With The Romance Of Wine

Updated: Nov 9 2003, 05:30am hrs
French cuisine, like everything else French, is about the romantic, passionate and elaborate nature of the people of the nation. A French meal has to have the basics without which a meal is incomplete, which happen to be bread, cheese and wine. The bread is normally French Baguette, different types of long breads which have a hard crunchy crust and is soft core inside. The French have a mindboggling array of cheesealmost 2,000 types! The French enjoy eating like the Italians. It was probably the wedding of Louis XVI with an Austrian princess that brought about an Austrian and Italian-Spanish connection to the French cuisine.

If one were to partake of a typical four-course meal, one would find that the meal is interspersed with and finished with wine. Some even begin their day with a glass of wine!

Certain wines are cheaper in France than water, this has become so especially after the French adopted Euro as their currency. Contrary to popular belief, a majority of the French love beer, too. Meatbeef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry and venisonor fish/seafood are the preferences of the French.

A four-course meal usually begins with a glass of champagne or a white wine. The starters could be canapes or a portion of a salad or even a soup. The soup is usually beef soup. The variations to this soup would be fish or vegetables. The main course could comprise of a roulade de boeuf, thinly sliced beef filled with ham, cheese and served with gruyere, a cheese sauce. One always gets sauteed vegetables as an accompaniment to the main course or entree.

The French lay a lot of emphasis on the presentation of the food. The main course is to be taken with the accompaniment of light red or robust red wine which is high in alcohol and is an aged red wine. If the food is very spicy, which is a rare phenomenon, then a sweet red wine is served. If its a fish, then a mellow white wine would be served. If the entree is a vegetable with a tomato base, then red wine would be ideal. If it just vegetables with a white sauce, then white wine is served. The French eat a lot of cheese due to the cold climate because cheese is hot. The most preferred are the brie, camembert and mozzarella (an Italian cheese, which is also used for cooking). With cheese, the wines preferred are normally red.

The finale to the meal comes with desserts. But there is a variation. The wine will be sipped again. The desserts include mousse, crepes with thick hazelnut sauce. The desserts are served with champagne or a naturally sweet wine. The French usually have their dinner early evening and are in bed by 11 pm. With all that wine they consume, they had better be.

(As told to Sulekha Nair by chef Frank Muller, who is with Hotel Leela.)