Black diamonds

This is a trip back in time. Back to December 4, 2008, to be exact. I am not sure why I woke up thinking about this adventure while I was on sabbatical. Coincidence? Who knows. But what I do know is that once I pulled up this blog entry, I was transported back to the woods on a chilly day, two Frenchmen, a dog and me. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had a truffle since I came home in 2008. Big sigh…

Enjoy. Bon appétit! Merci, René, Sonny et Érick. Je vous aime.

Yesterday I fell in love with a man, his dog and a mountain. After last Friday’s truffle market in Carpentras, Chef Érick and I were invited to have lunch with René, pictured above, and Françoise, his wife, at their home in Isle sur la Sorgue in the Vaucluse. René called on Tuesday of this week to confirm that we were coming. He asked me if I am afraid of walking in the mountains. He did not know he was talking to a mountain girl. And then he told me not to wear my high heels. Since I do not own any, that would be easy enough. He also reminded me that we needed to get there early. So, I dressed warmly, lacing up my tennis shoes, and we set out around 10:00 am. Isle sur la Sorgue is about an hour’s drive from Arles. We drove through fog for about 30 minutes and after it lifted, we could see Mont Ventoux in the distance, covered with snow.

When we arrived in the town well-known for its antique shops, Érick pulled off to the side of the road to phone René because he was unsure of how to find his house. René gave him directions and said he would come find us on his bicycle if we got lost. We set out again and, sure enough, at the turn to his neighborhood, there sat René on his vélo. We followed him home. We were greeted by the barking of Sonny, his white lab. Françoise had prepared a feast for us. We ate shrimp, paté de fois gras and smoked salmon on toast and radishes as appetizers. Then Françoise made omelets with truffles for the next course. René brought out a bottle of red Côtes du Ventoux wine and uncorked it. The omelets were followed by endives baked with ham and cheese with truffles sprinkled inside. Lunch conversation consisted of René telling me about his teaching days at the nearby high school and Érick instructing Françoise on the proper way to prepare truffles. He told her that truffles should not be cooked. They should be added to a dish after it has been cooked. Heating them causes them to lose their flavor. Françoise seemed very grateful for the advice. We had cheese, a little dish of ice cream and coffee before setting out on our adventure. Françoise elected not to go (probably because she had so many dishes to wash…) and she lent me her boots. René loaded Sonny into the truck and off we went.

I really had no idea what to expect. I did have a vague recollection of oak trees and roots after reading Peter Mayle’s books. We parked by the side of the road and found a little path up the mountain where René owns property and where he does his hunting. I followed behind René and Sonny, keeping a bit of distance between us so as not to distract her. I learned to walk in the grass or on the moss, not on the dirt path. Lesson #1: leave no tracks for others to see. Lesson #2: whisper so that your voice doesn’t carry. Others are probably around, hunting for truffles, too, poaching most likely. It is still a bit early in the truffle-hunting season and I had been warned not to expect too much. So, it was a pleasant surprise when Sonny started digging about 10 minutes into our walk. As soon as she begins to dig, René hurries over and scoots her out of the way. She has no interest in eating the truffle, however. I had read about hunting with pigs, but pigs like to eat the truffles. We did see lots of places where wild boar, sangliers, had beat us to the treasure. Once René finds the diamant noir, or black diamond as they are known in France, he rewards Sonny with several dog treats from the little bag he keeps in his pocket. He tells her what a great dog she is and pets her. It is obvious that he loves her dearly and she is fiercely loyal to him. She decided that she kind of liked me, but I think it was because I was wearing Françoise’s boots, to be truthful.

René then checks out his treasure, smelling it and carefully rubbing some of the dirt away in order to see if it is a good one. He can tell immediately if it is too wet or too dry. If so, it will not fetch much at the market. There are stories of fake smell being added to the truffles, lead pellets being inserted into them to make them weigh more, poachers who steal from the property owners, and so on. This seems to be a business based on trust, however, and René is a man of his word. He taught high school for about 30 years and loved it. He has hunted truffles for over 40 years. He took great pleasure in showing me how he goes about it. I am deeply grateful to him for the lesson.

We spent about two hours following Sonny’s nose and a little path up the mountain. René remembers where he has had success in the past and guides the dog towards those places. She, however, is guided by her nose and her knowledge that a treat awaits her should she find a truffle. We came out of the woods with 11 truffles of various sizes. René even let me dig one up. He carries a small screwdriver in his pocket for this purpose. He places his truffles in a small white plastic sack. His jacket has lots of pockets to hold all the tools of his trade.

At first glance, I thought his René’s mountain resembled the Appalachian Mountains, my home. However, once we started climbing up the path, I realized there was not very much resemblance at all. Snail shells are scattered everywhere. A wall made of stones winds up the mountain, built from the flat rocks that are found everywhere. Small stones huts, bories, are hidden away, built long ago by shepherds as shelters while they tended their flocks of sheep. I ventured into one of them, admittedly not very far as it was very dark and I am not too fond of spiders, even French ones. The oak trees are not large ones, as I had expected. They are small and different from any I have ever seen.

All in all, it was one of the best days of my life. René is a master storyteller and continued to tell me stories after we returned to his house. He pulled out his scales, a basic set, nothing fancy or digital for the truffle hunters here in the Vaucluse, and weighed the week’s findings, coming to almost a kilo or 2.2 pounds. He gave me two small ones. I just ate one of them grated on top of fresh pasta. To really get a taste of a fresh truffle, take a small piece of bread, dip it in olive oil, grate the truffle on top and sprinkle it with coarse sea salt. Heavenly. In one week’s time, I have become addicted to truffles. I just had dinner and am already thinking about tomorrow’s lunch. I plan to make an omelet from the fresh eggs we just bought, add some cheese while it is cooking and then grate my last truffle on top. I only have nine days to savor as much of Provence as possible, after all!

Here is the dish we made last week, after the market in Carpentras. This recipe is courtesy of Madeleine Vedel.

Bon appétit!

Fresh Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Truffles (or Mushrooms)

Pâtes Fraîches aux Champignons Sauvage avec un Sauce aux Noix –

Fresh Wild Mushroom Pasta with Walnut Sauce

This is rightly a recipe for the fall, but it can be made all year round with a stash of dried mushrooms.  The walnut sauce is a classic preparation that dates back to the time of the Etruscans. Walnuts are particularly present in the Cévennes, the hills of the Gard in Languedoc, just an hour or so from Arles. Fresh pasta is really quite easy to make. Anyone who’s made bread a few times, can easily start making pasta. From start to finish, this recipe can be on the table in an hour after a bit of practice.

Ingredients for the Pasta :

If served as a main course, one egg per person, if served as a side dish, then one egg per 2 people.

One cup (100-150g) flour to one whole egg.

Pinch of salt

Dried mushrooms ground to a powder – 1/4 cup to 4 cups of flour (30g to 450g) if you are not using truffles

For the Sauce :

300 grams of walnuts (this is about 2 cups chopped walnuts)

2 garlic cloves (good sized)

1/2 cup of olive oil (120ml)– not too bitter, extra-virgin cold pressed.

Salt to taste

A few fresh mint leaves (optional, or another herb you like…)

Grated cheese – we like a young sheep tome, or pecorino. A mild parmesan is fine, too.

For the pasta:

On a smooth work surface, such as a large counter space or marble slab, pile your flour in a well, in the middle of the well put your mushroom powder and your pinch of salt and your eggs. With your hands, gradually incorporate as much flour as the eggs are thirsty. If there is a bit of flour left over, you can add a tablespoon or so of water, as needed. You need to work the dough for at least 10 minutes, kneading it and stretching it, till it is smooth to the touch. Put aside covered to rest for 30 minutes.

Either with a pasta machine or by hand, continue rolling and folding the pasta dough. With the machine I pass a portion of the dough through, fold it in three and pass it again, always on the largest setting. I continue this at least 7 times, if not more, till the dough is very smooth and elastic and does not seem brittle and cracks stop appearing. When the dough is ready, then you can either roll out by hand, turning the dough in every direction, gradually increasing its elasticity and thinning it out, the pros use a bit of gravity letting the dough hang off the counter as then roll. Or, alternatively, use the pasta machine and gradually reduce the size of the setting to the desired thickness.

When the dough is the thickness you desire, cut it as you please, in large long noodles, in triangles, in thinner spaghetti lengths… to your preference. Lay the prepared pasta on floured cloths, – you can layer these – and let dry till you are ready to put them into the salted boiling water.

For the sauce :

In a mortar and pestle, grind your garlic cloves and walnuts to a fine paste, add the olive oil as you work to make it easier to form the paste, if you are adding the mint leaves, do so now, and salt to taste.

When your pasta is done, save some of the pasta water to add to the walnut sauce to lengthen it and thicken it. Toss the pasta with the walnut sauce, grate the cheese on top, and serve. If you are using truffles, grate them on top of the pasta, sauce and cheese.

Have fresh bread ready in order to wipe your plate clean so that you do not waste one bit of the sauce or truffles!

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

1386858046

It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

July 28, 2008

The BFF asked me for “my” recipe for mussels- moules- during our Therapy Session this morning.  I have Chef Érick’s recipe. I can take no credit. Only credit for eating my weight in them!  So, down The Sabbatical Chef memory lane we go. To almost the beginning. I haven’t re-read it yet. I will. In a few minutes. After I finish the week’s lesson plans. Tonight.

The Day After…


As I sit here, ready to tell you all about my birthday dinner/feast, I have not decided which photo to post. The perfect one wasn’t taken. I should have taken one of the moules or mussels before they were consumed and nothing remained except a few drops of juice and one or two little bits of onion. Taking pictures just was not on my mind at the time, I must confess. (I have since added a photo I took at the market of mussels…)
The day started the way most of them do around here- breakfast on the table by 8:30 am, laundry to get off the line, fold and put away, more laundry to hang, breakfast dishes to do, kitchen to clean, two rooms to clean and prepare for the next guests, all of this accomplished by noon with the help of Dorette (she didn’t realize she would have to wash dishes either, Martha and Monette- it’s an evil trap we have here for people who stay on the family side of the house…). Chef Érick is really good at scrubbing showers. He did the green room while I did the yellow.
Lunch consisted of leftovers from the day before when we made lunch for two Japanese women who are visiting. On of them, Minae, was Madeleine Vedel’s boss when she lived in Japan. We had a salad of yellow, green and red tomatoes, raw oysters, shrimp, couscous salad and risotto rice cooked in the shrimp broth, followed by several different local goat cheeses and chocolate from Joël Durand, chocolatier in St. Rémy. The wine was a Costière de Nîmes white wine made by Jean-Paul Cabanis. Seth and Craig at the Wine Authorities need to check him out!
After lunch, I took my shower and put on one of what I like to call my “dresses from Christian Lacroix’s Saturday Market Line.” Dorette had given me a really pretty scarf at breakfast that I wanted to wear. That was so tiring that I decided I needed a little siesta and took a quick nap, wrote a letter to my mom and sister and went back down to the kitchen in time to find Chef Érick chopping vegetables. I thought maybe he was going to prepare an aïoli. He wouldn’t say. Then he chopped onions and tomatoes and put them on to cook. When he added a couple of bay leaves and some dry white wine, I became suspicious. Moules marinières provençales? I do love mussels from the Mediterranean Sea. Dorette and I opened a bottle of Jean-Paul’s rosé and helped debeard the mussels. There seemed to be a huge quantity for only the three of us. I asked if perhaps we were feeding the Russian Army? I had no idea how that would translate for a Frenchman. My mom always used that line. He just smiled and continued stirring. He steamed the mussels and then we arranged them in the tian. I love arranging them and saving some of the shells to use as eating utensils! This is when I should’ve gotten the camera ready. However, the baked pastry for a millefeuille appeared and he set about making the pastry cream. Then the sound of the doorbell distracted me further. I went to answer and found Marie-Christine and her dog waiting. Not the Russian Army, needless to say, but a very chic French woman who runs Le Pot au Tabac in town. I ushered her into the kitchen and offered her a glass of rosé. She gave me a beautiful china dish with a hand-painted Arlesienne woman on it. When the doorbell rang again, I found Gilles, Didier and Monique waiting. A few minutes later Gilbert (aka GBear) also showed up. So, the party started! I am so glad that my 50th birthday gave us all a chance to get together again. And this time with Dorette added. Monique and Didier gave me an original drawing of an Arlesienne. Their hair ornaments and dresses give them away. The woman of Arles have been painted by Picasso and Van Gogh, just to name two famous painters.
We feasted on the mussels and couscous, with more rosé supplied by Gilles and Gilbert. The millefeuille was greatly appreciated, too. We didn’t even bother to set the dining room table. We ate at the stainless steel work table that is in the kitchen. Have you ever noticed that the kitchen is the center of people’s homes? No matter how nice your living room is or what the set up is in your house, when friends come over to eat, the kitchen becomes the favorite place to hang out. It is definitely the case here. The kitchen used to be a stable- the feeding place for lambs. That gives the room a very comforting aura.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that eating is all about who you are sharing the food with. After I left Arles last summer and returned home, I found that I really wasn’t very hungry. Cooking for just myself was more of a chore than a pleasure. It’s the act of cooking for someone and then sharing the meal that makes eating a pleasurable experience. It’s an offering of sorts, a very personal one. In France, it is the social occasion, not just the prelude to going to the movies or a sporting event. Hours are spent talking, discussing the day’s happenings, telling jokes (I still don’t always get them and need them explained, as Dorette found out), as well as eating. A very nice way of life, n’est-ce pas?
Moules marinières provençalesFor 4 persons as a main course; 6-8 as an appetizer

2 kg. (1 kg = 2.2 pounds) mussels (in Arles, we use the Bouzigues variety, from the Mediterranean Sea- these are saltier than mussels from the Atlantic or Pacific so we do not add any extra salt)
one cup water

For the sauce:
1 onion, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, diced
1 cup dry white wine
4 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1. Debeard the mussels and set them to steam in a tall, covered pot with a cup of water. This will take 10-15 minutes. Once all the shells are open, remove from the flame and set aside. Do not throw away the mussel juice in the pot.
2. In a quart/liter size saucepan, pour the olive oil and add the minced onion. Simmer on a low flame until the onions have sweated and become simply translucent. Watch carefully and be sure that the onions do not brown. Add the chopped tomato and stir a moment, add the wine, the crushed garlic, the bay leaves and the mussel juice from the steaming pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer and reduce for 20-30 minutes.
3. To serve: Take a large rimmed platter and place the opened mussels in the half-shell in one layer throughout the platter. Extra mussels can be taken from their shells and added to the shells in the platter. Leave a few whole to be used as pinchers to eat the mussels. If you are making the mussels ahead of time, put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve, then take them out and gently reheat the serving dish, ladle the sauce over the mussels and serve. By ladling the piping hot sauce over the mussels, you reheat them without drying them out in the oven.

*Left over mussel juice is wonderful for a seafood risotto the next day, or as a base for a seafood chowder. Use it within a day or two at the most or freeze it for later use.

Bon appétit!

Paris by proxy

joanie on her pony

Joanie on her pony

Jeanne d’Arc, 1874, Emmanuel Frémiet, 4 rue des Pyramides, Paris 01

Okay, so I am not really sure that I am using “by proxy” properly, even though I looked it up on-line at Urban Dictionary.

by proxy:  the ability to do or be something without actually physically doing it. “John was invited to the party, and since I’m his best friend I was invited by proxy” “Sarah lives with a smoker so when they watch tv together she smokes by proxy”  -by Ballet Queen June 01, 2005

One of my buddies is in Paris this week. At this very moment, she is eating foie gras and sipping Bordeaux. (I know this because I texted her for an update. I just cannot help myself.) I guess I could have called this post Paris Vicariously, n’est-ce pas? Am I jealous? Envious? Of course I am. I haven’t been there since March. Six long months. But who is counting, right? I am, however, thrilled that she is there. We have been to France together several times and she is an excellent traveling companion… meaning we laugh at the same things, we both love art museums, getting lost, eating in places with great views, and sipping wine and/or champagne and watching people.

She may very well kill me for what I am going to post next, but I have to do it. It is just too funny not to. I will ask forgiveness when she returns. Here is the first text I received, the day she arrived:

First off. On our flight here there was THE MOST GORGEOUS FRENCHMAN!!!!!! sitting in our row. Pleasant with manners and looks that I cannot describe… cut jawline, thick gorgeous hair, leather coat and well he looked good:) you’ll love this… he had a glass of milk and put on the shades for the evening. No meals. I said they are bad, aren’t they and he laughed and said oui!! He is from Lyon. Oh to be young again and free spirited. We can always admire from afar. We went to the Passage St. André des Arts. Saw your Tennessee hangout and ate dinner in one of the restaurants. We are trying to map out as many as we can. Rodin is tomorrow!! We are staying on Rue Saint Sulpice. Pierre is our host… another helpful and friendly skinny good looking Frenchman. So far the most fun was people watching at our café at lunch. Miss you mon amie. I have done a bang up job of using my French:) they always answer in English… does not deter me:) Bisous

pacman

The day she sent this, I showed a ZAZ video, Sous le ciel de Paris, to my 7th graders and talked to them about street art which has helped me to appreciate.

I could watch this over and over– oh, wait, I HAVE watched this over and over.

Next text, a bust by Camille Claudel from the Rodin Museum.

camille claudel

What a talented, tragic woman. There was a movie made about her life in 1988. I found this blurb-

When renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (Gérard Depardieu) notices the raw sculpting talent of the beautiful and precocious Camille Claudel (Isabelle Adjani), the two artists begin a scandalous love affair. Camille becomes Auguste’s muse and assistant, sacrificing her own work to contribute to his sculptures. However, when her work goes unrecognized and she desires attention of her own, Camille is left alone and gradually spirals into mental illness.

Then two photos from her visit to Les Invalides. The first is of the Cathedral St. Louis des Invalides.

st louis des invalides

The flags are from Napoléon’s campaigns. From the Musée de l’Armée’s website:

The cornice of the Veteran’s Chapel is decorated with some hundred trophies taken from the enemy, throughout the history of the French armies, from 1805 to the 19th century. Bearing witness to age-old traditions, these trophies were hung on the vault of Notre Dame Cathedral up until the French Revolution. Those which escaped destruction were transferred to the Hôtel des Invalides from 1793. The Hôtel des Invalides was then entrusted with the mission of keeping French emblems and trophies. Nearly 1,500 of these trophies were burnt in the courtyard in 1814 by the Governor of the Hôtel des Invalides to prevent them from failing into enemy hands.

It is one of the only, if not the only, church where the French flag is on display. Separation of Church and State is taken seriously here.

Next came Napoléon’s tomb — “he had a rather large ego”

napoleon

I found this information on the Napoléon.org website:

Visitors enter the crypt via a staircase. This leads to a heavy bronze door (forged from cannons taken at Austerlitz) flanked by two statues. Above the lintel is the following inscription (an extract from Napoleon’s will): “I wish my ashes to rest on the banks of the Seine among the people of France whom I so much loved“.
The sarcophagus was put up on a green granite pedestal and contains a nest of six coffins: one made of soft iron, another of mahogany, two others of lead, one of ebony and finally the last one of oak. Napoleon is dressed in his Colonel’s uniform (of the cavalry of the Guard) which bears his sash of the Légion d’Honneur. His hat rests on his legs.

I have paid my respects to the Emperor several times. And heard some interesting stories from some of the guides we’ve had… I will leave it at that. But one is about a missing body part when his body was exhumed to be sent back to France for burial. This part was supposedly bought by an American urologist and has been kept on display. That’s all I know.

One of my friend’s goals on this trip is to visit as many of the beautiful passageways of Paris as possible.

Here is the Galerie Vivienne-

Galerie Vivienne

It is located at 4, rue des Petits Champs, Paris 02.

I thanked her for this photo and she came back with:

De rien!! Most of the good ones are on my Canon camera. Will show when home. I have taken some on my phone just for you. Had a wonderful French lesson with a taxi driver… too much fun. We have walked over four miles or so each day. Hubby has a cold, but has hung in there so after walking all over yesterday and walking to the Rodin and Invalides he was ready for a taxi. Lucky me!!! We have met some wonderful people and some Frenchies that are not so tolerant of my attempts at speaking their language. Pas problème:)!! Give me six months and my taxi driver and I would be good to go.

Before she left for Paris, she checked the weather and it looked as if it was going to rain quite a bit. So I asked– Raining much?

No!! We have had a bit of rain off and on. Mostly good weather!!! Just pulled out the umbrellas and kept walking. It is 64 and cloudy and feels great:)

This is from the woman who was THRILLED that it snowed one March while we were in Paris. Of course, we had just read one of Laura Florand’s romance novels about a gorgeous French pastry chef (or was he a chocolatier?) who has a snowball fight with his equally gorgeous American girlfriend on the Ile Saint Louis, but I digress.

yo snow-SNOW

Next text-

Hubby walks 10 feet behind me looking at his google map. He directs and I lead:)!! Crazy, I know, but it works for me:) I love Paris!! Headed to Père Lachaise maybe tomorrow. Mapped out all the folks I want to pay my respects to.

kir royale

And to go along with this photo of her kir royale, she texted:

You have taught me well, my friend. Where to go, what to drink and how to enjoy it all.      Je t’aime.

That is the highest praise I could receive.

Next week, another friend will make his first trip to France, spending time in Normandy and in Paris. I’ve shared my Paris Cheat Sheet with him, but I am sure that he will not be sending me texts. I am not even sure that he has a smartphone! That’s okay.

I have no recipes for foie gras, but I have photos. I eat it as often as possible when I am in France. These are from January 2013.

foie gras 2foie gras

This particular amie is very fond of mousse au chocolat. In a text responding to my wish that she eat and drink good things for me, she said-

Definitely taking care of that. Rosé twice a day! It’s chocolate that I have neglected. Remedy tomorrow.

In her honor, I will repost my favorite recipe for mousse. For its origins, read this post.

La mousse au chocolat de Fanny

6 eggs
70 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
200 g dark chocolate (use the best you can find/afford– the Nestle’s she uses is dark 52% chocolate; European chocolate is just plain better than our stuff unless you go high end; they have higher standards for theirs)
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Do not let it get too hot.  Stir it with a metal spoon, not a wooden one.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is almost melted and continue stirring until completely melted.

Separate the egg whites and yellows.
Beat the whites, with a pinch of salt, until stiff peaks form.

Mix the yellows and the sugar.
Then add the melted chocolate.

Delicately add the whites, about 1/4 at a time.  Fold them in very gently.

Refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before serving.

finished product

Bon appétit! Bon voyage! Bonne journée! Bonne soirée! Bon courage! Bonne chance! May my friends continue to travel and enjoy all the sights, sounds, tastes and inevitable adventures that come with traveling.

 

 

I miss Mayberry

Okay, if you are a Rascal Flatts fan then you know I stole borrowed the title of one of their songs. I don’t think they will get upset when they read today’s blogpost. I think they will be honored. I have been in a bit of a blue mood the past few days. I’ve recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. (more about those book in a later post- they deserve their own) I’ve been very bothered by the news that the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC earned $3.5 million in compensation in 2016. I am trying not worry too much about things that I cannot control. Really I am. Therefore, I am going to a happy place and taking you along for the ride.

The Ex-Ex and I decided to take a couple of days to explore Mount Airy, the town that inspired the Andy Griffith Show’s fictional town of Mayberry. I read an article about hiking at Pilot Mountain (or Mount Pilot in TV-land) and we thought that sounded like fun. It was amazing.

pilot mtn

You can’t hike all the way to the top- that’s for climbers.  But you can hike all around the base.

We did it early in the morning before the 90˚F+ temperature set in.

Back to Mayberry.  As a young’un, I thought that the Andy Griffith Show was only shown in North Carolina.  This was back in the days of three TV stations, television programming signed off after the 11:00 news and the national anthem played, and a TV set was a real piece of furniture.

old tv

And shows were in black and white.  Yep, that’s how old I am.  I now know that New Yorkers, Nebraskans and Delawareans were also watching. I wonder what they thought of us in North Carolinians. Not that I care, truthfully. Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Mr. Griffith, always taught a lesson, mostly to son Opie, played by Ron Howard, and to his deputy, Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts. All in a 30 minute time slot. Add in a few other characters:

  • Aunt Bea, who showed up in the first episode to help take care of Andy and Opie. There was never much mention of Opie’s ma, except to say that she had died.
  • Floyd, the ditzy barber (I saw this t-shirt at a wine festival)

pink floyd

  • Otis Campbell, the lovable town drunk who would just lock himself in his cell after he got loaded

otis' cell

  • Howard Sprague, the county clerk, a mama’s boy

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  • Gomer, a gas station attendant with an amazing singing voice (Grandma Christine loved him and had fantasy lunches with him) who later went on to have his own show after he joined the Marines
  • Goober, Gomer’s cousin who also worked at Wally’s
  • Miss Crump, a school teacher who later married Andy
  • Thelma Lou, Barney’s main squeeze (she is still alive and was signing autographs the day we were at the Andy Griffith Museum- we didn’t want to wait in line or pay to get one but later saw a lady who had an autograph on her pink purse)

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  • The Darlins, a musical family of hillbillies who periodically came to town, usually bringing moonshine with them as I recall

darlin truck

  • Ernest T. Bass, a wiry little hillbilly who had a penchant for throwing rocks and climbing trees (I have a second cousin who reminds me of Ernest T)

ernestt brick

There were others, but these are the ones I remember the most.

Andy Griffith lived in Mount Airy until he left to attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. You can even rent out his family home and spend the night there.

andy's house.jpg

At his recently renovated museum, I learned that he was a teacher at Goldsboro High School for a few years.  Who knew? Not me. Quite a few of his personal belongings were donated to the museum.  His guitar-

andy'sguitar

Some evenings after supper, Sheriff Taylor would sit on the porch and play.

There are also quite a few things from the set of the show. The doors to the courthouse/jail-

courthouse doors

Barney’s sidecar-

sidecar

The one artifact that I found especially touching is the white suit that Andy Griffith wore for his part in Brad Paisley’s video for the song Waitin’ on a Woman. The video was filmed in 2008, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where Andy spent his final years.

waitingonawoman

Paisley’s 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how it came about. Andy passed away four years after the video was made.  I double dog dare you not to shed at least one tear watching it.  Rest in peace, Mr. Griffiths.

While we were in Mayberry Mount Airy, we had breakfast at Snappy Lunch, made famous in the TV show.  It is the only real place in Mount Airy mentioned on the show.

snappy sign

According to the fellow sharing the lunch counter with us at Snappy, a local, Snappy was delivering lunches to the local high school, which was just up the street back in the day, for years before the school got a cafeteria.  It is quite famous for its pork chop sandwich, which Our State magazine has written about, even suggesting it should be our State Sandwich.

ourstate

So, I had one for breakfast.

I didn’t expect to be wowed. Just a fried boneless pork chop, with slaw, a tomato slice, chili and mustard on a regular old hamburger bun, right? I loved every bite.  Truly.  I would go back just to have another one.  And I vote YES!  A young guy stands in the window and cooks the pork chops for all the passers-by to watch. Snappy keeps short hours, opening around 6:00 am and closing around 2:00 pm, it isn’t open on Sundays and it isn’t very big. It has two rooms for eaters, the front room filled mostly with locals (and us at the counter) and tourists in the room to the side, it seemed. The Pork Chop Sandwich costs $4.20. I got a bag of chips with mine- no fries that day.

snappywindow

I love the Appalachian State hat! Go Mountaineers!

I found a blog, Happy Hodgepodge Home, with a recipe for the sandwich.  Try it if you would like. I don’t think I am going to try it myself.  I want the memory of the sandwich to be unsullied by my own feeble attempts at reproducing it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.  Might be best to have it with a Cheerwine, a drink concocted in Salisbury, NC in 1917. (I’ve seen advertisements for a Krispy Kreme Cheerwine doughnut, but I haven’t had one. Yet.) I did find a recipe for a Cheerwine Pound Cake in an article in Our State.  This might be worth a try! Who doesn’t love pound cake?

Cheerwine Pound Cake

Makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Cheerwine soft drink
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Red food coloring gel, as desired (optional)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch, light-colored metal tube (angel food) pan, tapping out any excess flour. (A dark metal or heavy Bundt pan will make the crust too dark and thick and will interfere with the baking time.)

2. Beat the butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer set to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Whisk together the flour and salt in another large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with half of the Cheerwine, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition. Quickly beat in the lemon and almond extract.

5. If you want the cake to have a deep pink color that suggests Cheerwine, tint the batter with the gel. Start with a little and work up to the desired shade, keeping in mind that a large amount of food coloring can make the cake taste bitter.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.

7. Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cake onto the rack and let cool to room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you wish.

Maybe you could make a drizzled sort of icing with confectioners’ sugar and Cheerwine? Just thinking here.  Haven’t tried it.

biscuitsandgravy

Bon appétit to all!  If you’ve never been to Mount Airy or Pilot Mountain, go!  I bet it is beautiful in the fall, when the leaves change color.  Be ready for a charming small town and very nice Southern folk.  But before you go, watch a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.  Goober says Hey! If you are lucky and it’s a Saturday morning, maybe these guys will be sitting around playing some old songs.

menplaying music

 

Le 14 juillet 2017

monet detail

Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Claude Monet, 1878, Musée d’Orsay (detail)

Should I wish France Bonne Fête nationale or Joyeux 14 juillet or Bonne Bastille or … just what?  Does it even matter?  I could sing La Marseillaise.  The bloody version or La Marseillaise de la Paix by Chanson plus bifluorée.  Bertrand of My Private Paris turned me on to this group. What do you think?

The original…

Or the peaceful version?

I guess it depends on your mood?

I prefer to look at all the lovely photos on Facebook and hear about what Judy C and her picture-taking Hubby are up to in France.

Let’s start with Virginia Jones’ magnificent photo from her website Paris Through My Lens:

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I actually watched this year’s celebration and fireworks by live stream on my computer. Not the same as being there, but what’s a girl to do?

This one I found on a fellow French teacher’s page:

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Sandra Boynton, my favorite cartoonist,  drew this little guy:

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Here’s the line-up for the military parade on the Champs-Élysées, also taken from FB:

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I would love to have been on top of the Arc de Triomphe to watch! The first time I was in Paris on le 14 juillet was in 2006 with the Arles 6. We didn’t have that view! We were farther down the boulevard, with a couple of the people in the group standing in the Gucci window, I believe. I was afraid they would set off the alarm and the gendarmes would come take them away in handcuffs. I was standing on top of a trashcan alongside AG, trying to get a good view of the goings on. We were actually on a little side street where some of the participants were lining up. I love men in uniform…

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Only later were we able to get a good view of the Champs-Élysées and some tanks.

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I was there again in 2012 with my BFF Trip girls. Not the best filming in the world.  We were with about a gazillion of our new best friends watching from a street near the Bir Hakeim metro stop, if I remember correctly.

And my photo of the Leaning Tower of Eiffel.  No idea how that happened. Too funny. I had not had too much champagne, trust me on that one.

July14

It was our last full day in Paris. We started the trip in Paris, headed south to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon for a week of traipsing around lavender fields, visiting a goat farm, tasting wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and visiting friends.  Most of us then came back to Paris. At the TGV station in Avignon with Frenchie and his lovely wife:

group2

Où est Judy C?  Oh!  Dans les toilettes, j’imagine, avec Mme Arizona.

JC and I stayed on for an extra day to visit Mont Saint Michel. Her special place.

MSM

She was just there a couple of days ago again with her Hubby.  He sent this amazing photo–

montsm

I hear they are having a fabulous time- eating, drinking, meeting lots of Frenchies, seeing a lot of the beauty that is France. (Word to the wise– do not try to go to France unless your passport is valid for at least 3 months after your departure. They won’t let you on the plane. Due probably to the fact that no visa is required for stays shorter than 90 days.)

In 2012, for our last meal in Paris, we ate a few typical French dishes in a little café.

escargots.jpg

soupe

croque

bread

creme

cake

Think my Sister-in-law found the raspberry cake to her liking??  I’m guessing oui. A sweet fit of eatin’.

cindy

Anyway, back to the present.  Think I will go stir up some Nutella brownies to take to a going away party for my Partner in Pink. I will miss her. Off to Miami she goes! Bon voyage, mon amie, et bonne chance! I will still bring back Fragonard perfume, Belle de nuit, for you from Paris.  C’est promis!

partners in pink

 

Nutella Brownies

This recipe is from Alaska from Scratch who adapted it from a recipe by Mother Thyme.

1/3 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar*
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. Nutella
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Grease an 8×8 pan (I used an 11×7 pan, greased with the wrapper from the softened butter).
Cream butter and sugar together.  Incorporate eggs and vanilla until combined.  Mix in Nutella until smooth and fluffy.  Add in flour and salt until just mixed.
Scoop batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake 30 minutes or until set in the center.
Cool at least 10 minutes.  Cut into squares.

*Mother Thyme recipe uses 1 cup of sugar.  I thought they were sweet enough with just the half cup.

Licking the bowl is allowed.  Certainly encouraged. Maybe even a requirement!

licking

Bon appétit et bonne journée!  Celebrate with friends.  Eat chocolate.  Look back on your memories of good times with friends.

Summer Vacation Day 3: Back to Boone

daniel statue

daniel plaque

I attended and graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.  It was really the only school I was interested in.  I applied to UNC-Greensboro but never had any intention of attending. Not sure why I even wasted my hard-earned money to apply. I was very happy at ASU. College life suited me. I met the girl who was to become my best friend during freshman orientation.  Rest in peace, Melody.  I still miss you. I embraced becoming a Mountaineer, wearing black and gold and attending football, basketball, field hockey, and baseball games.  I even went to one wrestling match because a friend asked me to come watch. The campus has changed so much since my days there.  That’s a good thing.  It shows progress.  I had classes in these two buildings.

I didn’t venture over to the part of campus where my dorm is or where I took French classes. Not sure why.  I did pay homage to Yosef, our mascot.

me and yosef

Needless to say, I did not see anyone I knew.  It was orientation for freshman so there were a lot of parents of Mountaineers-to-be roaming around.  I talked to a couple of them. I took both of my boys to their freshman orientation— UNC-Wilmington and UT-Knoxville. Sad and exciting all at the same time.  A parental rite of passage. (I am really not very good at this selfie thing.  I take them when no one is looking because I am mortified that I am actually doing it. And how the heck did I go from wide-eyed freshman to wrinkles so fast?? Someone explain that one to me. Please. And while you are at it, slow the clock way down.)

So.  Food is very important to the Sabbatical Chef, as you know. After the campus crawl, I set out to find a restaurant I had read about thanks to the BFF and Our State magazine. Proper.

proper

This used to be a jail.  How cool is that?? Yep. Circa 1896. If only the walls could talk.

proper front door

I had what I can only describe as an epic lunch.  Legendary. I had already made up my mind to try the Tomato Pie that was described in the magazine article. Then the waiter started reeling off the daily specials. He got as far as baked grits before I interrupted and said “I’ll have that.”

bakedgrits1

Grits, cheddar cheese, spinach, tomatoes and pimiento cheese baked in that bowl (hot!) for 12 minutes. Served with Granny Smith apple slices and flatbread sea salt crackers.  Slap your mama good, as the BFF says.

baked grits

I still ordered the tomato pie.  I knew that I would be offered a to-go box to take my leftovers home for dinner.

tomato pie

Sides of collards and succotash.  A biscuit for me, please.

lunch

A warm biscuit with melted, dripping salted butter.  Heaven in a little square.

biscuit

Dinner.

take out

Next on the tour, roaming around downtown. Lots of restaurants and shops now. Antiques/junk, consignment, Watsonatta is still selling the much coveted by me cowboy hats and boots. Still haven’t bought anything there, but I sure love to look.

Speaking of Watson, I met up with Doc Watson on the street corner.

Doc and me

A legend. I love this statue that was placed here in the town where he got his start.

doc

(photo: http://www.downtownboonenc.com/index.cfm/doc-watson-statue/)

Next up, a visit to Appalachian Mountain Brewery.  I recently tasted one of their ciders and wanted to drink one on the premises.  Keep in mind that back in the day ( meaning my college years) Boone was dry (meaning you could not buy alcohol). Carloads of stupid coeds drove the 8-mile stretch to Blowing Rock and back on Thursdays for happy hour (meaning there was no such thing as Uber). The drinking age was 18, but I thank my lucky stars every time I think about this. I didn’t know anyone who died on the way back to Boone. That’s a miracle. I didn’t have a car so I was never behind the wheel.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the afternoon sun and cool breeze and sipped a Mystic Cider. Strawberry, rhubarb and green tea. I took my writing to the great outdoors on their patio.

AMB

I talked to a couple from Charleston, SC whose son is considering Appalachian.  And they are considering buying a place up here. A great idea, in my humble opinion. And I saw one of the bartenders from Blind Squirrel Brewery in Plumtree.  I felt kind of like a local again.  Actually recognizing someone.

It was a lovely, delicious day.  I intend to try to replicate the tomato pie when I get home. Until then, my Provençal Tomato Tart will have to do.  Proper’s crust is made from biscuit dough…

2

Tomato tart

One pie crust (see my vinegar crust recipe below) or store bought one you roll out
Dijon-style mustard
Grated gruyere or Swiss cheese
Sliced tomatoes
Herbes de Provence
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place the crust in a pie plate. Prick the bottom and sides and use pie weights, if you wish. Bake crust for about 10 minutes.
Brush the bottom of the warm crust with the mustard. Layer shredded cheese on top of mustard. Place sliced tomatoes on top of cheese, overlapping them just a bit. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence. (One friend makes a second layer of cheese and tomatoes.) Bake for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes start to shrivel and crust turns golden brown. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with salt.

Crust
(A great basic unsweetened crust for general pie-making.  It can be pre-baked for cream pies or used unbaked for filled pies.)
This recipe makes enough dough for four 9-inch pie shell bottowms or two pies with top and bottom crusts.

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (or lard or butter or any combination– I use chilled butter)
1/3 to 1/2 c. cold water
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg, beaten

Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut the chilled butter into the dry mixture using a pastry blender or by pinching the fat into the mixture with your hands.  The resulting mixture should have lumps no smaller than peas.  Add the vinegar to the chilled water.  Slightly beat the egg and mix with the water/vinegar.  Pour the chilled water mixture into the dry mixture, a small amount at a time, mixing gently with a fork until the dough is wet enough to be packed into a ball.  The dough should be handled as little as possible to prevent the blending of all of the fat lumps.
Split the dough into 4 equal amounts, roll them into balls and wrap them in plastic before placing them in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.  Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour and remove one of the packages of dough from the refrigerator.  Flatten the dough slightly and dust the dough’s top before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin.  Start rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards.  Quickly roll the dough into a circle 1/4 or 1/8 inch thick.  The size of the circle should be about 4 inches wider in diameter than the pie pan.  Carefully place the dough in the pan and press it into the pan, being careful not to press the dough too thin.   Cut the pie crust slightly larger than the pan and crimp the edges.
(Unused crust can be flattened a bit, wrapped in waxed paper, placed in ziploc bags and frozen.  When ready to use, remove from freezer, allow dough to come to room temperature and proceed with your recipe.)
Line the crust with a parchment paper circle and fill with pie weights, dried bean, or rice.  Place crust in a preheated 425˚ oven for 5-6 minutes, just until it begins to brown.

This little guy has been flirting with me and playing hard to get for a couple of days.  Finally snapped his photo!

hummingbird

Bon appétit, Yosef, Doc and Chef Angela Kelly! Eat good food. Support local businesses. Watch for the hummingbirds who cross your path.  Patience pays off.

Baguettes et Beurre vs Biscuits and Bacon

breakfast #1

It isn’t a competition for me.  Really, it isn’t.  I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog.  I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing.  Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders.  22 of them.  2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me.  26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time.  So, I will focus this post on food.

Breakfast.  A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.

I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…

pain aux raisins

Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)

breakfast at HduM

Lunch.  Picnics whenever possible.  Outdoor cafés.

Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais.  My choice.  I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it.  No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it.  I love it.

falafel

Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal.  A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time.  Not necessarily due to the food.  Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with.  I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.

4 musketeers

Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time.  Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture.  He is the best.

tuileries lunch

Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette.  We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time.  Cinco Jotas.  Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.

lunch at galeries lafayette

We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis.  They treated us to lunch in the school cantine.  At our school, we do not have a cafeteria.  We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day.  3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)

lunch at AMJ

Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge.  Goat cheese salad.  Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.

goat cheese salad

My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles.  Anything eaten with her is special.  We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart.  In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.

Lunch near Omaha Beach.  We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer.  We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew.  The frites were pronounced the best of the trip.  And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!

Dinner.  I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros.  We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.

The starter at a restaurant in Arles.  Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.

arles starter

A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert.  But when in France…

stew

Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel.  Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.

We tried something new.  We ate dinner in French homes.  Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group.  It is arranged by VizEat.  My crew was in heaven.  A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself.  The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit.  I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe.  I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.

camembert bites

This is really what I prefer for dessert.

cheese plate

Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want.  Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier.  Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop.  I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.

And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.

adam photo

Fougasse in Aigues Mortes.  Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.

fougasse

Ice cream.  Café et chocolat.  Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me.  A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.

icr cream

Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris.  A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette.  Divine.

Cooking classes with the kiddos.  Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris.  Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  I was with the éclair crew.  The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors.  I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.  Bertrand supplied the coffee.

A few other random food photos–

A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.

haribo

Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles

A sign above a shop in Paris

paris map steak

Feeling a little crabby?  So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie

crab

Oreos have hit France with a boom!  One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list.  So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look.  Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.

oreo

Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites

sacks of pommes de terre

A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-

monoprix cheese

Enough is enough for one day.  My tummy is growling and grumbling.  But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other.  Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States?  I can love both equally.  Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home.  Voilà.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I have the best of both worlds.

Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters.  And eat them warm, right from the oven.  I am going to do that right this minute.  Then I will come back and post the recipe.  Be patient!  I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…

gougeres pastry

Gougères

recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz

This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.

1/2 c. (125ml) water

1/2 c. (125ml) milk

7 Tbsp. (100g) butter

3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. (6g) salt

4-5 eggs

Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese

Freshly grated pepper

Finely chopped herbs

Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir.  Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan.  Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.

Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper.  Brush with beaten egg, if desired.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides.  Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate.  They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty.  I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm.  You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.

gougeres

Bon appétit!  Bon Poisson d’Avril!  Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you.  Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.

Puppies, kittens, and Paris

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I am tired of news.  I refuse to watch it or read it.  It only makes me grumpy and grouchy. And anyone who knows me knows that I am neither very often.  Life is too short.  And in the words of Jacques Prévert, my favorite French poet, “Later will be too late.  Our life is now.”  That’s my translation, not an “official” one.  It works for me.  I haven’t felt like blogging or being creative and I need to shake that.  So, I am back in the saddle.  A great way to start feeling happy is to look at puppies.

Let’s start with Buddha.  He is Son #1 and Daughter-in-Law’s pup.  The only dog I’ve ever met who pouts.  I admit that I am not really a dog person (much to the chagrin of every single relative of mine), but Buddha is a love.  He doesn’t smell stinky.  He loves my boy.  He doesn’t aggravate my cat.  He rarely barks.

buddha

And how about Max?  He belongs to my Cuz and I bet he is just a little bit spoiled! Adorable.

max

Finally, siblings recently adopted by friends…

Molly

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Maggie Mae

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Now, it’s time for kittens.  Callie is ours.  She is sleeping next to me right now.  Studiously ignoring me, of course.  We’ve had her for about 9 years.  Her brother passed away last spring.  She is good company, doesn’t make messes, sleeps on my feet, hides in the bathroom when we have company, especially those with dogs, and is generally pretty darned content.  This is her “I am bored with you” look.

callie

My French girlfriends love cats, too.  Madame M has Tao.  A very Zen cat.  Looks pretty comfy, n’est-ce pas?

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And Bigoudi.  We’ve spent a few nights together in the south of France Chez Fanny.  A loyal America-loving feline.  I like her choice in college basketball allegiances.  Of course, I may have played a small part in that…  BTW, a bigoudi is a hair curler in French.  In case you were wondering.

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For the Paris part.  This time last week, I had just returned from a six-day trip to La Ville Lumière made possible by ACIS, the company I use for my student trips.  It was cold.  The Siberian wind blew in one day.  It was a bit rainy.  I got lost a couple of times looking for Lafayette.  The heat didn’t work very well in my hotel room. But who cares about any of that?  I WAS IN PARIS.  I met some amazing teachers.  My roommate, from Venezuela by way of Wisconsin, was a bundle of energy.

I found three first-timers who allowed me to show them some of my favorite Parisian spots, including Place du Tertre in Montmartre. Merci, mes nouveaux amis!

montmartre

I ate some of my favorite foods– foie gras, fromage, soupe à l’oignon, croque madame

And some sweets, of course.  Pain perdu, macarons et chocolat.

A glass of wine at a couple of my favorite cafés, as well as champagne at the Eiffel Tower.

Speaking of La Grande Dame, I added a few more photos to the hundreds (thousands?) that I already have.

I climbed the steps of Notre Dame to say hello to the chimera and gargoyles.  I lit a candle for Mme Buchanan, my high school French teacher.

The crèche in Notre Dame was made with santons from Arles.  An unexpected blessing.

I visited with Vincent at the Musée d’Orsay. Sad to say, Starry Night over the Rhône is not there at the moment.  It must be out and about in another exhibit. Well, as a matter of fact, Google just told me that it is in Ontario until January 29 when it will make its way back to Paris.  By mid-March, I hope.

There are so many statues to admire at the Orsay, as well.

Just strolling the streets, I found beauty at every turn.  The Panthéon.  L’Opéra Garnier. Ile Saint Louis. Sacré Coeur. Sainte Chapelle. Trocadéro. A random rose still alive in winter.

A real highlight was to have dinner at Mary Claude’s apartment in the 16e arrondissement. This is a new addition to the ACIS offerings for travelers.  They work with VizEat, a company that pairs eaters with cookers/hosts and hostesses.  Mary Claude (in the white shirt) could not have been more gracious.

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She fed us exceptionally well.  Leek tart, charcuterie, soup for starters–

Risotto and chicken for our main dishes–

truffle-risotto

Du fromage?  But of course!  I took it upon myself to give the others a lesson in cheese cutting (always respect the form!)–

and Galette des Rois for dessert.

marie-claude

When I had a chance to talk to Mary Claude, in between courses, I asked about the soup (I didn’t take a photo…) and the risotto.  The soup was butternut, made with chestnuts.  I peeked in the kitchen to get a look at her food processor.

food-processor

I am very fond of risotto.  This was probably the best I’ve ever eaten.  I wanted to know her secret.  At first, she told me that it was “just” risotto.  But I knew better, so I brought the conversation back to the risotto after learning about the soup.  Look closely–

truffle-risotto

Those brown specks?  Truffles.  And truffle oil in the initial preparation stage.  Aha!  Not “just” risotto.  The earthiness of truffles + the creaminess of the rice = a perfect marriage of flavors.

It was a wonderful trip.  It will keep me going for the next few weeks.  I will return in six weeks with 22 8th graders.

La vie est belle.  

notre-dame

And, by the way, I finally found General Lafayette.  Tucked away in the back corner of the Picpus Cemetery.  Winter hours 2-4 pm.  12e arrondissement.  Did you know his real name was Gilbert de Motier?  I did not.

lafayette

Bon appétit, old and new friends.  May you see beauty wherever you are.  

“News is bad for you”

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photo credit:  Amanda Whitlock

“And giving up reading it will make you happier.”  The Guardian

I admit to being semi-addicted to Facebook.  I get up every morning, make my hot lemon tea water, start the coffee brewing, and open up the computer.  My day just doesn’t seem to start off right without reading Sean Dietrich‘s daily post.  I get up an hour earlier than I really need to so that I can have that cup of hot water, check emails and get all the morning news I need via emails from friends and Sean.  With a healthy dose of food porn, cute photos like the one above of Steve, a New Zealand cat, and his herd of lambs. Or this one of Major, the Durham bull, dressed as the Durham Academy Cavalier.

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photo credit:  Melody Butts, with help from Tim McKenna and Leslie King

But this past Monday night, thanks to Son #1 and the thought that I should be a better informed Américaine, I watched the first presidential debate.  Huge, major, God-awful mistake on my part.  I even sat with my trusty laptop on my lap following fact-checkers. Instead of looking at cat photos. Before the debate, Son #1 hooked up the Apple TV and brought up HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a show he is addicted to and has been nagging me to watch for a couple of months.  (This, my friends, is a great way to get the top news stories of the week and laugh at the same time.  Don’t watch it, though, if you object to cursing.  It is HBO after all and they say whatever they want to for those willing to pay less than Time Warner charges for cable and the ridiculous stuff on nightly primetime TV.)  Anyway, I should NEVER have watched that debate.  I should have respected my usual early bedtime (which allows me that extra hour to goof off in the morning) and called it a night.  Let’s just say that because I decided to stay up until 10:45 pm and be “better informed” my week did not start well.  Tuesday morning found me uncharacteristically grouchy.  A 9 on a scale of 0-10.  I am sure that my colleagues at the 7:25 am team meeting noticed.  I know that my advisees did because I walked away from our morning circle time.  They couldn’t come up with answers to whatever my question-of-the-day was and I didn’t feel up to cajoling them.  So I walked away without a word.  Took attendance instead.  All day long I just could not shake the “Our country is going to hell in a hand basket” feeling that had settled over me.  I posted on my FB page:

Trying to find calm this morning. I cannot control or fix the things I am most concerned about. I will not watch any more political debates or ads on TV. I do not want to discuss it either. Deep breaths.

Bless all of my friends who then commenced to worrying about me.  Iron Woman, my dear friend who loves France almost as much as I do and may have been Jeanne d’Arc in another life, brought me a Chai latte.  (She knows my weaknesses.)  We went to dinner on Tuesday and I was beginning to feel a bit better about the world after a dish of house made pasta at The Boot and a glass of Pinot Grigio.  Mostly it was the conversation and the chance to laugh with this dear girl.  We both desperately want to have our DNA tested and find out if we are any percentage French.

mont-saint-michel

Mont Saint Michel 2012

Another friend brought me an apple fritter– a sinfully delicious pastry with cinnamon and apples.  I didn’t even take a photo of it.  But I did manage to make it last for three days and I savored every crumb.

One other friend sent a private message to ask me if I am okay.  I answered back that I am, but that I have sworn off politics and debates.  I will vote.  I will volunteer to get folks here in Durham registered to vote, but other than that, I am done.  What will happen will happen, n’est-ce pas?  It is what it is.  C’est comme ça.

By Wednesday, I was less grouchy, maybe a 6 on the grouchy scale.  I had plans to go to a wine dinner at Pompieri Pizza with Arles Lucy.  We love the special dinners at PP and Bull City Burger and Brewery.

st-emilion

St. Emilion 2008

I have to admit, however, that I didn’t really feel up to it.  I thought about texting Arles Lucy (on the left above) and asking her to find a replacement to go with her.  I am so incredibly glad I didn’t.  You know how sometimes you don’t think that you are going to have fun at a party or whatever and you have an amazing time.  The San Marzano Wine Dinner was exactly what I needed.  Great food, great wine, even greater company.  Before I begin with the feast, I have to say that I know that I am a very lucky eater.  I am constantly amazed by how lucky I am.  And very grateful.

menu

To quote directly from the menu:

POMPIERI PIZZA welcomes Cantine San Marzano and special guest Salvatore Ricciardi, vineyard owner and sales and marketing manager for San Marzano winery. In 1962, nineteen vine growers from San Marzano, whose families had farmed the land for generations, combined their efforts to establish “Cantine San Marzano.” The winery is located in Apulia, in the heart of the acclaimed d.o.p. “Primitivo di Manduira” area.  This strip of land between two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic, in the province of Taranto and Brindisi,  is where vines and olive trees flourish side by side on the red soil surface, much like North Carolina’s red clay.

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  1. Amuse-bouche

beet

Beet Cube with Jalapeño, House Made Honey Mascarpone and Monte Iblei Olive Oil  Frizzante Lambrusco

A certain someone sitting directly across from me was heard to say that she could easily eat seven of these.

And Seth, owner and punster, said “You can’t beat that first course.” hahaha

2. Anti Pasta

kale

Persimmons and Apples with Aged Cheese, Kale Salad  2014 San Marzano Savignon-Malvasia “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

3. Pasta

ravioli

Fall Butternut Squash Ravioli Pillow with Lemon Ash, Tiny Farm Arugula, and Salted Pecans in a Butternut Broth  2014 San Marzano Negroamaro “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

(Negroamaro means black and black- in Latin and Greek  Merci, Salvatore!)

I did not lick the bowl clean, but I thought about it…

soup-gone

4. Fish

tuna

tomato

NC Coastline Caught Yellow Fin Tuna with a Fennel Crust, Smoked Pedach Jam, Roasted Tomato and Charred Carrot Ragú  2013 San Marzano Primitivo “Il Pumo” Salento IGP

5. Meat

lamb

Local Leg of Lamb with a Rich Red BBQ Sauce, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes, and Mustard Greens   2013 San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria “Talò” DOP

There was another wine sampled served after this one.  A special anniversary wine?  A different vintage?  The details totally escape me at the moment.  It was an extra treat.  Grazie, Seth and Salvatore!

6. Dessert

dessert

Zeppole (fried dough) with Goat Cheese Granita  Americano Cocktail

As I was served my dessert, I was told that I got the one with the most chocolate.  I am special that way.

sal-me-jinn

I had fun sitting next to Salvatore.  Quite the charming, handsome Italian.  He told his daughter that Seth had closed the restaurant early because a celebrity was coming.  She texted back calling him the Italian Justin Bieber.  (We had to explain who that is.)  Jin served the wine impeccably.

Salvatore made the rounds and addressed the group, explaining his wines and the growing region.

sal-and-jill

“Easy to drink.  Respect the characteristic of the grape.”

When we started trying to figure out which wine we liked the best and why (Do I really have to choose??), Salvatore said “When you can’t describe it, it’s love.”

I loved every bite and sip.  I also loved meeting Heather and Jill from Habitat for Humanity, who sat across from Arles Lucy and me.

heather-and-jill

I love my BFF for being herself as well as a great server.  Doesn’t she look beautiful in her Villeneuve-lez-Avignon market ruffles?  I love Arles Lucy for always making me laugh and for always being up for an adventure.  We’ve had some great ones.

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What a delicious night.  Thank you, Seth and Chef Jeff (sadly no photo of him- we haven’t even been properly introduced yet.)

I solemnly swear to stay away from the news and to stick to uplifting activities involving my friends and family.  And good food, bien sûr.

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Bon appétit to all cookers, eaters, and wine makers!