Monday, July 25, 2011

Farewell fish

Another memorable one
It is not that food is great in France, there is also that rather immaterial aspect of it, how easy it is the relation of great food with the "garçon", the guests, and the scenery.  That is, you can get great meals in natural settings without any sense of the extraordinary, as it you were expected to have great dishes everyday of your life as a matter of fact. As my departure was nearing it was time to start farewells, and to experience this again, far from the affectations of multi-starred joints, or the ignorance of the Caracas "mesonero" who even in fancy joints has little idea of what s/he is serving.

I was treated for dinner date at a famous local eatery, Chez H., specialized in fishy stuff, something that we are rather deprived in Venezuela where fish is deeply fried in the vain hope of hiding the dubious freshness of the creature.  Let's just say that in Venezuela today I only eat fish at Urrutia or when in Margarita.

The menu was rather brief: a half dozen of shell based appetizers (and foie gras, of course), another half dozen of fish entries (and one steak for those in pain) and fabulous deserts to compensate (my choice been a creme de marrons ice cream bathed in Armagnac).  We settled to share mussels and oysters baked with foie gras ans Sauternes (I do not like raw oysters, so sue me!).

Since my relatives have been habitués for decades there, we get special advice when choosing our courses depending of the best catch of the day.  Being only three sitting, a baked turbot for three was the best choice for the night.  One caught, not raised, by the way.  Now, to illustrate my point at the start I include two pictures below, the first one when the fish arrived, and the second one when the "garçon" had finished splitting it into three portions, in a couple of minutes, if that much, as if nothing, not forgetting to carve out the "cheek" of the fish.  I found ONLY 1 spine in my plate......

Bliss....  Not to mention the perfect Pessac that went with...

You may observe from the details that we were on a wooden table, no fancy silverware, rather plain individual table cloths.  What matters is what is in your glass and on your plate.

Simple, straight to the point.


  1. Ahhh, tu te fais bien traiter par la bas filston! Apres une consultation experte, superbe.

  2. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Living only about 1000 kilometres from Vancouver / the pacific coast, reading of anything freshly caught makes me hungry.

    wooden tables? perfectly normal here.

  3. Anonymous6:12 AM

    You lucky boy....ever think of not coming back?

  4. Daniel,

    Your food praises often remind of Manley Hopkins poetry which I love.

    "GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him

  5. Ah, a nice flounder!

  6. You said you wouldn't be doing the "Where is Waldoniel?" bit, but you did. Where is he? Sitting at the dinner table right where I want to be.

  7. jsb

    no, it is not a flounder even if it is from the same family. it is a turbot.

  8. AIO

    and yet i have dropped enough hints as to where exactly in france i was :)

  9. About the Urrutia, who can forget their legendary "Mero en salsa verde"? there were also several great great tascas for seafood around La Calendaria, besides "Mi Tasca" I forget the names..

  10. Caught? Caught turbots? Where from? This is going to bring bad blood between your Canadian readers and you. Remember the Turbot War!

  11. Well Sledge, there was El Ruedo, El Pozo Canario, La Carreta. So many good places and great Spanish food.

    Back in the day there was a Gallego machinist that worked at our factory. He made good money at that, but made even more by fishing for Grouper (mero) and selling his catch to places like El Barquero and the ones in La Candelaria.

    I went with him a couple of times, here's how it worked.

    He would set course from Cabo Codera (Higuerote), North by North East at 16 or 20 knots for a couple hours. Then he would visibly line up three peaks that could still be seen. This was how he would find this "grouper hole". The depth was about 600-800 meters in that one spot. On the boat he had motorized reels (6 as I recall), after baiting them and dropping them off the side he would reel out until he saw marks on the line. Wait for 20 minutes, and reel back up.

    Up would come these huge 30-40 kilo Groupers! Their eyes would pop out from the pressure differential! When his huge cooler was full, back to shore and back to Caracas. Usually two stops and he was done. WE then sat down to eat whatever the cooks whipped up in the kitchen.

    Man, those were the days!

  12. Turbot, thanks. Great post.

  13. El Gallego sure knew what he was doing! great story Roberto.

    We used to spearfish off the local boats in Morrocoy, and the best trips were with a few friends, we would take the peneros out to "Cayo Sur", the farthest out there and camp out for 5-7 days, until the ladies started complaining about the sun, lack of modern technology or when the rum ran out..

    Hours and hours in the water everyday, throwing the speared fish to the shore, all kinds, but mostly big grunts, parguitos, a few grouper when very lucky, surface fish, the ladies would prepare dinner by the fire, desert island most days.. now can you top THAT?
    I remember one time I went with an "Oriental" friend, Simon, and his g/f and lent him my Speargun, (made in Italy, you would load it with your feet, effortlessly), and the guy would shoot all the wrong fish, so he nailed this huge 'Loro' you know the ones with green meat that you can't eat.. so I gave him hell for that and let the poor fish rest by the water, almost dead,,, next day comes this lady, Saturday, after days alone in the island, to sell empanadas for weekend tourists, so she grabs the Loro, cleans it up, puts on a huge Casserole, cooks it for hours.. the most delicious empanadas ever!

  14. Daniel, I know you haven't made that aspect very difficult - between Pomerol and Pessac, I feel like I can place you roughly within walking distance.

    No, I was focusing on the other aspect of where you are. Not the geographical sense, but the gastronomic one, me living vicariously via my appetite. That one definitely rings a (dinner) bell with me. There's the saying that "The world is my oyster." Well, to me, the world is my dinner plate. :D The pleasure with this post is not in trying to figure out where you are, but figuring out what part of that repast I would enjoy the most. Because enjoy it I would.


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