Saturday, 15 February 2014

Foodie Valentine dinner; Mont d'Or Cheesefondue

If there is anything I dislike it's commercial holidays. It looks like Christmas is more about how much presents and expensive food you buy your family than about just being together. With Easter nobody is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who would even think about that if there are chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and more chocolate around?

So it's probably no surprise that on Valentines Day I don't go out to have a 'romantic' dinner, in a loaded restaurant packed between other lovers. But off course there is nothing wrong with celebrating love ;-)

And to me there is only one perfect meal for two; Vacherin Mont d'Or cheesefondue!
If you never heard about this raw milk cheese that's riped in wood you should definitely check out this article from David Lebovtiz

In a nutshell: it's a soft, seasonal (sold between October and March) cheese made from cow's milk.

There are big cheeses where you buy a wedge from but I prefer to buy the little ones. These weigh about 500 grams and are sold in a little wooden box. Off course you could eat it like this at room temperature, but it's so much better if it's baked in the oven and served as a cheesefondue!

As I said before; it's the perfect Valentine dinner for two. Served with some bread and wine there is nothing more easy and romantic then dipping in this lovely melted cheese together.

But I sometimes also serve it for friends, after dinner, instead of a cheese platter.
Served this way one little Mont d'Or is enough for 4.

Here is how to make it:

Vacherin Mont d'Or Cheesefondue
adapted from David Lebovitz

- 1 Mont d’Or cheese, room temperature 
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced (otherwise you will have a too strong garlic flavour) 
- about 60 ml white wine
Extra: aluminium foil

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC ( 390ºF)

2. Wrap the wooden box of cheese securely in aluminium foil, making sure to enclose it so the foil goes up to the top of the outside of the container, but leave the top exposed. Set the wrapped cheese on a baking sheet.
3. Poke eight-to-ten slits in the top of the cheese with a paring knife and slide the slivers of fresh garlic in them. Pour white wine over the cheese, do this slowly to make sure the wine goes into the slits and into the cheese.  Bake the cheese until it’s very hot – it will take between 20 and 30 minutes.
Serve with a crusty French baguette and pair with a good flavorful white wine, Champagne or beer.
I prefer to drink a bit of an oaky Chardonnay with it. 

Mont d'Or cheese with garlic slivers and white wine, ready to go in the oven

Yummy Mont d'Or cheesefondue!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Foodie Destination: Lille

My husband and I have been travelling all over the world. And when asked about destinations I would recommend it's really hard to make a choice.
But if people ask me for a nice weekend trip in Europe I don't have to think twice. I always highly recommend going to Lille in the North of France. (Flemish name: Rijsel). It has a beautiful old centre (Vieux Lille), easy and very cheap public transport, some nice museums (Palais des Beaux Arts), lovely little shopping streets where you can definitely shop 'till you drop, but most important; it's France! Which means you can taste and buy all those typical French delicacies that are more difficult to find outside of the county. Plus it's just a 2 hour drive by car from where I live, but also easy to reach from Paris or London by train!

Chamber of commerce and Opera House in Lille centre

Lille is not what you call a French metropolitan city. Cities like Paris, Nice, Marseille or Lyon are much more famous for a weekend break.
But believe me; Lille is a hidden gem! 
I visited Lille the first time 'by accident'. My best friends father worked in Lille and was living there in an apartment during the week. But in the weekends he drove home and my friend and I decided to go their for a weekend trip!

That was a few years ago. Since then I came back lots of times. In the apartment of my friends father and when he retired in a hotel in the centre (which is really affordable compared to other French cities) And sometimes I just make a daytrip out of it! Drive to Lille in the morning. Do some (food) shopping. And drive back home again to make a nice dinner with some of the groceries ;-)

My absolute number 1 reason to drive all the way to the North of France and back in one day are the macarons from Patrick Hermand. And not only the macarons, also their divine pastries.
You probably understand why when you see these pictures:

Those pastries, plus the ones from famous patissierie Meert, are probably also the reason I don't have any restaurant recommendations in Lille. Especially the merveilleux from Meert is a killer for your appetite ;-) After eating to many of these delicious treats I just don't feel so hungry anymore.

Merveilleux at Patisserie Meert, Lille

And I have a weak spot for Paul Brasserie, a chain of bakeries with roots in Lille. They now have shops all over the world (but not in the Netherlands yet) and sell sweet and savoury pastries plus fresh baked bread and baguettes.  But the main reason for coming here over and over again are their lemon pies (tarte au citron). They are just perfect; not too sweet not to acid.

In the middle; Tarte au citron at Paul Brasserie, Lille

Another highlight on a trip to Lille is located on the way back; the mega supermarket Auchan in Roncq.
I can easily spent 2 to 3 hours here; just by walking along all rows! There are separate rows for sparkling, white and red wines from all France wine regions for just a fraction of the price we pay in the Netherlands. And many typical French ingredients like dried mushrooms, Confit de canard, lentils from le Puy and Merquez sausages. And the section I probably spent most time before heading to the cash register is the cheese department ;-)

Although that's just the 'easy' way of buying French cheeses. If you want a bit more advise, and that's only if you speak French!, you should visit the lovely little cheese shop in the centre of Lille: Philippe Olivier.

Cheese shop Philippe Olivier, 3 Rue du Cure Saint- Etienne, Vieux Lille

And if you decide to visit Lille you just can't miss Alice Delice; a cooking store with every cooking utensil you can wish for. I actually try and avoid this shop now because every time I end up spending too much money on stuff I think I really HAVE to buy. At that time anyway. Though I still want to go back there to buy a Madeleine mold ;-)

More tips for foodies who want to visit Lille check out these posts:
A Lille Adventure, from Eat Like a girl
Lille's culinary heritage from Just About Food
To Lille and back from London Eater

The old stock exchange, la veille bourse in Lille, France. From July to September, every Sunday between 19.00 and 23.00 dancers from all around Lille gather to dance the tango.