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National Escargot Day – Snails Invade London!

BY Boon Koh
Published 19 May 2010

You read the title correctly, there is a National Escargot Day! And no, you have not come to The Paris Insider website; National Escargot Day is being celebrated in London on the 24th May 2010, in order to promote this delicate land snail that is a staple appetizer in French cuisine.

Escargot, the French word for snail, is a delicacy that is quite foreign to British shores, even though our neighbours just across the Channel are quite enthusiastic eaters of it. However, not all snail species are edible, and the ones that are most commonly eaten are the Helix pomatia, the Helix aspersa, and the Helix lucorum.

While the thought of eating something slimy that crawls through dirt in the field might not be a pretty thought, snails are actually very nutritional and there is no reason why it should not be eaten more often. Snails are high in protein and low in fat content, and is just as or more nutritional than shellfish such as mussels or clams, and is rather similar in texture.

Two traditional French-style recipes to cook the humble escargot are Escargot Provencal and Escargot with Garlic Butter. In the Escargot Provencal-style recipe, a tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic, and hints of chilli is prepared, scooped over the snail meat in shells, and baked in the oven. With the Escargot in Garlic Butter recipe, a garlic butter sauce is made by melting butter in a sauce pan, adding minced garlic, chopped parsley, and lemon juice, and then spreading the garlic butter sauce over the snails before finishing them in the oven. I tried my hand at cooking snails with the Escargot Provencal recipe, and while it was very easy to make and turned out rather tasty, I still haven’t gotten used to the texture of snails myself, which is something in between that of whelks, oysters, and mussels.

Café Rouge in the UK are running with the National Escargot Day flag and trying to promote the under-appreciated escargot nationwide. Whether you would like to try snails for the first time or are a converted snail-lover, one place in London to find escargot served French-style is of course at one of Café Rouge’s French restaurants in London. From now until the 30th May, Café Rouge are serving a special National Escargot Menu, in four different ways. Apart from the two traditional ways already mentioned above, there is also escargot topped with melted reblochon cheese, or escargot with tender ham. Over 50,000 snails have been specially shipped over from Burgundy, with Caroline Réveillon, resident snail expert at Café Rouge, confident that Brits, even those who haven’t tried snails before, will like what they find:

“Anyone who enjoys eating mussels, clams or lobster should try snails as the texture is very similar. They are really delicious and also very good for you. Most people don’t realise they are low in fat and rich in protein, magnesium and vitamin C.”

On top of their new limited edition snail-themed menu, Café Rouge are also running a National Escargot Day Snail Hunt throughout London on Saturday, 22nd May. At the chain’s branches in Blackheath, Highgate, Hays Galleria, Southgate, Strand on the Green, and Wimbledon, cardboard snails (not real ones of course!) will be hidden in various locations near each restaurant branch. Starting at 11am on the 22nd May, lucky members of the public who find the snails can bring them to their nearest Café Rouge to claim one of the prizes, ranging from luxury French food hampers to bottles of French wine or even Café Rouge vouchers!

To find out more about Café Rouge’s National Escargot Day menu, view some escargot recipes, or download some offer vouchers, visit: www.caferouge.co.uk/ned/

To find out more about how to take part in the snail hunt, visit: www.caferouge.co.uk/ned/hunt