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Frozen gourmet products in France offer soft comfort during hard times: upscale, fancy food items are found in abundance wherever frozen products are sold from supermarket and hypermarket outlets to neighborhood stores and specialty shops.

Paradoxically, during this time of economic recession and ongoing financial crisis sales of frozen gourmet items continue to flourish in France. Consumers seem to feel the need to indulge themselves occasionally to make up for increasing uncertainties in their everyday lives.

Gourmet frozens appear both as national brand products and as private labels. Gourmet appetizers, entrees and prepared dishes are available, although the most prolific gourmet items are desserts. Ready meals that may be classified as gourmet appear, but infrequently.

Picard is offering series of "les bons petits plats picard," which are of particularly high quality and relatively expensive. They include Agneau confit et compotee de legumes du soleil (candied lamb and stewed southern vegetables).

The candied lamb hock, which makes up 60% of the dish, has been prepared with crushed tomatoes, onions, white wine, salt, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and pepper.

The accompanying vegetable stew is made of crushed tomatoes, onions, grilled eggplant (16.6%), zucchini (13.2%), fennel (13.2%), red pepper (8.7%) and extra virgin olive oil.

The product is provided in two bags. They need to be heated in a microwave oven for five and a half minutes or in hot water (the meat for 22 minutes and the vegetables for 10 minutes). Packaging for the line stands out in Picard's catalog and store by virtue of its dark brown background with orange and white lettering.

Auchan's Mmm! line includes Filets de Merlu blanc du Cap (hake from the Cape of Good Hope) facon meuniere. The 450-gram package contains four to six filets and is composed of 80% fish. The balance of the ingredients are in the coating.

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Tasty appetizers are found aplenty in retail freezer cabinets throughout France. They allow a host or hostess to provide a touch of elegance on any occasion, with next to no work required.

Picard, for example, sells boxes of clear plastic spoons with elegant curved handles and bowls filled with delicacies bringing together colors, textures, and surprising flavors. An 80-gram box contains eight spoonsful ofmfour flavorful recipes: chutney with mango, melon and a chunk of duck foie gras; swordfish-coconut milk; avocado-prawn; tomato tartar sauce-sheep cheese.

Picard also offers Grains de Folie (Grains of madness or eccentricity), which are trout eggs harvested from fish raised in France. A box of two pots filled with the eggs weighs 80 grams. The freezer center chain describes the eggs in terms of a "fresh and mild flavor, pretty grains, which crunch when bitten, a great richness in proteins, an innate elegance ..." The only preparation required is thawing in the refrigerator.

Picard's catalogs display the Grains de Folie as appetizers, served in small glasses from which they are eaten with long-handled spoons. They may, however, be served in other ways such as with marinated fish.

Casino's Casino De1ices line includes three types of frozen appetizers/hors d'oeuvres.

One is a Farandole d'aperitifs, distributed in 210-gram boxes. "Farandole" is the name of a lively Provencal dance involving a chain of participants. The farandole in Casino's box is an assortment of three preparations on which to put a spread. The recipes are based on scallops, potatoes and cider vinegar; prawns and sesame; or American lobster and saffron.

The second is glasses with either salmon, mascarpone (soft Italian cheese) and mint; or peas and mascarpone. In each case a box contains four 45-gram glasses.

The third is 2 tartares de saumon rum& Based on raw salmon, they are flavored either with herbs or with lemon and anise. Farm-raised in Norway, the salmon is smoked. A box of either flavor of tartare weighs 160 grams.

As is illustrated by Casino's Farandole, vegetables occasionally appear in appetizers. Greens are also found in or as gourmet items designed to be served as entrees, accompaniments to the main course, or both.

The Monoprix Gourmet line has several vegetable items, including mini gratins of potato (four gratins per pack, each weighing 160 grams) and les roules de courgette aux legumes croquants etpiment d'Espelette, which are to be enjoyed as entrees or accompaniments. The rolls are composed of zucchini slices (54% of the whole), rolled around peeled and crushed tomatoes (23.8%), carrots (9.6%), onion (7.1%), and seasoning, including powdered peppers from Espelette.

Monoprix sells the rolls in a 240-gram box for 4.70 euros. They are to be removed from their molds, placed on a plate, covered hermetically with film or with aluminum foil, and heated in a microwave oven (for about four minutes) or in a conventional oven (for approximately 30 minutes) and then may be served as an entr4e course or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.

The retail chain also sells two gourmet poelees with mushrooms: poelee cuisinee a notre facon champignons et legumes vert (dish for a frying pan, mushrooms cooked in house style with green vegetables) and poelee de champignons cuisinee la forestiere ("poelee of cooked forest mushrooms).

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On the top, front and back edges of the box are pictures of five types of mushrooms, with the names appearing as though written by hand. Alongside the mushrooms is a small sprig of parsley, a curlicue of oil, and the words: "sauce with olive oil and parsley."

The ingredients should be heated in a frying pan for 12 to 15 minutes while they are stirred, with the amount of stirring dependent on just how toasted the consumer wants the end product to be.

Mmm! Mmm Good!

Auchan in its Mmm! gourmet line offers an item similar to Monoprix's 8 roul4s de courgette: 8 roules d'aubergines with crushed tomatoes, peppers and caraway seeds. Butter and cream account for most of the balance.

Another gourmet item from Auchan is Mmm!'s 4 ecrases de pommes de terre crumble aux noix. These tasty items are tapered cylinders of mashed potatoes (74%), cooked in oil from nuts (4.5%) and topped with chopped nuts (7.2%). The ecrases must be cooked in an oven for 20 to 25 minutes, after having been unmolded, placed on a plate and, preferably, covered. Auchan suggests that they be served as an accompaniment to the main dish, along with a vegetable to provide balance.

Seafood rather than vegetables is the dominant ingredient in little gourmet casseroles from Casino and Auchan.

Casino, in its Casino Delices line, offers Cassolettes de Noix de Saint Jacques au Foie Gras (scallops with foie gras) and Cassolettes ecrevisses et epinards (prawns and spinach). The cassolettes are sold, two to a box, in square white ceramic bowls, and are intended to be used as entrees.

Auchan in its Mmm! line sells Cassolettes St-Jacques et Crevettes Aux saveurs de l'ocean. They weigh the same in total as the cassolettes of Casino, but the dishes in which they are sold are oval rather than square. The scallops and prawns are cooked with Riesling wine and accompanied by carrots and zucchini.

Philippe Faur's Sorbet Caviar

The most innovative of accompaniments may be various ice creams and sherbets. Arguably the gourmet item of all gourmet items is a Sorbet Caviar produced by Philippe Faur at Ariege in the Pyrenees region of Prance.

The dessert, a cooperative project between the master ice cream maker Philippe Faur and a great name in caviar, Armen Petrossian, is composed of 60% alverta royal caviar and 40% unsweetened syrup, with a little cream. The caviar is based on eggs of the white sturgeon (Transmontanus) and is produced at an aquaculture site in California. Faur launched the sorbet in 2008. It is sold in a 100-ml tub inside a cube-shaped box.

Also in the category of accompaniments from Philippe Faur is a Specialite Glacee au Foie de Canard, which Faur created with the help of the maison Rougie. Fifty percent of the product consists of foie gras of duck from that company. It's packaged in a 333-ml tub within a cube box.

Ice cream with black truffles is a third Faur flavor. Among the serving suggestions for all three of these products is as an accompaniment of meat or poultry.

The dessert category is where gourmet items proliferate, as consumers typically treat themselves with sweets to celebrate or, just as likely nowadays, to lift their spirits. Ice creams and sherbets may be gourmet items.

Philippe Faur offers a wide range of products that are generally served as desserts. One example is a sherbet Eau de vie de prune (plum), in which the alcohol comes from the Maison Benoit Serres. Faur likes to collaborate with established producers of specialized products.

Another dessert flavor is Chocolat Orange, which sells for approximately seven euros.

"A l'origine de nos glaces, il y a la nature" is the slogan of Phillippe Faur, and many of his flavors contain fruit. While the Eau de vie de prune sherbet and the caviar specialty are available at Intermarche retail outlets, Faur's delicacies are generally sold in small specialty stores and on the Internet.

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An Intermarche in the twelfth arrondissement of Paris also featured a line of unusual sherbets and ice creams from L. Angelys, maitre artisan et glacier (master artisan and ice cream maker). Flavors included a glace a la Chartreuse (with Chartreuse wine) and glace la Violette with natural violet flavoring (0.36%). The ice cream, which is Violet in color, has a flavor that one could believe came from violets. No artificial coloring or flavoring is used. It comes in two 375-ml tubs packed in an attractive cardboard sleeve and in single 250-ml tubs, also in a sleeve.

Exquisite desserts in clear, flared cups are much in evidence these days. Plouedern-based Rolland SAS, which has been in business since 1898 and became a unit of R&R Ice Cream in June of 2010, sells under the name "Glace Sensation" a cup with multiple layers of delight from the bottom up: strawberry sherbet, strawberry sauce, ice cream and patisserie cream, topped with a strawberry glaze and tiny shortbread cookies made with pure butter.

Picard sells six nuni-coupes patissieres, weighing a total of only 190 grams. There are three flavors: rasp berry-litchi, chocolate-meringue, and lemon in cheesecake style. Each is composed of layers, which show to advantage through the sides of the cups.

Another gourmet dessert from Picard is Opera, a traditional layered patisserie. The freezer center chain has its dessert special made with high-quality ingredients and understated packaging. The pastry--featuring layers made of biscuits soaked in coffee, chocolate ganache, and cream with coffee butter--weighs 220 grams and is intended to be shared by three people. It bears the Petit Trianon brand rather than the Picard label that is standard for Picard products. The retail chain's name appears only in small print on the back in connection with consumer information.

At a Leclere outlet near a metro station not far from Paris, Quick Frozen floods International found a Sorbet facon Trou Normand, Marc de Champagne, Jus de Raisin (grape juice). It was packaged in an oval tub, the lid of which had a gold rim. A photograph of a glass of golden wine occupied the right hand third of the lid, and the gold color was picked up in accents and a small picture of grapes elsewhere on the lid. A round black label with the name Erhard in white, along with a design in gold was in the top-center of the lid. Clearly Erhard wanted the product to appear special.

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The ice cream consisted of five percent Marc de Champagne and 1.55% grape juice, and had a pronounced champagne flavor. The main ingredients, however, were water and syrup of inverted sugar.

Leclerc also offers Marc de Calvados and Marc de Gewurztraminer from Erhard.
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Title Annotation:TRES BON NURUTEUR
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 1, 2012
Words:1943
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