Thursday, 9 October 2008


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What I would like to know is how we in Australia, and in Adelaide in particular, came to have what we call a 'flat white' coffee. I have been away now for 3 weeks and a couple of days and despite a concerted effort to track down the perfect flat white coffee in England and France, have discovered that such a thing does not exist. Sure, the coffee in France is good, excellent even, but you can't get a flat white. At breakfast time it was usually cafe au lait being served. After that it was espresso. The list on offer in all the multitude of cafes I tried..... just for research, you understand.... was short: cafe (short black or espresso is what we would call it, in a tiny cup), cappuccino (which I think everyone knows), cafe au lait (short black with lots of hot milk, in a large cup) and noisette (a short black with a little hot milk, in a tiny or medium sized cup). The noisette was a good option, especially if I could get them to understand in my bad French that I wanted the milk in a small jug, so I could add just the right amount! My favourite coffee was actually at Teleri and Richard's in Gabian, where Richard, despite being from the UK (!!), made the perfect espresso and with the exactly right amount of hot milk to make me smile every time! He used Lavazza il supretto.

Our cafes in Adelaide are primarily run by Italian people and I do wonder if the flat white is an Italian  invention ... with just that right amount of agitation of the milk to thicken it, without turning it into cappuccino, but at the same time not leaving it thin.... and making the espresso strong and full-flavoured, with the double-roasted coffee beans that glisten, exuding an unmistakable aroma of richness and creating a feeling of anticipation, knowing that it will all culminate in a perfectly executed flat white.

There are 2 places I frequent in Adelaide that serve great coffee....Zuma's (in the Central Market) and Grimanldi's ( a cafe / restaurant on Greenhill Road opposite Burnside Village).

Of course all is forgiven in France because nothing compares with the French patisserie, where sweet delights are created, not merely cooked, and not only are a pleasure to behold but are so indulgently delicious that, although I have just had breakfast as I write this, I am dizzy with the memories of all the delicacies I have eaten as I researched the patisseries of France in earnest.

Then there is the boulangerie where one buys things made with yeast. This ranges from the quintessential French baguette, through a multitude of breads such as the epi, which are made to be eaten on the day and people are shocked if you suggest finishing off yesterday's bread! It is true what you see on TV.... French people out buying baguettes very early in the morning and riding home on their bikes with them in time for breakfast.

Of course one cannot forget the croissant. It deserves a paragraph of its own. Croissant dough comes in different shapes and sizes and can be rolled up with chocolate or raisins or several other things, and are all consumed for breakfast or later in the morning, on the whole. Since everything closes between about 12 and 2, you have to be quick to get your goodies from the boulangerie or patisserie and any decent shop will not have much left by the time the doors close and the bakers go out or go home for lunch! In the afternoon the range will be limited.

In Adelaide excellent croissants can be bought from Breadz'n'More at the market.... otherwise they are pretty ordinary, I find. In France they are generally excellent although I have had the odd one that is not, usually in touristy places. It is funny also how the restaurants and cafes will not serve you lunch after about 1.30!

So my suggestion to any would-be travellers to France is to get up very early, go out to the local boulangerie and patisserie and get your morning's food fresh, eat it immediately and be ready for lunch by 12.30! Save up for dinner....that requires another post of its own! Food comes first in France. He who hesitates goes hungry!

......I never hesitated....!!!


Kelly said...

Hi Kate. This post had brought me out of lurking world. god i love France. its so civilised. im so jealous.

Eliane said...

Remind me what that fabulous concoction you are eating is called. I'm always too shy to buy those because it takes great care to eat elegantly and I would end up covered.

Re: coffee. I have no idea what a flat white is. An Australian speciality? I do know that while you are finding French coffee disappointing, it's a good thing you didn't go to Germany or Holland. The coffee is all right if a bit weak but they don't give you milk, they give you this weird uht cream stuff in tiny bottles that sort of floats on the top. Yeuch. The cakes almost make up for it but not quite. And as for Britain, we're getting better, but let's face it, we rely on our continental cousins to show us how.

chaiselongue said...

Glad you liked our coffee, Kate. We have spent many years researching and perfecting the perfect - il perfetto - espresso! We hope it made up for the slight lack of patisseries during your stay in Gabian. Sorry - we're keener on savoury goodies...We saw a good patisserie in Clermont l'Hérault today and thought of you!

Enjoy the rest of the trip. Looking forward to reading all about it.

Anonymous said...

Flat-whites are native to Australia. I had never heard of one before I moved here and I can't trace them to any other country. Is that a religieuse you're eating? Gosh, I miss those.

Kate said...

Yes Sally Forth, it is a religieuse! The biggest and most disgustingly delicious one and it took me 2 days to eat it!!