Monday, October 14, 2013

Gabriel Gate's A Cook's Tour of France, by private invitation by Bureaucrat

On Sunday, I was invited to attend an event for Gabriel Gate’s latest book—A Cook’s Tour of France.

Mother Hen and I enjoyed a three course lunch with wine at the Stamford Plaza Hotel who was hosting this event with Reader’s Feast Bookstore.  I grew up watching Gabriel on day-time cooking shows, back in the days before the flood of ‘celebrity TV chefs’.  As we dined on the recipes in his book, Gabriel gave us a talk about the dishes we were sampling and also regional French cuisine.

For me, French food falls into two categories – the haute cuisine that’s characterised by fancy and painstakingly made sauces (or what I’d like to refer to as the big white plate with a speck of nicely arranged food in the middle), and the provincial ‘farm style’ food.  It was the latter that Gabriel’s book is about and what we were going to try.

Gabriel gives a talk on regional French cuisine.

Piping hot savoury breads served with butter and pink sea salt

For entrees, we had yabby salad, pear and walnut.  Fresh, tender yabby meat that was bolstered by the tart (from the vinaigrette) and sweet pear salad.  Clean and simple flavours.

The other entree was grilled duck, sautéed potatoes, curly salad.  The grilled duck was reminiscent of a duck confit – meat that was falling off, with a slight crispy skin. 

In the style of a farm style lunch, the mains were served in the middle of table, and diners help themselves to the dishes.  The deeply flavoured lamb shank was slow cooked until it was so tender.  I liked how the shank (the bone) was removed before serving.  I loved the dark red colour of the dish.  This came with a sort of ratatouille on the side.

My favourite was the blue eye and scallop with butter sauce.  Fresh, meaty fillets of blue eye that were simply steamed, along with very plump scallops.  The beurre blanc sauce was simply wonderful – I could smell the butteriness before it was served at the table!  Despite the butter sauce, the dish wasn’t overly rich.

To go with the mains, were Pommes Anna – soft discs of thinly sliced potatoes that were pan fried in butter....

....and crisp, buttered white beans.

I was keen to try the desserts, as I haven’t had proper clafoutis or savarin (sort of a rum baba) before.  I have eaten them before, but they were always made by someone who isn’t exactly a French cuisine expert.....and will remain anonymous(!).  So I was curious to see what they really ought to taste like. 

The cherry clafoutis was moister than I was expecting, and was made with fresh, pitted cherries (and not the soured cherries that you see in some recipe books).  For those who haven’t had clafoutis before, it’s like a flat baked/steamed pudding with fruit and is usually served with custard or cream.  It wasn’t too sweet, which was good.

The savarin with rum was served with cream and raspberries.  Savarin is a yeasty, bready cake which has rum drizzled into it.  The savarin here was sweeter than I thought it’d be (it was sweeter than the clafoutis).  It reminded me of the papercup cakes that you get at Asian bakeries.

To round off the meal, petit fours and a cuppa.

Food – 7
Service – 7*
Ambience – 7*
Price – 7*

* Scores are notional as we were guests of Stamford Plaza Hotel and this was a special event that was held in a function room.

It was nice to meet Gabriel Gate and to learn more about his passion in regional French food.  Mother Hen got a kick out of getting her book signed and getting a photo with Gabriel.  The food is simple and good – none of that fussy, fiddly stuff here.  No doubt we’ll be trying a few recipes out of Gabriel’s new book!

If you want to try some farm style recipes from Gabriel’s new book, Harry's Restaurant at Stamford Plaza Hotel is having a tasting menu (based on the dishes above) during 14-20 October 2013.

Stamford Plaza Hotel
Harry’s Restaurant
111 Lt Collins Street
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9659 1592

Harry's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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