilion. On the first floor: Le Bar Dix and Terasse; the second floor Le Bistro Gabriel; and at the top, Le Restaurant Gabriel. Under the culinary eye of Chef François Adamski, Le Bistro Gabriel is a stylish and elegant room with a superb à la carte and prix fixe menu featuring classic French cuisine served with distinctive Bordeaux panache. 

The Three Graces fountain in the centre of Place de la Bourse

Chef Francois Adamski

The elegant and modern interior of Le Gabriel

The linen napkin features the exterior of Le Gabriel iconic facade on Place de la Bourse

Le Gabriel's menu

Le Gabriel's menu features a la carte and prix fixe dining

A classic French aperitif: Lillet with a curl of lemon

A bottle of eau minérale naturelle

Duck Rilette with warm toasted baguette

An amuse-bouche of coriander mousse with beets and savoury sabayon

We started with a bottle of white Bordeaux wine

Salmon Tartare with green onions and creme fraiche

Charolais Beef Carpaccio with rocket salad and parmesan cheese

Terrine of Foie Gras with dried fruit marmalade and toasted baguette

Tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala Salad with basil

Since we were in Bordeaux, we ordered an elegant bottle of 2011 L'Archangel Pascal Chatonnet St Emilion

Filet of Beef with Foie Gras and Bernaise sauce

Roast Breast of Moulard Duck from Southwest France

Grilled Angus Steak 

Pommes Paysannes

Grilled Courgettes and Aubergine

Morbier is an aromatic and suprisingly mild French cow's milk cheese defined by the dark vein of vegetable ash streaking through it middle, and named after the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté

Comté Fort Saint Antoine: a French unpasteurized cow's milk cheese made in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France

Langres: a French cow's milk cheese that originated in the Champagne region

Crème brûlée a la Vanille

Tarte au Pommes

Profiterole with Pistachio Cream and Raspberry Coulis

Tarte au Chocolat et Caramele

A Dessert Tasting Menu: Baba au Rhum, Creme Brulée, Creme au Pamplemousse and an espresso

Le Gabriel at night, as we bid adieu and strolled back to the ship

The Silver Whisper docked on the pier in Bordeaux

Sea Bass Poached in Nori Milk with Aquitaine Caviar
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy Chef François Adamski

2 lb sea bass
4 nori sheets
4 cups whole milk
2 lb white or cremini mushrooms
7 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 oz butter
4 cups fish stock
2 cups light cream
Aquitaine caviar
Ground salt and pepper
8 sprigs fresh dill, for garnish

Remove the skin and bones from the sea bass. Cut into 8 1/4-pound portions, and season with salt and pepper. Blend the nori, and put three-quarters of it in the hot milk.

Flute and partially cook 8 mushrooms. Cut the remainder into a brunoise, and fry in the oil and butter until they reach an even colour. Add the quart of nori, and season.

Reduce the stock by half, add the cream, and reduce to the right thickness. Check seasoning. Bring the milk to the boil, then arrange the sea bass pieces on top. Remove from the heat and allow to cook gently for 6 minutes. Remove the fish and leave to rest.

For the presentation, arrange the mushroom duxelles in a circle on the plate, mix a little caviar with a little sauce, and draw a thread around the mushrooms, then place the sea bass on top of the mushrooms. Arrange an attractive quenelle shape of caviar and the fluted mushroom on the fish. Serve hot with a little sauce on the side.