Friday, 3 February 2012

An inordinate fondness for bathmats

I have been away for the night, reviewing a hotel (bloggist's note: I know this sounds incredibly fortunate, and it is, but let me just say that I have been doing this particular job for four months and this is the first time I have actually managed to persuade a hotel to let me stay there in order to review them. Allow "asking for things" to be added to the list of things I am bad at. Admittedly I also got free some beef cheeks last week but I neither wanted, nor asked for them).

It was wonderful, but of course now I am staring angrily around me and wondering where my aperitif and fluffy bathrobe are, whereas in fact I am surrounded with the following: 8 assorted novelty slippers, an empty Actimel carton, a mysterious wizened half lemon on the coffee table, 4 glasses, several miles of cabling and a copy of 'Le Big Livre de l'Incroyable' (which I despise and the children love, as it is basically a 21st century freakshow: spider babies, 5 legged calves, and pictures of people lifting aeroplanes with their earlobes). Hidden just out of view, I feel confident in predicting, are at least 7 socks of assorted vintage.

It was ridiculously beautiful. A baby chateau in the middle of nowhere in the Ardennes, an aesthetically pleasing dusting of sparkly snow, huge fires, and a deserted, elegant spa where I splashed like a toddler, and floated, silently on my back, watching the snow gather and drift on the glass roof. Ridiculous. So much so that I took 41 fuzzy iphone photographs of the bath and another 23 of the view (endless miles of Ardenne forest, frosty pale red sun), then four of the floor and one of large onion in my excitement. Shortly after that, I got accidentally drunk on two glasses of wine and the strangeness of eating alone in an entirely deserted restaurant and spent the remainder of the evening nearly blinding myself on the artful arrangements of twigs when I tried to look out of the window (I NEED TO LOOK AT THE BEEYOOTIFUL VIEW! Oh! It's dark! Ouch, twig! Rinse and repeat).

(My actual view from my actual bedroom. Twigs not included)

Also, compulsively moving the bathmats here and there. I only know I did this because I kept finding them this morning. Bathmat on the windowsill. Bathmat under my pillow. Bathmat on the desk. So many bathmats. I didn't know I felt so strongly about bathmats.


Mmmm, I miss the bathmats now I am home, where no one has offered me pink prosecco, or lovingly placed a small card with weather forecast on my bedside table, and where there is unaccountably no roll top bath with a view of snow dusted pines.

All is not lost, however: I do have a view of snow. Depending on the window, I can choose from: snow dusted Ikea bargain corner garden chair with a bin bag as a makeshift rabbit feeding shelter and a kilner jar of abandoned worms courtesy of eldest child, or snow dusted old kitchen sink, with three pots of dead hyacinths. Both of these views are intermittently accessorised with snow dusted furious gigantic rabbit. Snow makes everything pretty, even Satan. I also have a reserve of Peanut Butter Chunky Kit Kats that I suppose I could slice and place on my own pillow. I am only limited by my own imagination, really, and by not possessing an exquisite château in the Ardennes and a private income.

Also, I have the most barbaric hangover for a person who drank two glasses of wine. Two! It's like a medieval punishment for having a nice time. This hangover was calibrated by John Knox and refined on a lengthy journey on a rail replacement bus with several of the smelliest men in the Ardennes and a furious two year old. It peaked after my return home during a dual bill of Inazuma Eleven, topped off with "New Zealand World Records" featuring some Kiwis trying to shove 16 people into a Smart car, accessorised with some light DS related thumping from my beloved offspring. It is now gently declining, since I have sent everyone to bed in disgrace, including myself.

As a result of the foregoing, I have nothing else to offer tonight. However! This weekend I want, and intend, to challenge Pierre Marcolini's assertion that "the best patisserie is the patisserie you make at home" by attempting to make something out of his new book. I think we will all enjoy that, except, possibly, Pierre Marcolini, but we can just agree not to tell him, right?

Should I make:

A soufflé ("you will succeed every time with this soufflé" says Marcolini, a shade over-optimistically, I fear);

A flan ("revisited for the greater happiness of flan lovers"); or

A religieuse (this recipe includes the casual instruction: "réaliser une crème anglaise" as if this were a thing I did daily. I have a carton of crème anglaise. Will this do?)

Answers on a postcard.

(Belgians, rich ones with Commission salaries and an advantageous tax status, the hotel was this one. I would weep with joy if someone took me there, really.)


Laura said...

I fear the outsize-hangover phenomenon is an artifact of aging. Last night I had 2 beers and went to sleep before 11 p.m. Nevertheless, my head was splitting before I even went to bed. I've always been a bit of a lightweight but this is ridiculous!

As for the patisserie question, I don't think of flan as patisserie. Maybe I am overly literal (or overly anglophone?) but it does not actually contain pastry! Despite the challenge of realizing a crème anglaise, my vote is for the réligieuse.

Anonymous said...

I am having trouble getting past the idea of a pretty, snow dusted Satan (I am visualising a giant Lindt bunny with icing sugar) but I too vote for the religieuse.

Fat Pony said...

Religieuse, obvs.

Margaret said...

I vote for the souffle in the belief that it's inevitable catastrophic structural failure will be the most entertaining to read about. Plus I don't like flan and I don't know what the other one is. Is it like a sfinge?

That mini chateau is a dream. How did they finally get you to leave? I would've been holding onto that bathtub like grim death.

jonathan said...

Ha! Now that casually intimidating instruction re the 'religieuse' is exactly what i was talking about in my first point on the 'good' list in my 'good and bad' post that I was just commenting on your previous post about (sorry just go to my blog you will see what I am on about)

Great to have you back by the way..

Persephone said...

Another vote for la religieuse. With all that réalisation about la crème anglaise, it could be a spiritual experience. Throw in some candles, for Candlemas. (WV = "fratize". Something you could do to the pastry with the candles?

beagle, true-bred said...

Yet another vote for the religieuse. Btw, according to Google maps, I'm 1 hour 46 min away from this lovely baby chateau. Hmmm... And re hangover: last May, I actually passed out in the living room of some very nice people, after two (three at the most) glasses of Champagne. Riddikulus!

Betty M said...

A religieuse I think unless you mean flan as in for eg bakewell tart which technically counts as a flan unless you mean creme caramel kind of flan . Although I expect it isn't that kind of flan. Actually scratch that any kind of patisserie would do me. Or indeed a solo night in luxury hotel.

New New Yorker said...

I'm also going to stick in a vote for the religieuse - I don't know what it is, but it sounds intriguing and makes me thing of nuns.

On another note, I work in travel part time, and am always being invited to PR parties at fancy hotels, which I then write about on my blog . The problem is that you're supposed to be all cool and unimpressed & taking photos is a huge nono, so I have to take hurried, hidden iphone snaps behind the backs of the sales reps, whilst necking free champagne and complicated canapes and trying not to fall off my skyscraper heels...

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes said...

Religieuse, obviously.

Fat Controller said...

La religieuse, if only because I have no idea what crème anglaise is and am intrigued.

We too spent a weekend in a rather fine château-style hotel at some other mug's expense and have described it elsewhwere, but as you correctly sum up my blog as PURE FILTH I can hardly recommend your genteel readership go and visit it.

WV is 'Snerme'. If that isn't the name of a Belgian river then it ought to be.

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