I paid a visit to a ‘French’ market hosted by cafe/deli ‘Cigale’ in central Auckland. It was French themed because the cafe itself is French, started and run by a French family, but the market was broad in its cultures and tastes. If I’m not in the kitchen or writing and reading about food I love to go out and find new cafes, restaurants and food experiences. Markets must be my favourite of all food related fun, they are an absolute feast for the eyes and I have a hard time staying calm in the presence of so much wonderful produce. It is an effort for me to peruse the stalls in a leisurely way when my instinct is to dart about, tasting, buying, frantically consuming. If I go with a friend I find it hard to concentrate on what they might be saying, unless it is directly related to the food in front of me.
The market itself was a buzzing, sun-dappled chaos of breads, oils, chocolates, fresh vegetables, pastries, cheeses and honey. It was busy with footfall but I didn’t have to fight for my place. The benefit of going with a friend (who also enjoys food) is that I can eat twice the variety because everything was cut in half and shared; half a ham and cheese croissant, half a frangipane tart, half a Cannelle, half a Croque Monsieur. The frangipane tart is worth mentioning, it came from a stall lined with beautiful pastries and manned by a line of grumpy French faces (usually a very good sign). It was flavoured with Fennel and Rhubarb and was jewel-like in its colours and textures. On first bite it was overwhelming and I was unsure, much like a complicated song that, upon first listen, is difficult to access without persistence. The fennel fronds bothered me but three bites in and I had decided it was fantastic, it was such a change from ‘first bite love’ in which the food becomes less and less interesting, and mildly sickening, the more one consumes. Fennel and rhubarb are partners when the mood is right, the aniseed and the sourness are supported by the sweet almond paste and bonded with a milky dollop of Crème Fraiche. It was complex and excellent. I like a challenge.
The other tasting item to note is a bread and butter pudding cake, such a contrast; the antithesis of the fiddly fennel tart. This cake was sold on the same stall that was pushing pulled pork rolls. I wriggled in delight when I saw it and even more so when my market partner bought a slice. It was dense and fudgy, heavy and treacly, absolutely too much. Bread and butter pudding is a dish from my childhood, mild and milky with and eggy cinnamon crust, nothing can beat it for comfort in either flavour, mouth feel or ‘spoon-ability.’ In cake form it could not have been anything other than a thick slab. This ticked boxes in a different way, this recalled tastes from memories and wrapped me in its velvety familiarity. This was no challenge; it was a hug from an old friend. I left the market with a full stomach, butter on my lips, a large brown paper wrapped sourdough loaf and a deep sense of contentment