My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Category: Art de vivre & Design

Mimi & Emma in My French Heaven

You will please excuse me for this mess of a post. I have so much to share here that I don’t even know where to begin. Too many pictures too, but I didn’t have the heart to split the post…

Mimi from Chef Mimi Blog came to spend a short holiday in My French Heaven with her lovely daughter Emma. We only had 4 days together so I wanted to design the perfect itinerary for them. Mimi had purchased these Foodie Days with me as a Christmas present for herself. So much to see, so much to taste and so much to share… Four farmers’ markets and 8 meals together. We focused on cheese and seafood as they are Emma’s favorites.

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I could write on and on about Mimi and Emma and the kind of women they are. I’ll just say that they are both gorgeous and mad about life, living each moment to the fullest. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as in love with good food as Mimi is. What an absolute joy to watch her eat the dishes we had prepared together.

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On Thursday we first stopped at my butcher’s shop to get the fresh foie gras I had ordered. We’d prepare a foie gras and Armagnac terrine we would enjoy on Sunday evening. We then went to the market in St André de Cubzac. There we picked up some delicious strawberries and wild sea bass that we cooked in a salt cocoon for lunch. The fish was served with warm potatoes and an olive oil vinaigrette made with capers, pine nuts and dill. That evening we walked through the vineyard to my favorite restaurant and had drinks on the terrace as we watched the sun set.

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On Friday we went to the market in my hometown and got loads of cheese from Pierre as well as super fresh langoustines and a live lobster we would boil for Saturday lunch. We also bought some calamari that we would cook in Cognac and tomato sauce for that evening. We went back to the townhouse for lunch and made a salad with mixed greens, the sea bass left over from the day before, wisteria flowers and a raspberry vinaigrette. That afternoon, we had a tour of the monolitic church in St Emilion and then a private tour and wine tasting at a friend’s château nearby.

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Market again on Saturday morning, but this time in Ste Foy La Grande. Ste Foy is located a little further East and the feel and contents of its market are quite different. We went home and gorged ourselves on langoustines and home made mayo. In the afternoon, I took the lovely ladies to visit the “La Sauve Majeure” abbey and then Le Château de La Brède, where writer Montesquieu lived. Montesquieu wrote L’Esprit des Lois (the spirit of laws) which inspired the French revolution. We ended the afternoon walking though downtown Bordeaux. Our lobster was on the menu that evening. I made it broiled with a garlic, parsley and walnut butter. DELICIOUS!

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Finally on Sunday, we celebrated both Mimi’s birthday and mine by drinking good wines and eating loads of cheese and cakes from my favorite pastry shop in town. We had seafood bouchées à la reine for lunch and duck confit and sauté potatoes with ceps for dinner. We also went to the brocante that afternoon where Mimi bought a stunning vintage lace table cloth and I finally found the seafood silverware I had been looking for for months…

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I can’t tell you how much fun this has all been and I cannot wait for my dear Mimi to come back. Now we have to explore all the meat options…

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Note: I will share all of the recipes for the dishes I mentionned later this month. This post is already way too long…

The best Foodie Day ever!

Friends and Foodie DaysOysters

I call days I spend touring Bordeaux and cooking with my guests: Foodie Days. A few weeks back, Nancy and Emerson spent two Foodie Days with me. One was centered around local history; the other one, on Sunday, was all about food. That Sunday, I picked the couple at their hotel in Bordeaux and we headed for my home town of Libourne to go to the farmers’ market. We picked-up some seafood, artichokes, lots of cheese and lots of cakes and then went to my favorite bakery to get fresh bread. The bread just came out of the oven and was so hot I could barely hold it…

Cheese from Pierre's

We then went to my house and started cooking together. We spent almost 4 hours cooking one dish after the other and drinking wine. While the artichokes were being steamed, Nancy had a dozen oysters on the half shell; and while the scallops were cooking, Emerson devoured his artichokes. Emerson was also very excited to learn a new French word: Hummmm, which means Yummmm (foodies like us don’t need that many words to make ourselves understood) :0)

ArtichokesFresh langoustinesscallops

I particularly liked the warm langoustine salad we made: just steam or sauté your langoustines (or prawns) in olive oil, place them on mixed greens while they are still warm and add a vinaigrette made of extra virgin (always) olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Delish!

Warm langoustine salad

All of my guests are such interesting characters. I always learn something from them and it makes me so happy to share my love for food and France with them.

Next to visit is my darling Mimi (from Chef Mimi’s Blog) with her daughter Emma. They fly in on Wednesday and will stay 4 days with me. I have put together an itinerary I trust they’ll enjoy. It includes farmers’ markets in the mornings, brocantes and antique shopping, food photography and lots (LOTS) of cooking. I know Mimi wants to try frog legs, one of my absolute favorites! I cannot wait for Wednesday!!

 

When a clan of foodies means business!

Intox the dog and Geoffrey's BBQ

The whole clan drove up to Poitiers last Sunday for Victor’s 8th birthday. Victor is the eldest of my grand nephews. He loves food just as much as the next guy in the family. Oysters are his favorites… I bought him a gold fish he decided to name Oascar. Oscar is very small but very red. But then again, evrerything about that day was bright and colorful. The garden, the food, the people…

Oysters from île d'OleronChampagne

My niece Aurélie, Victor’s mom, has the “Ialwaysbuytoomuchcheese” syndrome. The syndrome runs in the family as both my sister and I have it. Her husband Geoffrey has the “Ibuywaytoomuchmeat” syndrome… A match made in heaven really :0)

Their dog – her name is Intox – is very young. This was one of her first big family gatherings with us. The smell of the BBQ really got to her. She thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

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Besides the oyster and the best wines and Champagne we could find, the menu included rillettes, patés, kilos and kilos of the most amazing beef (with shallots of course), my very own gratin Dauphinois, then the cheese, tarte tatin (apple pie) and a chocolate cake we’d made with Belgium chocolate and salted butter from Guérande. Needless to say that we were all pretty full when we left the table around 5pm. Hanna, my cousin’s Texan girlfriend, could not believe we all, including the kids, could stay seated at the same table for so long… Of course, we all swore that we wouldn’t have dinner that evening… Of course we eventually did! Cold cuts with mayo will be the end of me I swear!

ChampagneOscar and the cake

This was yet another incredible family affair bursting with color, fragrances and love in what I’ll always call my French heaven…

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I used a new recipe for the Gratin Dauphinois (potato gratin). By new recipe, I mean using a different technique. The ingredients are always the exact same!! Everyone absolutely loved it and had several helpings (even the one claiming she was on a diet):

For 6 foodies:

  1. Get 4 pounds of potatoes. Try to get them from the farm and make sure they are the kind that hold together when cooked. The ones you’d use for stews or raclette or salads are perfect.
  2. Peal and clean the potatoes.
  3. Slice them thin (1 or 2mm). Do not put them in water!!! The starch they contain will contribute greatly to the texture and taste of your gratin.
  4. Rub an oven dish with quite a bit of soften butter and sprinkle nutmeg, black pepper and salt all over the dish (half a teaspoon of each). Add half a glass of milk.
  5. Lay down a first layer of  potatoes. Each layer will be about half an inch thick.
  6. Sprinkle salt, black pepper and nutmeg again. This time, also add a big clove of garlic (chopped) as well as 5 tablespoons of heavy cream (the thick kind).
  7. Repeat the  layer process until you run out of potatoes (use two large cloves of garlic total).
  8. Spread a big cup (250g) of cream over the last layer
  9. Put your dish in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes to an hour. Your gratin is ready when the top is golden brown and the potatoes are really REALLY soft (use a knife to check) all the way through.

I might actually make a video soon to show you the exact process… I always think a recipe is simple, but then I write it down and it sounds complicated…

Mom and cheeseTarte tatin

 

Please help me find my props!!

This is a call for help my friends. I love  old enamel dishes and I have NONE. They would be the perfect props to display French dishes and fresh produce. I have looked for them in every antique store and brocante I could think of and have always come back empty handed. I think the reason they are so rare (besides the fact that they aren’t made anymore) is that although they were very cheap to buy, they very expensive to repair and people would just throw them away…

Does any one of you know where I can find enamel dishes? A good website maybe?

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