Get Your French on
Bienvenue! For reasons I won’t go into, I speak French with a Gore accent. Despite this, the weekend of All Blacks vs France at Forsyth Barr, the weekend of big French kickers, is when I’ll don a beret, steal a small dog to carry about and eat like I’m in the Paris of the South. Join me, it’s going to get cold and we need some padding. Let’s start this gastronomical gad-about on Thursday morning at the Coach House Bakery, where Victoria is readying the madeleine moulds. “I’ll be doing French pastries, petite gateaux, hot croissants, really good French bread – crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle served with a local cheese like Evansdale or Whitestone.” And you can’t have French bread and cheese without wine (it might even be illegal, in France). Wine Freedom have stacks and stacks of French wine, almost too many to mention but celebrate or commiserate, Champagne is the ultimate and Tattinger Brut NV top bubbles. On the rugby field the French can be unpredictable, and Chablis is Chardonnay, but not as we know it. Cooler nights lend themselves to sumptuous reds, and the Rhone Valley is a source of some lovely examples. Delas Cotes du Rhone is a cracking entry-level version, sipped over a late lunch featuring one of Victoria’s tarts, sweet: custard and poached pear, caramel apple, or savoury: honey roast vegetable, salmon with dill, capers and lashings of cream cheese, bacon and egg. Enough for four massive normal person serves or one rugby player. Coach House Bakery also sell the treat that’s easy to eat yet so super-fiddly to make: macaroons, colourful crispy-shelled almond biscuits fastened together with buttercream and coloured according to their flavour: green for pistachio, purple for blackcurrant.
On Friday its up Highgate to the Friday Shop, whose French-inspired, ready-made meals like coq au vin will turn your house into a French bistro, or we could go to an actual French bistro, Gaslight, where the atmosphere is the film noir era of early French cinema and the menu features boeuf and porc ravages (which sounds like something that happens to players going up against the All Blacks), duck confit and goats feta soufflé twice baked in the French manner. For desert, crème brulee, of course.
Saturday morning, game day, calls for some fortification so follow your nose to La Crepe at the Farmers Market. Marie and Christophe make the traditional crepe or galette right in front of you, and the sweet or savoury fillings are all locally-sourced ingredients. After a spot of the ancient French pastime of flaneurising (walking about looking at yourself in shop windows), time for second breakfast at Marbecks. Silvie Kuhn is the big cheese here and recommends imports like Roquefort and Truffled brie, a cheese that stands alone in all its mushroom-y glory, almost too good for a cracker. Jambon de Bayonne is a French prosciutto, “really rare here in NZ.” As rare as a French win? “Go on then.” And in the pantry side of the store – bonne Maman jams, Fallot stone ground mustard, “everyone who tries it doesn’t touch anything else”. Stagger, in a ladylike fashion, trying not to drop the dog, into the middle of the Wall Street Mall foyer for the piece de resistance, Artisan French Pastries. Et viola! I might not be able to pronounce it, but when it comes to eating French I’m a natural.
Gaslight, 73 St Andrew Street/03 477 7300/bookings are recommended
The Friday Shop, 300 Highgate/03 474 9222/opens 6am
Otago Farmers Market, 1 Anzac Ave/from 8am Sat
Coach House Bakery, 4 Ings Ave/0274 772 773/7.30am-1pm Thursdays and Saturdays84
Marbecks Café and Foodstore, Wall Street Mall Dunedin/03 470 1006
Wine Freedom, 49 Water Street/03 477 3284