Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French

I have to brag on my favorite little place to grab a bite in downtown Charleston, Fast & French. Mon favorit petit café is now 30 years old. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall and yet well-known enough to be packed every time I go. I would eat there every day if I could and with their prices, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if I lived or worked downtown. One of the great things about it is the crowd. College of Charleston students, lawyers, businessmen/women, locals, Europeans, any person imaginable. They can all be found here.

Panoramic

My poor attempt at a panoramic shot.

Don’t go expecting the average American dining experience. This is a quintessential European nook on Broad Street. The seating is communal and servers are not there to be your buddy but are still plenty cordial. Go to enjoy some simple yet delicious café food. The lunch special is always to die for and comes with a glass of house wine (or other beverage). When available, I highly recommend a bowlful of their vichyssoise but all of the soups are delightful. I used to hate mushrooms with a raging passion but this place helped change my mind with their earthy pâté.

While the overwhelming majority of reviews are raving, I’ve read some of people complaining that the food is bland and poorly prepared – I couldn’t disagree more. They use fresh herbs and ingredients and offer flavorful simplicity. Not to mention the outstanding prices. On my most recent visit, my bill was ~$23 for a soup & sandwich, lunch special with wine and a dessert. Pas mal, n’est-ce pas?

Lunch Special

Lunch Special 8-16-14 : Seafood Creole with aioli, melon, cheese, baguette.

Wine

The house white wine – crisp, dry sauvignon blanc.

 

Peach Almond Tart

Dessert. Peach Almond Tart. This was orgasmic and had the best crust I’ve ever had on pie or tart.

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Brie en Croûte with Lavender-Macerated Blueberries

In honor of le quatorze juillet (aka Bastille Day), I decided to make a French-inspired meal.

It began with the weekly trip to the market – the Charleston Spice Company makes a divine lavender flower sugar and a friend of my mother’s was selling blueberries. I immediately knew I had to combine the two items and what would be better than lavender flower sugar macerated blueberries? Brie en croûte seemed like the perfect pairing for my concoction. Brie en croûte is simply a wheel of brie baked inside puff pastry. Nothing is more delectable than gooey cheese and flaky pastry. I chose to use Beaujolais in the macerating process but other wines could work just as well. Beaujolais happens to be one my favorite wines; it’s a very young red wine so it’s light in flavor, making it highly versatile. If you prefer whites, you’ll like a Beaujolais. If you steer away from white wine, choose a Beaujolais when others would choose to pair food with white. 
Brie en Croûte
Brie en Croute IngredientsBrie & Puff Pastry
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1/2 c blueberries
3 T lavender flower sugar
1/2 c Beaujolais
1 t lemon juice
1 egg
1 T water
1 8 oz wheel brieHeat oven to 375 degrees F.

1. While puff pastry thaws, combine blueberries, lavender flower sugar, wine and lemon juice.           Allow to macerate for 40 minutes.
2. Lightly beat egg and stir in 1 T water. Set aside.
3. After pastry has thawed and blueberries have macerated, place puff pastry on greased baking
sheet.
4. Place brie, rind intact, on center of pastry. (The rind helps the final product hold shape and
prevents the cheese from oozing out before the crust is cut.)
5. Top brie with macerated blueberries and a small amount of wine/sugar mixture.
Brie & Macerated Blueberries
6. Bundle the brie with pastry by bringing all corners to top center.
7. Purse the pastry so it is secured and closed completely.
8. Coat exterior with egg wash.
9. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Place on serving dish or cheese
board immediately.
10. Serve while hot with sliced baguette.Brie en Croute - Served

Brie en Croute - Cut Open

Sriracha White Wine Sauce

Like most people cooking on a budget, I often turn to pasta to create a filling meal which can quickly become repetitive. While I prefer to use a carb curfew (refraining from carbs after 6:00 PM), this doesn’t work well when it comes to satisfying a hungry Mr. Wonderful. With that said, I’m continually making new sauces to liven things up. After deciding I needed to use up some shrimp, I whipped up this sauce and served with linguine and wilted spinach on the side. I also chose to poach the shrimp in the sauce. The mint and sriracha make for a bright sauce that is full of flavor yet light enough for our hot and humid Lowcountry evenings. And who doesn’t love sriracha?
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1 c  dry white wine (Francis Coppola Sauvignon Blanc is my preference)
Splash lemon juice
½ c reserved pasta water
Splash cream
1 T sriracha
¼ c finely chopped fresh mint

  1. In a large pan, bring wine to a low boil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in a splash of lemon juice simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add ½ c of pasta water.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add a splash of cream (do not use milk instead – it will not be the same), gently whisk.
  5. Add sriracha and stir until even distributed.
  6. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in mint. Serve.

*Pasta water is great for stretching sauces and doesn’t create a watered-down consistency due to the starch from the pasta. Right before you drain pasta, use a measuring cup to scoop out 1 cup of the water. If your sauce seems too thick, just add pasta water until you reach the desired consistency. It’s also great to keep in the refrigerator for when you have leftovers that need reheating.

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