I started watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” yesterday. I know I’m a few years late on this, and yes, I am completely aware that Season 1, Episode 1 of No Reservations does not classify as hot off the press, but hey, let me have this one.
Episode 1 kicks off in Paris – and what better place to start a food show than in Paris, really? Let me say, seeing that man leave a blazing trail of smoke around the city makes me want to have a cigarette myself. I’m no smoker, but there’s something deeply attractive about wandering around ancient Parisian walkways with a pack of Gauloises Blondes.
The show took me back to the time when I visited Paris a few year back and it reminded of what I loved about that city. You guessed it – the food. Man, the French know how to eat. Twenty minutes into the show and I was depressed. I wanted to have what these people posses in such abundant surplus. I wanted to trade Sydney for Paris. I yearned for a food culture. A real one. Still now, I am aching for a local, unpretentious bistro, somewhere where I can be a regular, where I can grow old eating the same dish for 60 years, week in, week out. Somehow, I don’t think the local chicken stir-fry with cashew nuts will meet my requirements. Please, find me a pot of coq au vin made with a proper rooster or suitably old chicken. And also, while you’re there, some potatoes cooked in duck fat and a big glass of red would be great, too.
We have good food in Sydney, but it’s not always around the corner and not always budget-friendly. With food being so trendy here, a good feed almost always comes served with a big dose of celebrity chef ego and a side of the ensuing foodie crowd. Honesty is out the window. Another gripe of mine is the quality of food. In the city, I struggle to find anyone serving chicken that is not intensively farmed and it’s nearly impossible to get grass-fed meat (unless you’re willing to pay through the nose). Has anyone else noticed that pubs and restaurants try to make grain-fed beef sound like it’s a good thing? Are we that susceptible to marketing?
To avoid disappointment, I now mostly eat at home. For a slice of Paris, cheese and wine are a good, easy go-to option. Australian wine is world-class and I’m lucky I have access to a great cheese. Small Cow Farm is a local family business making cheese out in the Southern Highlands and they produce a bloody awesome blue – one of the best I’ve had. The milk is locally sourced from happy, grass-fed cows from Country Valley in Picton (Country Valley also provides the cream that makes the unbelievable @pepesaya butter, and their milk is worth seeking out, too). Get yours from Eveleigh Market on Saturday from Ester Winbourne (@DairyGoodness) and tell her I sent you. I might get a discount next time I’m there.