Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chocolate & Zucchini & Clotilde & me

I was utterly delighted when I heard that Clotilde Dusoulier was planning an evening at Book for Cooks in Notting Hill. We’d get to hear her talk and Chocolate & Zucchini, both her blog and the resultant book. And even better than that, Eric Treuille proprietor and chef would whip us for the chosen 12 a meal from the book itself. When I say chosen 12, I really mean the first 12 who booked a table at this hallowed event. I booked my seat the moment I first stumbled across a reference to Clotilde’s intended visit to London on her wonderful blog. And I have really been looking forward to this.

Eric first delivered us a plate of Mushroom and Cantal Cheese Tartine (p.46 in the British copy of Chocolate & Zucchini) as we heard about Clotilde’s early history discovering food in San Francisco when work took her there and the local food markets first really opened her taste buds.

After two years in California when Clotilde and Maxence returned to Paris, Clotilde found with her new found enthusiasm for all that was food she started cooking zealously cooking for family and friends initially recording everything in a notebook and then in 2003 after reading other food blogs started her own. As there were few food blogs not been written by food fanatics in the US, Clotilde’s received extra attention and her fame grew and justifiably so.

Eric then reinterpreted her Celeriac Remoulade with Trout Roe (p.119) by substituting the Trout Roe with Smoked Salmon. I can take or leave celeriac, and I am not a missive fan of yoghurt-y dressings so this wasn’t my favourite course but I have to admit that it was a clean zesty taste with the lemon and actually an unusual combination that I am glad I’ve tried.

Next we were able to ask our own burning questions and I have to admit I was intrigued to hear her answers regarding influences and her food heroes, her obviously being one of mine. She mentioned Trish Deseine and her latest book “Nobody Does it Better”, which is a big favourite of mine also. Intriguingly Trish is an Irish woman writing about cooking France.

She also explains the mechanics of recording the delights she serves up for her guests for her blog and her friends are used to waiting patiently for her to snap away before they can pick up a fork (I have to apologise, I am afraid I am very prone to that – "just one second, let me turn on more lights so I can record this before you commence your scoffing…") but Clotilde admits that she often remakes a dish the next day so she can photograph it beautifully for her blog. But then her photographs are rather stunning so I guessed they couldn’t have been all snatched speedily before a fork is plunged into the middle of it.

We next ate a scoop of delicious Tuna and Green Apple Mousse (p. 98) with some pitta bread.

Clotilde talks about her next book which will feature Parisian foodie hangouts. One of the guests is slightly louder and more aggressive (that’s me being polite!) than the rest and asks lots of questions about getting a book published especially the challenges performing this feat in several countries. Methinks she has ulterior motive, perhaps her own book up her sleeve perchance! Eric furnishes us with a plate of delicious Lamb and Prune Meatballs (p. 134) which are lapped up with gusto. This is such a civilised way to meet a cook/chef and enjoy their cookbook and food, very intimate and enjoyable.

We hear how to Clotilde retains her enviable svelte form (swimming if you’re interested) and how her philosophy of Chocolate & Zucchini started. She wanted to exemplify the two facets of her cooking personality, zucchini for her healthy, wholesome love of vegetables and chocolate for her sweet tooth and a penchant for glorious chocolaty loveliness. We accompanied this by a slice of the eponymous Chocolate & Zucchini Cake, it may sound strange but tastes moist and with a little something that you can’t quite identify but stops the chocolate being too rich. It was very good!

It was a fabulous evening, and it was worth the wait. Eric certainly asked us to leave fairly suddenly, Clotilde was actually in the middle of a sentence but maybe out enthusiasm had made the extended the event loner than usual. Clotilde has kindly offered to sign my copy of her book several times but I hadn’t bought my slightly dog-eared and much loved copy with me. In the end I thought I’d buy another copy and take her up on her proposal and donate my somewhat oeuf cocotte splattered version to D. And if you haven't discovered her blog yet, you really should.

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