Friday, March 9, 2018

March 21: Goût de France (Good France) with Air France Celebrates French Food Worldwide

Ah, France...we have such romantic visions of the country, its people and its feted cuisine. Little wonder it is the world’s most visited country (nearly 89 million visitors in 2017) and a third of these tourists come for the outstanding culinary heritage.

But it's not merely the food itself that the French have elevated.

The French treasure dining so much that the act of enjoying a gourmet meal in good company – the French répas or gastronomic meal – is now protected as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage.

In the spirit of living to eat and drink, the French are celebrating the best of their cuisine globally with Goût de France or @good_france on 21 March, the first day of spring.

The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and chef Alain Ducasse are organising this event involving 3,000 restaurants in over 150 countries all offering French menus on that day. French embassies and chefs will be collaborating for the world's largest dinner reception. Singapore has 10 restaurants participating:
  • Brasserie Gavroche
  • Entre-nous Creperie
  • Ginett Restaurant & Wine Bar
  • Le Bistrot du Sommelier
  • Mad About Sucre
  • Racines
  • Saint Pierre
  • Wine Connection Bistro Capital Square
  • Winestone
  • Xperience Restaurant
They will each offer a menu with an aperitif with finger food, a starter, one or two main course(s), a cheese platter and a dessert, accompanied by French wines and champagnes.

Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore (holding mic 🎤) flanked by Chef Yves Camdeborde, father of “bistronomy” and @airfrance VP Customer Service Carole Peytavin, announcing @good_france or Goût de France - a unique global event on 21
At the French Residence in Singapore, the French ambassador Marc Abensour announced details of the event, along with chef Yves Camdeborde, and Air France, which has been a partner since Good France began four years ago.

I spoke with Carole Peytavin, VP Customer Service for Air France. She says, quite rightly, "Food is important in every country, be it France, Singapore, Malaysia, or Indonesia. It is intimate; it is part of important memories. We mark celebrations with food - births, weddings, anniversaries, reunions and so forth. The art of dining is our joie de vivre."

"Air France wants to make the experience of good food and wine part of the journey and pleasure. A taste of France is like a souvenir," says Carole.

Air France which is committed to providing French haute cuisine in all its cabin classes, will join in by offering French menus on all flights that day. The airline will organise the first ever wine and Champagne tasting in the sky with Paolo Basso, voted the world's best sommelier in 2013. Count yourself lucky if you are on Flight AF072 connecting Paris to Los Angeles, as the expert wine consultant will present the wine and Champagnes he has signed for the company to all the flight's Business customers. Premium Economy and Economy customers will also be able to discover the medium-haul Business class wines.

Starting 12 March 2018, Air France will launch the “Do you speak French food” campaign on its social media. Short, original and quirky video clips representing a mini gastronomic dictionary, will allow customers around the world to grasp a better understanding of some French gourmet culinary terms. #parlezvousfrenchfood

French web users will be invited to add their own culinary terms to this gastronomic dictionary and post a related pic on Instagram. The competition will take place from 16 to 21 March included and the winner of the best combination will win two long-haul tickets to the destination of their choice.

Air France will also be present during tastings on a gastronomic tour:
-       6 March in Pretoria (South Africa) and Mexico City (Mexico);
-       7 March in Singapore in the presence of chef Yves Camdeborde who worked with the company in 2016;
-       13 March in London (UK), in the presence of chef Michel Roth who is signing Air France’s Business class dishes in 2018;
-       15 March in New York (USA).

This year, the Good France spotlight will be on the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, a melting pot of French wines and rich food experiences. The products from this region will be showcased in menus around the world.

​At the embassy, we got to try some exquisitely prepared French dishes that blended tradition with modernity.

Chef Yves Camdeborde (who is also an Air France signature chef) presented divinely Hay-Smoked Oysters with caviar from Aquitaine. What delicate scents and flavours all in one bite. The silkily poached oyster, baby potatoes and caviar set each other off so well in the light smoky dressing and green puree.

Frog Legs with Wood Sorrel on Risotto
Frog Legs with Wood Sorrel 
Juicy frog legs deep-fried for that crispy, salty exterior. These are generously placed on a dollop of creamy herbed risotto.

Piperade basquaise with quail egg (top)
Quail breast glazed with trigona honey, pumpkin tofu (bottom)
The quail egg dish would be a welcome sight at any breakfast table. The peppers, tomatoes and onions in the basquaise sauce complement the boiled eggs perfectly. The grilled quail breast below is tinged with the complex sweetness of honey from the trigona bees.

As for dessert, we know how the French excel at pastries and sweets.

Canelés by the ambassador's personal chef, who is a great pastry chef as well.

We have France to thank for macarons too.

Also intriguing are the calissons, a candy from the South of France and very popular in Provence. It's made with candied fruit with almond paste and topped with royal icing. It's rarely seen here.

Meanwhile, I got to chat with the chef Yves Camdeborde who is considered to be the father of the “bistronomy” (bistro x gastronomy) movement, starting the trend in 1992 when he opened his Paris restaurant La Régalade serving high-end prix-fixe menus at low prices.

He is also one of the signature chefs signing the menus for Air France. Other chefs on rotation include Joël Robuchon, Anne-Sophie Pic, Régis Marcon, Guy Martin, Colin Field (cocktail).

Chef Yves owns a four-star hotel, the Relais Saint-Germain, where his restaurant Comptoir is also located along with three wine bars focusing on products from the earth, sea and market respectively. He has 10 cookbooks to his name, all in French.

​On cooking for an airline vs a restaurant, he says, "In a restaurant, you cook and instantly serve. For an airline, you cook, store and reheat, so the recipes have to be adapted. What really works well is traditional cuisine dishes. You know, those that taste even better the next day. For example, beef cheek slow cooked in sauce, veal blanquette, fish and salmon pot au feu."

At Air France, the menu changes every three months as they rotate not only chefs but also seasonal produce.

Chef Yves believes down-to-earth but high quality dining will continue to be popular. The French are also cooking more at home now with fresher produce. The kitchen is a showcase at home with a social role, not a utility space tucked away.

Ingredients that have become more popular? "What used to be lower class products like sardines and pig's feet can now be refined cuisine. Taste has no relation to original price. Ironically, because noble products turbot and sole are expensive, very little is done to it. We often prefer to serve it as it is. But whether egg with mayo or seabass with caviar, the pleasure is in the cooking."

The future as he sees it is beautiful: Cleaner food that isn't so tainted by chemicals.

In wines, farmers often used chemicals and overproduced, destroying their farms in the process. Now they are focusing on producing smaller but better crops.

"We will eat less but better. Less proteins...meat perhaps twice a week. Maybe I am getting old and cannot digest as well but a dish with only meat in it is hard to eat. I see vegetables differently now; it's the main ingredient. Sustainability is also important; it is our way of paying attention to and respecting animals and the environment," he says.

Many thanks to Air France and the French Embassy for the invitation. This post is made possible with support from Air France.

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