Thursday, October 29, 2009

L'Halloween Part Deux

My Advisory Pumpkin 2009


Pat, my dear friend and member of the Arles 6, sent this to me.  It is by Peter Mayle via the New York Times.  Funny, as always!
I want to be Peter Mayle in my next life...  and I want to go hang out M. Farigoule and have a glass of rosé.  Where is that passport?  When is the next flight to Nice?  Or Marseille?


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/opinion/25mayle.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Bon appétit, les bonbons!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkins and potimarrons

Halloween isn't a French holiday.  Some towns have tried it, but it hasn't been successful.  Last year, in Arles, Jonas and I carved a jack-o-lantern and set him in the window.  I bought candy, bonbons, a kind I knew he and Leo liked just in case no one came knocking on the door.  One little goblin showed up... and his papa.  I gave them some candy, they complimented us on our carving and off they went.  Leo and Jonas enjoyed the rest of the candy.  Oh well.  (I had my own stash of Lindt chocolate bars in the cabinet...)  This year, my 17 year old has plans to dress up as Batman (his older brother was Batman many years ago, too, in a mommy-made costume).  I doubt we'll have many trick or treaters at the townhouse where we live.  Most of the middle school teachers will dress up.  The band will play Halloween songs and there will be door-decorating and costume contests.  I'll dress up for that and maybe the un-ex and I will go out for some grown-up fun.  Not a bad idea, is it?
The weather has turned chilly here again today.  I am ready to prepare a recipe that we made in Arles last fall and that I loved.  I think that I have even found the proper type of pumpkin to make it with at Harris Teeter.
 
I photographed these at the Onion and Apple Festival in Le Vigan, where my dear friends Richard and Nadine live.  (sigh)  As soon as my oven is repaired (still about another week), I plan to make this dish.  Hopefully, Batman will like it.


  (This is from last year's Thanksgiving feast prepared with the Goolsby clan in Arles after a wonderful day of wine-tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a stop on the way back for chocolates...)

Tian de Potimarron (Baked Squash)

1/2 c. olive oil
3 slices of bacon, cut in 1/4 in. short strips
2 onions, minced
One 3 lb. squash peeled, sliced and cut into 3/4 in. cubes (look at the picture above from Le Vigan to see what the squash actually looks like so you will know what to buy- I do not know what to call it!)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
A couple of grates of fresh nutmeg (or 1/8 tsp. of already ground- or to taste)
Salt and pepper, as needed
3 Tbsp honey

In a large, deep frying pan, pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom, reserving the rest for later.  Turn up the flame to medium high and brown the bacon.  Add the onions and cook them for only about 3 minutes, not browning them, just sweating them.  Add the squash and the remaining oil, and sauté over a medium flame, allowing them to lightly brown, for 10-15 minutes.  They should start to become tender.
Remove the squash from the flame, fold in the bay leaves, the minced garlic and nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a baking dish and place in the oven at 375F.  Let bake for 30 minutes.  When just about done, drizzle the honey over the top, return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the honey caramelizes.

Bon appétit, l'Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I love pink...

I have been known to say "One can never have a bad day when one is wearing pink."  I do indeed wear pink as often as possible- in the form of a sweater (one Friday one of my 7th graders noted that I had worn a different pink sweater each day of that week), t-shirt, jacket or scarf.  What can I say?  I am such a girl.
I have no great recipes or words of wisdom at the moment.  I did go see a great movie this afternoon at the Carolina Theater in downtown Durham.  "Paris" with Juliette Binoche.  We showed up to buy our tickets and found Pat and Joan, of Arles 6 fame, in line in front of us!  That made it even more special-- getting to share it with them.  We've been to Paris together twice.
I have photos to share.  I started going through iPhoto (I presently have 20,103 photos in there...) looking for pink and chose a few of my favorites.

Anchovy shop in Collioure, France


The BFF and I in our pink hats before the Darius Rucker/Rascal Flatts concert in August








Pink lady apples used to make a Tarte Tatin













Pink roses at Sunset Beach on my wedding day

Rosé at the Wine Authorites

Strawberry shortcake prepared at the Umstead this summer




This t-shirt says it all!













Fireworks after a Durham Bulls baseball game













The flamant rose who sits on my desk and keeps me company

Bonne journée, rose!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Using only the best in France


(This was first published in the Durham Herald-Sun on November 5, 2008.)

Food is sacred in France.  Many of the conversations I have heard since my arrival in June have revolved around the subject of food.  One evening, how to make the best soupe au pistou, a vegetable soup with pesto, was the subject.  Another evening, two men were discussing the best way to make pâté au foie gras, goose liver paté.  That discussion lasted for over an hour.  Even Chef Vedel's six year old son is a connoisseur of crêpes and, at the age of four, taught his American au pair how to make them.  Leo, who is eleven, recently announced that his dad makes the best pizza in the whole world and could easily get a job making pizzas for President Sarkozy in Paris! 
We recently took at client to Châteauneuf-du-Pape for a wine tasting at the Cave du Verger.  Jean-Baptiste, who was working in the tasting room that day, led us through an amazing tasting, but the tasting of wine led directly to a discussion of what to eat with each wine.  He told a story about hitting a deer on his way home late one night when he lived in New Jersey, throwing it in the back of his truck and taking it home.  He said a Frenchman would never waste fresh meat.  Only after serving it at a dinner party did he let his guests in on the fact that they were eating road kill.  Needless to say, Jean-Baptiste's English is very good and he is an excellent salesman.
I have come to believe that the secret of good food lies in the freshness of the ingredients used to prepare it.  Here in Arles, we use only fruits and vegetables that are in season.  We buy amazing cuts of lamb and beef from an Arab butcher nearby.  At the open-air market, M. Perez sells the best pork sausages I've ever tasted. (I even saw a lady buying pig's ears one day, but didn't ask her what she planned to do with them.)  Our seafood and fish are brought in off the boat as it returns from the Mediterranean on Tuesday and Friday evenings.  Chickens are sold at the market with their heads still on, a few feathers intact or the feet still attached to prove how fresh they are.  We go to a farm in Tarascon to buy milk and eggs as often as possible.  We get our flour from an organic mill.  When I am particularly pleased with the way my latest brioche or batch of brownies has turned out, Chef Vedel reminds me that I am using the best ingredients possible.  They hay that the cows are fed is top notch.  Hay, as well as wine, olive oil and cheese, has its own AOC or appellation d'origine contôlée.  The AOC system was initiated for wine in 1935 in France to protect the more quality conscious winemaker and consumers.  It is only given to products that meet strict standards for the region in which they are produced.





I was inspired to share the following recipe after visiting the farm this week for milk and photographing the chickens running loose.  I leave you with a recipe for Roman chicken that gets its name from Apicius, reputedly quite a gourmet who lived in the first century AD.

Poulet Apicius - Honey Chicken Roman-style

Serves 6
Prep time:  20 minutes; cooking time:  45 minutes

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Ingredients:

One good quality chicken, organic, if possible

For the sauce:

1/2 tsp cumin grains
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp anise seeds
Seeds of 2 pods of cardamom
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard with seeds
4 tsp honey
2 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp chopped celery leaf
2 tsp wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Water for the baking dish

Either break up the chicken into parts or split it down the middle lengthwise and spread it out in the baking dish.  This will reduce baking time.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin and caraway seeds until they form a rough powder; add the mustard, honey, fish sauce, celery leaf and vinegar; mis well.  Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Place the chicken in the baking dish.  With a spoon and a brush, cover the chicken with the sauce.  Pour about a cup of water in the bottom of the dish and place in the oven to bake for 45 minutes.  If you wish, add small new potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic to the baking dish before placing it in the oven.

Bon appétit!  Cocorico!

Enjoying eggplant, aubergine, in the fall


(This article was published in the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper October 6, 2008.  It is the second article I wrote from France during my sabbatical.)

Fall has arrived in Provence.  Mornings and evenings are chilly, the leaves on the chestnut trees in the small square where the men play boules are changing from green to yellow and brown.  Children at the nearby elementary school can now be heard laughing while playing on the playground, there are fewer cruise ships docking on the Rhone River unloading groups of tourists, and most importantly, the market is changing its fare.  The sky remains a brilliant blue, reminding me of North Carolina in October.
My favorite days in Arles are Wednesday and Saturday when the outdoor market takes place.  Summer market was a brilliant display of brightly colored clothing, cantaloupes, dozens of varieties of tomatoes, sweet red strawberries, apricots, peaches, zucchini and eggplant.  The vendors now have sweaters and jackets hanging in their stalls, with gray and black the predominate colors, a few purple items thrown in.

 

Purple is the hot color for winter, according to the fashion magazines.  Boots, wool socks, hats and scarves have replaced sandals, espadrilles, gauzy skirts and tank tops.  The last of the summer fruits and vegetables are for sale, with yellow melons, grapes, turnips, potatoes, onion and carrots now appearing in abundance.
We have two weeks of cooking classes scheduled for October.  One comment from clients who come for the classes is that they do not like eggplant.  Chef Vedel takes this as a challenge and usually includes an eggplant recipe.  And he almost always has a story behind his recipes.  He researches the regional cuisine, devouring books about the history of food the way some of us read mystery novels.  When I asked him which recipe I should include in this column, he answered without reservation.  So, as fall arrives and the last eggplants are available, I leave you with the recipe for Papeton d'aubergines.  Legend goes that this dish was first prepared for the Pope during his time in nearby Avignon in the 15th century.  He apparently told his cook that he preferred the food he was served in Italy, his former home.  The next day, the cook served him a molded dish shaped like the Pope's hat, and, when asked, told the Pope that it was a papeton (the French word for pope is pape).

Papeton d'Aubergines with Tomato Coulis
Serves 5-6
For the papeton:
4 eggplants
2 bay leaves
5 eggs
Pinch of salt
Olive oil

For the coulis:
5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt, to taste

1.  Poke the eggplant with a fork and bake whole, on a baking sheet, at 375 F for an hour.
2.  Peel the tomatoes (Roast them over a gas stovetop flame one by one, if possible-this removes only the thinnest outer skin). Then chop them and move them cup-by-cup into a heavy mortar and pestle and crush them to a pulp.
3.  Prepare the garlic:  on a small plate, squeeze the lemon juice; take a sharp-pronged fork and place the prongs flat on the plate.  Take a peeled garlic clove and scrape it back and forth on the tips of the prongs.  You will produce a fine puree that will be lightly cured by the acid of the lemon juice, making it more digestible and ideal for cold sauces and salad dressings.
4.  Mix together the tomato pulp, the garlic puree, the chopped basil, the olive oil and the sea salt (to taste).  Place the sauce in the refrigerator to chill before serving.
5.  Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool until you can handle them.  (Handle them by the stems- they do not retain heat.)  Remove the pulp from inside the skins and discard the skins.  Mash the puree until it is smooth.  Place in a colander to drain excess liquid.
6.  Mix the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt and add the eggplant puree.  To speed up the cooking process, use a large omelet pan, well-greased with olive oil and pre-cook the eggs and eggplant mixture until it is the texture of very wet scrambled eggs, constantly stirring and turning.
7.  Place the bay leaves in the bottom of a well-greased or non-stick loaf pan.  Put the still soft eggplant mixture in the pan.  Bake at 350 F until browned on top and solid, about 45-60 minutes.
6.  To serve:  remove the papeton from its mold (discard the bay leaves) and slice.  Serve with the cold tomato coulis.

Bon appétit, l'automne!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goat cheese and caramelized onions


(photo courtesy of Jeremy Salamon:  www.jeremycooks.com)

The latest victim for my monthly column was Dave Artigues of Elodie Farms in Rougemont. I visited with him and his herd of goats.  I also spent a Saturday morning with him at the Durham Farmers' Market.  That article should be in next Wednesday's Herald-Sun.  I was hoping it would be in yesterday's paper (Wednesday is food day), but I just couldn't compete with the State Fair winners.  C'est la vie.
I love goat cheese and had a really amazing slice of goat cheese onion tart at Vin Rouge a month or so ago.  I emailed the chef, practically begging for his recipe, but I still haven't heard from him.  I suppose I might not give away my recipes either if I were a real chef...  So I resorted to google, once again, and started my search for a suitable recipe. Once again, where on earth would I be without google and how did I survive for 40+ years without it.  I don't even want to contemplate that.  I doubt there were many recipes in the World Book Encyclopedia.


I finally found a recipe that sounded simple enough for moi and set about making it.  A wrinkle was thrown into my attempt at making it, though, when I discovered that my oven was not working.  I placed a quick call to the BFF, owner and occasional user of not one, but two ovens.  Not to be, however.  One of the ovens was not working at all and the other had just burned chocolate chip cookies.  So, we loaded up the tarts and headed over to Durham Academy Middle School and the oven in the faculty lounge.  Not that we middle school teachers lounge all that much, to tell the sad truth.  A bunch of us meet in there on Friday mornings for bagels or biscuits.  Computers have changed the way we interact, sadly, no matter how much I love this little brand spanking new MacBook Pro that replaced the one that died a few days ago.
Anyway, back to the tart-making.  The security guard made me swear to not leave the room while they baked.  Easy enough.  I don't trust ovens anyway.  I religiously set timers but don't really trust them either.  I have a deep-seated fear of burning my creations.  All ended well, though, and the tarts cooked up just right.  Unfortunately, one of them took a bit of a tumble on the way home and turned over onto the cookie sheet it was being transported on.  We ate that one for dinner, scrambled goat cheese and onion tart.  It was really good with a glass of Dr. Heyden's Riesling, though.  No photos of that one.  The second one was proudly paraded around and sampled by several friends.  It was met with praise.  I have very nice friends.  That's a fact.
But my oven is still not working.  Floyd is coming to look at it tomorrow.

Goat Cheese Caramelized Onion Tart
 (I doubled the ingredients so that I could make two tarts)

1 unbaked 9-in. pastry- I use the kind you roll out, found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store (this is what we used in Arles, so that is good enough for me)
2 medium Vidalia onions, halved and sliced, thinly, but not too thinly
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
4-6 oz. soft goat cheese, broken into several pieces (more if you want more of a goat cheese taste)
1 c. heavy cream
3 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Transfer pie crust to deep pie plate.
Melt butter in medium pan; add olive oil and heat.  Add onions and saute until tender, lightly browned and beginning to caramelize (about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally).  Spread into pie crust.
Place remaining ingredients into a mixer bowl or blender and mix until incorporated.
Pour mixture over onions.
Bake in a 350 degree oven until puffed and golden, about 30-40 minutes, or until set.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
There may be a small amount of filling left over.  Pour into a small greased souffle dish and bake along with the tart for a chef's treat.

Serve with Pinot Gris or a dry Riesling.

Bon appétit, les chèvres!

Here's to Picasso, Paris and Pig Jam


 In exchange for doing some sewing for Craig and Seth, the BFF and I were given a too-good-to-pass-up deal on last week's wine class at the Wine Authorities.  There is a wonderful exhibit now at the Nasher Museum at Duke University called Picasso and the Allure of Language. I have already seen it once and have plans to return with some of my students next week for a guided tour.  Could there be a better way to spend a Thursday evening in Durham, NC than learning about French wines, Paris in the early part of the 20th century and Picasso?  Oh, and how could I forget... sampling bistro fare.  "Just another Thursday night in Durham."  --Al Eckhardt.  (Al and his wife Carolyn were seated at our table.  They helped make the evening so much fun.  Use that Enomatic card, Carolyn.  Call us if you need help!)
When we entered the shop at 7:20 pm sharp, we were met at the door by Randy, Mic, Seth and Craig, properly attired as handsome French bistro waiters in black pants, starched white shirts and black aprons.  We were given a lovely glass of kir, my personal favorite, as our apératif.
I distinctly remember my first kir... it was during my 1987 trip to Provence with students and Leigh, my friend, colleague and co-chaperone.  We were in Aigues Mortes, a walled city, in a little café.  Such memories, les beaux souvenirs...  Kir was made popular in the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region of France by the enterprising mayor of Dijon, Félix Kir.  He served the drink, made from two of his region's products, crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and Bourgogne Aligoté, white wine.  And, bien sûr, he named it for himself!  Trust me, I would do the same.  At Wine Authorities, we were served the real deal, just as M. Kir served his guests.  There are variations... Kir Royale is made with champagne.  Also yummy, I might add, if one is in the mood for bubbles.
After finding our seats at the tables set in bleu, blanc et rouge just like the French flag, Craig and Seth introduced themselves and gave an overview of the evening.  We began our celebration with a glass of champagne and toasts all around.  As the evening progressed, we sampled wines, saw pictures of Paris, and were treated to a very entertaining talk about the Picasso exhibit by Mary Cay Corr.  The evening's nibbles, prepared by Chef Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge restaurant here in Durham, were served up with the proper wines and all was explained to us-- the reason for the choices, the terroirs of the various wines, Picasso's poor, practically homeless days, his friendship with Gertrude Stein, the writer and art collector.  She entertained artists and writers and, I hope, fed and watered them.  I've been to Montmartre, one of Picasso's hangouts, many times, but I am not well-acquainted with the Montparnasse neightborhood-- not yet!  I recently read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, with his descriptions of Paris.  Gertrude Stein figures prominently in this book, along with the Montparnasse quartier.

 

We sampled duck terrine (in the middle with the dark spots), pork rillettes, affectionately known as confiture de cochon or pig jam (quenelled by the one and only Seth Gross),  two mustards, cornichons and French baguettes. "This is the best pig jam I've ever had."  -- Martha King

 
The cheese course (no proper French meal would be without this, n'est-ce pas?), consisted of Le Chevrot, a delicious goat cheese from the Loire Valley.  This region is noted for its goat cheese, as well as all the beautiful châteaux, and goat cheese.  The second cheese, with the more orange rind, was Affindélice.  It was nice and warm and just a bit runny, the way it should be.  And appropriately smelly.   "There is nothing more glorious than a stinky cheese." -- Craig Heffley. 
The evening was capped off by first a Vermouth Blanc, chilled, with a little piece of orange floating in it.  A very nice digéstif, although I see this as more of an apératif.  We then tried the Dolin Vermouth Rouge.  It certainly warmed its way down my throat and into my tummy.  I cannot remember ever drinking vermouth, but that doesn't mean I've never tasted it.  It just wasn't memorable, I guess.  Until now.


 It was certainly a memorable evening.  I will not soon forget the rillettes and Le Chevrot.  They top my list.  My favorite work in the Picasso exhibit, is the large black and white photo of Picasso himself, surrounded by several of the paintings that are part of the exhibit.  I could not even begin to choose a favorite wine.  I enjoyed them all tremendously.
Here are the wines we sampled--
Rapet- Bourgogne Aligoté, Burgundy, France 2006
Chermette, Crème de Cassis, Burgundy, France NV
R. Dumont & Fils, Brut Tradition, Champagne, France NV
Merlin-Cherrier, Sancerre, Loire Valley, France 2007
Domaine Croix de Chèvre, Régnié, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France 2006   (This one would be good at Thanksgiving, I think...)
Domaine Gouron, Chinon, Loire, France 2007
Eric de Suremain, Rully 1er Cru,"Preaux," Burgundy, France 2005
Dolin, Vermouth Blanc, Savoie, France NV
Dolin, Vermouth Rouge, Savoie, France NV

Bon appétit er merci, Wine Authorities, Chef Matt Kelly and the Nasher Museum!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy St. Teresa Day



Peanuts characters (c) Schultz

Maybe I won't get into too much trouble for using this picture...  I love Peanuts.   Lucy and Snoopy are my favorites.  Lucy because she is so bossy and Snoopy because he is so adorable when he sits in French cafés quaffing root beer during the war.  So, on my saint's day, I will accept a kiss from the always adorable Snoopy.
I did a little googling in honor of St. Teresa.  Seems she is the patron saint of headaches... some would say that is appropriate.  Very pious gal from Spain.  I have no idea why my mom named me Teresa.  I would have sworn she told it was because her mother had a friend named Teresa, but she now denies that.  So there you are.  We are not Catholic anyway.  GBear sent me an email wish for a Bonne Fête from Arles this morning.   Merci, mon ami!
Tonight I am off to a wine class at Wine Authorities in honor of the Picasso exhibit at the Nasher Museum at Duke University.  More research, you know.   The exhibit is called Picasso and the Allure of Language.  Seth and Craig have lured us to this class with the promise of wine education, French cheeses, duck terrine, rillettes, cornichons and more...  That's enough to get me there as soon as the doors open!
So, more about the class and the goodies tomorrow!
No time for a recipe... if you need a no-calorie fix for the day, take a look at today's Paris Breakfasts post from the Salon du Chocolat in Paris...  http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com/
Trop bon!!  Have a piece of chocolat noir and a glass of something good in my honor this evening.
Bon appétit!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Déjeuner de mercredi





Today was crunch time for getting my October article written for the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper.  After the computer crash on Monday, I got behind schedule.  Imagine... moi  running behind schedule.  Lord have mercy is the best I can say somedays.  (And I swore that I was never going to multi-task ever again when I returned from sabbatical-  ha!)  Anyway, it is finally done and sent out into cyberspace to my editor (that still gives me a thrill to write- makes me sound somehow important, if only in my own little mind!  And I do not even have a press pass... hmmm, need to check into that detail- Carol, the Paris Breakfast blogger and macaron lover used her business card to get into a fashion show in Paris recently- she's my hero!).  Off went the article, along with photos of goats and recipes using goat cheese.  Dave Artigues and Elodie Farms goat cheese are my latest victims.  Once again, what homework I must do for these monthly articles.
And today during lunch, more homework had to be done!  Of the most serious kind.  The eating kind. Daniela, my colleague and next door neighbor at school, brought in goodies and we whipped up some goat cheese hors d'oeuvres because I would never use recipes that I have not personally tested and tasted.  She brought in goat cheese, multi-grain bread, figs, tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mint, and olive oil and we set about our research.  Even my 7th graders were jealous as they smelled the basil, mint and goat cheese.  The results were délicieux, if I do say so myself.
Then, during my free period following lunch, my BFF came to pick me up and we headed to the Wine Authorities for another tasting.  Not wine this time.  We are not in France, after all, so no wine is allowed for teachers in the middle of the school day.  (It is perfectly fine in France... the first time I visited my friend's school in Senlis and made a comment about the bottle of red wine on the table in the teachers' dining room, my friend's comeback was "There is beer and cider in the refrigerator if you'd rather have that.")  No, we went to taste Seth's crème brûlée.  This is Seth, graduate of the CIA.  The proud owner of a torch that he used today to put the perfect crunch on the top of a beautiful little dish of crème brûlée.  I seriously tried not to eat it too fast, to savor the true vanilla flavor (real beans used here, none of that flavoring stuff), to let the crunch melt on my tongue.  But, true to form, I finished mine first.  I did show great restraint and I did not lick the dish.  The BFF did-- but she did it by dipping her finger in the bowl and licking her finger.  She said her mother would be appalled and I promised not to tell Helen.  (I am quite sure that Helen is not a blog reader...)  Ah, she is such a Southern Belle.  I think that Mildred, my mom, wouldn't have minded if I'd picked up that dish and licked it clean! 
In spite of the rainy cold weather, it's been a delicious kind of day.
If anyone out there has a recipe for a goat cheese and caramelized onion tart, I'll test it for you.  And then write all about it.  More homework...

Daniela's Tomato and Chèvre Appetizer

Soft fresh goat cheese, plain or flavored (garlic or herbes de Provence)
Tomato (heirloom or other very flavorful type)
Sea salt
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Sliced bread (French baguette, sourdough, multigrain)

Spread the goat cheese on the bread slices.  Slice the tomato and place it on top of the cheese.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Snip the fresh basil and place on top of the tomato.  Drizzle with olive oil.  You could toast it under the broiler, if you wish.

Fresh Figs and Chèvre

Fresh soft goat cheese
Fresh figs, halved
Fresh mint
Honey (sourwood would be good, but any natural unprocessed honey), optional
Sliced bread (French baguette, sourdough or multigrain)

Spread the goat cheese on the slices of bread.  Place figs on top of cheese.  Drizzle with honey, if desired.  Snip the mint and sprinkle on top.
 
Bon appétit!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feliz cumpleaños, Señor!


It is only Tuesday, but the week has already been a bit stressful.  It started with a 7:30 am Monday morning meeting.  I love my 7th grade colleagues, but getting myself ready and out the door by 7:10 (in time to print the meeting's agenda and make copies) is not an easy task for moi even if I am not real high maintenance.  Then my computer died a quick but painful death in the early afternoon.  It was my well-loved school laptop in it's third year of life.  It was my companion and lifeline home while I was on sabbatical in France last year.  Luckily, I learned my lesson a couple of years ago about backing up my files when I somehow trashed the file with my whole year's work on it back in 2006-- and no, I had not backed up to our school server in a long time.  Loser move.  I had backed up about a week ago.  All my music, pictures and most of my work was restored and now is safely living on my new MacBook Pro.  Trevor and Karl, our computer gurus, are my heroes!  So, I am typing away again.  Then last night we got word that someone had spilled a drink all over our son's laptop at college.  Not good for him.  All his school work is on that laptop, not backed up anywhere.   After an emergency trip to the Apple Store to find out if his computer (bought in 2006 as a graduation gift) was salvageable, we found out it is not.  It would cost almost as much to repair it as it would to replace it.  So, get out dad's Visa.  Hopefully, the young lady in question will pay what it would cost to repair the old one without a fight.  I am now trying to think happy thoughts about it all.  Dad is too busy getting games going this afternoon to think about Visa bills, I hope. I do not think that the money tree we recently planted on the deck next to the dying tomato plants and the pot of lavender even has blooms on it yet...
Happy thoughts... how about my neighbor at school, Señor Glass.  He celebrated a birthday over the weekend and brought a cake he made in for us to sample.  My grandfather used to always bring birthday cake and ice cream to us, his little crumb crushers, on his birthday.  He was born on the 4th of July and I grew up living right next door to him.  I loved him dearly.  So, today's photo is of Señor's cake and the recipe follows.  It was truly another gâteau délicieux!  Here's to a great year, Señor!  Thanks for sharing.  You can bake me a cake anytime!

Tarta de Naranja (Spanish Orange Almond Cake)
"This is the first time I have ever made this cake.  I don't bake very often, but I do love oranges and I do love cake, so I thought for my birthday I would give this recipe a try.  I haven't tasted it yet, but I can tell you the kitchen smells wonderful, and the cake was very easy to make."-- Señor Glass

The cake:
4 eggs, separated
1/2 c. sugar
Grated rind of 2 oranges
1/2 c. blanched almonds, finely ground

The syrup:
Juice of 2 oranges
1/3 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. Cointreau (or any orange liqueur)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat the egg yolks, sugar and orange rind until fluffy and lemon colored.  Gradually beat in the ground almonds.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Fold them into the yolk mixture.  Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 8-inch cake pan.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cake is well browned.  Cool slightly, then remove the cake onto a serving dish.

While the cake is baking you can make the syrup.  Mix together, in a sauce pan, the juice of 2 oranges, the sugar and the cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the Cointreau.  Cool, then brush or pour evenly over the cake.

You can garnish the cake with orange slices, sliced thinly and cut in half.

Bono appetit!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Art and artists


Before I left Arles last December, Chef Érick gave me a box of watercolor pencils and a small sketchbook of watercolor paper.  We also made a trip to an art supply store he loves in a nearby village.  I came home with brushes, paper, paints and my pencils.  He also gave me one of his sketchbooks with what I have titled "Van Gogh à table" (above) in it.  I haven't framed it yet.  Nor did I get him to sign it...  When I asked him about it and if I could keep it, he just shrugged and said bien sûr.  Of course.  As if anyone can just pull out a pencil and paints and do this.  I was flattered that he had that much confidence in my capacity to learn to paint.  Do all artists think that the rest of us can do it if we just try?  But I am very realistic about my limited ability.
In 5th grade, I was placed in a special language arts class.  This was the closest thing we had to gifted education at Harris Elementary School.  I joined the class a few days after everyone else.  I suppose I hadn't shown my innate brilliance enough at that point to be placed in the class at the same time as everyone else. Ha!  I vaguely remember taking some sort of test (IQ, maybe?) and then entering this class.  I knew everyone, of course, because it was a small school in a small town.  We stayed together in this class for four years.   I owe my mastery of English grammar to Mrs. Sproles, our teacher, and her love for diagramming sentences.  Label another part of speech a verb and she would have you stand up in front of class and ask you to perform that action.  "Stand up, Teresa, and ____ for us, please."  That made a lasting impression on me.   I think that we were all able to laugh at this or at least I do not remember being publicly humiliated.  (I can also read just about anyone's handwriting thanks to exchanging papers across the aisle with a certain boy for 4 years... thank you, Steve Snider!)
Mrs. Sproles also attempted to make artists of us.  I struggled mightily with drawing trees.  I've been scared to even try since then.  I took one other art class in Spruce Pine, but I really do not remember much about it.  That has been the extent of  my art career.   Well, with the exception of going to an art workshop with my friend Ghislaine last November.  She is very talented.  I attempted the Eiffel Tower and Steve has framed that work.  I call it "The Leaning Tower of Eiffel."  It's home is in our bedroom-- I'd rather it not be on display, truth be told.
My art supplies are safely tucked away in a desk drawer.  Once in a while I pull out the watercolor pencils and attempt something.  Well, I've done it three times so far in the past 10 months.  I've drawn a pot of lavender twice and a beautiful pitcher made by Véronique, the potter in Le Cailar, once.  I sent the lavender to Érick just to prove to him that I've tried.  I gave the pitcher to my BFF.  I mostly just daydream about painting lovely watercolors.  In my next life, maybe?


Ghislaine's painting


My Lavender #1


One of my 8th graders brought in a treat for us today.  This is a recipe that she and her sister developed.   She told us they created it one day after they found brie on sale at the grocery store and their mom just happened to have some lavender grains in the spice cabinet.  It was délicieux!  I just bought some brie so I will try it myself this weekend.  I sure wish I had some of Sophie's lavender honey left...


Lavender Brie

8 oz. Brie
1 box Filo dough
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/3 whole grain lavender
2 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice

Note:  Read the directions on the box of filo dough before beginning.
1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  Coat a cookie sheet with the melted butter.  In a small bowl, combine honey and lemon juice, stirring until mixed well.
3.  Following directions on the box, place one sheet of filo dough on the cookie sheet and coat with melted butter.  Repeat this process three times.
4.  Drizzle the honey-lemon mixture over the center of the dough (where the brie will be placed), and then (grinding with your fingers) sprinkle the lavender over the honey-lemon mix.
5.  Place brie in the center of the dough and wrap up the sides, bunching the end of the dough in the center of the brie.
6.  Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until brie is melted and tips of dough are golden.  Serve warm with crackers.

Bon appétit!  Et merci, Christen.  Très bien fait!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I love Lucys


Finally a photo of all three of us from our grape stomping day at Grove Winery!  Do you think we were having fun?  Just a little bit...  Maybe next fall we could rent ourselves out at the NC vineyards for their harvest festivals?
I have always loved dressing up in costumes.  I am now working on Halloween.  At school, a lot of the teachers dress up, as well as the kids.  Mine is going to be incroyable.  I got the idea last Halloween while in Arles. The French have attempted Halloween, but it just isn't French.  Chef Érick did stop at a little vegetable market last fall and buy a pumpkin for me to carve with his sons, Leo and Jonas.  Leo wasn't really into it, but Jonas came up with his own design, we carved it and then we proudly displayed it in the B&B window with a candle burning inside.  One dad and his little boy came by all dressed up.  Leo did help Jonas eat the leftover candy I had bought at Monoprix!
Eating and writing adventures continue here in Durham.  I had dinner at Pop's with friends last week.  Here are my mussels...



They were vraiment délicieuses.   Brought back very nice memories of buying them at the Arles market and having them for lunch or dinner.  I think I probably ate my weight in them while there for 6 months.
I am researching my next column for the Herald-Sun.  I got up really early to drive out to Elodie Farms in Rougemont a couple of mornings ago to watch the goats being milked.  More research this weekend!  Yum!  I love the homework for my writing assignments.
Last night, Dorette invited me to dinner at her house.  She prepared Chef Érick's Fricôt des Barques, a meat dish that is divine.  Just walking into her house tickled my nose!  The savory aroma a mis de l'eau dans ma bouche (made my mouth water-- I just learned this expression!).  She used boneless ribs to make it and the meat just fell apart it was so tender.  She also made socca, a chickpea crêpe that is a speciality of Nice.  We filled them with caramelized onions and the shoots from sweet peas (I didn't know they were even edible... my education continues!).  Ben, Noah and Darryl from Fickle Creek Farm were there, too, as well as Dorette's husband Rich.  I took a bottle of Vieux Clocher red wine as my contribution.  This wine comes from the Ventoux region of France (the famous mountain that is climbed each year during the Tour de France-- it was covered in snow the last time I saw it in December 2008).  It is a steal and available at Wine Authorities.  The wine, not the mountain!  We also had Tarte Tatin for dessert.  I did not take a photo-- I lost all constraint and ate it along with a lovely little glass of Sauternes.


Fricôt des barques


Socca


Bon, mes amis.  À bientôt!

Socca de Nice

300 grams or 1 1/4 cup chickpea flour
500 ml or 2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
pepper

Pre-heat oven to 300 F.
Whisk together the chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt.  Mix thoroughly to remove any lumps.  The batter should be slightly more runny than typical crêpe batter.
Lightly oil your pan.  Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly.
Slide the pan into the pre-heated oven and cook until the top browns nicely, possibly even going black where the bubbles rise.
Remove, slice if you wish, and serve hot, peppering to taste.
I have also cooked them in my crêpe pan on top of the stove, too.  Just oil the pan and cook them until browned, flipping over once.  Keep them warm until you are ready to serve them.
(We ate them like crêpes, placing the filling in the middle and rolling them up!)
 
Bon appétit!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

7th grade chef


I encourage my students to learn to cook.  We do not teach home economics at my school and I firmly believe that everyone, boys and girls alike, should learn his or her way around the kitchen.  My own two boys, however, are not the least bit interested... They tell me they are eaters, not cookers (just like their dad!).  Maybe someday.
The deal I have with my students is that they can make something for their classmates or for their families.  Something French.  Parental help is fine, but they must be involved in the process as much as possible.  I give them extra credit points for their efforts.  They bring me the recipe and briefly explain the process to their classmates.  And if we are lucky, we get to sample the finished product.  Let's face it.  Savoring a madeleine au chocolat makes French class a bit more interesting, n'est-ce pas?
Just as looking at Paris Breakfasts posts once in a while sweetens up a lesson plan. Carol, the PB blogger and artiste extraordinaire, is in Paris at this very moment... snapping up photos of macarons and hopefully taking in the magnificent view of Paris from the top of La Tour Eiffel at dusk as I suggested!  It is her 120th birthday -- not Carol's,  the Eiffel Tower's!
A madeleine is a small cake baked in a special  pan that gives it a shell-like shape.  Its flavor is similar to that of pound cake, but lighter.   Marcel Proust in À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) wrote this about madeleines--
"She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell.  And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.  No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place... at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory..."
So, here is the recipe.  Make them and who knows?  Maybe someone will give you extra credit of some sort...  or the day's problems will wash away as you nibble on one of these delicious cakes- ces gâteaux délcieux.

Chocolate Madeleines

(yield 36 madeleines)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
1 c. vanilla sugar
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Butter for buttering the madeleine tins

1.  Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.
2.  Place the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until thick and lemon colored.  Fold in the flour, then melted butter.
3.  Butter the madeleine pans, then spoon in the batter, filling each one about 3/4 full.  Refrigerate the filled madeleine pans and the remaining batter for one hour.
4.  Heat the oven to 425 F.
5.  Bake the madeleines just until they are firm and puffed, about 7 minutes.  Turn them immediately from the molds; wipe out the molds, let cool and continue baking the madeleines until all of the batter is used.  The madeleines are best when eaten slightly cooled or at room temperature the same day they are made.

Bon appétit, mes élèves!  Merci, Alexandre!

recipe from http://www.epicurious.com
Marcel Proust translation by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff found at:
http://en.wilipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_(cake)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Sabbatical Chef begins




A colleague recently brought me a copy of the first article that I wrote for the Durham Herald-Sun while I was on sabbatical last year.  I am also working on my annual 8th grade trip to France.  I will take my students to Paris and to Arles in March 2010.  So, my sabbatical, although never far from my thoughts, is on my mind these days.  I have decided to take a trip down memory lane and share my beginning.

Towards food and friends in France

     For as long as I can remember, August has signaled the beginning of a new school year for me.  August 1964 brought me to Miss McBee's first grade class in Spruce Pine, NC.  Since 1980, I have been teaching French at Durham Academy Middle School.  Each new school year has brought excitement, anticipation and, to be honest, a fair dose of nervousness.
     This fall, however, I did not join my colleagues for the opening faculty meetings nor will I be there to greet my advisees and their parents.  After 28 years at Durham Academy, I am on sabbatical leave for the first semester of 2008-09 school year.
     I am in Arles, France, in Provence.  I have been here since mid-June.  I visited Arles for the first time in 1987 with a group of students and was fascinated by the Roman history and architecture.  In the summer of 2005, I came back to Arles for two weeks.  I had read quite a bit about Vincent Van Gogh's stay here, and Dorette Snover of C'est si Bon! cooking school in Chapel Hill told me about Chef Érick Vedel's cooking school, Atelier Cuisine et Traditions.  Food and art.  Perfect.
     I returned once again to the cooking school in the summer of 2006 with a group of friends as their translator and guide.  Later that year, I was offered room and board for the summer of 2007 if I would be Chef Vedel's assistant.  That was an offer too good to refuse.  Now, with the sabbatical leave, I am back in Arles working once again, this time until December.
     My days here begin early since Chef Vedel also runs a five-room bed and breakfast.  I have learned to make crêpes from scratch and am now perfecting my own orange brioche recipe.  I have developed a decent kitchen vocabulary.  Last summer, I was completely lost the first time I was asked to fetch une louche.  I dumbly stared at Chef Vedel while trying to make up my mind whether or not to fake it or to confess that I had no idea what he wanted.  Trust me, I will never forget the word for ladle!  I am still not very good with the names for the seemingly endless supply of fish and seafood found in the market that comes from the Mediterranean Sea.  However, I now have a food dictionary and can look up morue, poulpe and daurade when need be.
     I wash dishes, do laundry, clean rooms, and work with room reservations.  In short, I do whatever needs to be done, in addition to assisting the chef in the kitchen.  We have a washing machine, but no dryer.  Sheets, towels and clothing are hung from the second story living room window.  The B&B rooms are found on three upstairs levels, linked by a winding staircase, no elevator.  The family side of the house and the guest rooms are joined by a large kitchen.
     Shopping for food, preparing meals and eating have taken on a completely new meaning for me.  Each one is a pleasure in and of itself.  The Wednesday and Saturday markets in Arles are an explosion of colors and smells.  Listening to vendors and customers discuss how a particular item should be prepared and served is a joy.  Cooking is a continual experimentation and exploration to find the perfect combination of ingredients.  The French say that flavors se marier bien, or marry well.  I love that!  Meals in France are an occasion to talk, share ideas, laugh and feed friends and loved ones.  Dinner can, and often does, take three hours here, ending near midnight.  I feel as if all I do is think about what I will have for my next meal!  Provençale cuisine is amazing, yet so simple.
      My students should know that I am indeed once again on their side of the fence.  Friends correct my pronunciation and help me find the words I need to express myself halfway coherently.  They are endlessly patient when I ask the same questions over and over.  I am, of course, learning words and expressions that are not in any textbook I've ever encountered.  My knowledge of gros mots or dirty words has increased, as well as my food vocabulary.
     I miss my children, family and friends, but this experience will leave me forever changed.  I will return to the classroom in January invigorated by having lived here for six months.  I am indeed very fortunate!
 
Written August 14, 2008
Arles, France
Published in the Durham Herald-Sun September 2008


Memory Lane

 Gordes
Alex


 Pat and Joan in Giverny

Yolanda in Provence

 
Me with my favorite landmark


The Arles 6 minus 1 (Richard) plus 1 (Steve) gathered Friday night for dinner at Pop's here in Durham.  Betty was back in town and we hadn't all been together since our reunion trip in June 2008.  This top photo is from our first trip, in 2006.  We are in Provence, with the village of Gordes in the background.  Yolanda brought her computer to Pop's and Pat and Joan were able to watch the slideshow of the 2006 trip for the first time.  What wonderful memories.  It was, without a doubt, a trip that could never be duplicated...
Betty, Yolanda and I met up at RDU.  Yolanda and I have worked together for years and we were nervous that Betty would think we were a couple of goofballs (do the nicknames of Lucy and Ethel mean anything??).  We discovered, however, that Betty was exactly our type of traveler when we arrived in Paris and got stuck in the turnstile as we attempted to leave the airport and board the train for Paris.  Betty stayed calmer that we did and finally the three of us and our bags got over, under and around the turnstile and on the train.  We found our hotel, Les Jardins D'Eiffel,  on Rue Amélie, in the Rue Cler area and the adventure began.  Betty introduced Yolanda and me to Veuve Clicquot yellow label champagne late one night in a little café on Rue Cler and we were forever bonded.  (We discovered why she always carries a large Longchamps bag...)
Pat and Joan joined us on Bastille Day, arriving in time to check into the hotel and trek over to the Champs-Élysées with us for the parade.  By this time, Betty's son Alex had also joined us.  I had never been in Paris on July 14 and was so excited about the parade.  It is very military in nature, with tanks, soldiers, and planes flying overhead.
Alex found wonderful restaurants for us and we picnicked one evening down by the river.  This is a group that loves good food!  We went to the shops on Rue Cler, as well as La Grande Epicerie at Bon Marché, for provisions for a picnic in the gardens at Giverny, Claude Monet's home.  We took a bus tour there on a beautiful sunny day.  We had enough wine to have a glass on the way there, toasting our new friendships and memories in the making.  Betty accidentally spilled her red wine on the very well-dressed Alex (a white polo and khakis) and Yolanda and I were very curious to see his reaction.  He took a deep breath and didn't say a word.  Our picnic was the envy of everyone who walked by.  I distinctly remember very ripe cherries, creamy cheese, crusty baguettes and chocolate.  Yolanda was asked to photograph a young man from Texas proposing to his unsuspecting girlfriend.  We had all gone our separate ways at that point, wandering around the house, gardens and workshop/giftshop.  When we met back at the bus, Yolanda was in tears as she began telling about the proposal.
We left Paris on the TGV to head to Arles and Chef Érick's B&B and cooking week.  I had been there the previous summer and was very anxious to get back.  My room that summer was the yellow one-- a swimming pool sized bathtub and a gauzy netting over my bed.  Yolanda and I became roommates this time, safely ensconced in the blue room, surrounded by the smell of lavender (I later found out that this room just naturally smells of lavender... there are no hidden grains or sachets).  One evening we discovered Leonardo da Vinci staring back at us from the painted shower.  (I voted for Victor Hugo, though, just for the record.)  We even confessed this to Erick at dinner one night and he very quietly went upstairs for a look.  He is the one who painted that wall.  When I returned the next summer, he had painted a frame around the mysterious visage.
This is where we picked up Richard.  We discovered that another "chef" had been added to our Mini-Gourmand cooking stage.  At first, we weren't sure we wanted anyone else.   Richard, however, very quickly endeared himself to each and every one of us, especially after he responded so well to the hot water incident at breakfast the first morning.  Yolanda swears that she did not scald him and we have not seen any scars, truth be told.

We had Erick all to ourselves that week.  His wife, Madeleine, left us to attend a workshop, taking their younger son Jonas with her.  Leo, the older son, was in Michigan visiting his grandmother by the time we arrived.  Erick took us on his own personal tour of Arles, including the library where he has researched many of his recipes.  We visited the lavender fields at the Abbaye Notre Dame de Sénanque, picnic in hand.  One day we went to visit a potter friend in the village of Séguret.  We visited an organic winemaker, Jean-David, and his wife, once more with a picnic to enjoy in the shade of a large pine tree on his property.  The only problem there occurred when we locked ourselves out of the house for the second time while visiting the bathroom.  This really tried the winemaker's patience.  The chocolate shop of Joël Durand in Saint Rémy de Provence was a must on our list.  (We had seen photos of the handsome chocolatier...)  Only Yolanda got to actually meet him that day.  The rest of us had elected to stay in the van, napping, if memory serves me right, when we made our second stop there to pick up the chocolates we had bought earlier in the day.  I have since been back there several times, most memorably on my 49th birthday.  I have a photo to prove it!
At the end of our cooking week, we bid Erick, his assistant Barbara, and Richard good-bye, picked up our rental car, packed it to the hilt and set off for Aix-en-Provence.  With me behind the wheel, no less.  We only took a couple of wrong turns leaving Arles and were soon on our way past Mont St. Victoire, the white mountain that Cézanne painted so many times.  Yolanda, my navigator, was instructed to put the damn camera away by someone in the back seat as we passed the mountain and pay attention to the route.  She and I stiffled our giggles and we made it to Aix in an hour.
Our hotel, chosen for its central location and parking garage, was easy to find on the Cours Mirabeau.  Yolanda and I dropped off the luggage and other passengers and set off to park the car.  That was an adventure and the main reason why I do not like to drive in France... many very narrow streets and confusing entrances to those streets.  We did indeed finally get the car parked, only scratching the mirror a little on the way in to the underground garage.
The main reason we chose to spend a night in Aix was to see a Cézanne exhibit at the Musée Granet.  We did not get tickets in advance and were so scared that we would not be able to see it.  This was my one truly anxious moment as the organizer of this trip.  However, we walked right up to the window and got the tickets for that afternoon.  So, after a lovely lunch at an outdoor restaurant (my first warm goat cheese salad), we spent a few hours wandering around the exhibit.
Our last stop of the trip was two nights in Nice.  Our hotel was just a couple of blocks back from the Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean Sea.  We ate dinner at a restaurant in Old Nice owned by M. Alziari.  Divine.  Pat had found this one in an article in the NY Times.  It was simply charming.  We decided to drive to Vence to visit the chapel decorated by Henri Matise there and to have lunch in a nearby restaurant that a chef in Durham had recommended to Pat.  We had even planned to go to mass at the Chapel of the Rosary and then take the tour.  However, Yolanda and I had a very difficult time retrieving our car from the paid garage and then we completely missed the exit and were almost back to Aix before we turned around.  Betty and I were convinced that the French must number their exits differently.  No one who knows me well would believe me if I said that, but Betty is much more believable.   We made it just in time for the tour, though, led by one of the sisters, delivered in the most beautiful French I have ever heard.
We found our lunch destination, La Table d'Amis de Jacques Maximin, just outside of Vence, without much difficulty.  This restaurant is called "...one of the Riviera's grandest treasures" by Frommer's.  Robert de Niro is known to dine there when he's in town.  Unfortunately, he was not there that Sunday afternoon, but we were convinced that we had found a corner of paradise as we ate outside, surrounded by beautiful flowers and very attentive waiters.
We made it to the Nice airport in plenty of time to miss the turn at least twice and get all the bags checked and through security.  The woman who took the rental car back didn't seem the least bit upset about our scratch.  The car next to us was the exact same color and model and had a large scrape all the way down the passenger side, making ours seem very minor indeed.
So, my Arles 6 Gang, here's to all of you for giving me ten days that I will never forget.
Much love,
Melanie

Friday, October 2, 2009

Grape Stomping Fun

Well, I am back to the day of fun at Grove Winery because The Wine Authorities official video of the festivities just went public!
Here's the link to the WA page.  Scroll down and look under News.  And there it is!  I was very occupée cutting my grappes de raisins and then crushing them.  Serious business!  I look forward to the release of Foot Lucy Red next year.

http://www.wineauthorities.com/home.php

Make plans to join in on the fun next year!