Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day

The past few days have been busy ones! Arles had been full of photographers in town for the Rencontres. The B&B has been booked with photographers from England, Italy, and Sweden, along with a family from South Africa. Lilly Whittier, pictured above making crêpes this morning for breakfast, and her mom, Coleman, have been here for the past two days. Coleman and Lilly are from Durham and Coleman will take over for me at Durham Academy next fall while I am still here in France. It has been a pleasure to spend time with them.
We went to the Christian Lacroix exhibit at the Musée Réattu yesterday afternoon. Lacroix is a famous fashion designer (I spotted him riding by in a car a few days ago and waved to him-- he did indeed wave back!) who was born and raised in Arles. The exhibit is one of the best I've ever seen. It combines paintings and sculptures from Roman times to present day, photography, and tapistries with dresses designed by Lacroix. We spent about two hours there and I plan to go back to see it again. A very nice surprise for Chef Érick happened after the exhibit opened in May. A client told him she very much enjoyed his two photos that are in the exhibit. He didn't know it but two photos he had sold to the museum in the '80's where chosen. They both depict laundry hanging out of windows here in Arles. One of the photos even gets a full page in the exhibition book! (
Lilly and Coleman took me to dinner last night at a provençal restaurant named Au Brin du Thym. Lilly loved eating the thyme that came with everything. She even had crème brûlée flavored with thyme. I had a salad with warm goat cheese on it. The goat cheese was on wheat bread toast drizzled with honey. For my main dish, I had rabbit seasoned with herbes de provence. It came with roasted potatoes and a baked eggplant. Incredible. Coleman chose a local red wine, Domaine des Côteaux des Travers Rasteau Reserve. A great choice.
After dinner, we walked through town, stopped in at the Hôtel d'Arleatan so that I could show them the beautiful outdoor courtyard there, walked by the arena and listened to a couple of songs being performed by the Trio Jourban in the Antique Theatre. A wonderful evening.
I made two new friends, Richard and Libby. They stayed here for the Rencontres. Richard is a photographer and Libby is a former ballerina living in Germany and teaching dance. We had a great visit to the Abbaye de Montmajour one afternoon. Van Gogh painted it and the surrounding hay fields and sunflowers. I hope to visit Libby in Brussels later this fall when she is there.
In just a few hours, twelve American teens, accompanied by Dorette Snover from C'est si bon! cooking school in Chapel Hill and her assistant, Emily, will arrive. We will prepare a welcome dinner for them tonight. Their week here will include cooking lessons every night, visits to an olive oil producer, a goat cheese maker, an organic vineyard and an early morning visit to a local baker. There are few things in life as good as a pain au chocolat right out of the oven at 6:00 am accompanied by hot chocolate made with Belgian chocolate and real milk by the baker himself. We will take them horseback riding in the Camargue one afternoon. I plan to stay as far away from the beasts as possible this time! After my fall in March, I have a healthy fear of the white Camargue horses. I will stick to taking photos of the pink flamingoes who live in the Camargue!
After eating the roasted eggplant last night, I decided to include Chef Érick's recipe for Eggplant Caviar on today's posting. It is a wonderful appetizer. There is never any left at the end of the meal.

Caviar d'Aubergine

For 7-10 persons as an appetizer dip for vegetables or toast

4 eggplants
4 garlic cloves
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 salted anchovy filets
2 Tbsp capers
additional olive oil to taste

Poke holes in the eggplant and bake for about an hour in a hot oven. Once cooked, transfer the pulp to a cutting board and slice and mince.
Puree the garlic, using the method described in the recipe for soupe au pistou.
Prepare the anchovy paste by pouring 2 Tbsp of the olive oil into a very small frying pan. Add the anchovy filet and stir with a fork, lightly mashing the filet to dissolve it into the oil. Let it bubble lightly a bit. Remove from the flame and add a 1/2 tsp of the pureed garlic. Return to the flame and stir while letting it heat for 30 seconds. Remove from the flame.
On a chopping board, mince the capers.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggplant, the anchovy paste, the capers and the pureed garlic, adding extra olive oil or lemon juice as desired.
Serve immediately at room temperature.
This dip is also a pleasant accompaniment to steak.

Bon appétit and Happy Bastille Day!

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