Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The passing of a great French Chef and my thoughts on what he and his fellow chefs did to degrade French Cuisine

The French world of cuisine today is a bit sadden by the passing of Alain Senderens; one of the early proponent and founders of Nouvelle Cuisine.
Chef Senderens like his fellow chefs, Paul Bocuse and others, shunt butter and cream -laden dishes, heavy sauces and longer cooking times, they said they would with Nouvelle Cuisine, breathe life into a cuisine that hadn't changed in decades.  

BUT For me, as a classicist, today, its a cry from my heart as to the disappearance of the great French sauces.  They were banished during the late 20th century when they were found to be guilty of dietary hearsay.  

Today if a sauce is present in a dish at all,it is reduced to a few artistic-looking splashes or spots. To my mind, these 'spots'  do not allow the sauce to fulfill its function of linking the different elements that make up a dish, where its main mission is to confer unity and heighten flavor. 
In the wonderful movie ' Who's killing the great chefs of Europe', One of the chefs whose is confronted by someone who is against sauces say "my sauces don't conceal, but reveal'. 
The superiority of French cooking was ( and is no more) its quest for perfection of flavor, which takes ( in my mind) the priority over a dishes appearance. Its because of the disappearance of the great French sauces that the cuisine today has become banal, save for good French country/regional cooking. 

I can go into length at what a sorry state of classical French cooking has been for the last few decades, but I'll stop, because I need to keep my blood pressure........... low.

The sauce boat as well as the ladle has become a museum piece. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hidden Passages of Paris - Galerie Vero-Dodat

In London, in the St James area ( where I do most of my shopping for clothes) there are a few famous Hidden arcades that house all sorts of men's products. Arcades like The Burlington and Piccadilly.
But Paris has its fair share, that most tourists are unaware of. One of my favorites is just behind the Louvre.
The Galerie Vero-Dodat is one of the smaller of the covered passages that remain in Paris, and I think probably the most charming of them all. 
It was built in 1826 by Monsieurs Vero et Dodat, two pork butchers from neighboring streets who hoped to profit from the popularity of the nearby Palais Royal. 

It’s decorated in the neoclassical style, and is only 80 metres long – the impression of depth is given by the diagonal black and white floor tiles and the fact that all the shops have the same facades. It was also one of the first to be lit by gas lamps as soon as it opened, something of a novelty at the time. 

High end shops and local one of kind shops are found here

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Brittany's Mont Saint-Michael - a new way to view this most visited site in France

Most visitor just drive to the site of Mont Saint-Michael and visit the Abbaye, but why not experience it in a new way; in fact the way the ancient Pilgrims did, by walking across the low tides and sands to the Abbaye. 
We can offer with a local guide the many ways you can do this.
Call us for more information or see    www.cheminsdelabaie.com

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Let's go back to the late 19th and early 20th Century - Let The Good Times Roll

Back in those days - The Parisian working class put on their Sunday best to swarm out of the capital east to the banks of the Marne for weekend days of eating, drinking, boating and undoubted hanky-panky ( hey, after all.............. this is France!) 

The epicenter of the shenanigans were the riverside guinguettes ( pronounced - Gen-Get)  - restaurants-cum-bars-cum-music ' and dance-halls. The good news is that a few are still around. One of the best is the Ile-du-Martin-Pecheur

Les Etangs de Corot - 10 minutes from Paris and yet 100 years also in time........

Need to get away from it all, even when in Paris, its easy, stay at Les Etangs de Corot...

Friday, May 5, 2017

What region of France do I love the most?

That's like asking me which of my cats do I love the best, but when pressed, I will admit..the region of Brittany is my all time favorite and the city of Roscoff, is where I rent a  house every year.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Secret Museums of Paris - Musee des Arts Forains

Hidden away in Paris near the Gare de Lyon rail station is a haven from the modern world, a place to daydream, to marvel at how enchantment was brought to those who lived in Paris some 200 years ago.
 The Musee des Arts Forains is a place to be enchanted.
Long closed to the general public but what with the success of Woody Allen's, 'Midnight in Paris' which feature this Museum, it is now open ( by appointment only) to use lesser mortals.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A SELF-GUIDED Wine Crawl inside the city of Bordeaux

 You’re a wine tourism enthusiast? You heard about the wine tours in the vineyard? This year, Bordeaux Tourist Office offers you the opportunity to discover a brand new kind of wine tourism inside the city of Bordeaux Urban Wine Trail allows you to discover the different districts of Bordeaux along its wine bars as they did flourish over the past few years. 
Nothing’s more pleasant that meandering through the narrow alleys and enjoying a break at the terrace of a wine bar. 
 Nothing’s easier; a track has been recorded on the application called Cirkwi. You simply have to download it ( on your Iphone or Ipad) before to get started in the city Streets and then follow the milestones indicated Each wine bar taking part in the Urban Wine Trail has provided a special offer including wine and some tasty treats.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Forget the English white cliffs of Dover, Etretat on the French side, out shines Dover

The town of Etretat ( just 55 minutes drive north of Honfleur) is famous for its three natural arches and white chalk cliffs that tower high over the Atlantic Ocean. Claude Monet and other impressionists famously painted the arches and cliffs in the 19th century.
Rather than eat in this very touristy town, do up a picnic lunch and eat in the countryside nearby.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Canard (Duck) and Champagne - two things that are very French and so naturally.....

Canard & Champagne, a new restaurant in Paris, Occupys the magnificent landmarked former premises of an 18th century stationery shop with black-and-white marble floors and a magnificent carved wooden shop in the moody Passage des Panoramas, this casual convivial place specializes in two of the most quintessentially French products imaginable, duck and Champagne.

                                              57 Passage des Panoramas, 75002 Paris, France

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sèvres porcelain, the grandest of ultimate luxury, artistic ceramics, was favored by European royalty, the aristocracy of the 19th century, and 20th century

Nestled in the picturesque Saint Cloud park outside Paris, the Sèvres factory is a temple to craftsmanship. Some of Europe’s most beautiful ceramics have been made here since 1740. Today, 120 potters use skills and techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation over three centuries

Open to the public in certain areas and a private visit can be arranged in the closed off areas.
The place to stay nearby is the very romantic Inn - Les Etanges de Corot in Ville d'Avray

This is my favorite place to get hidden from the hustle of Paris and enjoy long walks, great food and drink, a wine spa and just a beautiful retreat and yet only 15 minutes fromParis. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A hidden corner of Brittany - The English Cotswolds comes to France

the Brière Regional Nature Park covers a 49,000 hectare surface area. In the heart of this reserve, the Grande Brière Mottière marsh, which extends over 7,000 hectares, offers a series of canals, reed beds, wetland meadows, peat bogs and islands, among which the Fédrun island.

 Boat trips are put on to explore the flora and fauna of Brière. From the bell tower of Saint-Lyphard church, there is a panoramic view of the marsh and surrounding area! 
The Brière area is also unusual in that it is covered with no less than 3,000 thatched cottages!
I love this area and always during my visit, I have lunch at the enchanting La Mare Aux Oiseaux restaurant, located in the heart of the park, the dining room just oozes charm and the cooking of Eric Guerin is not to be missed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Food makes people happy....so when it comes to cheese shops in Paris...

L'Elysee Palace ( The French White House)  and I agree that Nicole BARTHELEMY'S cheese shop is one of the best places to go and buy your cheese. It's open 8:30am to 1pm and then 4pm to 7:15pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

La Verna Cave - The Largest Cave system in the world and can hold 10 Cathedrals the size of Paris Notre Dame

..and one can fly a hot air balloon inside also.................

Located about 45 minutes outside of the city of Pau ( next to the French Pyrenees ), it can be visited almost all year.

Follow in the footsteps of the first explorers, accompanied by a qualified caving guide and ardent enthusiast of the La Pierre Saint-Martin cave system. Starting from La Verna, this visit is a good introduction to caving. The narrow passages - where crawling would be required - can be avoided, but the terrain is rough, without paths. The visit takes you 
upstream all the way to another big cave room: 

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Highest train in Europe - Southwest France

The Petit train d'Artouste is a narrow gauge tourist railway situated in the French Pyrenees close to the Spanish border, some 55 km (34.2 mi) south of the town of Pau. 

The line runs high above the headwaters of the Gave d'Ossau, and provides access to the Lac d'Artouste, a semi-artificial lake in the mountains at an altitude of over 6,562 ft 

 The train runs from late May to late September. In July and August it runs from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and until 3:00pm at other times. Advance booking is advisable. 

To reach the train you take a 10 minute cable car ride from the Lac de Fabrèges. The train ride takes about 50 minutes and it’s then a short walk to the Lac d’Artouste. 

 Please be aware that in peak season you are only able to stay at the top for about 1 ½ hours.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Crown Jewel of French Seafood - only in Season!!! La Coquille Saint-Jacques

Considered to be one of the most elegant shellfish in the world, scallops are truly the jewel in the crown of St-Brieuc bay in France. 

In France as in other European nations, food is only served in the time that it is in season, unlike America, where you can get any food you want at anytime, even thought its not the best outside of its season. Hurrah for the French!

Harvesting this delicious seafood is a veritable race against time, as not only is the scallop-fishing season only open from October to the end of April, but even during the season, fishing is restricted to 45 minutes twice a week, to protect the species. And so the fishing ports of Erquy, Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Paimpol take it in turns each year to organised the Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques, to mark the closing of this intense fishing season.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to eat French Cheeses - a minefield of etiquette in France

Today in France, there are over 400 cheese varieties and the French are the largest consumers of cheese in the world.  Not having cheese everyday is like the French saying " A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye,

a Cheese being made is only one part of the a story, from there it needs to be aged properly and that's called Affinage and there are shops that buy the cheese from the producers and then age it and these are the only people to buy from.

As far as etiquette, cheese with a meal is always eaten after the email meal and before dessert. One never eats cheese with crackers ( in France) but only with bread, normally dark bread. Also, when cutting cheese there are strict ways of doing it and not, but the most important is when you are faced with a pie-shaped cheese, you never cut the nose off ( the most favorable part) but cut it at an angle so everyone gets a slice that had part of the nose. 
With soft cheese, the French also eat the rind ( another very favorable part) and with the hard one, most do not, but you'll get points with the locals if you do. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

La Tour d'Argent, a French Institution Makes a Comeback

One of the great pleasure in my life was always dining at the formal restaurant, La Tour d'Argent overlooking the Cathedral of Notre Dame and having one of their numbered ducks.  Founded in 1582 and run in the 20th century by the Terrail family, it was the place, for once in your life to dine at. Having three stars for so many years, after the Death of Claude  Terrail, it slipped from three to two to one Michelin stars and was the place to avoid , only visited by tourists and the food was lacking.
Today, under then leadership of chef Philippe LABBE, he has brought back brilliance once again to the kitchen. The duck is still there plus a host of new dishes for the 21st century.

The service many tell me a bit to formal ( I love that!) 
The restaurant has become an excellent place to dine again and the views? WOW!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

French King Louis XIV sure knew how to party - explore that history in Paris only for this winter time.

This exhibit—running through March 26—explores how Louis XIV used entertainment as an instrument of power. 3D images help recreate the dazzling spectacles which took place on a daily basis at the king’s lavish palace. 

A trip to the Château de Versailles is also an opportunity to try chef Alain Ducasse’s elegant new restaurant, Ore, which is located in the recently renovated Pavillon Dufour.

Monte-Carlo: A Unique Luxury Shopping Experience

Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer presents an all new shopping experience in the Boulingrins Gardens, just a stone’s throw away from the Place du Casino. The Monte-Carlo Pavilions consist of 5 superb pebble-shaped spaces, with a total surface area of 2,500 m², large enough for twenty shops. With their rounded, futuristic shapes, the pavilions are located between the avenue de la Costa and the Place du Casino. All pavilions are unique, each with a different shape and size ranging from 220 to 600 m² and a ceiling height of maximum 10 m. The temporary pavilions are meant to last 4 years, which corresponds to the duration of the renovation works at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and the Sporting d’Hiver.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lascaux 4 opens in December to rave reviews

A new replica of the stunning Lascaux cave paintings was unveiled Saturday in the Dordogne region of southwest France, more than seven decades after the prehistoric art was first discovered in Montignac, the village at the foot of the hills where the original cave complex is located. 

The new project dubbed "Lascaux 4", which opens to the public on Thursday, aims to recreate the sensations experienced by the four teenage boys who found the cave on September 12, 1940. The spectacular prehistoric art is thought to be 18,000 years old and has been on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites since 1979. 

But tourists have been kept away from the original site since 1963 because the carbon dioxide they exhaled was damaging the paintings, wreaking havoc with the cave's fragile ecosystem. And the early work preparing the site for visitors had also disturbed its environment more than the authorities anticipated. "Lascaux 2", an earlier copy of the site, opened in 1983, but it reproduced only 90 percent of the cave's wall art, 

The new version marks "the first time that we've reconstructed the entire Lascaux cave", "Lascaux 4" took a team of 30 workers four years to complete at a cost of 66 million euros 

. Housed in a half-buried building of concrete and glass, it replicates the dimensions, the artwork and colors of the original cave.

I visited Lascaux 2 this year and was wowed! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Taste of Telline - - Unforgettable.

One of the most emblematic foods of the Camargue ( south of Avignon in Provence) is the telline, a small, flat, pearly shellfish, pale yellow and violet inside, found in estuaries providing a mix of salt and fresh water. According to tradition, these delicious mollusks were first fished and eaten right here, so long ago that no one remembers when. They were traditionally found buried two to three inches down in the sand and gathered by workers walking backwards, dragging baskets with built-in rakes. It’s a pleasure to eat these delicate shellfish. They can be found in regional markets, washed and cleaned of sand, and on the menus of many restaurants. They’re often served as a nibble with aperitifs, or as a starter, with an olive-oil mayonnaise thinned with a little of the cooking water. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cassoulet -a gift from the French gods...

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France,, the home is in Carcassonne ( the largest medieval city in Europe) containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck pork skin and white beans 
The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides. The best place in France to try this classic dish in at Auberge des Lices ( in Carcassonne).

Friday, September 16, 2016

Grandiose! How else to describe the Cirque de Gavarnie? A hikers Paradise..

The great Pyrenean limestone circles owe their existence to the work of huge glaciers that have long since disappeared. Gavarnie, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, is the most celebrated of them all. 

 Firstly, imagine the scenery; you are in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. There, astride the French-Spanish border, is the massif of Mont-Perdu that rises over 10,000 feet in altitude. To the south are the extraordinary canyons of Ordesa, Aniscle and Pineta. To their north, the land of cirques with the majestic Gavarnie and Troumouse, the greatest of all, and Estaube, the wildest. 

 In 1997, this ensemble of more than 30,000 hectares was given UNESCO’s World Heritage Site award, for both natural and cultural reasons. Only 27 sites in the world have received such an award to date. 

Gavarnie has long been a source of astonishment. Its reputation comes from the various explorations it has inspired. Botanists, scientists, romantics, painters, poets and mountaineers in search of exploits or sensations have, since the 16th century, made Gavarnie the cradle of what is known as ‘Pyreneism’. The cirque became legend when Victor Hugo, in his illustrious poem “Dieu”, described it as an “impossible and extraordinary object”, a “coliseum of nature”. 

 Just 1 ½ hour drive from Tarbes/Lourdes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val - the village where the film, "The Hundred-Foot Journey' was filmed

1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Toulouse is the medieval village portrayed in the lovely film, "The Hundred-Foot Journey' was filmed. 
ere you can discover some of the locations where it was filmed. La Hale is still there ( the covered market) and the cafe de la Halle.
There is a lovely 3 star hotel, La Residence with 5 rooms; ask for the rooftop terrace room.
Drive out to the switchback road to get a great view of the village.

Friday, September 9, 2016

'Icon of Modern Art' In Paris - A must visit for any fan of modern art

'Icon of Modern Art' In Paris this Fall  You will be anxious to explore one of the most radical art collections of its time with The Shchukin Collection in Paris. 

 From October 22, 2016 through to February 20, 2017, The Foundation Louis Vuitton will host this significant exhibition of over 130 pieces with a particular emphasis on the art of Monet, Gauguin, Rousseau, Picasso, alongside works from Renoir, and Van Gough.

The exhibition pays tribute to one of the greatest Art patron of the early 20th century, Sergei Shchukin, the visionary Russian collector of French modern art.

 From the end of the 19th century, Sergei Shchukin, the important Muscovite industrialist, began to integrate himself into the Parisian arts milieu of the era, which tasked itself with defending the impressionist, post-impressionist and modern movements. Shchukin forged relationships with modern art dealers Paul Durand-Ruel, Berthe Weill, Ambroise Vollard, Georges Bernheim and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and celebrated artists Monet and Matisse. These friendships heavily influenced the formation of his collection, which remains one of the most radical art collections of its time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Before Versailles: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

For me ( to be honest with you) , forget Versailles and see the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Vaux-le-Vicomte, 45km from Paris in Seine-et-Marne, is one of the most important privately-owned châteaux in France. It is the home of the De Vogüé family, who opened it to the public in 1968 as a way of funding its upkeep – and to share with us the uniquely elegant building and resplendent 1,235 acres of gardens, all designed by the power team of the most celebrated artists of the 17th century: architect Le Vau, landscaper Le Nôtre and painter Le Brun, who then all went on to design Versailles. 

The château bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. Its creator, Nicolas Fouquet, was superintendent of finances under King Louis XIV and an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He surrounded himself with the best painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers. During a fateful celebration in honor of the king, in 1661, the lavish hospitality impressed the royal entourage so much that they declared the fête the best they had ever attended. 

 Outshining the king wasn’t the best policy. Voltaire wrote, “On August 17, at 6 in the evening, Fouquet was King of France, at 2 in the morning, he was nobody.” Whether or not jealousy played a part in what Fouquet was made to endure is debatable, but he was accused of malversation and thrown in prison during a harrowing 10-year trial. 

 The team at Chateau is kept busy enhancing the visitor experience. At a new welcome center, an introductory film tells the history of the château and your visit can be tailored according to the time you have available. 

Don’t miss the magical candlelit evenings when 2,000 twinkling candles light up the home and gardens, or the costumed grand siècle mid-summer picnic, or the Christmas events. 

 TIP: A new shuttle bus is available from the train station, making this a great day trip from Paris.

Friday, September 2, 2016

French Hamburgers? - OK, Don't sneer at that thought - The French Love American Style Hamburgers and have outdone the American's

 One of the forerunners of hearty, cooked-to-order burgers, the Big Fernand is where you go for the most French of French burgers. You can’t go wrong with any of the concoctions, which are topped with cheeses ( great French cheeses at that) you may never have heard of as well as a host of homemade sauces. And if you think you can, just create your own burger, choosing your meat, cheese, veggie, herbs, and sauce. Lines can be long, but the burgers come out quickly.