Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bonne Année 2010

As the new year approaches, I want to say thank you to everyone who visited My French Corner this year. As a new blogger, it has been wonderful connecting with so many of you. Thank you for your comments, your suggestions, and your generosity.

I'm looking ahead to the new year, and have already started thinking about future posts. In the months ahead there will be a series on where to find all things French when visiting Washington, D.C., and a series on preparing simple bistro meals at home. I'm also looking forward to collaborating with Kristi from La Bella Figura on a series about closets and clothes, a new topic for my blog. And as always, I'd love to hear your suggestions; some of my most enjoyable posts during this past year were suggested by readers.

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy new year, and before signing off, here's a little new year's gift--a fun link to countdown the new year. Leave it to the French, bien sur.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My brocante bundle

Readers know that one of my favorite blogs is Corey Amaro's Tongue in Cheek. Those of you who have visited Corey's blog are familiar with her children Sacha and Chelsea, her friend Annie, her extended family, and of course, French husband. Corey also has an ongoing love affair with the brocante, the French antique fairs and markets, and over the years her collection has grown.

If you're a regular visitor to Tongue in Cheek you know that Corey now has an online shop, Tongue in Cheek Antiques, where she is selling some of the pieces she's collected over the years. If you haven't visited her online shop, you owe yourself a visit.

One of Corey's first offerings was a brocante bundle, a collection of ephemera--letters, receipts, sheet music, photographs, pages from antique books. These items were thoughtfully bundled and mailed, but without the recipient knowing exactly what was inside.

I received my surprise bundle a few weeks ago and have been going through it ever since. My favorites are the letters and receipts from wine proprietors with their distinctive letterheads--Louis Huc, Vacassy Freres, Louis Tempier--dating from the early 1900s. These fragile, faded pages are written in such beautiful ecriture and are lovely to look at (you can click on the above pic for a closer look). My plan for these delicate treasures is to have them professionally framed and hang them as a group in my dining room.

Thank you Corey for bringing a bit of France into my home. I love my brocante bundle!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Cook's Atelier

It's the day after Christmas, and with the preparation and celebration behind me, I have some time to catch up on my favorite blogs.

What a wonderful discovery when I visited The Kitchn this morning: a post about Christmas in Burgundy by chef Marjorie Taylor. For anyone interested in French Christmas traditions, this post is a must-read, and her photographs of Beaune are breathtaking.

When you reach the end of the post, there is a link to Marjorie's weblog and business, The Cook's Atelier. Once there, you can check out her bio and photographs, and read Marjorie's philosophy on sustainability. You can read about the cooking classes and tours offered by Marjorie through The Cook's Atelier. Can't visit Burgundy? Not to worry, mes amis. You can still visit her blog, Inspirations from the French Market.

If you visit Marjorie's site, I'd love to hear your thoughts. For me, discovering The Cook's Atelier was a delightful day-after-Christmas gift.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Joyeux Noël

In winter, the beautiful city of Annecy looks like it belongs under a Christmas tree, don't you think? A picture perfect Alpine village.

Today will be busy for me: wrapping gifts, baking, preparing for tomorrow's breakfast and dinner, decorating the tree. I believe I enjoy the anticipation and the preparation for Christmas as much as the day itself.

But I wanted to take time to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas Eve, and a joyful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alliance Française: 2010 Cultural Season

I just received the Alliance Francaise de Washington, DC newsletter announcing their 2010 cultural events. I encourage anyone living in the Washington, D.C. area to preview the calendar; they're offering some fabulous films, lectures, and performances.

Don't live in the D.C. area? There are AF chapters throughout the country; check here to see if there is one near you. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to learn more about France and French culture, Alliance Francaise is the perfect place to begin.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Que pensez-vous?

I'm contemplating a new bag for school--something to carry grade book, essays, and books back and forth to school--and discovered this one on Etsy.

It's not lined, which is fine for a school bag. It's not vintage, but the leather has that nicely broken-in appearance. It's not French, but has that chic French appeal. It's a great price, but only if I love it.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Braised leeks and whipped cream

As much as I love to cook, and as much as I love all things French, I have never owned a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

That is, until yesterday.

Yesterday, my closest friend gave me a gift, the boxed set of Julia Child's masterpiece cookbooks. The set includes Volume I, first published in 1961, and Volume II, published in 1970.

For those of you who have the Volume I (which I'm sure all of you do), you know this is the cookbook featured in the book and movie "Julie and Julia." I watched the movie for the first time last weekend and I was over the moon!

So, housebound by today's snowstorm that hit the Washington DC area, I decided to try out a few of the recipes. This afternoon I whipped my first cream with a balloon whisk (page 580) and for dinner I made my first braised leeks (page 495). Both were delicious and I can't wait to try out the other 522 recipes!

I'd love to hear from anyone who has cooked from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What are your favorite recipes, what would you suggest I try?

Friday, December 18, 2009

And the winner is , , ,

Chelsa Bea from Pencil Skirts and Pearls! If you haven't visited her blog, you should check it out. Chelsa Bea, if you email your mailing info I'll send your giveaway ASAP.

Thanks to everyone who commented. I love giveaways because they encourage comments and I feel a little more connected to my readers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another French Kitchen

Another quick post for today: if you're a fan of small French kitchens, you'll want to check out Veronique and Thierry's, today's featured kitchen on The Kitchn.

Those of you who have spent time in a French kitchen will recognize the casual, compact style, and everyone will enjoy spotting their favorite French products and cookware on the open shelving.

Graphique de France

Looking for a last minute holiday gift? I discovered these boxed thank you notecards, so elegant and embossed with a petite Eiffel Tower and "Merci." Perfect for a hostess gift, or keep them for yourself to pen your own holiday thank you note.

I found mine at TJ Maxx for $3.99, but you can buy them online from Graphique de France for $10.00. Even at that price these beautiful boxed notecards are a bargain.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Giveaway

I love book giveaways. For many these days, buying a book is a luxury. With an average price tag of $20, why buy a book when you can find it at the local library? It makes absolute sense, n'est-ce pas?

But this is one little book that you're not likely to find on your library shelves. I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita is a lovely book, charming in size and chockful of step-by-step photographs to help you turn out your own perfect macarons.

If you'd like to win this book for your collection, all you need to do is share a comment about your favorite holiday cookie. You can share a story, a memory, a recipe, a thought. Your name will be entered in the giveaway and the winner will be announced on Friday, December 18.

Bonne chance!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Francois Payard's Buche de Noel

Just a quick post to say, if you're interested in creating your own Buche de Noel this season, or, if you'd like to see one created, tune into the Food Network on Sunday at 11:00 pm.

There, you'll see renowned French pastry chef Francois Payard go up against chef and restauranteur Bobby Flay in a Buche de Noel throwdown. Too funny! I watched the episode last night and it was great fun.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Kitchn

On my list of Favorites and Inspirations are blogs that I read every day, or almost every day. But there is one blog that I read every single day that is not on my list. "The Kitchn," a branch of "Apartment Therapy" is so entertaining and inspirational, I don't go a day without checking to see what's cookn in the kitchn.

I enjoy the recipes and the musings about food, but the real reason I visit the kitchn is the kitchen tours. I LOVE the kitchen tours! And I especially love the "Small Cool Kitchen" entries and winners.

Let me explain.

Recently single after (almost) 20 years of marriage, and with a son going off the college next fall, I have started looking for a new house. Hopefully my new house will be of the same 1940s vintage as my current home, the house where we've lived for the past 16 years. But for certain, the new house will be smaller. And while my current kitchen is not large, everything I've seen so far has been smaller still.

Like many of you, I love smaller spaces, reminiscent of beloved French and European homes. I've been combing magazines for ideas and inspiration, but, magazines rarely feature small spaces, and most of the featured kitchens are huge. Enter "Apartment Therapy," and its sister site, "The Kitchn." These sites focus exclusively on smaller spaces--apartments and small houses--and they help me to see that moving to a smaller space will have huge possibilities.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cider gastrique

Those of us who cook--and eat--know that a good sauce can transform the simple American meatloaf into something akin to French fare. I am fond of reduction sauces; full of flavor, these sauces are easy and can be made with ingredients that you probably have in your pantry.

One of the easiest reductions is a gastrique, a classic French sauce made from a reduction of vinegar or wine, a bit of oil or butter, and sugar or fruit preserves. Most reduction sauces require some fat and bits from meat, poultry, or fish, but a gastrique can be made from a few simple ingredients.

I found a wonderful video clip that perfectly demonstrates the steps and technique in making a gastrique, this one from balsamic vinegar and black currant preserves. One of my favorites is made from cider vinegar, oil, shallots, and sugar (or substitute bacon drippings for the oil). Tossed with and drizzled over sauteed spinach, or winter greens such as kale, it makes a perfect bistro food pairing.