My French Heaven

AUTHENTIC MOMENTS & JOIE DE VIVRE

Château des Vigiers – My French heaven indeed!

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I received a call last week from a gentleman who said he really liked the blog and wanted to meet me. Little did I know that Cédric (that’s his name) was the PR Director for one of the grandest resorts and golf courses in the South West of France called Château des Vigiers near Bergerac. He invited me to visit him so we could discuss the culinary tours I offer. He may want to introduce said tours as well as my Food and Lifestyle Photography classes to his guests…

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I had lunch with Cédric and his Director of Sales and Marketing Leonie at the château. The brasserie overlooks the golf course, the castle and the lake… My French Heaven indeed!

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That same afternoon, I drove to a village nearby called Eymet. I had heard of a very good butcher in Eymet who makes the most incredible patés and rillettes. Fathers’ day was coming up and I needed a plan. You see, my dad hates presents and surprises… except when they have something to do with food! I bought enough paté to feed him and me for at least a year…

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The countryside between Bergerac and Eymet is stunning. If I had to take just one picture that would perfectly illustrate what the French countryside looks like, I would take it there… And here I was, only 60 miles from Bordeaux, and everything already looked so different. This area has such a continental feel to it with the fields of  barley and wheat… That made me think about food (everything makes me think about food) and how different the local eating habits are. For instance, traditionally, people in this area eat little seafood compared to us. It was difficult, in the old days, to bring fresh seafood this far inland. And although it would be (is) quite easy to ship fresh seafood there today, it has not become part of the local eating habits.

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Long story short, it made me hungry for seafood and I had a seafood platter for dinner that day :0)

  • Get some big mussels (as meaty as possible), clams, prawns etc.
  • Put the mussels and clams in a hot oven for a minute or two to make them open and remove the top half of the shell
  • Place all your seafood facing up in a baking dish on a bed of rock salt to keep them leveled 
  • For the stuffing, mix 200g of softened butter (unsalted), a large handful of “persillade” (I put 4 large cloves of garlic for one bunch of parsley) and two fistfuls of crushed walnuts 
  • The walnuts take on their flavor once roasted. So I recommend you roast them first in a dry pan before adding to the persillade and butter …
  • Spread generously over each mussel and add salt and pepper to taste
  • Put everything under the grill of the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Be careful as the seafood should not be overcooked yet the stuffing should have enough time to take a beautiful brownish color
  • Serve as an appetizer over warm toast

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Chateau Lynch-Bages: the genuine care, vision and legacy of a very special family

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As I may have told you before (can’t remember), there are about 11 000 wineries (châteaux) in the Bordeaux wine region. As you may also have picked up, my dad was a wine merchant for 60 years. When asked, out of these 11 000, what his favorite wine is, his only answer is: Château Lynch Bages in Pauillac!

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Today’s story starts a few months back.

As I was driving through the Médoc wine region (the vineyards located North of Bordeaux city where the famous Latour and Margaux wineries are), I stopped for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants: le Lion d’Or. Lamb being a local specialty, I ordered some chops in a garlic and rosemary reduction. The chops came with fried potatoes. The dish and its side looked so pretty that I had to share a snapshot of it on Instagram (shot below). A few minutes passed and along with a few likes, a comment came up. The person wrote: “The Gold Lion, the best fried potatoes in the Medoc”. I was stunned! How could someone know in which restaurant I was just by looking at a plate of fries?! I answered the comment of course and understood that this anonymous reader was in fact the daughter of the owner of the legendary Château Lynch Bages. Her name is Kinou Cazes. She lives in NYC, but we agreed to meet the next time she’d come home to France.

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Fast forward to about a month ago when I took Mimi and Gabriella to visit Lynch Bages. They had a tour of the winery, we had lunch at the bistro and I posted a photo of it on Instagram. New comment: “It’s me, Kinou, I’m home. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” And that’s how I finally got to meet the fabulous Kinou in the flesh. She gave me a copy of the beautiful cookbook she’d just published and promised she’d visit me on her next trip to St Emilion…

I visited Lynch-Bages again last week and was able to spend some time with Marina this time (Kinou’s sister) and Tristane (Director of Sales and Marketing). Mr. Cazes joined us for dessert. He is the owner of Lynch Bages and he is Kinou and Marina’s dad. He owns 3 châteaux in Bordeaux (including Ormes de Pez pictured somewhere here as well) and several other properties including one in Provence where he produces his own olive oil.

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Mr. Cazes is an incredible person. A true renaissance man. And although he is over 70 now, his passion drives him, his family and his many employees alike. He is passionate about wine of course, but also about architecture and history and art in all its forms. His collection of paintings and objects from all around the world is on display around the châteaux and everywhere in the village of Bages. The African painter and sculptor, Barthélémy Toguo was having his artwork shown that very same evening at the château.

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Anyway, I’ve lost my train of thought… Oh yes: legendary château, amazing family, superb food from Chef Jean Luc Rocha and a very special hotel at Cordeillan Bages on the other side of the village. I know I am repeating myself, but you guys HAVE GOT to come visit. If you like great food and wine, this is definitely one place you cannot afford to miss!

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The real Willy Wonka

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I was invited to a chocolate themed dinner party at a local château a few weeks back. There I met the owner of the oldest and most renowned chocolate company in Bordeaux: Cadiot Badie. His name is Willy; I mean Serge :0) I had blogged about his incredible store a few weeks back. After reading the post, he invited me to the actual chocolate factory last week to take some photos of his Umpa Lumpas at work…

I find so incredibly reassuring and uplifting, the fact that some people are still trying to keep traditions like these alive. They work with the very best ingredients they can find to produce something that ultimately brings people so much joy (and extra pounds). Serge runs around his little world like a kid in a candy store (no pun intended) and I truly admire his passion.

The day I was there, they were making simple ganache, rhum cherries dipped in dark chocolate (we call them Guinettes) as well as chestnut chocolate bouchées. All the Umpa Lumpas looked very happy and calm. I’m sure they get to eat quite a lot of the stuff behind Willy’s back…

Anyway, here are some pictures. We’ll go visit them next time you come visit ;0)

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