By Sharon Wilson
The coldest place I ever remember being was Paris. Looking over the city from Sacré-Cœur was like being in a snow globe. It was the early noughties, and I had put on every item of clothing in my bag. Mr Bite and I roamed the 9th arrondissement and happened upon the cosiest restaurant 'Le Petit Canard'. It had a menu dedicated to duck; only the French we thought as we ducked in for an enchanting evening.
So when I tuck into duck confit from l'escargot bleu, I appreciate the uncompromising nature of Fred Berkmiller's francophile cuisine. It is not about imported produce. L'escargot does source cheese from Hervé Mons, but Fred also grows his own vegetables at Newton walled garden in Edinburgh and buys from Scottish producers. Linda Dick chickens were on the menu, but 'ma coeur' belongs to confit. It is about fat; Fred makes no concessions to saturation.
You will have heard of the Gascony Paradox. In a 1991 article, The New York Times described how 'Gascons eat a diet higher in saturated fat than any other group of people in the industrialized world'. However, the fat comes from web-footed birds, and people from the South West area of France in a substantive study were shown to have very low rates of heart attacks compared to, for example, the USA. Dr Renaud, who ran the study, concluded: "Goose and duck fat is closer in chemical composition to olive oil than it is to butter or lard."
And olive oil is consistently shown to be good for the heart.
How fortunate as duck is also delicious.
I unpacked two legs thick with a layer of fat and placed them in the oven along with potato dauphinoise. Then gently heated a sticky jus and rapidly steamed vibrant Fred-grown veg. Courgettes are noticeably softer and less fibrous than those from the supermarket.
When I plate the bird, it is pink, salty, rich and crispy. Gamey meat falls from the spindly bone. I realize I will be defeated by this duck and start to think of salad the next day. A hearty portion of duck terrine had already gone to the fridge. One of the great things about Lockdown food has been the portions. There is food enough to last a weekend, and l'escargot bleu is no exception. It is value for money.
Of course, throughout our feast, we had an eye on the piece de resistance - mousse au chocolate. An indulgent portion of velvety, airy milk chocolate, was so seductive it made me blush.
L'escargot bleu takes orders on Tuesdays and Wednesday for a Friday afternoon delivery or collection. I nearly missed the deadline so put a reminder in your diary. I hear there is Tarte Tatin on the menu this week. Now that is whole other story.