on eating alone…


I have always enjoyed eating alone in restaurants; not because I eschew the company of others but because it means I can selfishly choose foods and wines that might have to be the subject of debate and compromise were I to be with a companion. These events tended to take place when I was working in another city or country for a few days or when I sneaked out of the studio to grab a solitary lunch at Moro, St John or the Eagle when I was working in Clerkenwell. Times have changed, as have my tastes, but the memories ….a glass of cidre de garde and roast bone marrow and parsley salad at St John, a plate of jamon Iberico and a couple of glasses of manzanilla at Moro or grilled sardines and salsa verde with a glass of chilled Fleurie at the Eagle…..remain,  scrawled in white chalk on my cerebral blackboard. Endives rouges were added to the blackboard list but a couple of days ago. Endive, in any of its many guises and nomenclatures, is very often the subject of the debates and compromises that I so enjoy not having but, nevertheless, I intend to argue the case for its inclusion, dear readers, on each of your individual cerebral iboards, blackboards or blackberries. Being a “visual” person I am easily seduced by appearances which is how and why a bundle of cream and crimson tight leafed buds of bitterness found their way into my Lidl’s trolley…..the longer I’m in France, the less I go to markets. Over the years I have photographed endless recipes which included, or had at their heart, endive or radicchio and yet was never drawn to rush home and replicate any single one of them which included a borlotti bean and radicchio purée, by none other than Anna del Conté, of which the head of radicchio was the most beautiful that I have ever seen. The endives rouges that I had bought from Lidl were intended, in truth, to be employed in the same way as their forerunners ……as glamorous models to be shown off in their very best light. The route that they took to the oven and on to my plate was one of chance; the chance being that I noticed a bottle of very good single estate Belazu balsamic vinegar in a cupboard which awoke a memory and whose voice whispered in my ear that charred endive rouge sprinkled with the finest balsamic was a very good thing indeed. The endives were quartered lengthwise and each quarter halved. These were laid on an oven tray, moistened with some olive oil and put into a very hot oven ( 210C ) for about 12 minutes, then taken and given the balsamic treatment….and they were very good with bread and wine.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2018, Anna del Conte, Bistro, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Drinks, Endive Rouge, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Italian food, Memory, Moro Restaurant and Cookbook, Olive oil, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, wine, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to on eating alone…

  1. Conor Bofin says:

    Lovely stuff indeed Roger. I have a memory of endive in France. Some years back, we stopped at a vineyard for lunch, while travelling from Narbonne to Castre to watch a rugby match. I had a smoked loin of rabbit served with an endive and balsamic salad. It was a delight.

  2. How interesting that you should say this, Conor. A friend of mine who has also retired to France was talking to me a couple of days ago about endive and rabbit….I’d never heard of the combination before and it sounds very good indeed. By the way, congratulations to the Irish XV.

  3. Hi Roger, my new book is about a very special Chef… Also in Franch: “A la table du Pape Francois”… With 36 recipes…

  4. Gary says:

    I like dining alone for the exact reasons you mentioned.

  5. I miss the radicchio so much! There is no way to find it her in MidWest! You made my mouth watering!

  6. Simple pleasures…so often the best! And dining alone certainly has its benefits. I always found when I was working in France that as a woman dining alone I was treated so well and not made to feel awkward…unlike many other countries (Spain and Italy at the time were particularly difficult) often putting me on the table near the loos … not much fun.

    • I’ve heard that about Spain and Italy…..I remember, when I was in a very extreme hippy mode back in the 60’s, shooting a job for Nescafe in Athens. We were staying in the Athens Hilton, which in those days was the height of poshness, and each time I went into the restaurant alone I had to wave my room key in the air like a standard declaring my status as worthy enough to be there. Then they sat me behind a pillar near the loo:)

  7. Sue says:

    Scrawled in white chalk on your cerebral blackboard…..sounds like you have the same retentive, almost photographic memory (to say nothing of the olfactory ) as I do for memorable meals!

  8. Eha says:

    Oh what fun! I also absolutely love going to restaurants alone! Tanya ‘got ahead of me’ in a woman oft having to stand firm about not being seated near the toilets . . . could tell a few stories about that, all of which methinks ended well 🙂 ! Roger: you make me smile – not long ago you pronounced yourself to be negative towards so-called ‘fine’ dining – what on earth did your solitary ventures amount to . . . ?

    • Ah, I see your point. The difference in my solitary dining and “fine dining” was in my choice of restaurants. They were not of silent temple of reverence to some celebrity chef or other and they did not sport fawning waiters and sommeliers…..that was the difference. In fact the Eagle in Farringdon Rd entails standing at a crowded pub bar to order your food….but it’s wonderful food and the Eagle has spawned a multitude of talented chefs….http://www.theeaglefarringdon.co.uk/food

      • Eha says:

        *smile* On second thought I do actually understand and agree . . . fun link – no problem ordering at the bar . . .

  9. Dining with myself is my story, since quite a few years , in fact I enjoy it even in foreign countries on my trips. Yet at times I’m treated differently as a single woman, but I have experienced when I’m involving the waiter in a little conversation or even compliment them on something, the entire situation changes to a terrific service. Oh BTW, I have tried to roast endive which didn’t turn out to my satisfaction, thank you for your suggestion of adding good balsamic vinegar, probably I would add a little spoon of brown sugar to it. Thank you for sharing your great post.

  10. Ooh throw in a bit of cheese and I’d be happy with all of this. I’m trying to picture you in an extreme hippie phase and failing miserably.

  11. Mad Dog says:

    I’m in Barcelona now and so far I’ve had good companions for lunch on a daily basis, but I’m very happy to take Keith Waterhouse with me on a quiet day.

  12. Michelle says:

    I love eating in good restaurants alone. One is generally treated like royalty. And the opportunities for listening in to others’ conversations is delicious. But I’d take that endive happily at home!

  13. I agree with your sentiments about eating alone and not worrying about someone else’s preferences, habits, etc. Trying to remember not to order pork or ham when dining with Jews or Muslims is always problematical for me. So if you want to eat endive, then please dine alone. However, for the St John bone marrow salad, the Iberico and the sardines, please invite me to share your table. — James

  14. lulu says:

    Cerebral blackboard…..what a great use of words that perfectly describes memories. Like you, I’ve enjoyed eating alone from time to time, picking what I want and observing all that is going on around me. Sometimes one’s own company is as good as any.

  15. I’m pleased to inform you that Le Nouvel Observateur interviews me about my new book, published also in France by Bayard Editions:
    https://o.nouvelobs.com/food/20180509.OBS6427/pour-le-pape-francois-un-repas-est-reussi-lorsqu-il-est-partage.html#

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