Wednesday, 7 November 2012

In Strange we Trust

The blue plate special:  Blanquette de Veau avec Tagliatelle

When I travel, I'm always drawn to, and amused by, foreign interpretations of another country's cuisine.  Take for example, the Hakkaido rice pizzas we ate at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong last year.  Where do I begin...

Hakkaido rice pizza in Hong Kong
When it's done right, like the heavenly croissants from the depachika at the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo it's quite the treat.  But more often than not, it turns out to be a strange cross-cultural head scratcher. Like the culinary equivalent of wearing someone else's old shoes.  They're still shoes, but they never feel quite right. 

Well, this morning hubby and I wandered into Menton for a bit of shopping and to find a copy of the Financial Times, as we often do, and not far from Les Galeries Lafayette, we spotted an new American themed café called "Vintage." 

Normally we would have just passed by a restaurant with a scantily clad, blonde-haired mannequin waitress out front, but in honour of election day taking place in the United States today, we thought it would be a fitting to pop in to have a drink and enjoy an American snack.

Well, I loved the décor, but the food?  A bit like flip flops with stiletto heels and shoelaces.

Hubby ordered a milkshake, one of his favourite diner treats.  What came was La Frapperia, an Italian version of a milkshake that had a texture like Marshmallow Fluff with chocolate flavouring in a milk base.  For some strange reason, it wasn't cold nor icy.  Poor hubby.
Strange milkshake

Well, I didn't fare any better.

I was licking my chops when I saw the photo of a slice of lemon meringue pie on the dessert menu.  This would make a great lunch, I thought. American style lemon meringue pie topped with a high, fluffy cloud of meringue was one of my favourite desserts.  Well, my dream went "splat" when the pie turned out to be a tarte au citron meringuée, a traditional lemon tart popular in Menton.  The meringue topping was a sickly sweet, flat, densely textured Italian meringue.  What happened to the pie in the picture?  

We left, scratching our heads, but I think we may pop back and try a plate of their spaghetti with tomato sauce, which looked quite good when the chef carried it from the kitchen to the guests at the table next to us.

Well, at least the music was authentic American.  

Luckily these experiences never deter me from checking out other strange culinary tangles whenever I see them.  

As more of the world's cultures blend, who knows what awaits us?


French Girl in Seattle said...

"Wearing someone else's old shoes..." My feeling exactement, and all too often, when I step into would "French boulangeries" here in the US... Eclairs filled with whipped cream (at least I hope that's what it is...) bland baguettes tasting like chewing gum; overbaked croissants... and more often than not, I do not even get Edith Piaf music in the background to cheer me up. Count your blessings. They could have served you friend snails disguised as tater tots! :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle) -- your newest Follower!

Sarah said...

The rice pizza looks intriguing Was the base like those rice-cakes you get here?

I tried a lemon meringue pie here in Montpellier the other day. The meringue was disgusting, like a blob of over-sweet heavy fluff. Mind you, I only like meringue that's made with egg whites and sugar and whisked/folded not stirred, and then baked for hours until crunchy and a golden colour so I'm invariably disappointed and never order it.

My mum makes the best lemon meringue pie. :)

Gustia said...

Hello Veronique! Thanks for the follow. I've eaten so many strong arguments for just leaving food where it belongs. Turn up the Edith Piaf!

Gustia said...

Hi Sara. Thanks for the follow! The pizza base was more like congealed rice left in the bottom of a pot and cooked on low heat for a while. Heavy, glutinous and chewy. Very weird, but when I saw them in the window I knew I had to try one. The drinks they served along with the pizza were in large test tubes stuck in ice. I think using crispy rice cakes you're thinking of would have been a much better idea. Amen on the meringue!

Shawn said...

Reminds me of the three "Breakfast in America" joints in Paris, except their menu is really American, right down to Wonder Bread; Chock Full o Nuts coffee, and the young staff....

Heather Robinson said... not seeing anything even remooootely American on the menu! Methinks someone stumbled upon the diner decor at a second hand shop and decided to go for it! :) I too am fascinated by the rice pizzas and love that you are so willing to fearlessly go where no tourist has gone before...
PS. The Big Boy on top of the jukebox makes me verrrrry happy!

Barbara Lilian in France said...

I've found you from Heathers wonderful blog 'Lost in Arles'& have just become a new follower of your blog. Love your beautiful cakes. what a fantastic way to help charities. your photos look as if they are jumpimg out from a glossy magazine. The new cafe you found didn't sound as if you would be returning. I'm English & have now lived in France for 23 yrs...take a look at my blog for some of my early experiences. At that time it was impossible to get a sanwich for lunch, my first & last for a very long time was what tasted like raw bacon slapped in between half a baguette, at least the bread was good. Times have changed since then & now if you want it there's a Macdonalds on every shopping zone. Look forward to reading your next post.
Best wishes Barbara

Gustia said...

Hi Barbara. Welcome to Gustia and thanks for your kind comments. You're right about things changing in France. Some for the better, and some not, but I guess this is universal. I'm looking forward to reading posts on your blog too.

Karen Barnaby said...

The burdock, and kim chee pizzas we had in Japan were awesome. Blending cultures through food can be fantastic, but imitating can be disastrous (unless it's European pastries made in Japan).

Hannah said...

Ha, those are the kind of places you go for the "experience," not the food. ;) Japanese pizzas have proven disastrous in my family though. When we all ordered a pie many years ago, that was the only instance that we got sick through that whole trip. Figures!

PS, I finally used your amazing, incredible hazelnuts in a recipe! Hopefully it will go on the blog soon, and if not, certainly in my next cookbook. Thank you, I couldn't have thought of it without that edible inspiration!