Monday, June 21, 2010

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.



Anonymous Ken said...

I love reading your post. It's like I'm living in France vicariously through you. It's charming and full of life. Thanks for sharing.

12:50 PM, June 22, 2010  
Anonymous Gosia said...

Your lunch menu is exquisite and it looks divine. You call it simple, I call it very, very sophisticated.

3:56 PM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger jenious said...

That's such a precious photo of your babe-in-waiting near the window. Gorgeous and impressive lunch. Beautiful writing.

4:24 PM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

that photo of Ian looking expectantly out the window is so charming. :)

8:12 PM, June 22, 2010  
Blogger Kitt said...

What a lovely vignette! (And now I am craving fine cheese.)

And get this: My captcha word is "liesses"!

4:58 AM, June 23, 2010  
Blogger SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Delicious salad ! And cherries are always perfect .
Lucky visitor .... all that , and your son too !

7:15 PM, June 23, 2010  
Blogger Christine said...

Wild asparagus! I've never seen them before now. And how beautiful your salad is! Such a lovely slice of your life is presented here.

8:21 PM, June 27, 2010  
Blogger janetmow said...

How I wish I'd found your blog before my visit to Lyon in May. I love that you can now impress the fromagers both with your knowledge of cheese AND with your ability to do so in French.

2:37 AM, July 02, 2010  
Blogger Tuula said...

Very sweet story & the photos are wonderful...caught myself staring at the cherry photos. Feel buying some & enjoying them as simply as you did..thanks for the great post!

4:24 PM, July 08, 2010  
Blogger cocopuff1212 said...

I love the photo of your baby looking out the window. Very sweet!

10:47 AM, July 13, 2010  
Blogger Cannelle Et Vanille said...

i love this. cooking for family. and those currants... beautiful.

12:22 PM, July 15, 2010  
Blogger Jann said...

What a perfect lunch and beautiful photos! someday I am going to visit this area, stroll the streets and markets and taste what the city has to offer!

1:45 PM, July 19, 2010  
Anonymous rebekka said...

I absolutely ADORE the picture of the baby looking out the of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen, perhaps! How sweet that he has a whole world to look out upon, instead of a tv!!!

3:35 PM, July 21, 2010  
Blogger Auberge chez Richard said...

Great shot of the baby in the window looking out...sent to my son and daughter who are expecting soon. Thanks

11:00 PM, August 13, 2010  

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