Tata Nanou Came to Lunch
Ian loves his tata Nanou. She kisses his hands just so and he wouldn't dare scratch or gouge her face the way he does to maman. He is always on his best behavior with tata Nanou. She and I get together when we can. We took up a good habit of going out to little tea houses and back room places that contain a majorité des femmes some time back. Now that getting out isn't as easy, she comes to our house for lunch. On those days, I tell him that she's coming the moment he wakes up, and morning long he's all smiles, waiting for her to come.
We went down to the market on St. Antoine as is our regular habit, and found many delicious things. Brigitte taught me to walk the market to the end, and buy on the way back. At the very end of the market, in the space usually delegated to newcomers and temporary stands, there was a very nice fromagerie, gleaming and new, who has not been on St. Antoine for very long. His selection struck me immediately because not only did his cheese look to be in excellent condition, but he carried the genre of cheeses that are generally not available anywhere but the best fromagers at Les Halles. Some cheese needs special handling to be at its best.
Usually when I have a dinner party and have to put together a very good plate, the kind of plate that people really remember for being perfect examples of cheese they know and love, I always go to Les Halles to visit certain fromagers. It's not just rare cheeses, in fact many of these cheeses you can get at the grocery store, or buy just about anywhere in Lyon. But the way it's handled and season makes all the difference in the world in the flavor. There are cheeses that just could not keep their unique qualities without special care, which are the ones I was seeing here.
I told him I was happy to see his selection, and after quizzing me rat tat tat about who I thought was worth visiting at Les Halles, I met his approval and we talked about his activity as one of only 12 certified trained fromagers that circulate Lyon's forty outdoor markets. These are the fromagers that keep a local cave, first of all, and keep their cheese in ideal conditions before it comes to market, and not the vendors that circulate a dizzying array of over aged, past its prime or otherwise derailed milk products. His home base is located in Lyon's 6th arrondissement, just near Le Petit Vatel on rue de Seze.
The wild asparagus is out and I snatched up a big handful. I knew that Nanou would appreciate it. I decided to do salad with a blanched snowpea chiffonade and wrap the steamed asparagus around a pile of it, layering it with a simmered brunoise of fresh spring turnips and young carrots that I cooled under water after cooking. I topped that with marinated oyster mushrooms and drizzled the lot with a soy, walnut oil and sesame vinaigrette.
Nanou appreciates the simple things in life, and this particular lunch we were both highly satisfied to end with a sackful of sour cherries called griottes here. They glow brightly in the sun at the market for a very short time, no more than a week or two in June. I brought out vintage teacups with soft white cheese, and we chatted about her upcoming wedding plans while we pulled cherries out of their rinse in a bowl of water between us, pitting them before composing each our own topping with a sprinkling of sugar.
Labels: Printemps 2010