Le Cordon Bleu News, 05/05/2009
Taste Everything! That is the fundamental rule in cooking. Is the sauce seasoned correctly? Are the potatoes cooked through? Do these flavors go together? There is no better way to answer these questions than to take a bite and just see for yourself. There is also no more fun a way.
The chefs at Le Cordon Bleu believe in this rule. They preach it in fact, and when they say something repeatedly, I tend to listen. When I saw posters for the Salon De L’Agriculture posted in the metro, I decided to see how far my, and the chef’s rule, could go, and if it holds up outside of the kitchen.
Accompanied by three friends, all girls of Le Cordon Bleu, we entered the Salon’s first pavilion. This one was for livestock: cows, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens. As the others looked in chicken coops to observe hens, I waited in line for a mini crepe made from the eggs of those very chickens. The crepe was golden, crisp, and, well…eggy.
Next, we made our way over to the goats, and the girls became giddy as they pet and rubbed the cute little ovicaprids. I, however, kept my hands clean as I wandered to the stands selling, and more importantly, giving free samples of those cute little goat’s cheese. Fresh, grassy, and velvety, I was too becoming giddy.
Past the goats were the pigs. Pens of different colors, breeds, and sizes, from babies to enormous hogs, occupied a large portion of the pavilion. Not far from these pens though, were stands selling cured pork products, possibly from the aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters of these animals. It seemed a little cruel having them in such close proximity, but I let myself believe the pigs were clueless. I bought a sandwich filled with rosey jambon cru, and indulged in the gamey and somewhat fruity flavors.
In the section of the pavilion devoted to cows, I was able to taste a variety of cheeses and fresh milk. It may sound odd, but milk in the United States doesn’t taste nearly as milky as it does in France. It’s a wild revelation to have.
A few other pavilions showed off fruits and vegetables, and fish, but were neither as captivating to me, nor as delicious.
Hours passed and the four of us made our way to the final area of the salon, the regional French pavilion. I felt like a kid in a candy store as wines, cheeses, cognacs, cured meats, and desserts sang to me in orchestral harmony. I was having a sensual overload and didn’t know where to begin. Just calm down, pace yourself.
I began with a barrage of cured pork and cheese stands followed by some wine tasting. Spicy reds from the Rhone melded perfectly with the cured meats still lingering on my palate. I had never tasted quality cognacs, but it seemed this was the place to start. They were smoky and toasty, some with strong aromas of vanilla, and others with hints of honey. As I tasted my way up the price ladder, the cognacs became smoother and more refined.
Like a meal, I always feel it’s nice to finish on a sweet note. With that in mind, I found a stand selling cannelés, the sweet caramel crusted cake originating from Bordeaux. They look like a mini bundt cake and as they are the size of a plum tomato, I could probably eat a half dozen or so. I was so full from the day’s tasting though, one sufficed just perfectly. I, and my three other stomach-pained companions waddled out from the Salon De L’Agriculture feeling very full, and slightly drunk. As we rode the metro back to into the heart of Paris, a question loomed over me. Taste everything? Yeah, I decided, the rule does apply outside of the kitchen.
Online blog of Stephan Lublin: Myspace.com/thefoodcoma
Information about the Salon de l'Agriculture 2010 : Salon de l'Agriculture
To read "The art of Chokes", also written by Stephan Lublin, please click here