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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bœuf? The Slow Declining Service During Sale Times

The French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord or just Talleyrand as he is often referred to, was once notorious for ranking his dinner guests from most revered to least important personages around his dinner table. The story, which was told to me by a Sydney lawyer, of which I have never been able to verify the source of it by way of google, roughly goes like this:

The hot and steaming fillet of beef would arrive on a mobile carving board which would be placed next to Talleyrand. He would then begin by making a very theatrical and verbose speech about the quality of the beef, where the animal came from, how it was prepared, the ingredients used to season it, the manner in which it was cooked and the people who cooked it. At the end of this speech he would then begin with the most revered guest who would be offered the first and most choice cut as Talleyrand waxed lyrically on the particular morsel of flesh on which he would strum together endless superlatives before placing the meat on the plate. Onwards he would go, slowly shortening the superlatives and relaxing the prosaic until he finally reached his final, most least important guest, with whom he would simply say "Bœuf?" ?

I don't know if I could ever do this story justice, for starters I imagine it would have sounded so much more enticing in French, then you would have to add Talleyrand's malicious and capricious intent and of course the subtle intricacies in the characters and their respective positions that were seated around Talleyrand's dining table. Needless to say it will most likely make a great film scene one of these days.

I was reminded of Talleyrand this week when I shopped a few sales on the internet after my own sale concluded. The truth is that we retailers value more the clients that pay the recommended retail price regardless of whether we admit it or not. I can recall that when I purchased Mr Porter at full price I remember feeling like a little prince when my delivery arrived whereas during sale time it's never quite as dignified.

Sale times are great times to mop up bargains and squirrel away that which you think is bound to be snapped up if you don't but there is something to be said for the more sober and more dignified experience of shopping retail. It's not for everyone, but it does garner you more attention to detail and often a more personalised experience than that which you get during a sale. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing my sale items arrive in my post box and I look forward to seeing some of you over at for a beautiful, most exquisite, delicate little piece of silk that was woven in Como, Italy before flying into Sydney, Australia on a jumbo jet where it was carefully crafted into a unique papillon which was made in limited numbers for only the most discerning customers and which I offer to you, first and foremost, my most revered and esteemed customer.

Or, "Boeuf?"

I leave you below with a description by which Talleyrand described the dish Turducken:

The following for instance, is Talleyrand's fanciful and somewhat roundabout way of roasting a quail. On a day of "inspiration gourmande" at his hotel in the Rue Saint-Florentin, he composed the following recipe: Take a plump quail, seasoned with truffles, and made tender by having been put into champagne. You put it carefully inside a young Bresse chicken; then sew up the opening, and put dabs of butter all over the chicken. Again, you put the chicken inside a fine Berri turkey, and roast the turkey very carefully before a bright fire. What will be the result? All the juice of the turkey is absorbed by the fowl, and all the juice of the fowl in its turn by the quail. After two hours roasting the fowl, which in reality it composed of three fowls, is ready, and you place the steaming trinity upon a dish of fine porcelain or chiseled silver. Then you pull the chicken out of the turkey, and the quail out of the chicken. The quail? Is it correct to talk of the quail, when this delicious, perfumed dish is indeed too good for any name? You take the quail as you would some sacred relic, and serve it hot, steaming, with its aroma of truffles, after having roasted it to a golden yellow by basting it diligently with the best Gournay butter.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

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