My French Heaven


Category: Art de vivre & Design

From the ruins come the sweetest berries


As I was walking along the river yesterday, I passed by one of my favorite ruins. The gardens of the beautiful mansion haven’t been tended to in years and they are covered in brambles. So from what looks like a dark and desolate place come, in August, some of my favorite berries: wild blackberries. They have a much stronger and sweeter taste than the American ones (at least than the ones I have tasted). I went home to grab a basket and my camera and came back for a late afternoon harvest.


I always thought there was something romantic about picking one’s own fruits and vegetables. I think it’s even better when they to grow wild. My goal for this fall is to learn how to find and pick my own mushrooms. At least with wild produce, there is no doubt about it being organic or not.


I intended to make a pie with the berries, but I waited too long (24 hours) and by the time I was ready to start working on the pie, I realized I had eaten half of what I’d pick… So no pie today, but if you want a good recipe for a classic French pie using any berries, just go read my strawberry pie post here: Stéphane’s strawberry pie.


Two days in heaven with my angels…

Cap Ferret

Let me start by saying this: I HATE the beach. I hate it with a force. I’m allergic to the sun and don’t get me started on sand getting everywhere. Why people would want to eat on the beach, for example, is beyond me. THAT BEING SAID though, I love to sail, I am a seafood eating machine AND, best of all, all my nephews spend most of July every year in Cap Ferret. This is a great opportunity for me to see all of them at once. You know I’m a single guy without kids, so my 19 nieces and nephews are everything to me.

So on Sunday, I loaded the car with toys and headed for the coast. Two days in heaven with my angels! And don’t be fooled by the angelic faces by the way. Some of them can be a handful :0)

We went for walks, boat rides at sunset and had the best oysters and fish and ice-cold chardonnay and…

I took hundreds of pictures of course and didn’t get a chance to sort through them all. Here are a few that I hope you’ll enjoy.

Note: if you see Barbie, please tell her I have found her missing boot!

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Of eggs, black truffles and my family tree…

Eggs with truffles

It seems that with every new recipe, I introduce yet another one of my grandmothers; and so today, I want to dedicate this post to my great-great-grandmother Petronille. She was born in our family farm in Dordogne in 1865. Funny to think that we had had the farm for 2 centuries already when she was born. Petronille and her husband (with her in the photo) had a few cows as well as sheep. The farm was (still is) surrounded by deep woods in which truffles grew below the centennial oaks and the chestnut trees. I don’t know if Petronille used a hog or a dog to find her truffles, that part of the story has been lost, but she was famous for making all sorts of fantastic truffle dishes. My great-grandfather whom I had the chance to know well (he passed when I was 10 at the age of 98), would tell wonderful tales of Petronille’s soft-boiled eggs with truffles. We called my great-grandfather “Papy”. He’s the man with the white hair and the beret in the photo. With him are my great-grandmother Manée who you already know and my grandmother on the right who passed 4 years ago at the tender age of 101…

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Pierre (my cheesemonger) and I were talking about truffles the other day. I was telling him that I wish I had access to fresh truffles year round. Indeed, truffles are harvested in December, January and February. After that, you can only get them in jars. They taste very good, but it is nothing like the fresh stuff. Pierre told me that he keeps a few for himself  every year and freezes them. When he needs some for pasta or eggs or even a home-made paté, he takes one of them out, shaves what he needs off of the mushroom and places it back in the freezer. That’s what I’ll do next year! Pierre will save me some.


I think this is my favorite way to enjoy eggs: soft-boiled. I don’t always add truffles (I don’t have that kind of money), but once in a while, I treat myself. It reminds me of my roots and of our farm in the woods…

Wherever she is, Petronille is smiling down on me. I am certain of it!

Note: I put my eggs in cold water and set the stove on high heat. 5 minutes and they’re out. I mostly use my induction stove though, which brings water to a boil quite fast. Cooking time depends on so many variables. Only you know your stove well enough…

Note: You don’t need to put a lot of truffle. They are VERY fragrant.

Note: You can put a few truffles (when they are fresh) in your egg basket. Their fragrance is so strong that your egg will pick up the taste of them…


Of friendship and things that are colorful and bright and free

Bastille day

I started this post thinking I’d just share a few pictures of my friend’s Jurina’s 40th birthday that we celebrated this past July 14th weekend. I then thought of what Jurina means to me as a friend and as a positive influence in my life and ended up associating her beautiful free spirit to the revolution and its symbols. Have you ever heard of Marianne for instance?


While Uncle Sam represents the American government, Marianne is the symbol of france as our homeland or mother land. It is the symbol of France itself and its motto since the revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité which means Freedom, equality, fraternity. The name Marianne was used for a number of reasons:

  1. Marie and Anne were the two most common names for girls in the French countryside of the 18th century. The common peasants were at the origin of the revolutionary movement and the largest cast in France.
  2. A song was published just days after the Bastille was taken. It was very popular and was called The Healing of Marianne
  3. In the play “l’Avare” written by Molière (the French version of Shakespeare) more than a century before the revolution, one of the main characters was called Marianne. She represented freedom of choice against tradition and oppression

So Marianne became the symbol of freedom and of the new France the people had fought for. Until the Euro became our currency, we used “Francs”. Marianne was on every coin. She still is on very stamp we use. Take that Elizabeth Windsor :0) Just kidding, you know how much I love the queen. I wish we had one to be honest. Any half blood aristocrat would be better than this buffoon we call our president… (When I say our President, I mean THEIR president. Heaven knows I didn’t vote for that fill in the blank)


So here is to freedom and life and people who keep fighting for them. Here is to the glorious Jurina and the light she shines upon us all. Here is to loud fireworks and food and wine and joie de vivre…

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Note:The toreador is Jame, Jurina’s boyfriend. You guys already know Ségolene and the fat guy holding her in his arms ;0)


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