Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Déjeuner chez le Pape

Lunch at the Pope's summer home-- Déjeuner chez le Pape!
It has been a very busy week since my return to Arles. No computer time at all. I arrived back last Wednesday, June 25, by train from Paris. Just in time for a cooking stage for 6 American clients. I was a bit nervous, worried that perhaps I had forgotten all the kitchen vocabulary that I learned last summer. Believe me, I will never forgot the first time Érick asked me to bring him une louche. I had no idea what that could possibly be. I thought about faking it but quickly realized that I should just admit my ignorance. And, by the way, that is a ladle.
The evening passed very well and the clients left around 11 pm well-fed and knowledgeable about Provençal cooking. Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, seafood, olive oil, eggplant-- just to name a few of our staples here in the summer.
The next night we were surprised by a knock on the door because we were expecting a quiet evening, maybe even a trip to the beach. Instead we found a couple and their daughter waiting for a cooking lesson! They were wonderful-- from California, spending time in Provence. We had somehow missed the reservation.
The next day, our Mini-Gourmand course began for ten guests. Five of them were Australian and five were American. We got them checked into their rooms and made a welcome dinner for them. They all got along so well and we spent the following five days taking them to the Arles market, to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (we had our picnic in the ruins of the Pope's summer home on top of a hill- he left his home for posterity and we made ourselves at home where we could see the whole valley below us and profit from his air-conditioning system-- no roof and windows placed so that the breeze came right through), lunch with Claudine, who makes amazing goat cheese, olive oil production at the Mas des Barres (with the owner picking fresh figs off his tree for us), a picnic overlooking the lavender fields at the Abbey of Sénanque and a quick trip to the Fontaine de Vaucluse. That was amazing! The pool is over 300 meters deep. Jacques Cousteau tried unsuccessfully to plumb its depths. We were content just to stick our feet in very quickly-- the water is very cold!
We ate very well with them-- sea bass wrapped in fig leaves, the Roman chef Apicius' recipe for chicken, mussels, fresh oysters, tomatoes with carmelized zucchini, millefeuille, tarte tatin (it was lovely, Martha, and I did indeed think of you with every bite-- I'd FedEx one if I could), chocolate tartes in hazelnut shells, just to name a few of the recipes. With good white and red wines, of course! We even had a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape-- unfortunately not exported to the US because they do not make enough of it. Sorry, folks.
They all checked out this morning, therefore I have a few minutes of computer time before getting ready for a cooking class for three guests tonight. It is hot in Arles- no rain since my arrival. The mistral has even been relatively quiet for the past few days. Good weather for drying sheets, towels and aprons on the clothes line outside the second story window...
Tomorrow I promise to post more photos and maybe even a recipe or two!
Au revoir!

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