Gourmet All the Way
By David Nelson
(page 1 of 3)The French greet Christmas and New Year’s with Le Réveillon, midnight feasts of foie gras, oysters, truffled sausages, wild game, a vast cheese platter and, to accompany another glass of Champagne, a cylindrical bûche de Noël cake. For San Diegans with a French flair, this shopping list no longer requires a round-trip flight to Paris for the ingredients that make such meals unforgettable: silky goose livers, boudin blanc sausages and artisanal cheeses from remote French hamlets.
San Diego has matured gastronomically. A drive to one or two specialty shops suffices to pack a market basket with the fixings for a French holiday supper, a traditionally American, roast-oriented Christmas dinner or an elegant champagne-and-dessert reception. Other fine purveyors sell the requisites for an Italian-style Christmas Eve, an hors d’oeuvres–fueled cocktail party or, for New Year’s Day, a lavish cheese-and-port party. For Hanukkah, which arrives early this year, the ever-bustling D.Z. Akin’s near SDSU displays shelves piled high with traditional holiday foods.
If San Diego lacks gourmet resources like the famed food halls at Harrods in London or the astounding culinary heaven at Berlin’s KaDeWe department store, so do most cities. But several local suppliers offer only the best of the best, and those willing to open their wallets wide can plan to both observe the holidays in style and gain some weight between now and January 2, 2003. Larger stores like Neiman-Marcus and Williams-Sonoma yield such “culinary accessories” as the Fauchon teas, candies and fruit bonbons sold in Neiman’s Epicure department (order caviar and other luxuries from the catalogue) and the peeled, bottled chestnuts Williams-Sonoma sells to those who can’t stuff a turkey without them.
The prime source for calories à la française is French Accent, an attractive shop in the Golden Triangle’s Renaissance Town Centre (8935 Town Centre Drive, Suite 105, San Diego; 858-320-0050; www.Frenchaccentsd.com). As chic as an haute couture showroom, French Accent is irresistible to those with truffle tastes and Champagne dreams—and has plenty of both on hand, including jars of black truffles priced at $25.99 for 12.5 grams (28.375 grams equal 1 ounce). These are packed by Truffieres de Rabasse, a Provençale specialist that ships a variety of tantalizing products, such as jars of truffled mayonnaise retailing for a more digestible $9.99 each.
Proprietor Marc Lallouette, who opened the shop in March 2001, advises creating memorable holiday canapés by dabbing small toasts with a few drops of this mayonnaise and garnishing each with a halved quail egg or tender-crisp asparagus point. Mais oui!
A traditional Réveillon supper commences with oysters, which French Accent does not sell (no problem, since Point Loma Seafoods near Shelter Island carries superb oysters). But it does retail the dense, very flavorful Poilane bread that accompanies raw shellfish at stylish Paris brasseries. Baked at 8 rue du Cherche Midi on that city’s Left Bank, these hefty loaves jet to San Diego twice a week and cost $19.99 (half- and quarter-loaves also are sold).
Lallouette suggests toasting thin slices as bases for the large variety of Rougie brand duck and goose foie gras displayed in his refrigerated case. This brand is good, if not the equal of others found in France, but faut de mieux (for lack of better), invest $39 in a 7-ounce “bloc” of duck foie gras or, for something much more choice, $69.99 for an entire goose liver packed in port jelly.
For the holidays, French Accent also carries truffled boudin blanc sausages, as well as more-strongly flavored boudin noir blood sausages. And to continue the meal in style, select from the stock of rare cheeses, such as Brin d’Amour, a lovely raw sheep’s-milk cheese handmade in tiny quantities on the island of Corsica. The richly laden shelves also display chocolates and cookies from Maxim’s de Paris, fine mustards, olive oils and Breton caramels and luxuries like the bottled Clement Faugier glazed chestnuts in Cognac, which cost a staggering $87.99 for 22 ounces.