My French Heaven


Category: Châteaux & Vineyards

Of cured duck, vineyards and haunted mansions…

Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography The great thing (and the worst thing?) about growing up in St Emilion is that everyone knew everyone. As kids we were allowed to go play from vineyard to vineyard when school was out. Almost every château was owned by family or friends of the family and there was nowhere for us to really get lost. Parents could keep an eye on us from afar and if they couldn’t, the neighbors would take over. Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography My cousin Bruno and I were raised as brothers. On weekends, my aunt Nicole would send us on the most amazing scavenger hunts she had prepared for us. We had our swiss army knives and were given clues and maps that would usually lead us back home by the end of the day. My grand mother would give us a lunch bag with baguette, cheese, juice and some kind of cured meat. The meat would be ham or duck. Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography Picture64 13-56-08 Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography To this day, the taste and texture of cured duck triggers memories of our adventures in the vineyard. We never told our parents, but one of our favorite places to stop and hide for lunch was the old house in the picture here. At the time, the front door and bottom windows had not yet been sealed up. We thought the house was haunted of course and that made our play dates all the more exciting… Cured duck breast - Wine tours in Bordeaux - Food and photography workshops - Food photography - Food and lifestyle photography Here is the proper recipe for cured duck breast. You can serve it thinly sliced at the apéritif or like here on bread, as antipasti. It has a very delicate taste and an amazing silky texture you will love!

  1. Get a thick fresh duck breast (with the fat) from a trusted butcher. Ours are almost two inches thick because they come from ducks that were fed to produce foie gras. The South West of France is were the best foie gras comes from.
  2. Lay the breast on a layer of rock salt in a deep dish or tupperware. Then pour an other thick layer of salt on top.
  3. Leave the breast in the salt in the fridge for 24 hours.
  4. After 24 hours, take the breast out of the salt and remove all the salt left on the meat with a dry cloth.
  5. Rub black pepper all over the meat and put it in a dry cloth with lots of fresh rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
  6. Leave your little package in the fridge for 3 to 4 weeks.
  7. When you take it out, make sure you rub off as much of the pepper as possible.


Early morning in the vineyard…

Range Rover in the vineyard

There is a blue fog in our vineyards, a soft yet heavy halo that I was never able to find nor feel anywhere else. And when I walk from the vineyard to the river on cold Winter dawns, the fog brings me peace. I know then that I am home. I know that all is well. I am finally able to process joy… This will certainly sound like a very self centered post, hedonistic surely; but I so wish that all of us could visit that place (or sacred space) more often. You know that place where you know you are in the presence of (no, not God) yourself. Actually yes! God! Your divine self… So think of your special place in the vineyard, by the river at dawn. Walk there, stay there and BE there for a moment. Completely awake yet in a dream (thanks Edgar). Maybe you can’t take your body there right now; but you can close your office door and take your mind and your spirit there. Is it at the end of your yard by the chicken coop? Or under a special tree in the park? Is it on the beach by the marina (Elizabeth)…

Wine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photographyWine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photographyWine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photography

As I parked Hubert by château Petit Village in Pomerol (as a starting point for my walk), I met two lovely ladies trimming and burning the dead vines (sarments). The blue smoke of they portable fire pit added to the atmosphere. Then, as the sun rose higher, the fog disappeared and big white clouds formed in the crystal clear sky. The blue halo remained by the river…

Wine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photographyWine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photography

The next day, Hubert and I went to St Georges and the village of Montagne for our morning walk on the hills. I took a few pictures of the sun rising by the windmills of Calon by my B&B. Oh yes, by the way, we call my car Hubert, because he is so old and we like his personality so much. If he (OK it) were a man, he would wear a thick mustache, smoke cigars and enjoy long walks in the fields with Lord Grantham and a golden lab… I love my old Hubert!

Wine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photographyWine tours in Bordeaux, Food and lifestyle photography

So please go take that walk now; for real or in your head. Bon voyage my friend!

My secret recipe for the French country kitchen fragrance – Le parfum

(En Français plus bas – Bien plus bas)IMG_6067_Snapseed

After my sight, my sense of smell is the one that moves me the most.

We all have our favorite smells and fragrances. They trigger memories of childhood or other significant periods of our lives. Just a sniff over mom’s Bourguignon can make me feel good and warm all over. And safe… and happy… and at peace…

There is a particular smell I’ve always loved: the smell of the traditional French kitchen. It is a smell you’ll only find in châteaux and some rare, family operated restaurants deep in the countryside of Périgords or the Pyrénées. My cousins’ château (Château Monbousquet) smelled like that. The kitchen of our family farm in the Dordogne smelled like that. The restaurants in the Landes forrest where we’d had Sunday lunches when my dad took us hunting smelled like that…

The following story explains how, by accident, I was able to recreate that most perfect smell in my own home.

I was really, REALLY, hungry yesterday. So I went to my butcher Michel and asked him for the juiciest and most tender piece of beef filet he had in the shop. Then, as I was cleaning up my freezer at home that same morning, I found a nice, thick piece of raw foie gras from last season. It all started to make sense in my head. Like a mad scientist, I was designing a recipe for what was to be one of the best meals I’ve had this year: Tournedos Rossini!yjyj

The proper recipe requires fresh black truffles, a thick piece of filet (at least 3cm), a thick slice of bread (pain de campagne) and foie gras. This is the way Rossini himself liked it served when he regularly ordered it at “La maison dorée”. The word “Tournedos” (back turned in French) means beef filet in France. It came from the fact that the Maître D at La Maison Dorée prepared the filet table side, turning his back to Rossini. But Rossini was a big foodie (like you and me) and wanted to observe the process. So he asked the Maître D to turn around and face him. To turn his back or “lui tourner le dos: tournedos. At least that is what the legend (and the Larousse Gastronomique) says…

So here I am yesterday, with a beautiful tournedos, nice fresh bread from the bakery, a gorgeous slice of foie gras and a dream :0) I also had chestnuts that I picked under my favorite tree in Fronsac last Sunday morning and a fistful of mixed mushrooms from the market. I know I should have used truffles, but I’m not a billionaire either…

Here is what you do:

  1. Toast a thick slice of bread and put it aside
  2. Sear the meat in a teflon pan and put it aside. The meat needs to be cooked rare! If you don’t like your meat rare, please try another recipe :0)
  3. In the same pan, sear a piece of raw foie gras (you can use good paté (porc or duck) if you don’t have foie gras. The pan needs to be really hot. It only takes about 15 to 20 seconds on each side for a 2cm thick slice of liver. Once cooked, it will have lost one third to half of it’s original size.
  4. Put the foie gras aside, but keep the fat from that ran from it in the pan. Add two fists worth of wild mushrooms to the pan + 1 chopped shallot + 1 fistful of roasted chestnuts (just the nuts themselves of course). Sauté everything for about a minute on high heat and deglaze with a BIG squirt of Port or Madere wine. Add salt and pepper as well as a little bit of veal or beef stock.
  5. Put the bread on a plate, the filet on top and the slice of foie gras on top of that. Pour the mushroom sauce all over everything and sprinkle with fresh parsley for color

The next day, your kitchen will smell like a château in France :0) Light a fire, pour a glass of Saint-Emilion,  and you’ll feel like you are here! I know it sounds weird, but it smells even better when it is really cold outside…

You see, Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Taylor had their fragrances. Stéphane’s fragrance is meat and foie gras with chestnuts and wild mushrooms. Not very romantic I know…IMG_6013


Après la vue, mon odorat est celui de mes sens qui me touche (et que j’utilise) le plus.

Nous avons tous nos odeurs et parfums préférés. Ils nous rappellent notre enfance ou d’autres périodes importantes de notre vie. La simple odeur du rôti de maman me rend heureux… calme… en paix avec le monde…

Il y a une odeur particulière que j’ai toujours aimé: l’odeur de la cuisine française traditionnelle. Vous la trouverez dans des châteaux et dans quelques rares  restaurants de campagne dans Périgord ou les Pyrénées… Le château de mes cousins ​​(Château Monbousquet) avait cette odeur. La cuisine de la ferme familiale en Dordogne avait cette odeur. Les restaurants où papa nous amenait déjeuner le dimanche dans les landes après la chasse avaient cette odeur…

L’histoire qui suit explique comment, par hasard, j’ai été capable de recréer ce délicieux parfum dans ma maison.

Hier, après avoir servi le petit déjeuner à mes clients aux chambres d’hôtes, je me suis senti venir une faim de loup. De loup garou! Alors je suis allé voir mon boucher Michel et lui ai demandé de me préparer le plus beau des tournedos. Plus tard, alors que je mettais de l’ordre dans mon congélateur, j’ai trouvé un magnifique morceau de foie gras cru de la saison dernière. Mon cerveau de cuisinier s’est mis en route, et, comme un savant fou, j’ai conçu une recette pour ce qui devait être l’un des meilleurs repas que j’ai eu cette année: un Tournedos Rossini!

La “vraie” recette requiert des truffes, un épais morceau de filet (au moins 3cm) , une tranche de pain de campagne et le foie gras. C’est comme cela semble-t-il que Rossini le commandait à “La Maison Dorée “. Le mot « Tournedos » viendrait du fait que le Maître D’hôtel à La Maison Dorée préparait le plat en salle, tournant le dos à Rossini. Mais Rossini était un gros gourmand (comme vous et moi) et voulait observer le processus. Il avait donc demandé au serveur de se tourner pour lui faire face: TOURNEDOS! C’est du moins ce que dit la légende (et le Larousse Gastronomique)…IMG_6085

Me voici donc hier, avec un tournedos de roi, du bon pain de campagne de chez Sylvain Marie, une magnifique tranche de foie gras et un rêve en tête :0) J’avais également des châtaignes ramassées dimanche dernier sur les coteaux de Fronsac et quelques champignons du marché. Je sais que j’aurais dû utiliser des truffes, mais je ne m’appelle pas Crésus :0)

Voici la recette:

  1. Faites griller une tranche épaisse de pain de campagne et réservez 
  2. Saisissez la viande dans une poêle en Téflon et réservez. La viande doit être cuite saignante! Si vous n’aimez pas votre viande saignante, faites une autre recette!
  3. Dans la même poêle, faites saisir une belle tranche de foie gras cru. La poêle doit être très chaude. Il suffit d’ environ 15 à 20 secondes de chaque côté pour une tranche de 2cm d’épaisseur. Une fois cuit, le foie aura perdu un tiers (voir la moitié) de son épaisseur d’origine.
  4. Mettre le foie gras de côté, mais garder la graisse dans le fond de la poêle  Ajoutez deux poignées de champignons sauvages + 1 échalote hachée + 1 poignée de châtaignes grillées ou bouillies. Faites sauter le tout pendant environ une minute à feu vif et déglacez avec une belle lampée de Porto ou de Madere . Salez, poivrez et liez avec un peu de fond de veau.
  5. Mettez le pain dans le fond de votre assiette, le tournedos et la tranche de foie par dessus. Versez la sauce aux champignons sur ​​le tout et saupoudrez de persil frais pour la couleur

Le lendemain, votre cuisine sentira comme celle d’un château ou du restaurant de Maïté :0) Allumez un feu, servez vous un verre de Saint- Emilion et mettez un morceau de Rossini sur votre Iphone… La vie est belle en France! Je sais que ça vous paraîtra bizarre, mais ça sent encore meilleur quand il fait vraiment froid dehors…

Jennifer Lopez et Elizabeth Taylor avaient leur parfum “signature”. Pour Stéphane ce sera tournedos, foie gras et sauce aux champignons. Sexy et romantique non?


Saint-emilion, your insider look into the 2013 harvest – Vendanges 2013

(En Français plus bas)dhqh

Here in St Emilion, the rhythm of our lives follows the growth cycles of the vineyard. Harvest time is the result of long hours of meticulous work and much prayer.srtjs

The harvest in St Emilion is all done by hand. The workers move from plot to plot according to the degree of maturation of the three varieties of plants used here. Apart from Château Figeac and three or four other properties, Merlot dominates (60 % Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon). All wines (there are VERY few exceptions) are the result of “assembling” these three plants. With 5400 hectares, St-emilion only counts for 5% of Bordeaux. Pomerol is even smaller with only 785 hectares.IMG_4666 - Version 2

I spent some time last week in the vineyards closer to the B&B (Pomerol, St-emilion, Montagne and Lussac). I followed my cousin Frank who runs a great team of pickers coming from different regions of France and Spain. A very diverse team of all ages. It is often said of a house: “Oh, if these walls could talk”. I am not sure I’d like to hear some of the life stories hidden behind some of these incredible faces… The older gentleman you’ll see in the pictures is only 64 years old…papy

I am sorry there are so many pictures here, but I took so many that I had the hardest time sorting through them…

A St Emilion, nos vies sont rythmées par les cycles de la vigne. Tout le monde vit du vin (de près ou de loin) et la période des vendanges représente l’aboutissement de longues heures de travail méticuleux dans des conditions souvent difficiles. Couper les bois alors qu’il gèle, faire les vendanges vertes sous le dur soleil de juillet et prier pour qu’il pleuve le moins possible en septembre… Les vendanges arrivent chaque année comme une libération.


Tous les châteaux de St-emilion vendangent à la main. La plupart des satellites font de même. On passe de parcelle en parcelle selon le degré de maturation de chacun des trois cépages. Ici, en dehors de Figeac et de trois ou quatre autres propriétés, c’est le Merlot qui domine (60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon). Tous les vins (à de très rares exceptions près) sont issus de l’assemblage de ces trois plantes. Avec 5400 hectares, l’appellation représente seulement 5% du vignoble Bordelais. En comparaison, il n’y a que 785 hectares de Pomerol. Tout Bordeaux représente 117200 hectares (Bordeaux, Médoc, Sauternes…) yju

J’ai passé pas mal de temps la semaine dernière dans les vignes les plus proches de mes chambres d’hôtes (St-emilion, Pomerol, Lussac, Montagne, St Georges et Lalande de Pomerol). J’ai suivi mon petit cousin Franck qui dirige une belle équipe de vendangeurs venus de France et d’Espagne. Une belle équipe variant les accents, les âges et les sexes. De beaux visages issus de belles vies. On dit souvent d’une maison: “Ah, si les murs pouvaient parler” De ces visages on imagine tellement de choses…IMG_5119 _Snapseed _Snapseed

J’ai pris beaucoup de photos et n’ai pas réussi à faire trop de tri. Je vous les livre donc pêle-mêle :0)


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