Sunday, January 31, 2010
I love potatoes; for me they are the ultimate comfort food. I prepare them more often in the colder months, when root vegetables are plentiful and I'm likely to make sauces that marry well with starches.
The French also love potatoes and prepare them many ways. Even in the summer months you can walk into any bistro in Annecy and order the apres ski favorite tartiflette, a regional dish from Haute Savoie made with potatoes, bacon, onion, creme fraiche, and Reblochon cheese.
I know for sure I will make potatoes several times this week, although I don't yet know how I will prepare them. But I thought it might be fun do a mini-series on the humble pomme de terre and share some of my favorite French recipes.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Thanks to everyone for sharing stories about your first perfume experience; they were lovely to read. Like many of you, I have worn several fragrances over the years (including the Van Cleef & Arpels that my sister Darcy now wears), and I associate each one with a certain time in my life.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
That's why I'm sharing the link to the $5 French Market. True to its name, everything on this Etsy shop sells for only five dollars. I shopped here a few months ago, and come back every so often to see what's new.
My current favorite are these ivory candles hand stamped with French ecriture; the pair are tied with a simple bias tape knot. Click on the pic for a close-up view. I bought these candles for a hostess gift but they are so unusual, I think I'll have to buy another set for myself.
The customer service is great: the items were shipped quickly, arrived in perfect condition, and Jenny and Lauren even tucked in a few surprises.
Do you have a favorite Etsy site? Leave a comment and give your favorite Etsy site a little shout out!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
In my bundle were these wonderful letters from wine proprietors dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I decided that I would frame these letters and hang them as a set in my dining room.
But before sinking too much money into having the pieces professionally framed, I framed one myself. You'll laugh (or think it's sacrilege) when I tell you this is a very inexpensive frame from IKEA, but the result is almost exactly what I want.
Instead of placing the letter under the precut mat (which would obscure the beautiful ecriture in the margin), I floated the letter on top of the mat. By placing small knots of cotton string under the corners of the letter, I raised it slightly, so it appears to float. The tiny cotton knots lift the letter with no damage to the fragile paper, and help create a lovely shadow that frames the paper. If you click on the photo you'll get a better idea of what it looks like.
While it's not the perfect frame, nor the perfect shade of mat, it does give me a sense of what the letters will look like once they are all framed.
What do you think?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Replacing something cherished isn't easy; nothing looks the same, nothing seems quite right. But searching for a replacement, I found these chairs--eight of them!--at my favorite local antique and furniture shop, Random Harvest. These are vintage harp back chairs from the early 30s and are in excellent condition. They are sturdy, comfortable, and petite, and at a little more than $100 a piece, they were a real find.
When I bought the chairs, the seats were covered in a dingy white vinyl, probably done some time in the 60s. The seats need new padding, but it will be weeks before the reupholsterer can take them. So, as a temporary measure I've recovered them in a linen-type fabric, reminiscent of French dish towels or grain sacks. You can click on the photo for a closer look.
They aren't perfect, but look tres French, and are beautiful with my new, vintage dining table. But that, mes amis, is another story.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
The photos brought back vivid memories and I was immediately back in that kitchen showing my nephews how to make tarts. I remember them being so excited: what kind shall we make? pommes? framboise? We finally decided on both.
Here is Max making his apple tarts . . .
The boys were so proud and couldn't wait to show papa what they had baked. Of course, papa made a proper production about eating the tarts but he just couldn't decide which he like more, the apple or the raspberry.
In the end, I think he loved them both.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I also enjoyed figuring out which wine to pair with this week's meals, then sharing my discoveries. I only wish I had the vocabulary to describe the qualities of each wine I tasted.
And while it has no practical value, it was interesting to learn a few things about French wine. I now know the difference between a blend and a varietal, and understand the meaning of AOC and vin de pays. I stumbled on this webpage, "Introduction to French Wine Labels 101" which I found helpful.
Now, I just have to figure out what do to with so many open bottles of wine . . .
Friday, January 15, 2010
And for the first time in weeks we've had a break in the cold weather, so I couldn't resist using the grill to prepare a variety of sausages for this evening's dinner. Savory and spicy, saucisses need to be paired with a bold wine and this Mouton Cadet Bordeaux was a good match.
Unlike several of the wines I tasted this week, I was familiar with the Mouton Cadet label, but its $8.98 price tag reminded me that it should be included in this week's series. Besides, it would be a huge faux pas to do a series on French wine and not include a bordeaux, n'est-ce pas?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Actually, I'd never heard of Viognier, but like several other wines I've tried this week, the label--and the name--caught my eye. At $9.98 the bottle of Wild Pig just squeaked in under my $10 limit. The flavor is similar to chardonnay, but different (this is where a wine vocabulary would be helpful).
But even without a wine vocabulary to describe it, I could imagine serving Wild Pig Viognier with any number of seafood or pork dishes, or anytime you want a bit of a change from your usual chardonnay.
I read that Wild Pig wines are one of many "old wines being made in a new way," though I'm not sure what this means. Do you have any idea?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
This evening's dinner, from Deborah Madison's The Greens Cookbook, was a pappardelle pasta tossed with pine nuts, shallots, zucchini, herbs, capers, chopped sun dried tomatoes, and lemon. Not strong flavors, but this dish needed to be paired with a wine that could stand up to the bite of the capers and the richness of the sun dried tomatoes without overwhelming.
I wanted a white, so I opened the bottle of Arrogant Frog Ribet White that I received as a hostess gift over the holidays. Technically, this wine probably doesn't qualify for this week's challenge; I'm not sure the price would meet my $10 limit.
But it didn't matter; I would gladly pay more for this great wine. Not fruity, not too dry, a perfect complement to a light pasta dish.
Besides, who could resist that arrogant frog?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Unlike the other French reds I've tried this week, Rene Junot is not a newcomer to the wine section. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the Cote-du-Ventoux or the B&G, I drank my share with dinner. But even though the price is nice at $8.98 a bottle, I'm not sure I will choose it again.
If you've tried this Rene Junot, what did you think?
Monday, January 11, 2010
I did a little research on Picpoul de Pinet and found this post on Tales from Languedoc Wine Country written by wine master Juliet Bruce Jones. After reading Juliet's post I decided that seafood would be the best pairing for this wine, so this evening I prepared an easy salmon en papilotte.
And the wine? Fantastique! If I had to compare it, I would say the taste reminds me of a pinot grigio--clean, fresh, and light--and paired perfectly with the fish. Again, the price of $6.98 a bottle makes it an affordable, everyday table wine. Between the taste and the price, I understand why it is one of the best selling wines at Whole Foods. If you can buy it, you have to try it!
This will also be a perfect warm weather wine, so I'll be going back to stock up for spring.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I know that white is the usual partner for chicken, but during the summers in France, we don't stand on ceremony when it comes to wine. Besides, a red seemed like the right choice for a cold winter evening and a chicken roasted with potatoes and root vegetables.
This evening I tried La Vieille Ferme Cote du Ventoux, and loved it! It's a perfect table wine, and I would pair it with beef and certain chicken dishes. In fact, that's what I think the rooster and the hen on the label are really talking about.
This bottle was a 2008 vintage; if I understand it correctly, the grapes for this wine were picked in 2008, kept in vats or oak barrels for ten months, then bottled in July 2009. This might explain why this bottle of La Vieille Ferme Cote du Ventoux wasn't as full-bodied as some reds, which makes me think I would like to try one of the earlier vintages.
I picked-up this bottle at my local Safeway for $6.98, which was well within my $10 limit. Now I'm wishing I had picked up two.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
For this evening's dinner I needed a pinot noir; I was preparing a sauce that called for pinot, so I wanted a wine I could use for both cooking and drinking.
In the red wine section this colorful label caught my eye, and priced at $8.98 it fell within my $10 budget. B&G is a trusted French vintner (and the Frenchmen on the label look happy enough), so I decided to give it a try.
I prepared one of my favorite meals--petite filet of beef on a bed of garlic sauteed spinach and a potato galette--and this wine held its own. Though not as full-bodied as some pinots, it worked well for the sauce and for the table.
That said, Bistro Wine Pinot Noir is not a wine that I would drink on its own, without food; while a nice complement to a meal it's a bit peppery to stand alone.
Would I recommend it? Hmmm, not sure. Let's see what the rest of the week brings.
Friday, January 8, 2010
I don't know a thing about wine, and terms such as "angular," "bouquet," and "cloying" are for the experts. But I do know that there are a number of great wines that aren't expensive and would easily fit within my weekly budget.
It's a new year, and time to try new things, n'est-ce pas? So I'm going to go out of my enological comfort zone and taste a few new wines. And because this is My French Corner, the wines will be French, bien sur. For the next few days, I'm going to be trying out some new wines but the rules are that the wine must be available at the grocer, it must be priced under $10, and, it must be French. Are you with me on this little adventure?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Leigh is one of my closest friends, and one of the most thoughtful people I know. She's also a blogger, and those of you who enjoy crafts can visit her blog, Popcorn Ideas.
The gift? A lovely little French calendar, each petite page measuring about 5 x 7 inches. Instead of being bound, the pages are loose, and the calendar is now sitting on a small easel on my desk at school.
Leigh found the calendar, a free download, at Vert Cerise, a delightful French blog with a bit of something for everyone. If you would like a calendar, you can visit Vert Cerise and download one of your very own!
Merci Leigh, and merci Vert Cerise for this lovely cadeau de bonne année.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Today's post links you to Apartment Therapy and to National Public Radio with a feature story on Coco Chanel's Paris flat at 31 Rue Cambon.
If you listen to NPR, you may have heard the broadcast that aired this morning on Morning Edition. Even if you're not an NPR fan, but you are a Chanel fan, I think you'll enjoy listening to the story reading the commentary, and looking at the photos.
If you listen, I'd love to hear what you think.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
I had never heard of fleur de sel caramels until Marsi, one of my readers, said that she had always wanted to make them from scratch.
I finally tasted these buttery sweet and salty treats last summer in France, and loved them! Then today I spied them on sale at Whole Foods and scooped a box to savor at home.
A sweet beginning to the new year.