Sunday, December 21, 2008

Southern Hemisphere Christmas and the French Connection

Hello Friends;
It's hard to imagine for many of you, but in my neck of the woods, being summer, Christmas time is hot, with not a single snow flake in sight. Yet most of us still persist in having heavy roasts, turkey, ham, with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. We are changing however, breaking away from the the shackles of the British Empire and colonialism. I will always make a Lasagna, fresh pasta of course, no cauliflower, (private joke). Pavlova is quite common, a kiwi tradition of meringue, layered with fresh cream, sliced kiwi fruit, strawberries and perhaps chocolate pieces scattered throughout. I prefer a nice tiramisu or a zuchotto for dessert on Christmas day. My brother-in-law has even attempted to use the obligatory kiwi cooking device, the barbecue, to cook a whole turkey. When finally cooked, usually the next day, it is wonderful, moist and tender.

Its hard to encapsulate Christmas, there's the frantic build up prior to, shopping malls filled with harassed parents urgently looking for that last minute gift with tired and irritable children in toe. Then traveling to ones destination, only to get stuck in traffic. And the feasting, over indulgence which we all pay for after. Lazy sunny days spent at the beach, friends and family, accommodating everyone, and putting any differences to one side. A tradition for myself is walking up and down Franklin Street, Ponsonby, Auckland and checking out the Christmas decorations/ lights festooned on every house in the street, it's quite amazing, with coffee vendors temporarily set up and everyone marveling at the effort and lengths the residents go to with their displays. I guess I'm just a kid at heart, fireworks being another one of my favourites.

Being in the hospitality industry, its a busy time. I did however manage to squeeze one restaurant review in for 2008. Its called Pastis, a french cafe/ bistro in Auckland, city central.

It's a site that has changed restaurants many times. The newest incarnation seems to be working well. Busy, vibrant and run with Gaelic flair. Blue, red and white checked table clothes and French accented artwork adorning the walls. Sitting here brings back memories of close friends, fun times and life choices made, not always right, but I digress.

I ordered Cervelles Agneau, Lambs brains sauteed and finished in a mustard cream sauce. My London City and Guilds training led me to the conclusion that in the blanching process of the brains too much lemon was used and as a consequence slightly overpowered the final product, check out the sage leaf garnish, a little over the top I thought. Having said all that it was very tasty and a generous sized portion as well. Escargots, snails served in the shell with a garlic butter, very tender and Moreish. I finished with King Prawns, which were sauteed and served on a bed of fennel and tomato compote, flambeed at the table with pastis. The compote itself was the highlight of the dish, interesting and very complimentary. Pastis , from where the restaurant gets its name is an Anise flavoured liqueur usually served as an aperitif, mixed with water at 1 to 5 at which point it changes from a transparent yellow to a milky colour. It was developed when, in 1915 Absinthe was banned due to the wormwood ingredient, more star anise, sugar and lower in alcohol content, approximately 40-50% alc by volume.

Accompanied with the meal was a bottle of French Rose, Cote du provence Domaines Houchart 2007 very pleasant drinking and wonderful colour.

Overall the dining experience was well above average, but I have to take 1 point off for a menu that lacks choice, so its 7.5 out of 10 for Pastis French restaurant.
Well that's it for the year and all the best to you and your loved ones, I'm looking forward to sharing with you in 2009. Ciao for now.

1 comment:

  1. nice review, ill have to check the place out. hope you had a very merry christmas!