Here is the shopping spot of the day. I cannot get enough of that shop! ACANTHE!
With the economy the way it is, we tend to focus more and more on the essentials. We have to. It’s back to basics for most of us. Even if you have more money than most people, chances are that, over the course of the past 4 years, you have considerably lowered your living standards.
We all have to make compromises these days. But I strongly believe that, in order to keep our spirits up while we are hustling our way through this crisis, we need to keep a little magic going on in our lives. We need to make some space in our lives for luxury! By luxury, I mean anything that makes us feel special despite the cost in money, time or effort… We’ll stay reasonable of course, but we will make sure that at least one luxury item will remain on our list. One non-essential that we perceive as essential…
Take me for example. I have been my own boss for almost a decade now. And although I have worked very hard to build a good business, the last two years have been a little harder financially. So I sold the Land Rover and I did not buy the horse I wanted to buy. I used to get new designer shoes twice a year, I am now wearing the same pair going on three years.
But I refuse to compromise on a few little things that make me really happy. These things are essential for me to keep my head above water:
-There are always fresh flowers in my living room
- I eat really good food everyday which I take time to cook myself
- I host at least one good dinner party every month, with all my good china and Grandma’s silverware
I know I may sound like a tool, talking about my silverware, when so many people live in the streets, but my point is that we have to be resilient, whoever we are and whatever we are going through.
This reminds me of the movie “Amélie”. When she tries to give money to a homeless man and he refuses, telling her that he never works on Sundays. There are things that we should not compromise on. Weather it’s an ideal, an object…
So, all things considered, please find the means, financial or otherwise, to keep at least one thing in your life that makes you feel good about yourself. Keep one reminder that this too shall pass. That we are born to shine and we deserve the best. That we will sort through all this mess.
Go have breakfast at Tiffany’s!
Keep wearing that Hermes scarf (even if it is frayed a little)
This is a great address in Saint Emilion. It’s also a wine that may be found in any good wine store in the world. Château Figeac is one of St Emilion 15 “Grand Cru Classée” (meaning it’s one of the 15 best out of some 900 châteaux) but it is a great value for money. When Auzone goes for 1500€ a bottle, an exquisite 2001 Figeac can be found for 140€. It is a FANTASTIC wine.
Another thing I like about Figeac is their staff. Contrary to many first growth properties, you can call them the day before (sometimes even the morning of) to schedule a visit and tasting.
The first time vines were planted here was in the 2nd century. The property has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since then. Although the château you will see is mostly from the 18th century, parts of its medieval version are still visible. Figeac’s next door neighbor is none other than Château Cheval Blanc!
The vines here are very atypical for a St Emilion property. the property is planted like a Medoc property: 35% Carbernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot. Most châteaux in the area are at least 60% Merlot… (the picture above is not from Figeac’s vineyard, they wouldn’t let their vines get so old, but I thought it looked great…). It was taken in St Georges by the way :0)
Anyhow, get some Figeac for your next dinner party. Serve it over beef, lamb or stinky French cheese. You will not be disappointed!
Nothing could be easier to make. But if it’s easy to prep, it takes a long time to cook. So plug your laptop in the kitchen and blog or work in the meantime. A good cook always keeps an eye on things!
- 6 shanks of lamb (I think that’s what they’re called…)
- 1 fist full of dried mushrooms (I like ceps and morels best).
- 1 glass of veal or chicken stock
- 1 fist full of raisins
- 1 fist full of smoked bacon
- Half a glass of port
- Quarter of a glass of balsamic vinegar
- Two tablespoons of honey
- Bouquet garni (3 bay leaves, 3 small branches of rosemary, thyme)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 3 big shallots
- 1 onion
- 10 small onions (thumb size)
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- Color meat in large cast iron pot with olive oil
- Once all sides of the meat are brown, add chopped onions, shallots and garlic
- Once they have taken a golden brown color, add port and balsamic vinegar
- Add honey and all the other ingredients and stir
- Add enough water to cover the meat
- Boil for an hour and add water again so the meat is covered
- Boil another hour and a half
- Put pot in oven with its top at 356°F (180 Celsius) for another hour. Check every 30mn. The sauce should look like caramel. Like in this picture:
- Serve with home-made mashed potatoes.
Ray has one of the most delicate meats. It is also very decorative in a plate. Relatively inexpensive (here at least), the only important thing to remember is that ray meat turns really really fast. So the most important thing here is to make sure it is ultra fresh. The slightest ammonia smell should alarm you.
I like ray in many ways, but one of the best is with a home-made “beurre blanc”. Beurre blanc is one of the most used sauces with fish. It’s delicate tangy taste is ideal for any fat fish such as salmon, sole and ray.
So here we go.
First the Ray:
- Get your fish person to cut the wings and skin them for you. They should look like this:
- Once at home, I rinse them under running water, dip them in white wine vinegar, rub and since again. This will kill a lot of bacteria without altering the taste of the fish.
- Then make a court bouillon (see lobster recipe) and poach the ray. I would say 10mn after boiling comes back for small specimens and up to 15mn for the larger ones (1 inch thick)
- Peal the meat of the bones and serve with sauce over rice or potatoes (steamed, boiled or fried).
- I never, ever serve vegetables with fish. Only potatoes or rice. The only exception is seafood or monk fish in tomato sauce and even then the side dish is always rice and tomatoes are a fruit:0).
Now the sauce:
- Chop two shallots really really thinly
- Put in pan with a little vinegar and let it reduce until shallots are soft (3mn?)
- Discard extra liquid. Put a few spoons of dry white wine in pan and do the same thing you had done with the vinegar.
- Discard extra wine. You are left with “candied” shallots.
- Now add salt and pepper and small pieces of butter while stirring until the sauce has reached the creamy look you want. You can then strain the mixture to take the pieces of shallots out. I like to leave them in!
- If you have done it right, the sauce should not turn. If you have to reheat the sauce, do so in a “bain-marie” (double boiler).
Well, it has nothing to do with the slimy little thing. That, I just tolerate. Escargot for me is all about the sauce!
My favorite is “persillade”. Basically butter with parsley and garlic (lots of it).
The great thing about “persillade” is that you can use it on all white fish (it is perfect with sole). It is also perfect on any kind of potatoes or mushrooms.
It is really interesting to see how language can help define a culture. There are for example several words that exist in the French Language and do not have an equivalent in English and vice versa of course.
Take for example the words “empowerment” or “Leadership”. They do not translate in French. The word power translates of course, but it is always used in a negative way…
In French, a word like “gourmandise” can only be translated in English as “gluttony” or “greed”. Almost always regarded as a sin with the image of a large person in mind. For the French, it actually is a quality.Then again, although we are mostly a Catholic people, we regard most sins as wonderful qualities… For instance we say that you should never trust a thin chef (or a thin person for that matter :0)
Someone who is “gourmand” is thought of as jovial, as someone who enjoys life, a “bon vivant”. He or she is not necessarily a person who is unhealthy looking and eats too much. He or she simply loves food; even the idea of it. It has more to do with the idea of kids in a candy store with their eyes wide open than the idea of a big slob feasting. To be “gourmand” has almost become a philosophy for those who see life as a banquet…
Should you wonder why this photo is here… please review your classics!
Anyhow, just think of the words that don’t translate. They have a lot to say about how we see things. No judgement here, just a fun fact.
Monk Fish, along with Sole and Turbot is one of my very favorite fish. But you’ve got to admit that one could only love it for its “internal” beauty…
It is an expensive fish in France, around 22 to 25€ a kilo.
Its firm yet delicate meat allows for all kinds of cooking methods and recipes.
In this one, we’ll keep it super simple:
- Cut filets in steaks of 1.5 inches
- Light coat with flower
- Sear in canola + butter
- This fish can be easily overcooked, so pay attention.The translucid meat should barely turn white in the middle. Unless you cook it in sauce, it needs to be served right off the pan…
- 1 big shallot sizzled
- 3 parts of olive oil for 1 part of Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 10 leaves of basil sizzled
- 1 tomato cut in tiny cubes
- Put all these ingredients in sauce pan and warm them up
Much prettier now don’t you think?