Goût de France is in my opinion, one of the best food events to have happened this year since the Nairobi Restaurant Week. If you thought French cuisine was all about snails and frog legs and that made you shy away, you missed out on some of the most exquisite food and wine pairings France has had to offer. An initiative by Chef Alain Ducasse and the French Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, Good France aimed at celebrating French Cuisine and culture across the globe.
The event that took place on the 19th of March across five continents, involved over 1000 restaurants and over 1000 chefs. Put simply, Goût de France was arguably the worlds largest French dinner. Three Kenyan restaurants were selected to participate in this auspicious occasion. Pango at Fairview Hotel, SOKO at dusitD2 and Ambiance restaurant, played host to Nairobi’s ever adventurous foodies as they wined and dined the French way.
Across 165 French embassies around the world, French ambassadors held a special dinner at their residence for select guests in celebration on the same night. And who was I to miss? Okay, so I wasn’t on the VIP list but I made sure I dressed better than one when I received the invite.
French Ambassador to Kenya, Rémi Maréchaux, has quite a lovely residence. It made me want to try my hand in foreign affairs. The set up was nothing short of classy. I was awed from the minute I arrived to the minute I got home. When I spoke to the ambassador, he was very excited to host his forty guests. He speaks amazingly fluent Kiswahili. Better than mine to be exact. He was also quite eager to try out the seven course meal and have fun in the process.
As the guests arrived, they were welcomed with a glass of Grand Siècle Champagne by Laurent Perrier and chop pastries filled with Comté cheese. We were able to sample these delicious little pastries in the kitchen before the VIP’s courtesy of the chef. EatOut has its perks!
After the champagne glasses had been emptied and tummies began to rumble, the guests were ushered to the dinning area by the ambassador. Head Chef, Gilles Pommier and his sous chef, Timothy Njoroge from NAS Servair, welcomed the guests and explained in detail, both in French and English, what the first course was: caviar from the Sologne region of Central France served on a bed made of Kilifi crab meat and lobster jelly that was to be enjoyed with a mother of pearl spoon.
A few of the guests knew what was going on. You could tell by their faces and how they applauded the chef. The others, nodded the way you do when you’re in a conversation with a foreigner and their accent doesn’t quite resonate with your ears. Either way, you could sense excitement in the air. It’s not every day you eat French!
After the first one, on came the second: Fried duck foie gras escalope with butternut cream and Truffle oil. The butternut cream was prepared using vacuum cooking. Something I found very interesting. Vacuum cooking involves sealing the food item in a special plastic bag and then sucking out the air from it. The bagged food is then submerged in a vacuum cooker. The vacuum cooker uses boiling water to cook the food at a regulated temperature. Voila! No mucking about with pots and pans. The food tastes better too since it doesn’t lose any of it flavour to the water.
Third course, which we were lucky to try, was absolutely out of this world. I had never eaten fish that good before in my life. The wild bass with a sesame seed crust and green curry sauce was nothing short of amazing. The guests loved it too. Especially since they had some white Charmes-Chambertin wine as an accompaniment.
This was followed by some slightly lacquered guinea fowl fillet studded with thin slices of truffle accompanied with honey-glazed turnips and a parsnip dumpling. I didn’t get to taste it, but my eyes ate it up for me.
The guests then got to try three different types of cheese. Goats milk cheese made in the centre region of France, cow’s milk cheese made in the Normandie region of Western France and sheep’s milk blue cheese from the south of France. I’ve never been quite the cheese fan, but I must say, at some point, I considered converting.
Morels and ceps on a Joconde cake, almond flour sponge cake, sweet meringue which is a based confection filled with a green tea ganache followed after. The guests were then treated to some digestifs, which is basically alcohol that helps in the digestion process. Hennessy XO served as the cognac and Dupeyron année 1959 served as the armagnac.
After all that eating and sampling from here to there, I want to go to France. I need to go to France. I’m a sucker for good food and rich culture. Our government should borrow a leaf from this and have Kenyan cuisine served across the world for three days! A great way to introduce the world to our food and also get to know more about the cuisine from the different tribes. Ugali and githeri should be a must!
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