Friday, September 17, 2010

Picard--And I Don't Mean Jean-Luc

Have you ever heard of Iceland? Not the country, the frozen food store. They are all over the UK and Northern Ireland and sell their frozen burgers, chicken goujons (not French by the way, nuggets to we Americans), pizzas and I assume veggies too.
I've never been in one but they are famous for LOW, LOW, LOW prices and their spokeswoman Kerry someone who is famous for being famous in the UK talks about how she's an 'Iceland Mum'. Like it's a good thing.
It seems like the kind of place that keeps Jamie Oliver up nights.

This is what we've been conditioned to think of frozen food, especially entire shops devoted to it.

You can understand then, why it came as such a surprise to find that the French, world-renowned foodie snobs, have their own version of Iceland. The thing is that it's only like Iceland in that everything is frozen.
It's called Picard and I have come to believe it's the dirty little secret of French home cooking.

For one thing, Picard is closed for lunch--for two hours. Very French.
For another, it's very understated, only recognizable by its blue and white snowflake and simple all lowercase 'picard'.
They have lovely little magazines with recettes gourmandes for making fabulously famous French things at home with less of the fabulously famous French fuss.

They have 'aides culinaires' or frozen packets of buerre blanc, sauce bearnaise, sauce au poivre, and veal broth. Chopped garlic, ginger, chives and herbes de poisson for when you need just the right freshly frozen seasoning for fish.

It is a frozen food wonderland and I love it. Their desserts are gorgeous and you can buy whole lobsters and real shells filled with scallops and mussels in a gratin sauce.
I just got back from there today because I like to go going drawn there. The staff are always friendly, there are monthly specials--today I bought these cute little cheese puff pastries for nibbles--and it is all very neat, orderly and cold.

There are always very glamorously put together older ladies buying pretty little glasses filled with appetizers and frozen grilled aubergines to make a fabulous ratatouille for their extended family from Paris who are coming down at the weekend to visit the country chateau.....because that's what I've envisioned them doing with all those frozen eggplants and tiny, shot glasses of avocado puree.

Kerry what's-it can't come close to these scarved fragrant ladies.
And I'm learning. I served Michele cold avocado-cucumber soup from perfectly adorable glasses when she came to lunch this summer.
And when she complimented me on how lovely it was I just smiled and said, 'Merci!'


  1. I've only just heard about Picard recently (shocking, I know) and plan on making a trip there asap!
    And I'm sure they wouldn't even let Kerry Katona in a Picard let alone be their spokesperson (it's about time she bid adieu)

  2. You have got to go to there.....
    and let me know what you think.

  3. the cheese puff pastries were great! thanks for the drinks and appies last night, always a fun time!

  4. I've heard about this store before and I'm avoiding it like the plague. I have an innate tendency to "stock up" for the winter (summer, spring, autumn). Which was all fine and dandy when I was feeding 2 boys, their father and about 15 other stray kids. Now it's just silly. But I still find myself doing it. From what you have said, it's a good thing my freezer is not even remotely the size of my freezer in the U.S.! I'm coming to lunch and I want the avocado mousse in the little shot glasses!

  5. Aidan,
    A cautionary note: note everything at Picard is uniformly great. This from a fan.

    Having said that, you must try the Tarte fine au jambon et tomates cerises (with creme fraiche). Heat the baking sheet while the oven is preheating to guarantee a truly crisp crust. Heaven, and something the kids absolutely adore.

    For guests (or for spoiling yourself), the mini-croissants, which bake in a jiffy and taste out of this world delicious. Also good: cucumber and mint chilled soup...

  6. And the food at Picard is OGM free!!! I asked. I love the Japanese Edame for apero, yummy.


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