Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pizza in a Cave

There is pizza and then there is pizza.

Last night I was invited to have dinner with friends at a pizzeria in a cave. The restaurant is located in Brantome, France a beautiful village close to where I live. It is on a very narrow lane just off the main street leading into the town.

The restaurant is called La Vieux Four and is in what is called a Grottes Troglodytes. These grottes were inhabited in the middle ages and have many rooms. The ceilings are low as would be expected inside a cave. The pizza is cooked in a wood burning oven carved into the cave wall.

This incredible restaurant is a must see if you are ever in this area.

La Petite Boutique de Coin

Fruit or Vegetables anyone?

Today I chose beouf hache or as we say hamburger meat.

Winter flowers at the Floriste

The trees are laden with nuts

Haidresser in La Tour Blanche. Kaky is out for awhile having a baby.

Skye being embraced by the cafe owner. Where but lovely France would this ever happen?

Like the 1940's movie, The Little Shop Around the Corner, I have the luxury of never having to go to a supermarket as there are so many wonderful shops within 20 minutes of where I live in La Tour Blanche.

What makes these shops so special is that the owners are always present and are so friendly. Here you can get the freshest fruits and vegetables, incredibly well stocked pharmacies, beautiful meat in the showcases of the butcher shop, gorgeous patisserie in the boulangerie and the nicest, friendliest shop owners who know all their regular customers by name and we are always greeted with a kiss on each cheek. Bringing in your laundry you are warmly greeted and you always stop to have a little chat.

A typical day for me is to start at the Bar Du Midi in Riberac for a lovely coffee. The owner Christophe knows I love the freshly steamed milk so I am always served a pitcher of hot milk with a "chapeau" of soft cloudy foam to the envy of the others in the bar. Christophe makes everyone feel so welcome and his devilish sense of humor keeps us coming back for more. One man that sits at the bar on a regular basis speaks little but makes the sound of a neighing horse instead. He must live with the horses but I haven't gotten close enough to tell.

The regulars here often don't drink coffee but do drink beer the way only the French do with added syrup of grenade (pomegranate juice) mint or orange so the beer is always a lovely color. The red is beautiful. They call this drink a Perroquet or Parrot in English. It's a perfect name for this colorful drink. They also mix beer, lemonade and grenadene and call it a "Monaco".

Afterwards, I do my shopping for the day. I visit the fresh fruit and vegetable shop and choose my menu depending on what arrived that day. I always need something from the pharmacy, usually a favorite body lotion, beautifully wrapped, scented soap or shampoo but in the event I need a prescription filled I do that there as well. Many products we need a prescription for in the States, the French do not so I can get an over the counter little tiny pill to help me sleep or my migraine medication without a prescription.

The best butcher in the area is in my village and he not only sells me the meat but tells me how to cook it. Since my French oven thermostat is numbered 1 through 5, it's difficult to find our compatible U.S. oven temperature. After wrapping my purchase in lovely butcher's paper, Mr. Butcher always tells me which number to use on my oven's thermostat. Lovely.

A stop at the Boulangerie is usually next and besides the typical baguette we can now get lovely cereal bread, delicious soft musli bread and many others. Unless I am entertaining for tea, I usually pass the pastries and just look. Since I do entertain a lot though, it's not unusual for me to pick up an Opera chocolate cake or a fruit tart.

I'm off to shop.

A la prochaine...........

Friday, February 18, 2011

Surrounded by beautiful things

Caramel colored cashmere back of the pillow below. Click to enlarge to see the beautiful fabric.

This cusion is made of three pieces of cashmere plus a 100 year old scrap of a scarf. Please note the center piece is the button side of a cardigan. No two buttons are alike. Click to enlarge to see the detail.

This is the back of the pillow below. We can it Neopolitan as it reminds us of ice cream. All buttons used are vintage and beautiful. Click to enlarge to see the beautiful buttons and great workmanship.

The center seam of this cusion is sewn with the seam showing. The fringe is from a blanket and the button is really two buttons, one inside the other and both are very old. Click to enlarge and look at the button.

Living in the beautiful French countryside enables me to find things unavailable anywhere else. The things I will feature are either made by people living here now or things that have been made by the regional people from years past. The work is impeccable and so unbelievably beautiful each piece being made by hand and one of a kind. Each stitch is perfect and it is hard to imagine anyone taking the time to do this kind of work.

I would love to show you, my friends, what I am seeing and get your opinions to see if you agree with me.

I spent today with a woman who makes pillows out of cashmere remnants, putting together beautiful colors and pieces of cashmere she finds in old English and Irish woolen mills. She scrounges around and finds trims or scraps that could be more than 100 years old and puts them on the cushion in amazingly interesting ways. I am having her make a collection of cushions for me, using my talent for putting colors together and her talent for finding unusual pieces to combine in making a great piece.

I am tempting you with just two pillows which I photographed today. If you click on them to enlarge them, you will see how fine the workmanship is and just how beautiful the fabrics are.
I just added three more pillows. The backs are as beautiful as the fronts using cashmere and antique buttons.

Much more to come.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Truffles in the Perigord

Treasure of truffles
Slice thinly on scrambled eggs or pasta
Nini arriving with the farmer
Nini smells the first truffle

Nini finds the truffle
Nini starts digging for the truffle
.....and keeps on digging
Farmer weighing the truffles
Double checking the weight

Truffles, in France, are normally gathered in October or November. I have had the privilege of going truffle hunting several times due to the generosity of some very good friends who have truffles growing under the oak trees on their property.

A house guest of mine went and wrote the following:

Yesterday had a bit of fun in the afternoon drizzle with a mammoth sow, Nini. She led the truffle hunt vigorously and successfully, discovering over 3.5 kilos of the black gold, tuber melanosporum, 900 euros per kilo on the open market, you do the math! And in the season, they do this every ten to fifteen days, often with a higher yield. Nini does not eat the treasures, as she has been trained to step aside and take her reward of a handful of kernels of corn. She is pretty huge though, so she is getting her sustenance somewhere else. Enthusiastic is an understatement, I must say. I was gifted with a small nugget which is currently nestling with some eggs.

We started around some small trees, about three feet high, planted seven years ago, and only started producing three years ago, which is actually quite a good schedule. The roots were impregnated with the spores which of course helps with the production. However, much later we were in an open field where Nini sniffed out several not close to any trees-these are known as the "indigenous" truffles as they are actually attached to the long roots of the very tall and mature oak trees which were on the perimeter of the field.

I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures but having forgotten to bring a camera the pictures were taken with a telephone. I think you still can get the flavor of the hunt.

A great time was had by all.

Bon Apetit

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Week-end in Chablis

Chablis 2011 vineyards
Cool clear ice bag
English speaking journalists covering wine festival

Hotel by night
Private home
Private home

Hotel Laroche bathroom
Beautiful bedroom
Nice, huh?

Bagpiper honoring the vineyard

Last week-end was the wine festival Saint-Vincent 2011 in Chablis. It's the celebration of the grape and I was delighted to be invited by friends who have several vineyards in Chablis.

It started with a 6 hour drive from my home in SW France to Chablis in the Burgundy region of France. It was a pleasant drive and I arrived at the beautiful Hotel Laroche in time for dinner with lots of old friends.

The village was totally decorated with artificial flowers, from one end to the other. I can only imagine the work involved in covering every winter tree, bush and house with these beautiful flowers.

People walking down the street had wine glasses hanging from ribbons around their neck and they went from one wine cave to another filling up. Needless to say it was a very happy crowd.

Sunday morning, after breakfast, we took off to visit the vineyards and have our own personal wine tasting. There were about 10 of us. This seemed unusual to me but not to my friends, who enjoyed tasting about 8 different varieties of locally grown Chablis at 10 o'clock in the morning. We stayed there for awhile, buying wine, loading our cars (some with as many as 40 cases) to bring to our various homes in London, Paris and Belgium. It was impressive how much wine one can load in their 4 wheel drive vehicles

We followed this with a tour of my friends three vineyards and a view of his newest, to be planted, field. It's all about wine in Chablis and I was fascinated with how much I learned about the growing of our favorite drink. A very good friend played the bagpipes to honor the vineyard.

After a quick lunch of duck and frites, we walked through the very crowded village and joined in the revelry.

Dinner was at the hotel with just a few of us who had not yet gone home. The table next to us was English speaking so of course we started a conversation. They were American and English journalists covering the wine festival for various wine magazines.

After everyone imbibed great quantities of wine we had a good night sleep. I drove back home the next morning.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Find

I just ordered some calling cards from a great site. It's called Moo and because I ordered them from France the web site address is different than if you order them from the US. Check them out on Google, they're great. I ordered an assortment of mini cards and as soon as they come I will photograph them and do another mention.
Well, here they are. Cute, huh?