Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Portes que J’Adore

Tucked away in a corner of Burgundy is a hilltop village with a single lane road that leads up, up, up the hill to a magnificent church.  As you climb the hill, you pass dozens of doors, each more interesting than the last.  At the bottom of the hill there is a large cluster of these white studded doors~


Little doors, big doors, matching doors, one for the car and one for the people~


The wonderful thing about photography in winter is that one is not distracted by foliage.  This door is surrounded by magnificent lavender bushes and vines or wisteria above; I’ll be back in summer to show you a prettier shot, but here of course the door is mis en valeur~


The colors are all uniform, and I may have to call the mairie to ask if it is regulated.  What is this elusive French blue?  Whatever it is, it works, with the stone and the moss, and it gives a beautiful continuity to the village, even in the dull winter light….

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My favorite door was this one.  See the the detail on the door- arrows, geometry and diamonds, as well as the color….and the little enamel pitcher at right, and the basket vase at left?


If you are like me, after quickly taking in all of that your eye goes to the little chalkboard sign at the corner of the door:  “In case of absence (cell #) Please do not let the cats in at night.”


So casual and pretty…so French.  I’ll be back in the summer to wipe that leaf off the sign and re-photograph, as well as re-shoot the village in the full bloom of summer, which will be magnificent.


This post is another small tease for what is to come Friday….like this? You’ll love what I have to tell you Friday!! 

Monday, January 28, 2013


It’s funny that since I have been back from France, I haven’t felt the urge to show you much of what I am doing here, which is is always plenty!  There are the markets, spring farm to tables, and lots of cooking.  I took some nice photos of the mounds of deep purple and white flowers I planted at the kitchen door, and yesterday I picked a basket full of photo-worthy Meyer’s lemons from the garden.  Winter in California is indeed wonderful. 

But no, it doesn’t seem quite right, and I haven’t been very inspired to talk about what I’m doing now, I’d rather talk about France.  I still enjoy going back to look at photos of, for example, what I had for breakfast most days: a small pot of fromage blanc from the Saturday market, with a few groseilles or red currants.  I actually bought these for the photo shoot, but I love their tartness with just a sprinkle of sugar.  Ah, even the basic grocery store sugar in France is wonderful, slightly more crystalized than what we get in the States and with a slight crunch to it~


I have also been intensively working on a certain project the last few weeks.  That work is continuing this week, and if all goes according to plan, on Friday I will finally be able to reveal it.  This project has been incubating for a long time, and now it finally feels right to launch it.  It’s another reason why my mind isn’t in California, it’s in France~


So I may be a little scarce this week, but look for the news on Friday.  And after that, I’ll be back with more of France.  Less California for now, more France.  That feels right.


Have a wonderful week~

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Whose Favorites?

While I was photographing in Jean-Luc’s shop just a few weeks ago, a trio of women came in, looking for Christmas gifts. He offered a few suggestions, and subtly inquired as to the tastes of the recipients.  In typical French fashion, one of the women wryly yet humorously stated that she could absolutely not give a Christmas gift that she herself would not completely love, no matter for whom the gift was intended or what their tastes were. 

My Sis is turning 50, and so tonight we had a little intimate family dinner.  Coquilles Saint Jacques and a nice baguette to sop up all the sauce, which my parents had for New Year’s Eve and once a week since then, including last night for dinner, tasted just as good tonight.  I do believe this is the new family favorite.  Tender little salad from the Saturday market and swordfish, along with a celery root and potato gratinee…and of course a bottle of Perrier Jouet Champagne and two dozen perfect white roses wrapped in brown kraft paper and tied with satin ribbon, which went perfectly with the camellia-topped cake~


A four layer seven inch white layer cake I made very late last night with Italian-meringue-style buttercream was the perfect ending to the meal, here is the last slice as its height is ready to make it fall~


It was not until after the meal, at which every morsel was eaten, that I thought back to the Christmas shoppers in Beaune.  Oh wait, I think Sis’ favorite is Red Velvet cake.  Come to think of it, that’s the cake she often brings me on my birthday, though it’s not my favorite.  And she has never even had Coquilles Saint Jacques, but thankfully she though it was all divine, as her Francophile hubs nodded that it was A+.  White roses?  My taste. The Champagne?  My favorite marque as well, but it’s all in good taste, isn’t it?  Can you go wrong with the classics, no matter whose party it is?  She loved the meal, she loved the evening, so I’ll call it a success.

Sis and family are heading to Africa for a safari this summer, and we spent much of the evening discussing their travel as I am really interested in their voyage.  I kept mum on my plans, which no one asked about but which I booked today…..Paris in the springtime, Easter, in fact.  Beaune in May/June and I’m thinking of Marrakech in the fall.  So many good things are in the works this year!  And for now, it’s still January, so Happy Birthday to my big Sis; She pronounced the meal and the evening perfect, and so it was~

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pipe et Pantoufles

The last Sunday in Beaune when I went to the “Sunday bakery,” I couldn’t help but climb up on my toes to take this photo through the window.  It’s the golden brioche loaf that I love, and that I use to make French Toast for the girls when they are with me in Beaune.  The bread itself is better than anything you’ll ever taste, but made into French toast and with fresh fruit and whipped cream, it’s positively divine~


I mentioned that neither R or I eat a lot of sweets.  Oh wait, I stand corrected.  I asked if he had given the apple tarte to Cedric.  Non, he ate the whole thing over two days after I left and reported it was positively delicious; I was shocked!  I made it with store-bought puff pastry and using the apples R had bought two weeks earlier that I wanted to use up….It’s a favorite dessert for me to instruct guests to make…still, I was glad R loved it, it was really last minute after I had seen the cakes in the window.


My girlfriends know the routine; when R and I are in Beaune, it’s the Pipe & Slippers tour.  Coffee in bed, sandwiches and foot massages on demand.  Yeah, well, it’s fine with me, and this is where we have our time together, mostly without any of my family intruding.  So for me, the Pipe and Slippers tour is kind of fun~


But the next time around, it’s going to be about the girls; whether R is there or not, the girls will outnumber the boys.  And that means that whenever I pass the Bouche window, I’m picking up whatever strikes my fancy.  One of each please….I so wanted to have a slice of one of these cakes…


It looked like a lot of cake for two, and I weighed the options….a beautiful cutting board from Jean-Luc that I will enjoy forever, or a cake that I will mostly eat by myself……the cutting board won out, but next time, I’m having it all….shopping and the cakes~


I am also arranging with Marie-Pierre to have this lovely pair of Porcelaine de Paris coupes in house on my next arrival, which I will use to serve the girls….pommes frites….with our mussels in white wine sauce in the pair of large soupieres….won’t that be wonderful, French fries in these~


The next trip is being planned for late March.  To say that I am itching to get back is an understatement.  More posts from France to come.  Just had to share the cakes with you today……

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Band in a Box

It’s the New Year.  Time for a little music, non

R and I went to a Marche de Noel in Meursault, just south of Beaune.  You didn’t need a map to find it, you just needed to follow the music, for just outside the halle where the marche was held, there was a band in a box, an orchestrophone, including two accordions, drums, a xylophone, trumpets and a saxophone.  One of my videos showed the crowd of us all standing around watching, absolutely rapt; must look to see if I still have that video, but the whole thing was really fun~

Sorry, I uploaded these to youtube then deleted the originals; and I should have rotated them first, but you can listen…the light shines on each instrument as it plays.  I especially like the drum, which looks like it’s being played by a pair of drum sticks on mouse traps; do you think this is clever?

A little fun for the new year….thank goodness the French have until the end of the first week of January to offer best wishes for 2013, so it’s not too late~ Bonne Annee!~

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Vite Passé

Two glorious weeks in France felt like a month.  One week home feels like four, as I arrive to deal with all I have to contend with on a daily basis.  I took Mom for her written driver’s test for her license renewal, and she failed it, not once, but twice the same day after she insisted she would pass the second time.  She has an extension through February, and we are now reviewing the driver handbook and talking about signs and rules as we drive; she only has one more chance to take the test, and she knows it’s important that she pass.

As year end approached, I couldn’t help but feel like 2012 went by in a blink, faster even than the previous years, which I thought were already a blur.  I chatted a little with Jean-Luc about caring for my parents and how quickly the weeks pass.  His theory is that as we age, our memory banks fill up, and so time seems to accelerate.  He says that his gauge for how quickly the days go by is the sugar bowl.  Each morning, he has a bowl of strong coffee with three sugar cubes.  No one else is in the sugar jar but him, and each day it’s one-two-three lumps.  And suddenly, the rather large jar of sugar cubes is nearing empty.  Have the days gone by as fast as that?


I suppose they have.  Mom had another birthday yesterday, New Year’s eve.  I set the table for a buffet dinner, and agreed with my sister that we would begin our meal between 5 and 6pm, not too late for Mom & Dad~


If you look at the table and the menu, you will see that I am missing France.  A few pretty pink flowers for Mom, but mostly lots of ivy from the garden (so French, Cedric confirms) and pretty little mandarin oranges~


I had two of my nieces come over in the afternoon to help me cook, and with a little instruction, they produced some absolutely perfect sea salt caramel turtles~


These were a big hit; the caramel recipe we used is HERE; I chose it because it uses honey and not corn syrup.  Nicole was proud of her work~


I’m still dreaming of the Coquilles Saint Jacques in Beaune, so we made that too, using about five small bay scallops per shell instead of one large scallop; these were also popular~


Well, let’s say they were popular when the my sister and the rest of her family finally arrived, at 7pm.  Yes, tardy, so they got reheated gratineed shells.  We did tell them “not to rush” and the girls and I were still cooking, but I never understand how those hours get lost.  And as usual, I had lots of food, and ideas of stretching the evening into a four hour meal as the clam chowder, then scallops, then shrimp, mache salad and pommes Dauphinois and moules frites and finally dessert emerged from the kitchen.  But there was the usual frenzy of eating, and an hour later everyone was in the desserts and sampling the turtles, and then we watched the ball drop in New York and everyone was ready to go home or to a party.  What’s wrong with me, will I never learn?  


The girls were my best guests, sitting in the living room between courses and looking at my wedding cake book as we talked about Nicole’s wedding in 2014.  And clowning around with the glasses I got at the 99 Cent Store~


This morning is another day though, and for breakfast we had birthday cake (white cake imbibed with Kahlua and filled with crème Chantilly and cassis jam from Beaune), leftover cremant with scrambled eggs and the last of the potatoes, and then late morning, the chocolate fondue we had intended for the night before: blackberries, pineapple and strawberries dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut; my parents were very happy to have eaten this~


And in the end, of course, that’s what it’s about for me…Dad loved all the food and ate when he wanted; Mom had a fantastic birthday and enjoyed the atmosphere and the company, no matter what time they showed up.  She was especially happy to watch her granddaughters at work in the kitchen.  For lunch today we are having moules frites and then for dinner a roast chicken with stuffing.  I’m puttering around with various plans and projects for 2013, and finishing off a few more blog posts from France.  This will be an exciting year, and I hope it does not zip by too fast!

Wishing everyone Bonne Année 2013~