A special vichyssoise for my muses

If potato leek soup has never been anything new, the French Chef of The Ritz-Carlton New York (the original one), woke up one day and decided he would serve it cold. His name was Louis Diat and the year was 1917. Louis was born near the town of Vichy in France. Soup is a feminine word in French “UNE soupe” and since ladies who live in Vichy are called Vichyssoises… there you go :0) vichyssoise, bordeaux, bordeauxwinetours, winetoursinbordeaux, cookingclassbordeaux, cookingclassinbordeaux, frenchfood, frenchsoup, francetravel, whattodoinbordeaux

Proof of love… I mean salmon and foie gras…

So yes, family dinner on the 24th with my brother’s gravlax (my recipe here) and my home made terrine of foie gras. It was 18 of us + an army of kids. Noisy as hell… And the traditional log for dessert of course ! That made it all better for one grumpy uncle high on Zoloft :0)

A late late late harvest…

it will be a terrific vintage in the likes of 2005 and 2009. Great harvest conditions and ideal weather throughout the Summer. A heat wave in August burnt part of the fruit though. Most châteaux in Saint-Emilion had to go through their vineyard twice in order to sort through the grapes. The sugar content was so high on some lots, that it will be chemistry 101 to try and bring the overall harvest down to the usual 13 or 14° (alcohol).

A very special baker – Boulangerie Marie

I explained in a previous post the difference in France between a Baker (boulanger) and a Pastry Chef (Pâtissier), but I’ll touch on it again:
The “boulanger” makes bread, croissants, chocolate bread (pain au chocolat), raisin bread (pain au raisin) and some basic pies
The “pâtissier” ONLY makes elaborate cakes (sometimes candy and chocolates)
These are two very different jobs. Different shops also.
The boulanger works with “live dough”. The pâtissier with “dead dough”. Live dough evolves and grows, hense the name…
The boulanger works with a very hot oven and keeps it at the same temperature all day long. He may have a separate oven for croissants…
The pâtissier plays a lot with temperatures and several types of ovens
Boulangers may sell pastries sometimes but they are never as good as the onces you’ll get at a pastry shop

This week at the Farmers’ Market

I realized it’d been a very long time since I had taken you with me to the market. It is always a wonderful place to visit and meet people. I particularly like this time of year because of the wide variety of produce. Tomatoes of all sorts, fresh pink garlic… The first artichokes are finally out! We can find them almost year round, but they come from other countries. These here are the real deal. Artichokes from Britany!

Proper salade niçoise

I had so many things to say about the terrorist attack on Nice. I decided to share none of it here. Except maybe for this: THEY WILL NOT GET OUR JOIE DE VIVRE!
So vive la France, vive Nice and vive food and wine and sex and laughter and friendships…
I made salade niçoise for lunch today, following the original recipe from Escofier himself. It couldn’t be more simple and certainly shouldn’t be more complicated (or sophisticated). Provence is all about simple ingredients and authenticity!

My clafoutis aux cerises, courtesy of great grandma Manée

People make clafoutis with all sorts of fruits these days. The original is made with cherries! Clafoutis (also called millard) is a specialty of the Auvergne and Limousin regions of France. The name comes from an old Occitan word meaning “filling”.
The recipe is quite simple and is basically the “flan” recipe with cherries added. You are going to think I am obsessed with my grandmothers after so many posts that include their recipes, but this on comes from my great grandmother Manée (in the picture) who was even more of a foodie than me. She is quite a legend in our family.

Why did the hats have to go?!

Last week, as we celebrated Pentecost (not me, you guys know that although I respect everyone’s beliefs, I don’t care much for organized religion), it reminded me of how special that day used to be in my hometown of Libourne. You see, although Libourne is quite a small town with its 30 000 souls, we used to pride ourselves with a small but very active race track. Of all the races, the one everyone used to attend was the one that took place every year on Pentecost day.

The power of love, laughter and… persillade

I simply sear my scallops to a golden brown (about one minute on each side on medium to high heat) and then dump my persillade on top. I also like to add a bit of lemon juice to give it an extra kick. To die for!! Note that scallops are like calamari: they have to be cooked quickly so they don’t feel like rubber in your mouth. Some people slice them in half before cooking them. I don’t because they end up being thoroughly cooked before they have enough time to brown on the outside.

Where are the grandmas when you need one?

I often turn to complete strangers at the farmers’ market or supermarket for cooking advice and inspiration :0) I try to target a lady with a bag full of what I think are interesting ingredients. She would be my nana for the day. That would make for a great business idea: rentanana.com… Don’t you think?

The Best of Provence – Part 2: The French Riviera

The sea front in Nice is called “La Croisette”. The name comes from the French verb for passing someone on the street: se croiser. In Cannes, it is called “La Promenade des Anglais” (the English promenade). This comes from the olden days when the British gentry would come to the French riviera while on their European tours or just to escape the cold of Winter. If you watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey (spoiler alert), you know that the Dowager Countess is heading for Cannes as we speak :0) These “promenades” were ideal locations for street photography. From the two girlfriends eating ice-cream on a bench to the German biker covered in tattoos: portrait photography heaven!!

The wonders of the Basque Country

The Basque country (Pays Basque) is well known for its hot peppers (piments d’Espelette) and its incredible cheeses (mostly sheep and/or cow). The “piment d’Espelette” is not very strong, but it is extremely flavorful. I use it on cheese, meats, sauces and vinaigrettes as well as in most marinades. The name Espelette comes from the village around which the peppers are grown. Farmers hang them to dry on the façades of their homes. It is very decorative and gives a great authentic feel to the area.

Queen Eleanor – The most powerful woman on the face of the earth

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the ruler of my region of France for part of the middle ages. She was the most powerful woman of her time. Since, in 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine was the most eligible heiress in Europe, she was able to marry the future king of France Louis VII (in a cathedral in Bordeaux actually)….

Something that maybe you didn’t know about France…

The “something that maybe you didn’t know about France” is that, although the modern cars we produce are absolute crap, we used to be number one before the war when it came to luxury cars. The Brits had Rolls and Lagonda, the Americans had Duesenberg. We had Bugatti (yes, FRENCH!), Talbot, Hotchkiss, Delage, Delahaye, Salmson… We even had Facel Vega and Alpine in the 60s!

A lovely Summer tradition of the French countryside

On or around the date of the Summer Solstice, every year, in the French countryside, villagers light up a big fire in a field and dance around it until the last flame has gone. We call this « Fête de la Saint Jean » or « Saint John’s Feast” in reference to Saint John the Baptiste.