My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Beloved tree resurrected…

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As many of you know, I live in my grandmother’s townhouse now. The property was bought right after the war by my grandfather and took half a city block. He needed lots of grounds and buildings to store his wine (note: he was a wine merchant, not the world’s biggest alcoholic). In the black and white photos from my archives, you’ll see the family having coffee (and wine of course) in the garden with part of the orchard in the back, my sister (who is now 58) watering the plants and my grandfather and grandmother on the very month they bought the house in 1947.

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The house was also the company’s headquarters. As time went by, the company evolved and the processes were streamlined. My sister, the latest CEO, decided to keep less stock. Most of the wine we sell now stays on property at the châteaux she buys it from. Long story short: we didn’t need the warehouse side of the property and all the buildings were converted into condominiums. As a result, half the garden was converted into a parking lot. I didn’t really mind, as the garden was much too large for me to take care of. The only thing I really missed was a HUGE fig tree we had there. I spent most of my childhood playing around that tree. And, once a year, Paulette, my grandmother’s cook, would use its figs to make the most wonderful jam.

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Now back to 2013. As I was cleaning my garden last year, I noticed a tiny fig tree growing on a rock in the middle of my herb garden. You see, Paulette couldn’t pick all the figs for jam, my grandma and I also raided the tree regularly. We would pick the darkest fruits and bring them back to the house for everybody to enjoy. So I guess one of the figs fell from our basket and landed on that rock in the herb garden. Nature did the rest.

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I will never see my grandmother again and I miss her every day, but my beloved fig tree is coming back to me…

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It will be years before I see fruit again. So I went to the market and got the sweetest figs I could find. Today I decided to enjoy them with a few slices of Camembert on tasted walnut bread…

 

Call me the bliss catcher…

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You see, at the end of the day, it’s not food or wine or cars that interest me the most. It’s the people who know how to really enjoy these things who really fascinate me. My nephew Geoffrey and my friend Jame are such people. They are true petrol heads. I joined them both last weekend at the Angoulème Rallye. Le Rallye des Remparts. At least half the participants were British and I must say this: thank god for the Brits and their love of cars…

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Anyhow, I know most of you couldn’t care less about cars, but I know that every single one of you, like me, admire passion and pure beauty….

This gathering is one of the largest in Europe. More than 1200 cars from all over the continent were listed. I think my favorite was a little old MG with a silver hare on the hood.

Here is to bliss! Here is to “joie de vivre”!!!

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The last market of Summer…

We’ve had an incredible month of September here in Bordeaux. Sunny and warm; ideal for the vineyard. I predict that 2014 will be a vintage to remember (I’m full of it. I have no clue). The farmers’ markets however have to follow the seasons. Tomatoes and strawberries are slowly disappearing from the stalls and I’ve had to cook batches and batches of stuffed tomatoes before the last of the big reds are gone…

I visited my aunt Nicole the weekend before last. We went to the market together and got everything we needed for the most amazing omelette with chanterelles and herbs. For our main course, Nicole bought a few pigeons from a 90 year old gentleman. We found out how old he was during our conversation with him (it lasted for EVER). We also bought the sweetest prunes and mirabelles for a pie. Aunt Nicole is a fabulous cook!

I took tons of photos; so many in fact that I haven’t had much time to sort through them all; but you good people are used to my slacking off by now. So here they are in no particular order:

Stéphane’s salmon and hash brown club

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

I’ve always enjoyed people with multiple layers. Multiple layers of goodness that is. I feel the same about food. Taste constitutes the character of a dish, its DNA. But I feel that color and texture make up its personality; the reason why it may stand out.

One of my top five favorite dishes of all times is Peking Duck. The way the crunchy savory duck skin contrasts with the softness of the pancake and the sweetness of the hoisin sauce… I mean come on. If that’s not food porn at its best…

I wanted to find a way to achieve the same complexity in taste and texture last week for my Sunday lunch (or maybe it was the week before. Is salmon like pot? Does it kill your brain cells? I’m getting worried). So, yes, smoked salmon was the main ingredient. I went for a salmon and potato club sandwich and it was every bit as delicious (in it’s own way of course) as any great Peking Duck I had ever had on Stockton Street or in Soho (London) :0)

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

1. Peel, wash and grate raw potatoes. Do not wash them once grated.
2. Form a ball in your hands the size of a golf ball and flatten it. You need to end up with 1/3 of an inch patties
3. Sauté the potato patties i a little bit of oil over medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides
4. Wait for these hash browns type pancakes to cool down (on a grid so they don’t become soft) and build your sandwiches with one layer of hash browns, one layer of red onions, one layer of smoked salmon and so on. You can also add lettuce for color if you want. Avocado would hurt either.
5. Top the sandwich with heavy cream and salmon or trout eggs and maybe some fresh dill

Salmon and hash brown sandwich

It is really easy, not that expensive and looks very fancy… ENJOY!

Note: you may add black pepper for seasoning, but avoid adding salt as the salmon and trout eggs are already quite salty.

 

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