My French Heaven

AUTHENTIC MOMENTS & JOIE DE VIVRE

Category: Farmers’ Market

From Cap Ferret to the Dordogne – Mimi and Gabriella’s visit to My French Heaven

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As you all already know, my greatest pleasure in life is to share everything I love about France with my guests and my friends.

My dear friend Mimi (Chef Mimi Blog) came back to visit me last week and brought along one of her dearest friends, Gabriella.

All we did for a week was eat and drink and laugh. Oh we laughed so hard… When people ask me what I do for work, I just tell them I don’t actually work… They always look at me and smile (you know, the “oh poor thing” smile. The suckers think I’m kidding. The joke’s on them!

As always, I’ll share way too many pictures today. You know how hard it is for me to sort through them all. I should have written several posts about this, but… I’ll sort them by day with a few words between each gallery. I hope that works for you and makes it a bit easier to digest (“digest” get it?!)

Day 1: Saint Emilion and the Farmers’ Market. We visited my Butcher Michel to get some nice lean cuts for our lunch. I made green peppercorn steak and sautée potatoes to go with it. Michel loved to meet the ladies and Gabriella gave him a kiss on the cheek. He became as red as the piece of beef he had sold us… I gave the ladies a tour of St Emilion in the afternoon. We returned to the townhouse in the evening and had a light dinner with goose rillettes from the Dordogne on garlic bread, warm white asparagus with a walnut vinaigrette and Saint Felicien cheese on baguette.

Day 2: The coast (Cap Ferret and Arcachon). On our second day, we headed for the coast. We visited a traditional fishermen’s village and had seafood in a tiny restaurant overlooking the Arcachon Bay for lunch. We then spent the afternoon in Arcachon and climbed the highest dune in Europe (quite a workout). We spent the rest of the day having cocktails and delicious food on a terrace overlooking the ocean. The sunset that evening was breathtaking…

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Days 3, 4 and 5 in the Dordogne. From a medieval village high up on a hill called Domme, to the castles of Beynac, Comarque and Filolie, I showed Mimi and Gabriella all of my favorite landmarks. We stayed at a small B&B owned by a lovely Italian couple near Montfort (l’ombrière). A very special place and a lovely couple. We gorged on the best local foods including foie gras, tournedos Rossini loaded with black truffles and duck confit. I think duck confit was an absolute revelation for Gabriella. I failed to mention that this was Gabriella’s first time in France outside of Paris :0) Mimi and I almost killed her with food. 17 fine lunches and dinners in a row… But Gabriella’s a tough foodie! She was able to enjoy every bite of every meal… We also visited “Chateau des Milandes”, the home of musical legend Josephine Baker. Truly special…

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Day 6: The Sauternes and it’s legendary sweet wines. We visited Château Guiraud and had an afternoon walk around the medieval village of Saint Macaire.

Day 7 and 8: The Medoc wine region, wine tastings at Château Lynch Bages and one last medieval castle where Mimi found a baby falcon that had fallen into a well and rescued him from a certain death. I told you she’s a super woman! :0) For our last lunch together that Sunday, I made my grandmother’s famous free range olive chicken. I think that was the last draw for poor Gabriella, pictured here as she was having a food coma in my chair…

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My Japanese Heaven – Part 4 of 4 – How sushi actually made me cry

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OK, I’ll make this short (kind of):

The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the largest one in the world. I was lucky enough to visit it in November before it is moved to a new location (this year or the next I think). I’m saying this because I think that the old warehouse it’s in very much contributes to its incredible atmosphere. And although, as you’ll see in the pictures, it looks really old and dirty and dark, I have never visited a fish market before that didn’t even smell like fish. I mean, it does, but it smells like really fresh fish… The best time to visit it is at 9am when it opens to the public. By ten thirty everything is kind of over. You can make reservations in advance to be there at 5 or 6 in the morning for the tuna auction, but I really didn’t see the point of that. My niece who lives in Tokyo and always has foreign guests staying with her had told me that friends of theirs who visited before had been treated very poorly at the market. They were shouted at, even had dirty fish water thrown at their feet. So I was quite worried about the experience I would have, especially since I wanted to take so many pictures… The experience of it was quite the opposite of what I had been told. I showed up at 9 sharp and had the most incredible experience. I was even offered tea and had a long talk about France and wine with one of the merchants… The secret? Be polite, smile and stay out of the bloody way!!

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Next stop that day was Kidoguchi (tel 03 54673992), my nephew’s favorite sushi restaurant in town. Let’s just say that the experience was so amazing that it made me tear up. I am not joking when I tell you it was the most refined dining experience I have ever had! You guys know how much I appreciate, admire and love craftsmen and women; people who are passionate about what they do. Well, even though I have had my share of fine dinning experiences in my life, this one was just that much more special. The textures, the freshness of each ingredient, the perfectly crafted sequence in which each piece was served… Truly amazing. Comparable to a religious experience. In addition to that, the Sous Chef is the son of a diplomat and speaks the most perfect English. This made the experience even more special as he was able to explain each part of the traditional sushi meal: what he was serving, when and why, etc… The problem is that I am a sushi nut, and because of this experience, I will never be able to appreciate a sushi meal again outside of Japan…

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On my last day, Alice (my adorable niece) had booked a private cooking class for the two of us. We had asked for a tempura theme. We met our host Yuka (Yuka’s Japanese Kitchen) at the metro station and she took us shopping for the ingredients first. That was the most interesting part for me as she was able to describe each and every ingredient in the shop (OK, almost each ingredient). You see, I am a fan of Japanese food, but the cooking culture is so different from mine that I needed to understand the basics first… We learned how to make the tempura sauce and miso soup from scratch… Truly fun and inspirational!! Thanks Alice!!

Alright. Now that we are done with the Japanese interlude, I will be back very soon with some good traditional French dishes for you guys to try… Bonne soirée mes amis!

Lessons learned: A year in My French Heaven

These days, you just need to press enter on your keyboard and Facebook will compile all of your pictures to create a little presentation of the past year in your life. While I think that’s quite a practical little trick, I will try to do it the old fashion way, praying that the result won’t bore you to death. Here is a year in My French Heaven and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

FEBRUARY: Melanie J. had hired me for 12 Foodie Days in June of 2013. She wanted to come back to Bordeaux that fall to spend more time with me but couldn’t make the trip. So she invited me to spend two weeks with her in Miami instead. I hadn’t been back in the States for almost a decade and had been dreaming of a proper rack of baby back ribs since January 2005. We had some fabulous dinner parties for Melanie’s friends and I cooked what I still believe was the finest coq au vin I had ever made… Lessons learned: my guests tend to become dear friends and then I feel bad about charging them when they come to Bordeaux. Not a good business strategy! From now on, I will treat my guests as poorly as possible. (just joking of course! Please come visit me!!) Another important thing I was reminded of: life without ribs isn’t worth living! Oh, and Art Deco rules!

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APRIL: another one I couldn’t resist becoming friends with is Mimi (Chef Mimi’s Blog) who purchased several Foodie Days for herself and her lovely daughter Emma. We had the best of times. All we did was sight seeing and eat for 5 days. Emma doesn’t eat meat, so it was a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and come up with new seafood recipes. Mimi is a great epicurean. Watching her eat cheese on warm baguette with her eyes closed was one of the highlights of my year! I’m being serious! Lessons learned: ladies who eat cheese and real bread with their eyes closed are special!

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MAY, JUNE, JULY, AUGUST and SEPTEMBER: I had so many guests over the Summer that I even “had to” stop blogging. Yes, I know, I’m making excuses… Anyhow, from fellow bloggers like Conor and his lovely wife to Jennifer to hard core Foodies like Carl J. and Gregg M. to my dear friends Diane, Caroline, Elizabeth, Patty and their respective Michaels and of course Dany (who had to drive all the way from Barcelona just to show off his new Porsche) it has been a never ending farandole of the most fantastic people you could ever meet. Lessons learned: in business, people say you should find your niche. In life, I say you should find your tribe! I have finally found mine and they all love to eat and drink and be merry :-)

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OCTOBER, NOVEMBER: I took some time to travel and reconnect with loved ones. First I went to Brittany to visit my nephew François. I had never been to that part of France before. What a mistake! I first visited Mont Saint-Michel in the lower part of Normandy then drove down to the Quimper area where François lives. I ate crêpes and galettes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and came home with an extra 5 pounds… The second trip was to Japan to visit François’ sister Alice, her husband and my two adorable grand-nieces. The trip to Japan was my birthday present this year. It was a life changing experience for me. First time in Asia. Tokyo, Fuji, Nagano, Kyoto… Absolutely breathtaking in every way. I will soon post about these two trips in more detail! You see, I was living in the states for the whole decade when François and Alice were teenagers. When I moved back to France, it was their turn to move away to college, so we never had a chance to really get to know each other. Now it’s done and these “new” relationships are what I am most thankful for this year! Lessons learned: don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them. It is never too late to get to know someone you love and show that you really really care about them. Note: I will let you guess which of the following pictures below are of Brittany and which are of Japan :-)

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DECEMBER: a new website for my Foodie Days that I hope you’ll enjoy (will be up and linked on Monday) and of course Christmas. I have spent quite a bit of money this year. Mostly on Charlotte who begged me for a new clutch, but also on a computer and the camera of my dreams. Travel isn’t cheap either and my philosophy is that cheap travel is OK, but great travel isn’t cheap… So, come Christmas, I must say that I didn’t have much money left for presents. The “problem” is that I am a Christmas freak and I HAVE TO give a present to each and every family member. So I decided to frame some of the family pictures I had taken this year and use that. It was a big success. Lessons learned: never run out of empty wooden frames :-)

That’s it for now. I wish you all (all y’all, as they say in the South) the very best for 2015 and I thank you so much for your continued support and friendship. I love you guys very much. Very much indeed!

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