What a challenge – how to experience all this that is on display at one’s fingertips or should we say “at the tip of my tongue”. If you are a “foodie” – you are going to die and go to heaven.
There are myriads of exhibition stands – if you do a tasting at each stand, one is in danger of having to loosen one’s clothes at the end of the day.
Savoury or sweet? Which foods to sample first. Let’s not say “choose your poison” just in case people take us literally!
This is too good a feast for the eyes – check the Friday program. First we went to the cooking demonstrations and then in between to the exhibition stands.
Three fantastic cooking demos this afternoon to see:
Perles Au Dolce Di Latte Elite Et Tiramisu Light.
From Delixia who make gourmet ingredients to garnish cakes, ice creams and fruit.
Eclairs Et Choux Salés À Base De Citron, Crème Et Saumon. Choux Et Caroline De Légumes, Citron Et Saumon Mariné.
Demonstration by Benoit Witz, chef de cuisine of Vistamar, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo.
Ravioli «Rayé» Aux Gamberoni De Sicile, Citrons De Pays, Réduction De Jus De Carapace.
Demonstration by Jean-Laurent Basile, sous chef de cuisine l’Hirondelle, Thermes Marins, Monte-Carlo.
There’s nothing like menu items in French to create a sense of fantasy and mystery. And a little fantasy pops into your head – L’Hirondelle Restaurant at Thermes Marin Monte-Carlo has just invited us to come and taste their latest culinary creation for their menu.
“And please join us for a special live demonstration of our chef making this dish” their VIP invitation says.
How wonderful as we rush a reply to their invitation and then wake-up from momentary day-dream to find ourselves sitting right in front of Jean-Laurent Basile as he is preparing the smoked langoustine sauce to accompany the shrimps and the ravioli. This is better than fantasy. They do say reality is better than fiction.
Take a front row seat which is as good as standing next to the chef as he cooks. The entertainment value alone gives enormous pleasure. There is an explosion of “parfumes”, a kaleidoscope of colours including the richness of the smoky reds as he stirs the sauce. Now we are watching the master make the raviolis – it seems you can actually do this, he makes it seem so simple. You just need that little rolling machine to roll the pasta thinner and these little cut-out tools to create the ravioli shapes. And finally to taste the dish which is of course divine.
Now where can one get entertainment like this – spending 45 minutes personally interacting with a master chef, with him dropping pearls of wisdom as he cooks and then inviting you to taste as if you are royalty. And one can do this at least three times in a day. Therefore, twice is our quota for watching geniuses cook today. So we finish the main part of Friday visit to Monte Carlo Gastronomie on a high note visiting the second cooking demonstration this time by Benoit Witz, chef de cuisine of Vistamar, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. Delicious but with contrasting tastes, savoury on slightly-sweet pastry. Putting scallops or salmon on choux-choux confuses your senses which expect savoury and then discover a touch of sweetness added by the choux-choux. How dare one argue with these culinary geniuses!
And just before leaving Jean-Laurent, temptation pulls us toward the magnificent hams and cheeses on display, the best Bayonne cured hams from France; similarly the superb Parma hams from Italy. Let’s live a little dangerously in this unique corner of the world where France and Italy meet and sample the cured hams from Spain. The best are called Pata Negra and it is difficult to find superlatives to describe the taste it is so good.
One final stand on the way out. Cheeses are calling. Basque cheeses from that region near Biarritz and on the border of France and Spain; some of them though with prices that give one pause, though the quality is obvious. Try one called Ossau Oraty with black cherry jam – an unusual combination that works. And another discovery, a special top of the line matured Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Italy exclusively sourced from a small herd of cows called Vacche Rossa (Red Cow). It melts in the mouth and has its own premium “mark” within the Parmigiano Reggiano range.
But there was a little treat in store; and this is exactly what happens at Monte Carlo Gastronomie where you make fantastic new discoveries. Passing this little display one’s curiosity is piqued by the sign “Sannai”. It was an artisanal producer from Sardinia who makes a liqueur from blueberries which on savouring one’s nose picks up the scent of blueberry leaves – it was not too sweet either; a real find if you are a lover of digestifs.
The next priority is to plan another day’s visit on Saturday. It is impossible to do justice to all that is on display in one day.
You need one more strong theme to stop you getting distracted by the hive of activity around dozens of exhibits in every direction. Choose a country – there’s an idea. France, Italy or Spain are too, let’s say, mainstream. Portugal – that might be interesting. It turns out to be more than interesting. We hit the jackpot: Claudia Quevedo is the fifth generation of her family making port. Port with cheese (try a vintage port with Stilton) is one of the joys of life. But Claudia has a 30 year old white port that is served chilled and paired with Foie Gras. All we can say is it is heavenly; Quevedo vintage white port – try it. This is a magic moment from Monte Carlo Gastronomie 2017. And the other is Portugal’s answer to the best cured hams in the world, Bisaro hams. Cured ham from pigs whose diet consists of chestnuts rather than acorns. It deservedly won a Monte Carlo Gastronomie prize.
Oh yes, as always, just one more stand and this one displaying a product from Monaco itself – a liqueur from Monaco’s orange trees. Did you know that Monaco historically grew oranges and still does? Those trees that look so colourful – nowadays surely just decoration offering welcome shade on the many sunny days. Yes indeed, but L’Orangerie had the brilliant idea to make a liqueur from the oranges. It has a delightful taste. Look for it.