Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Markets!!!

I needed a post to get that blob of raw ground beef out of my view because it's grossing me out, so here's a picture of the Freiburg Weihnachtsmarkt from Thanksgiving weekend. I was at the Paris Noel Fete whatever last night on the Champs D'Elysees and have some pictures, but I forgot to upload them to my computer this morning so you'll have to wait. Christmas is a pretty magical time in Europe and I love Christmas markets, not to mention mulled wine/Gluehwein/vin chaud. Nothing like hot wine and fatty food to make the dark and cold even nicer!

Yay Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Messed Up "Food"

What I am about to show you is bar none the most disgusting thing I have ever seen on a plate in a restaurant, and I ate it. Brace yourself, this is not for the faint of stomach. I've eaten frog legs, snails, and even freaking pork knuckles here, but none of those could prepare me for what I ate last night. I present you with Tartare:

They didn't even sculpt it into a nice shape or anything!

You are seeing correctly: that is in fact 1/3 lb of raw ground beef on a plate. Raw doesn't even begin to describe it; the last time this meat was warm it was alive. It was served chilled. I still don't believe I ate that, but I have proof.

All done!

Unlike the pork knuckle, I was not misled with this one. I asked the French people I was with what Tartare was, and they explained that it was uncooked ground beef. I asked several, just to make sure I was hearing right. The non-French at the table all thought this was disgusting, but most of the French were actually ordering. I thought, why not? This is something I would never be able to get at a restaurant in the states, and I'd always been a little curious as to what raw ground beef tasted like.

For your information, it tastes exactly like you think it does. The surprise is that taste isn't actually as bad as you think it is. It's certainly not delicious; the same meat would certainly taste much better cooked. It is, however, entirely edible, especially if you smother it in sauces and things. It was most noticeable later, because it sat in my stomach like a bloody brick. I'm pretty sure my digestive system has absolutely no idea what to do with it.

In their defense, this supposedly isn't actually French, it's from Crimean Tartars (thus the name). The Russians insisted there's nothing like this in Russia, but that it's possible that the Tartars eat this stuff because they're weird like that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

French Food: Line by Line

Like most of you, the quality of my life depends greatly on the food I am eating. Here are my thoughts on French food:

Basically, they're oysters with a funny aftertaste. Edibility depends quite a bit on the preparation and seasoning. Cooked in lots of butter and garlic these are almost as good as oysters, without lots of seasoning they're pretty bad.
Verdict: If you can't get oysters and really need some shellfish they'll pass if they're cooked in butter and garlic. Otherwise avoid.

Frog Legs:
I tried these at a Thai restaurant. The French guy we were with just shook his head and told me to enjoy my chicken. He was right: these are chicken with more bones. Without the extra small bones, I would have been hard pressed to distinguish it from chicken. That said, it was every bit as good as chicken and totally worth it for the novel factor.
Verdict: Worth trying once because it's novel, but outside of survival situations I don't really see a reason to choose them over chicken.

Pork Knuckles:
I got these on accident. I thought I ordered a big, juicy piece of pork, but after a few minutes of picking through bones and fat I discovered there was actually no meat in there. There wasn't even very much fat. It was sorely disappointing to say the least.
Verdict: Avoid, unless you like picking through bones for no meat.

If you were to order a steak "bloody" in an American restaurant, it would still be more well done than the French steaks. When I sear my steaks before grilling, I cook them more than the French do before serving. Also different from American steaks is you don't get to specify; they will not cook it more no matter how much you want it. E.Coli concerns aside, this makes their steaks very dependent on the quality of the meat. A good piece of meat will be delicious, a mediocre piece will be edible, and a subpar piece will be terrible. And the meat varies, even from the same source.
Verdict: If you can stomach practically raw meat, ordering a steak is rolling the dice: could be great, could be awful.

'Zin little pancakes, filled with delicious things like Nutella, sold for cheap everywhere. I don't see a downside.
Verdict: Win.

I love croissants. Delicious buttery flaky goodness. They're fresh and cheap here.
Verdict: I'm willing to forgive the French for being French solely because they invented croissants.

French bread is far and superior to its American counterparts, but I'd put it behind Germany. In France, bread is supposed to serve as a vessel for cheese, whereas in Germany they make it for itself and it's delicious with nothing but a little bit of butter (more delicious with lots of butter, of course). Like Germany, France shines in the "fresh bread" department, with bakeries (Boulanger) everywhere. Fresh baguettes are fantastic; lightly crispy with fluffy interiors. After a day they're pretty ho-hum, but it's not too hard to keep a fresh supply. They're cheap, too.
Verdict: Good and inexpensive, though generally requires accompaniment.

The French do soft cheese very well. Camembert, Brie, and literally a couple hundred other varieties are all available. In reality this is more like 10 varieties, because so many of them are so similar that it's a little disingenuous to call it a different variety of cheese just because it came from a different place. They are all very good, though, especially the soft bleu cheeses if you're into that sort of thing. They don't make much hard cheese, but they do import enough from Germany, Switzerland, and Italy that you'll not be left wanting.
Verdict: France ain't the "land of wine and cheese" for nothing.

Cheap and very good. I can get a bottle of '05 Bordeaux Reserve for less than 5 euro. France is like the wine section at TJ's, only better.
Verdict: Boo-yah!

The French think that Dutch beer is actually good and drink imported Amstel and Heineken almost exclusively. Ew.
Verdict: Epic fail, but compensated for by the wine.

The French say that they will eat anything that moves. This is usually good, though sometimes it's painfully obvious that there's a reason no one else eats it. It's a great place for carnivores, cheese lovers, wine lovers, pretty much anyone who likes well-made food. Like all of Europe the food is a little expensive for Americans, but it's worth it. Though they're snobs about their food being superior to everyone else, they still have readily available foreign food of pretty high quality as well. Beer lovers should either learn to appreciate wine or head east.
Verdict: My tongue and stomach have been pretty happy here.