Before I left, a colleague who wouldn’t hesitate to call *her own self* a snob told me that I absolutely had to check out this frozen food place, Picard, across the border from Geneva in France. I was mystified. This person only frequents the best restaurants in town and her weekday packed lunches resemble the results of my most labour-intensive dinner preparations. Yet, here she was telling me to check out the French equivalent of M&M Meat Shops?
I was wrong to doubt.
“This frozen food place” is off-the-chain amazing. Every single meal is delicious, flavourful, inventive (yes, inventive) and about as far from a Lean Cuisine (which I have eaten plenty of in my day, let me tell you…) as you can get.
Some of my favourites are:
The Thai Coconut soup is as good as some stuff you could get in a restaurant in Geneva. The broth strikes the right note between spicy and coconut-ty and the noodles come out perfect every time. I don’t know how they do it.
This vegetable gratin is also remarkable. Tip top. The creaminess factor is just right, not too liquidy, not too chunky and, again, so flavourful. It actually tastes like something, which is not always the case with North American frozen foods. Better option for eating my vegetables than my usual routine of salad, green beans or Brussels sprouts.
This is something new I tried out this week. Again, out of the park. Way better than anything I could prepare. I tried them topped with blueberries and some very good organic maple syrup I received for Christmas. A very pleasing breakfast experience.
I have more provincial tastes for my day-to-day meals, but if you want to buy foie gras, duck confit, venison, tagliatelle with frozen truffles, you name it, it is available and the quality of preparation rivals that of any competent home chef. Rumour has it that the pastry chef at the Ritz in Paris has been known to buy Picard’s frozen pie crust (for personal use, but still…)
Did I mention everything was dirt cheap too? I’ve been preparing a lot of food at home, which is good, of course, but one can (or, at least, I can) get tired of it. Eating out, though, is prohibitively expensive. I can easily spend 12 francs (aka 17 dollars Canadian) on a good but average lunch at one of the UN cafeterias. I paid 38 francs ($53 CAD) for a deeply ordinary brunch buffet on Sunday. A tall Starbucks Latte costs $11 CAD. But your average Picard entrée costs between 2 and 3 Euros ($3 to $4.50 CAD)!! It’s like a cost-of-living loophole. I can indulge in my laziness without blowing through my budget.
If I were going to compare it to anything, it would be with Trader Joe’s in the U.S. which also makes some good frozen foods. I have yet to go wrong with a Picard purchase. They are opening in Switzerland in the next few months and I am over the moon. I suspect the prices will be much higher, but the convenience of getting this stuff close to home will make a difference for me. In any event, if you happen to spot that blue snowflake on your travels, do your taste buds a favour and check it out.