Travels

A Weekend in Burgundy

Un Week-End en Bourgogne

[A Week-End in Burgundy]

June this year was The Month Of Weddings for us : we were invited to three of them, three week-ends in a row, three differents couples (we checked).

The first of them, two weeks ago, was held in the bride’s beautiful family house in Bourgogne, South-East of Paris. This was the perfect occasion for us to take a mini-tour around this region, famous for its gastronomy and wines.

We rented a car to get to the wedding, and stopped for lunch in Chablis. We went for regional specialties of course : Oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in a red wine sauce), Escargots à la Bourguignonne (Bourgogne snails with garlic herb butter), and Truite rose, sauce beurre blanc au Chablis (Pink trout with Chablis butter sauce).

The wedding was celebrated that afternoon at the majestic abbey of Pontigny, and all the guests then headed to the house for the reception. Dinner was served in the large, stone-walled barn, which our friends had entirely renovated and decorated for the occasion : an extremely pleasant setting for the dinner and party, which went very well, all happy conversations, humorous and moving speeches, and a few tears of joy.

The dinner, for which my sister Céline had designed the pretty menus, was catered for by a local company and proved particularly delicious : fillets of red mullet, served cold on a carpaccio of spring vegetables, then roasted duck breast with a little pyramid of mashed celery root and a little bundle of green beans. Cheese was served buffet-style, and the selection offered mostly local cheeses, including a Soumaintrain, a delicious cow milk cheese I had never heard of, and an authentic raw-milk Epoisses, an incredibly hard to find rarity, produced in two farms only. Dessert was a plow-shaped tiered cake, an impressive construction of caramel-coated cream-filled puffs, sugar flowers and nougatine.

The next day, we took a little road-trip further down into the heart of Bourgogne. We stopped in Beaune for lunch and enjoyed a Boeuf Bourguignon (a beef stew in a red wine sauce) — not that we were that hungry, to be honest, but can you really drive through Bourgogne without eating Boeuf Bourguignon? I think not.

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Eating Out in Madrid

On Saturday, after walking around Madrid and engaging in a little healthy food shopping, we went home for a much-deserved nap, and didn’t go out again until 9 pm, for a pre-dinner drink.

In Spain, people eat late. And I do mean late : we Parisians have a tendency to be late diners as well, but they take the concept to a whole new level. As we drove into the city it was 9:30 pm, going on 10, and the restaurants were all empty, with a waiter or two waiting idly at the door, smoking a cig and enjoying the evening breeze.

Our friends first took us to a bar called Ducados Café, where we enjoyed the bestest frozen mojito in the galaxy, and possibly beyond. I’d never had anything quite like it : think frozen margarita, only green, mint and rum. So sweet and yummy it’s almost a dessert, and I gulped it down in five minutes flat. Which of course may explain the instantaneous heightening of my already excellent mood.

We walked through the narrow streets, which were finally starting to fill up – it was 11:30 pm after all – to the restaurant where we wanted to have dinner, a traditional taberna called Toscana. The restaurant room was large, with white roughcast walls and wooden panels, exposed beams and dark wood furniture. On the right was a long bar at which people were standing, drinking and nibbling on tapas, using (or not) the little disposal cans built into the bar at foot level.

The restaurant walls and ceiling were crowded with miscellaneous items of decoration : framed photos of corridas, people or landscapes, decorated plates, iron cauldrons… Legs of ham were hanging from above the bar (with the requisite safety mini-umbrellas), brushing shoulders with an army of yellow crookneck squash of varying sizes, and earthenware sangria pitchers, with their characteristic pinched mouth that prevents the fruit from spilling out when you serve.

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Food Shopping in Madrid

Maxence and I spent just spent a lovely week-end in Madrid, visiting friends of ours who live just outside of the city with their two little girls. We were lucky enough to arrive just as the weather was changing from drab to splendid, making it possible to enjoy the big garden, the pool (okay, the sight of the pool, the water was far too cold for me), and the barbecue.

On Saturday, after a long walk around the city center and a delicious turron ice-cream, we stopped at a little ham store called Paraíso del Jamón. This area of Madrid was full of these old-fashioned little stores (including a Palacio del Jamón and a Museo del Jamón), a little dark and mysterious, with row upon row of ham, hanging from the walls and ceiling to dry and age, each with its little upside down umbrella to catch the dripping juices — a thoughtful precaution to keep the customers’ hair clean.

Most of them seemed to double up as tapas bar too, with an open kitchen area and high stools, and the one we went to had intriguing and very appetizing dishes on display. Next time, I’d love to try and have lunch in one of these places.

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Look What I Got!

Look What I Got!

Sometimes it’s the nicest and most heart-warming thing to see how well your own personal Maxence knows you. He went on a business trip to Helsinki (in Finland, for the geographically challenged among us, I certainly am one of them) for a couple of days last week. When we got home on the night of his return – after we went to see Air brilliantly playing live at the Zenith -, I was greeted by a small mountain of Finnish goods, neatly arranged on my side of the bar*.

*I’ll easily admit – though a little shamefully – that I do feel the need to have half of the bar be considered mine. Our respective mess has to be on the correct side.

My lovely sweet darling had combed the freezing frozen streets of Helsinki, looking for a good grocery store, and had more or less bought one of every product that looked foreign and Finnish and interesting.

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The Travelling Gourmande in London

Hot Cross Bun

And here we are, back from a fabulous week-end in London! Our friends Zoe and Richard (wonderful and kind and funny and smart) had invited us to stay at their house in Lightwater (lovely and bright and cosy and welcoming). We spent two fun-filled days together, walking and shopping, talking and joking, eating and drinking, and just generally having a grand time. And! and! and! I got to meet a food blog friend in real life!

Here is an account, as food-focused as truly yours!

# of Restaurant meals eaten : 3
– At Felicitous in Notting Hill, a delightful picnic of antipasti and bagels in their tiny downstairs seating area (sprouted beans salad, marinated artichokes, roasted asparagus, smoked kalamata olives, herb sausages with relish).
– At The Red Fort in Soho, a hip yet delicious take on Indian food (venison in mango sauce, baby aubergines with coriander and tomato).
– At The Wolseley in Piccadilly, my first ever “high tea” (a feast of assorted finger sandwiches, fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, assorted pastries and a pot of Assam tea served with an tiny hourglass to time perfect infusion) in a beautiful and impressive 1920’s décor.

# of Cool bars visited : 2
– The Criterion (where they have awesome bottles of Pouilly Fumé)
– The American Bar at the Savoy (where they serve the world’s tiniest bottles of Diet Coke)

# of World’s tiniest bottles of Diet Coke brought back so my friends won’t think I’m making it up : 1

# of Delicious home made food items sampled : 5
– Zoe’s lasagna, the best I’ve ever had
– Zoe’s scrumptious puffed apple pancake
– Zoe’s family nut bread, one of the 14 loaves baked by Zoe and her grandmother for Christmas in Seattle
– Richard’s grandmother’s strawberry jam and orange ginger marmelade, made for her church fund raising

# of Recipes shared by Zoe the amazingly talented cook : 2
– Zoe’s best lasagna ever
– Zoe’s scrumptious puffed apple pancake

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