June 15, 2011

The Romans Did Everything

It was a beautiful evening on the coast, but we would learn later that it was the calm before the storm.  We journeyed 30 minutes South to check out the coastal town of Ste. Maxime.....explore a bit and have dinner.  Here are a few photos.....


After walking the back streets and checking out the shops, we see there is an Italian Fair on the waterfront.  Among the vendors are the Parmesan guys from, you guessed it,  Parma.  We have bought from them before...their cheese is OUTSTANDING......bio (organic) and aged.  We bought the 24 and 36 month.  Older than that,  the texture was a bit powdery.  125 Euros later, we thought we had purchased what we needed! 

Then we come upon the truffle booth......can't get past without making a purchase.  I bought a couple of jars of the truffle/mushroom spread that I will use on some blinis the next couple of weeks.  We are having a great time discovering what we love best.....FOOD!

Time to move on to dinner.  We head down the coast and this is where the Romans come in.  You know they were everywhere here in the South of France.  Julius Caesar came over from Italy (on the Aurelian Way) around 45-50 BC.  Frejus was a big Roman enclave, but here, between Sainte Maxime and Frejus, is a small unique site.  I guess you would say it was the first fish farm.  Yes, way back then, the Romans had the idea to farm raise fish (a vivier). 

Look very carefully in the center of the picture and you will see, underwater, the walls to contain the fish.  They used the natural calanque on each side to construct the ponds between them.  If you focus, you will see 2 connecting walls.

It is getting dark now so we turn our thoughts to dinner. Nous avons faim!  A little further down, we stop at a restaurant on the water.  Great setting....casual...and the food was exceptional.  
X had the gambas and I had the whole grilled fish of the day.  Have a photo of his but I dove into boning mine before I realized that I had not taken a photo.  C'est dommage....it was great and their sides were outstanding...a couscous.  Here is Xavier's shrimp...
 And our wine was, of course, rosé......from Rocquebrune s/Argens....our neighbor!

Headed back home as raindrops started to fall.  It was the night of the big storm.  Made it into the garage as the deluge began! Perfect timing.

June 13, 2011

Gateau de Jambon, Olive et Fromage

Xavier and I  have been cooking for the last couple of days getting ready for the next groups. For once, I had a bit of extra time and got to cook too. 

The French call this a gateau or cake.  I call it a bread....a quick bread.  It is perfect for cocktail hour or a picnic.  The bones of the recipe began with Robert Brunel, a chef friend in Avignon.  Of course, I have modified it on more than one occasion to make it work for us in the home kitchen.  Give it a try. Enjoy!

A Provençql treat!


1/3 CUP ROSÉ WINE (can substitute white wine)

5 OUNCES COOKED HAM, diced ¼” cubes
7 OUNCES GREEN OLIVES, coarsely chopped


Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, olive oil, and rosé.  Add to flour mixture and stir just to combine. 

Toss together ham, cheese and olives.  Add to batter and stir to combine.  Pour batter into a well-greased oblong bread pan.  Sprinkle top with gray salt.  Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour….internal temperature 190 degrees or skewer inserted comes out clean. 

Turn out on rack to cook completely before slicing.


June 10, 2011


What a surprise when I walked into the kitchen this morning to see Xavier with a PILE of fresh truffles.  It could be only one thing.  Cedric and his team came early today to work in the yard and after the espresso that Xavier fixed for everyone, they thought they would give the yard a quick 'look see' for truffles.  They didn't have the dog but, lo and behold, they found a mother lode under one tree.  From now on, I think we should call him 'the giving tree'! He sits there so innocently at the back door but is quietly working away to give us precious truffles. 

So this early bird, who is always up by 6, did not get the worm this morning.  Can't believe I missed the photo op.....haven't slept in until 8AM for months and look what happened!....You would think the X after being with me so much would have grabbed the camera on the kitchen table to capture the moment!  Oh well,  here they are with the morning harvest of squash blossoms.  Lunch today????  Of course, a truffle omelet and squash blossom beignets....Can't wait!

No way these are for sale but in the market, these summer truffles would fetch close to $300....

 To see the making of the truffle omelet, click here

P.S. I have just read this to X and he corrected the fact that in my original post, I made the tree feminine.  Of course, I know that in French it is masculine but, for me, this tree that is so giving just has to be feminine.  I called her a she.  Anyway, when you see it written in French, both the masculine and feminine are 'l'arbre' because arbre begins with a vowel and needs the link.  THIS LANGUAGE!!!

June 9, 2011

Beaujolais...A Photo Journal

It is mid April.   
Xavier and I exit the autoroute as the sun is setting and head toward Chiroubles, one of the ten beaujolais cru villages.

In search of a gite for the night....
 This works....A charming winery ....'Domaine 'le Plateau de Grille-Midi'. Then it is off to

....Fleurie,  and a great restaurant choice.

Note the vintage...2003.  Beaujolais' are typically drunk young but then there is nothing typical about Xavier and myself.  The owner kept telling us we should have a younger wine.  We did not succumb to her wishes.  AND this was absolutely delicious! And my frog legs...a local specialty....were perfectly executed...whoops that doesn't sound right! 
Tasting room at our gite.....early morning wine tasting before departure...and, of course, our wine purchase.

Now on to a day of discovery.........The Hills of Beaujolais

Back roads...rolling hills...vineyards everywhere...nothing I like better.  We stop for a taste here and there...no agenda....but we do select our tasting stops carefully.....always looking for the vineyards with weeds.  Why?....probably means no pesticides.
Click here for a complete slideshow! Be sure to view in full screen.  Enjoy and post your comments.

June 6, 2011

Power is Back! A Frenchman in America...

No power in part of the house......an important part of the house....the KITCHEN.  It has been a day and a half so we are thrilled to see EDF show up to replace the melted box.

One of the men heard X and I speaking English and asked where I was from.....Caroline du Nord, Monsieur...."Oh, I love the USA. I have been there", he said!  "But there was one thing I did not understand".  Smiling,  he proceeded to tell of his trip to Austin, Texas.  While there, he always greeted friends and family the usual traditional French way.....a kiss on each cheek.  A stranger approached and told him that this is not done in America.  Surprised, he listened.

Did he misunderstand? Who knows what the stranger really meant.....were they just curious about the tradition or did they really mean that one should not greet someone in public with a kiss in America.  That is the way he took it so from then on he said he and his family shared no more French greetings in America.  C'est dommage

And, finally, we pass on a bottle of rosé acknowledging a job appreciated and well done.  Somehow I don't see us handing a bottle of wine to the Duke Power guys. Do you?

P.S. There was a geiko that must have been very close when the box was struck.  He is charred....absolutely black....but is still alive and well....must indeed have a suit of armor.  Have not been able to catch a photo of him.

June 4, 2011

A Favorite Garden

Knowing that I visit many places in the South of France every week, people always ask "What is your favorite?"  I never have an answer as every week is different....different people, different weather, different season, etc. BUT now, I believe I have an exception.  The Ephrussi de Rothchild villa and gardens is definitely a favorite in the springtime.  The house with many of Mme Rothchild's possessions has everything from porcelain, to clothing, to art, to antiques....the villa exudes her love of 18th century France. Then there are the 9 magnificent gardens that are changing every week.   Beatrice Rothchild took 7 years to build this estate on the narrowest part of Cap Ferrat where she would have a view of the bay of Villefranche sur Mer on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other.  Views are magnificent.  She did indeed accomplished her goal of feeling like she was on a cruise ship.  This too was enhanced by the fact that she asked her gardeners to dress as sailors. ...yes, she was a bit eccentric.  Married at the age of 19, separated a couple of years later, never to remarry, she bequeathed Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild to the Academie des Beaux-Arts de l'Institut de France who completed the gardens and have maintained them and the villa ever since. To see a complete slideshow of the villa and gardens, click here