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France Blog

Dinner in Anduze, Languedoc, at
La Grange de Labahou

After the demise of La Riche in Alès, La Grange de Labahou  has become my favorite restaurant near where we have our apartment in a chateau in the Cèvennes mountains in the south of France. In recent years, the quality of the restaurants in the area has gone up in spite of a socialist government attitude which does everything it can do almost tax out of existence the restaurant tradition of France for ideological reasons. The anti-restaurant reasoning followings something like this: “Oh, this is where the overfed bourgeoisie eat; let’s make them pay a 20% sales tax for their privilege of eating better than the disadvantaged.”

La Grange is where I first ate and learned to make lamb shank confit (souris d’agneau). I find the confit way of cooking shanks infinitely more interesting and tastier than the American Italian version of slowly baking them with tomato sauce and garlic as the lamb becomes overwhelmed by the tomato flavor. In the confit version, the duck fat tenderizes the tough shank but allows the lamb flavor to be expressed, then highlighted with a boullion sauce or roasted, which then goes beautifully with a strong red wine aged in oak.

Unfortunately, this evening because of the slower winter season here in the southern French countryside, the reduced menu did not offer lamb shanks. But of course they had other interesting choices (only four starters and four main plates to choose from). M-P had the stuffed razor clams for starters and then the sautéed shrimp and squid. I had the pressed ham and foie gras paté and then the sautéed duck breast cooked medium rare with a local cheese sauce. La Grange is known for its use of local and regional products, but that is more the case than not in restaurants found in the countryside throughout France unlike the States where Sysco rules.

For wines we started with a nice local rosé as M-P has moved from whites into rosés and reds. So after a glass to get my palate going, I ordered a bottle of sturdy red from this part of Languedoc; a 2013 Mas Montel Jericho, which is mostly syrah with 10% grenache. Also I knew we would need a wine like this for M-P to have her final course, a five cheese plate, as La Grange always has an interesting selection of cheeses; a mixture of local Cévennes cheeses and unique cheeses from the Savoy where the owners have a mountain house. Instead, I had a dessert: a classic semifreddo (came from Italy to France at the beginning of the 20th century). It is made with egg whites, frozen cream, and almonds, and I can say it was probably the best I have ever had even in Italy (last time Milano).

Sadly, I can say, we will not be back for another week. 

 


Françoise Dupuy and Marie-Paule at A La Petite Chaise, 7th arrondisement, Paris

A La Petite Chaise
36 rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondisement, Paris (tel. 01 42 22 13 35)
Lunch 10 January 2018

A La Petite Chaise is supposed to be the oldest restaurant in Paris open since at least 1680. The name does not mean, “to the little chair,” but actually means in old French “to the little house”—chaise here comes from casa or so they say. Located in the 7th arrondisement, this area was outside of the city wall of Paris and so the restaurant began in this small house in what was then a rural area.

We go there for lunch to meet Françoise and Dominique Dupuy, cultural icons in the world of modern dance and culture, and longtime friends of Marie-Paule’s. They are 93 and 89, respectively, but are still performing and have just completed an ingenious album of some of their work. They live around the corner from A La Petite Chaise in a magisterial flat in a building which also is the headquarters for Karl Lagerfeld (whom I worked with in theatre in Florence in the 70s and am amused at his international success today).

Every time we pass through Paris, we try to meet up with them not knowing how much long they will still be their witty and pleasant selves or around. Also, they can always get a good table at any restaurant in the city no matter how popular; they have juice with Françoise holding the Legion of Honor medal for Culture in France. It would be a minor scandal if they were turned away at a restaurant no matter how busy the restaurant was. Their favorite is Brasserie Lipp, popular with French politicians and culture mavens, especially their Presidents. However, A La Petite Chaise is one of the best, insider places, with very good food and quite popular, but of course, they both dismiss going there saying “Oh it is one of those places where you will see Americans.” What a horror!

Aged as Françoise and Dominique are, they are not too hungry and so will only have a main plate and maybe a dessert with a light red. One of the specials of the day is calves kidneys sautéed medium rare in a light mustard cream sauce. We all order this except Françoise who opts for a veal chop. A note on French food here: the French do two things better than any other cuisine in the world and that is cook game correctly and organ meats. Veal kidneys are organ meat, and we are not about to pass up this dish here.

I order a bottle of red Saumur, which is a light red from the Loire valley made mostly of cabernet franc grapes with some cabernet sauvignon mixed in. The kidneys come, perfect and delicious with a pressed broccoli side and a potato gallette. Everything is exquisite, and I conclude and celebrate with an eau de vie of aged prune brandy while everyone else has coffee.

While at lunch Dominique adjusts his recently acquired hearing aid. He says it has changed his life much more for the better because now, when he and Françoise argue, he can actually hear what she is saying. He realized he didn’t hear her arguments were for years, and this made their disputes more difficult to resolve. At this point he turns to me and asks if we fight. I quickly reply without looking at Marie-Paule, “No, we never fight.” Both of them look at us with surprise and disbelief, and I put on my most morose face and say, “I am too weak.” At this they immediately get my joke (belle esprit in French) and everyone breaks out in laughter.

Tomorrow we travel to Deep France, Languedoc, on the TGV, and then dinner in Anduze at La Grange de Labahou.


France at night from Space. Arrows pointing to bright lights are cities from top to bottom clockwise: Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Bordeaux.
Photo courtesy of the NASA Space Station.
 

Paris, 9 January 2018

Dinner at L’Européen brasserie, facing and in front of the gare de Lyon, Paris

Above postcard image with the caption “L’Européen really Parisian”

Over the last decade, the L’Européen, along with Chez Jenny, has become one of my favorite brasseries in Paris. Both are independently owned and operated, unlike the iconic brasseries Bofinger, La Coupole, Terminus Nord, and Vaudeville, which are all now a part of the brasserie chain, Brasserie Flo. Unfortunately the Brasserie Flo corporation has done to Parisian brasseries what McDonald’s has done to the great American hamburger. Overall yuck, and these places used to be temples to traditional good French food and interesting wines.

We were first introduced to the L’Européen by the stunning and too talented Pantheatre actress, voice and theatre teacher, and former French TV mini-Star, Marilyne Guitton. Each time I go there and have a good meal, I say a little prayer of thanks to Marilyne for introducing this gem of a still authentic brasserie.

Below, Marilyne Guitton in her latest ethereal performance in Paris.

Hungry again after almost dying from eating too much roasted lamb and porcini potatoes in Le Train Bleu for lunch, we start right off with half a dozen oysters each. These are called “the pearls of the ocean” and are commonly known as portugais; oysters originally from the Asian Pacific and brought to the Iberian peninsula and France in the 16th century by Portuguese traders. They are deep and salty and cold and go wonderfully with the house Kir royal (made with a dose of cassis with Jacquart champagne). I was first introduced to them years ago by James Hillman at the historic restaurant Drouant while touring with him and Charles Boer in Paris in January 1984. Hillman loved them having been first introduced to them when he lived in Paris in the late 40s where he tried to be a writer of erotic novels (he completed one novel), worked twice as an extra in films, and shared a mistress with the Dadaist, Tristan Tzara. At one point this mistress declared to him that he should give up writing in living in Paris because he always insisted on having clean underwear; so American.

Next I had the herb roasted guinea fowl breast with ratatouille. It was simple, excellent, and delicious with no pretense. This will be one of the Metro’s offerings when we get back; ideas and dishes like this are why we are here besides missing the cold for the temperate climate of Languedoc. M-P had the grilled sea-bream; very good but my main dish won at this meal.

Next, we each had a great selection of cheeses, M-P, of course, choosing the nastiest smelling ones, all washed down with the house red, a nice Buzet. And then two scoops of coffee ice cream for M-P and two of pear sorbet for me. We asked for one but they brought us two. Did they do this knowing we came from the US and decided to mock us because of Trump and his reported ice cream habit? Who knows but better two scoops, I guess, than dropping our food on the floor and then serving it to us.

All this was finished with very drinkable coffee, not American brown dishwater, rounding out the meal. And because this was all from the day’s fixed price menu, the cost was extremely reasonable—about $45 a person for four courses including an aperitif and half a bottle of wine each plus tax and tip. This fixed price menu, served all day at L’Européen, is one of the best values for good, traditional brasserie food and wine that you will find in Paris and in an easily accessible part of the city.

Tomorrow, lunch at reportedly the oldest restaurant in Paris, A La Petite Chaise, with dancing and culture legends, Francoise and Dominique Dupuy, in the 7th arrondissement.


Paris, 9 January 2018
Lunch, Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon



M-P at Le Train Bleu, 9 January 2018

After a gratefully uneventful trip to Logan and flight to Paris (except on arrival I separated us from our bags at the airport by going to the wrong baggage section in my stupor after watching a series of bad Amy Schumer so-called comedies in flight), we made our way to lunch at one of the monuments of France, the magnificent 1900 gilded restaurant in the gare de Lyon (Paris-Lyon train station). I would say this is probably the best restaurant in the world to consistently have fresh roast lamb, and that’s exactly what my goal was and what I wanted for lunch.  

We arrived a bit early, but strangely, the bar was full, and they were turning people away. Oh, no, I thought—no lunch, no lamb, no garlicky potatoes dauphinoise? I have been eating lamb here for 30 plus years and never turned away for lunch, but yes, I usually make reservations. I should know better. But on asking, yes, they had couverts (places) for lunch, no problem, seating at 11.30.  

The restaurant walls and ceilings are covered with frescos depicting cities on the train line going to the south of France bordered with grotesque moldings and paintings of beauties of dubious allegorical worth. Some of the images seem to have been just the porn of its day with perhaps a fig leaf of moral meaning. Each time I go there I am reminded of the original French film, La femme Nikita, and its psychopathic heroine who butchers a dining room full of white business men in Le Train Bleu, and the cheers this scene brings out of feminist women of both sexes in audiences when I have watched it twice in public over the years, once at a conference and another at the University of Connecticut. I guess mass murders never fail to capture the human imagination from Alexander, to Caesar, to Genghis Khan, to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to even a sexy, lithe twenty something with semi-automatic weapons ruining lunch in a palace dedicated to Epicurus.  

So, 11.30, and off we go to table. People are still coming in and being turned away from the bar, but they don’t go to the luncheon tables. What is this about?
 
We are seated at table with white linens, long and oversized menus, and an impeccable French waiter. Checking the menu and the specials, I see they have milk fed lamb from the Pyrenes for two in addition to the regular lamb rolled to the table on a cart and carved to one’s desires. Although I am not in gourmet shape yet, I decide to have this with Marie-Paule (I know she cannot resist this as the lamb comes from the region of her mother’s ancestral family town in the Pyrenes), and we both start with the foie gras. With it I have a glass of late harvest Gewurztraminer, while Marie-Paule has a glass of Bollinger champagne to celebrate the start of our vacation and probably the fact that she was able to get me to travel. 

The drinks are superb, but the foie gras, with the essence of figs and chestnuts, are three little nouvelle cuisine squares (M-P dubs them “poops”; “poop” and “butt” being her two favorite colloquial words in American English) not even enough for an anorexic model and at a price of about $35 for each serving. I worry about the roasted lamb for two fearing it might be no larger than a shank priced at $100. The waiter alerted us to the fact that they had to change the mushrooms, from pied de mouton--sheep feet--to cepes, in the potatoes. I fear the worst. I order an unusual Bordeaux in a good year sensing I might need a consolation not provided by religion or philosophy. The Bordeaux was unique and good and would serve as a perfect prophilactic for even the most overcooked lamb with mint jelly one could order in London or Boston.  

After a reasonable amount of time to roast a real milk fed leg of lamb (20 minutes; not sheep or mutton), during which we were engaged in conversation by a lawyer at a neighboring table eating alone (interesting man, but I could not connect as I was fading), it arrives and is carved for us on a side table. The presentation is impeccable, and the plate of food is huge. I regret I am beginning to feel exhausted and am not in good eating form. The lamb was not only good, it was the best I have ever had in my life. This is said from someone who was raised on a farm where we also raised lamb and had at one time about 200 head of sheep. And I have eaten lamb around the world. Nothing I have ever had compares to this including the lamb raised near the ocean in Normandy (flesh slightly salty from the marsh hay they eat) and the superb lamb, the best I have ever had until this, raised in the Haut Causses in Languedoc. The roast is cooked medium rare to rare with a light thyme and pan gravy sauce. It literally melts in one’s mouth. And the potatoes with porcini mushrooms (cepes in France) are sautéed with just a hint of garlic and parsley. 

Of course this is all too much and several times I feel I will pass out. Fortunately we booked into a new, chic CitizenM hotel just around the corner, and I know I will not have far to go to collapse after this lunch. I cannot finish the plate, but do finish the wine, get the check, and off we go to our hotel.  

Quickly finding our hotel dragging our luggage, we get to our room, and throw off our clothes to fall on a king bed in white linen. Just before collapsing, I was curious to know what the hotel was recommending for places near them on their all digital info system. Would the Train Bleu be on their list? No, not the restaurant, but its bar was. Ahh, this explains why the bar was filled so early, which I had never seen before. It appeared that all the international pyjama boys and girls of dubious age and surgery were following the recommendation to go to the bar, like sheep, but then they did not seem to have the brains (sheep are the dumbest) or the courage (sheep are timid) to gamble and take a chance on the restaurant if the bar was full. And so, exhausted, with no need to count sheep, we took an afternoon nap until the next restaurant this evening.  

 

Jay Livernois with sautéed cepes potatoes and roast leg of milk-fed lamb.

  

 

  Prequel


Daube de boeuf at The Bistrot

Dinner tonight, 6 January 2018, at the Bistrot will feature venison, quail, beef filet, daube, and great fresh black sea bass caught off of Long Island and Connecticut in a mustard cream sauce. Also I am running to tie up loose ends and pay all the bills before leaving. 



Lauren in France (summer 2017)
                   

BONJOUR!!!

My flights went well; on time and enjoyable. Icelandic flight attendants are babes. 
One day in Paris is a tease. Jake introduced me to his Russian friend, and we ate lunch along the Seine. We explored all day, on and off the metro. For dinner I had one of the greatest meals of my life; black truffle lasagne--Petite mort. I still can cry just thinking about it. 
    Gare de Lyon is awesome madness. Everybody does a mad dash for their train once it displays and you only have 20 minutes to get yourself where you need to be, or else you're screwed! 
I felt like a rock star--riding 1st class on the TGV. Feet up, window seat to myself. The 3 hours passed rather quickly to Nimes, and when I exited the train, there was a white-haired gentleman wearing a wide-brimmed, black hat...ready to give me my welcome bisou! 
    Ivan is a gracious host. He keeps me busy with the archives, (there certainly are many). We sort through the various performances in the library, which I cannot wait to explore further, and then I busy myself in my room with all the scanning, uploading, proper filing and editing. My bed is so comfy and I have a view even lovelier than I had imagined. I packed way too much (I believe Ivan sent you a picture for proof of that). Alors, live and learn. But I am glad I brought summer dresses and sandals--it's very hot during the day here in the South! I am now friends with all his cats--Esmerelda is my favorite. 
    Your place is stunning and the pictures certainly do NOT do it justice. I told Ivan, while he was giving me the grand tour, that I had this feeling of deja vu--that in another life, I know I had been here. 
    Say hello to Lily and Lady Catherine for me. And tell Belichick not to go easy on Jake, while he's training. Back to work. It's almost time for a cocktail!

France Blog II

Where we eat and play in France.
Our dinning and living room in France. Used for office work here at this time.


14 March 2017
Eating at home--a steak from cattle raised across the street, sautéed potatoes grown on a nearby mountain terrace, with an endive and local blue cheese salad, finished with a pear sorbet) and enjoying a good book from 1923 by Arthur Hardy of Woodstock, his autobiography or more correctly, his memories of having lived a memorable life. What is one of the fine things about this book, besides a prose style and intelligence no longer found, is that it is filled with accounts of great meals (and not so great) around the world from the second half of the 19th century until just after WWI. He loved his meals at The Ritz as much as he enjoyed his cook's in Tehran (he was US minister there) made in a mud and thatch hut cooked on charcoal. The book can be found online free as Things Remembered.

12 March 2017  Cévennes mountains 
Languedoc, south of France

 

 

 

 

 

 

I begin in medias res—in the middle of things. These days I have been eating well since a day in Paris and then in the south of France, designing, typesetting, and editing A History of The Woodstock Academy. I find it the best possible of places to do this kind of work under a foreign moon and away from any local, familiar context or possible disturbance. Being overseas gets me out of myself so I can go into the subject in my imagination—no selfies here.


Lozère is just north of the Cèvennes on this map of the region. Anduze is just southeast of Alès. 

Brasserie les Templiers
Anduze, Garde

This simple, small town brasserie and café, in the center of the charming 17th century Cévenol town of Anduze, is located next to a medieval tower, which was part of a fortified knight Templar complex—hence the name of this restaurant—the Templar brasserie. The picturesque site could not be better on this sunny spring day in the south of France. We are seated in a sun dappled veranda next to the Garonne river (one of three in France with the same name) beneath two towering ancient white stone cliffs which is cut in two from years of the river wearing it down. The name of the town, Anduze means “cut in two—en deux.” 

The last time I ate here in 2009, the food was mediocre at best and the service terrible. In 2010 the place was sold and under renovations for a year. I have not eaten here since. But this time, due to the owner coming out and talking to us as we were looking at the menu, which caught our eye because of the frog legs, we decided to give it a try now again with new owners.

Well, we didn’t have frog. Instead we had foie gras paté and country paté from Lozère (Lozère is just north of us in the mountains, part of the massif central, and known for its ancient regional country cuisine). For the main course M-P had sausage from Lozère with onion confit and a vegetable tart. I had their gardianne de taureau, which is a kind of beef stew with onions, black olives, red wine, and carrots. It is usually made from a recently killed bull in the ring—bull fighting season has begun in the south. The patés were fine, locally made, sturdy affairs. M-P’s sausage was good, but her onion confit, an unearthly bright red, made us suspect it was commercially produced, although the owner said it wasn’t. My beef was okay only because the sauce had been thickened with a roux and not reduced as we do in the bistrot and lacked herbs de provence. Also the beef seemed to have been frozen at some time in its journey to my plate or in becoming a dish. The texture wasn’t quite right. We washed this all down with a pitcher of local rosé, which was fine but I found a bit too acidic (I think a function of my ageing where I can only tolerate good Bordeaux).

All and all, not bad and inexpensive ($65 for two including wine and coffee and tip). I would like to go back for a lunch, order the frog legs and a better bottle of wine (a Pic Saint Loup rosé?—not as young and acidic), which the frog should be able to stand up to and not croak. Maybe Friday lunch.


High-topping by the French artist of Crégols, Quercy, Charlotte Ince

10 July 2016
At the legendary Les Deux Magots in Paris



28 June 2016, Cadillac / Beguey, Entre-deux-mers, Bordeaux, France


My grandfather, Ralph Freeman, in his Cadillac, 1915, Southbridge, Massachusetts    

When most Americans here the word "Cadillac", it invokes the luxury brand of General Motors; my grandfather Ralph Freeman owned one in the first years of the last century (photo above). However, what many Americans do not know is that Cadillac actually is a town in the Bordeaux region of France with an original medieval wall around it, and it has quite an unique history; most of the famous walled cities or towns in France, like Carcassone and Avignon, were reconstructed for tourists. Cadillac also produces a good sweet wine, being right next to Sauterne, which is rarely if ever found in the US; cousins of Marie-Paule's own a house and vineyard there producing some good wine, which is never seen outside of France.
    Yet my interest in Cadillac was not historical on a pleasant late June evening. I was there to eat at the boutique hotel, Chateau de la Tour. They have a 1st class restaurant, which I discovered in 2006 while visiting Marie-Paule's sister and mother in the nearby medieval entre-deux-mer town of Targon. This trip to the restaurant did not let me down. We all had the menu, which for 31 euros included 4 courses. The standout dish of the four was something I never had before which was grilled sturgeon from the nearby Garonne river. It was simply done and cooked to perfection, with just lemon juice and fresh ground pepper and a little salt. 
    The co-star of the meal, though, was the white Sainte Marie entre-deux-mers wine. It is produced right in Targon and can be had in Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Its most recent vintages (mostly sauvignon blanc blended with semillon) are highly prized and seem to be the rage in the Bordeaux area, especially their lightly oak aged wines from 2013. And as an experiment, I had a half bottle of a local red Bordeaux, Chateau Roudier 2010, which was unfortunately a little past its prime for me, although it could be I just no longer have a taste for wines with age; half bottles given their size, age faster than 750mil bottles. So, roughly, a six year half bottle will have aged like a 10 or 12 year old full bottle.
    Although this restaurant does not seem to be on many gourmet screens, if ever in the Bordeaux region, it is a great place to eat especially in its outside porch or in its small park.


12 July  Pomfret, Connecticut


Great to be back! Today, prepping for opening on Wednesday and readying a few new recipes learned in France: i.e. a saffron vegetable soup from Quercy, a honey sauce for the stuffed quail, and pork confit, plus in the near future poached monkfish in a saffron sauce; the latter from the best meal I have ever had in my life. Well, off to the markets and the Bistrot.

10 July  Blvd. St. Germain  Last night in Paris in La Rhumerie


Bathed in orange? Well, I guess it was the rhum drinks.

8 July  7th arrondisement, Paris

La Ferronnerie, 18 rue de la chaise

Lunch with Françoise (aged 91) and Dominque Dupuy (aged 85) near their apartment and offices right next to Science Po (one of the top universities in France) and the offices of Karl Lagerfeld. Françoise and Dominque are professional dancers, starting their careers in the 40s, who introduced modern dance into France (and brought over Merc Cunningham to aid this), and both have received all kinds of cultural awards with Françoise receiving France’s highest civilian award, Le Legion d’Honneur. M-P has been friends with them for more than 30 years, and I first met up with Dominique’s work in movement in 84 in the south of France.

Before going to lunch, we were given a tour of their 19th empire century style apartments with 20 foot high ceilings, art everywhere and books covering every furniture surface and bookshelves from floor to ceiling all holding I estimate about 4000 books. Then downstairs they had two other immense rooms with more archives and books and this does not include the thousands of books and documents Françoise and Dominque gave to the French National Library.

La Ferronnerie is just around the corner from their flat, and I had been there once many years ago on a cold winter day. We had a nice carafe Côtes du Rhône and the special of the day; medium rare roast lamb with white French beans—perfect. Of course there was delicious baguette French bread for the sauce of the lamb and beans. Afterwards I had a poire while everyone had small French coffees.

Overall, this restaurant is a genuine hidden gem; a throwback to another time and age of Paris. I doubt you will even run into a guest lecturer or American student from Science Po if you can find your way there in this part of deep Paris.

7 July 2016

Off to the "grande table" French restaurant, Louis XIII, in the 6th arrondisement in Paris to see how it has held up over the years and to celebrate my anniversary on entering West Point. Also to see what new editions the owner has made to his collection in the basement of the restaurant of antique chastity belts (both male and female)!

I have gone to Louis XIII several times over the last 30 years. While always good, and the first time it had two Guide Michelin stars, lunch on 7 July was the best. It was so good, I now have to say it was the best meal I have ever had, and I have had some great ones from northern Sweden to Zimbabwe (the best until now was with a 1947 Cheval Blanc at The Castle in Leicester, Mass. in 1982 hosted by the legendary Paul Provost of Yankee Spirits fame). And the value of the meal was not to be overlooked. We ordered that day's menu for 60 euros, and in the end, we were served not just the six stated courses, but eight if you include the amuse bouches.

The first course was a light, cheese puff. Next came a cold carrot soup. I usually do not like cold soups, even in the winter, but here with its ginger spicing, I make an exception. Then came a wild sea bass quenelle in a light cream sauce--the best quenelle I have ever had. Next course was my favorite--poached and then seared monkfish in a saffron cream sauce. At this point the champagne was gone and the delicious white wine from the Herault, too, and so here we had the Gigondas with a filet from Normandy sautéed with small wild mushrooms in a bordelaise sauce. Next cheese and then a light cheese cake and then French cream puffs, coffee, and I had an eau de vie. 

Three of us (a friend who is a regular at the Bistrot along with Marie-Paule) had this meal (everyone at the table had to order it to have it). With it, we had three bottles of wine, and I finished with an Etter poire. No one felt the least stuffed or tipsy. Everything in the food and the courses were perfectly balanced. The wines were great value, and one would have to pay the same price or more for each bottle in a wine store in the US (a 2010 Hortus white from Languedoc, a vintage 2006 Guy Charlemagne pink champagne, and a 2010 Gigondas). This is a restaurant you should not pass up even if you only have one place you can go while in Paris, and especially if you feel you cannot afford it; it cost about $150 per person including tax and tip. As the French writer Colette famously said: "Many times in my life I have gone without a necessity, but never without a luxury." 

3 July 2016


This is how I feel after visiting artist friends and my French in-laws over the last 3 weeks.


Above is a NASA photo of France at night with all its lights given to us by a Bistrot customer two days before we left for France. The black lines point out different places where we will be during out time in France.

30 June Targon, Entre-deux-mers, Bordeaux: Email to my cousin Judy Freeman Clark


Dear Judy,

We are on a French vacation--one month--which is a combination of visiting M-P's family, doing food research, and meeting up with friends both in Europe and from the States; my first time off in 3.5 years. No funerals, but we did go to M-P's parents' graves in Bordeaux and her nephew's (who died tragically in a motorcycle accident in 95). I am blogging on the Bistrot website and have to get much of the postings up by tomorrow. Right now we are staying at M-P's sister's in entre-deux-mers which is a part of the Bordeaux region famous for its white wines and is not between two seas but is a peninsula formed by two rivers (the Dordogne and Garonne). Go figure. On Sunday we go to Paris, meet friends, then go for a couple of days to Orleans where M-P was raised and she still has an aunt. Last night I had dinner with a couple of M-P's cousins (one a local mayor, another a successful international steel expert). I cooked: scampi I learned to make in Italy 40 years ago and a Pierre Franey recipe for fresh poached cod fillets with a lemon crème fraiche sauce; dessert was simple fresh strawberries macerated in red wine, lemon, and a little brown sugar. And of course the wines are not to be had or usually found in the States.

Love to have you over when we are back in Pomfret; sounds strange to say this as I really always considered I live in Woodstock even if I lived in other places.

Your cousin,

Jay

 

 

Sunday 12 June--Leaving

Wake up early glorious day sun on the back porch

in Pomfret’s rolling landscape and memory

Strikes in France (air and rail--

by Commie unions to stop economic reforms)

I don’t want to go don’t want to travel staycation

Please

M-P checks to see if the flight is cancelled

Damn ours isn’t but the later one we didn’t choose is 

 

Early at Logan to Vino Volo

Except for a boutique California merlot

Expensive and the food

and wine (cheap South Americans jacked up)

has gone down with its success

I dream of the days in the years I flew from

Boston to Zurich having martini flights

Before flight with fresh New England oysters and clams

 

Flight 7pm

We joke about the food to be

on Air France

I say bet we get curry something

and chicken or a choice of some limp pasta

Yup curried orzo and chicken in sauce

Not bad

But stay away from the pasta

Always stay away from the pasta

 

But Air France serves real champagne

from a full bottle as much as you like

then a little Rhone and cognac and coffee

And two movies

 

Monday 13 June—Charles de Gaulle

Paris airport a zoo and 3 hours to clear

customs

Packed trains into the city

Thank heaven for perfume and its use

in France football Euro-cup crowds

 

Lyon Station

We get to Gare de Lyon

and planned time for lunch

until train down to Burgundy

But where? Le Train Bleu

a monument

or

L’Européen

a should-be monument?

 

Lunch prix 105 euros at

The Blue Train and as I remember it

the food the last time was mediocre,

and to spend that just to eat in a monument of France?

even if it is the Paris place where

the femme Nikita went Bataclan psycho on businessmen

(25 years ago, a film for the jihadi feminists, then)

 

So to the Européen

kirs,

6 ocean pearls--great, deep, salty oysters,

from Brittany--,

Macon-Villages 14,

baked Scottish salmon in a light tomato sauce

(never had this combo before;

M-P says the tomato makes it provençal),

all reasonably priced and very good

and then onto TGV and Burgundy

 

Monday 13 June (evening Burgundy)

With M-P’s niece and family

married into a Burgundy cattle family

her husband an expert on rare cattle

with 3 children (2 boys one girl)

on the cusp of teenagerdom

 

They opened a Diverti Parc (Fun Park)

The theme: cattle and nature and games

all very active and fun and informative

with eating in charcoal grilling yourts

for families and families to be

 

Saturday 18 June Malèrargues

Today I went to lunch at what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in France and in the world; Le Riche in Alés. What I didn’t know was that since I was last there (2012), it had changed owners. The previous chef / owner was from Normandy, and he served up some of the best meals I have ever had in my life. One of them was in July 2006; a main dish of venison sweetbreads sautéed with foie gras with a slightly chilled local red wine. Today I wasn’t so lucky.

The wait staff was new, young, and dumb. This led to a disaster. I received an important phone call I had to return during my first course, a vegetable terrine. The waiter incorrectly described it as an egg-kind of dish. While talking on the phone, I took more time than the waiter expected. Unfortunately the waiter had told the cook to cook my next course, duck breast, while I was talking. but held it in the warmer until I was done with my phone call and first course. Needless-to-say the duck breast came out well done when I ordered it medium rare. M-P’s haddock was also over done, and it could be seen that the sauce had been in the warmer too long too. Not wanting to make a fuss and realizing my phone call took too long--I was talking to a friend in the throes of a divorce—(but my fault for talking too much), I didn’t want to complain. However, the waiter pressed me, so I pointed out that the duck was well done and not medium rare, which he should have seen before he served it. This led to copious apologies, and then after cheese and dessert, the chef / owner came out and gave us a coffee and a glass of wine as an apology. He also then opened up about how difficult it is to run a restaurant today in France, mirroring what we heard two days ago at La Grange and what we have been observing given the economic climate in France under the Socialists.

 


 

 

 

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