Fleur de Courgette and Other Food Gifts

Fleur de Courgette

Oh gifts, gifts, gifts! Is there anything sweeter in life than having your friends go out and find something just for you, something that they think you will like and enjoy, something that will surprise and delight you? And when you do and it does, when the idea is fabulous and the gift exactly to your taste, when it is something that you really wanted or something you would have wanted had you known it existed, when it is custom-made for you and even better than what you would have chosen for yourself, you are entitled to feeling lucky and grateful and loved and happy — yes, simultaneously.

For my 26th birthday I was literally showered with joy-inducing perfect gifts, and I thought I would share with you the ones that are food and cooking related:

- My friend and cooking heroine Louisa went to Le Potager du Roi in Versailles, where Louis XIV’s vegetable gardens are kept intact and operational. From the boutique she got me the picture-perfect zucchini flower that you see above, as well as eight little white peaches, delicious and juicy: in Chinese culture, as she explained to me, peaches symbolize a long life and the number eight good fortune…

- My parents bought me a superb enameled cast-iron cocotte by Staub. We picked it out together last week in Alsace, as we were driving by Turckheim where the Staub headquarters are, complete with a huge factory outlet in which my mother and I spent an unreasonable amount of time. I chose a beautiful grey oval 6-quart cocotte, which unfortunately still lives in my parents’ house in the Vosges as we speak, for it was much too heavy to be lugged on the train home with me. Just a couple more weeks and they’ll bring it back and we will never be apart again I promise.

- My friend and ex-coworker Sophie got me three kinds of Fleurs de sucre — lavender, rose and blueberry. Fleurs de sucre are crystallized flower petals or berries, beautifully packaged up in tall glass tubes. They can be used to bejewel a dessert, or you can sprinkle some to decorate a table, serve them with tea or coffee, or drop them in a glass of champagne. Can’t wait to try them!

- My cousin Fleur gave me a box of super-fresh chocolate bites by Puyricard, a top-quality chocolate maker from Provence. One of the two Puyricard boutiques in Paris is close to where Fleur’s parents live, and everytime we visit I have to be peeled away from the window display. My other cousin Garance once worked as an extra in that shop over the holidays, helping to put the chocolate confections in the boxes and, perk of all perks, bringing home the broken ones in the evening…

- Meg of Too Many Chefs fame bought me a cool stainless-steel one-hand pepper grinder that is operated with just a push of the thumb. This is a real breath of fresh air on our kitchen counter, since we’ve had to put up with a variety of frustratingly contrary pepper mills for quite a while. Meg’s gift, which came with a special funnel for easy replenishing, was promptly filled with grains of paradise and this nifty little tool works beautifully.

- Stéphane and Caroline gave me a pretty cookie mix in a Mason jar, brought back from a recent trip to the US. Neat layers of white and brown sugar, flour and baking powder, corn flakes, coconut, chocolate chips and oatmeal, that you just blend together with one egg and (a large amount of) butter, to produce a triple batch of chewy cookies!

- My friend Alisa, who specializes in gracing me with life-altering kitchen gadgets — she was the one who got me the microplane zester I so longed for — gave me a magic spatula that makes the serving of lemon bars, the detaching of cookies from cookie sheets and the unmolding of rhubarb charlottes laughably easy.

- Christoph and Susanne, who have made cameos on this blog on a couple of occasions, outdid themselves yet again this year with the world’s most wondrous basket of treats from the countryside, some brought back from a farm outside of Paris, some homemade with Christoph’s usual talent, the whole thing packaged up with outstanding care and perfect taste by Susanne. In a beautiful flowered box titled Un Week-end à la Campagne, it featured — each of these items carefully wrapped and adorned with a little handmade felt label indicating what it was — a bottle of fresh raw milk, two little rounds of aged goat cheese, a slice of cumin gouda cheese, two yogurts, a bottle of homemade nocino (an Italian walnut liqueur), a loaf of Christoph’s delicious pain intégral, and a cute little jar of blackberry jam made with the berries they picked in the Forêt de Carnelle.

What I could possibly have done to deserve all this I know not, and such a display of generosity and spot-on thoughtfulness would have left me quite speechless if I was the kind of girl who could actually remain speechless for more than seven seconds.

And here are the details if you want to spread the joy and get some of these items for yourself or your friends!

Le Potager du Roi
10 rue du Maréchal Joffre
78000 Versailles

Staub Factory Outlet
2, rue Saint Gilles
68230 Turckheim

Fleurs de Sucre are made by a company called Place des Lices (385, av. du Garlaban in Gémenos) and were bought from the boutique D’un Jardin à l’Autre (10 rue de la Paix, 75002 Paris).

Puyricard is based in the town of Puyricard in Provence, but has several stores in France and two in Paris (27 av. Rapp in the 7th — 106 rue du Cherche-Midi in the 6th).

Christoph and Susanne did their berry picking in the Forêt de Carnelle, and their countryside shopping at the Ferme de Coubertin (78470 St Rémy Les Chevreuse, 01 30 52 00 19).

  • http://richardab.typepad.com/iheartnyc/ Richard AB

    I dream of those Staub pots ever since I saw them on my trip to Alsace. They are much nicer than the Le Crueset ones. They are so expensive here in the USA, maybe I have to try ebay!

  • emi

    Isn’t that mini Pepper grinder wonderful! I was given the same one for my last birthday. Though mine didn’t come with that special funnel you mentioned–lucky girl :)

    ~e

  • http://www.sassyradish.com radish

    out of curiousity, what is the difference between Le Creuset and the Staub cast enamel pots? I’ve been eyeing a happy orange Le Creuset at our local kitchen supply store, but would definitely splurge on a better model. It’s forever right? Like diamonds? ;)

  • http://www.sizeate.blogspot.com margaux

    congratulations on your lovely gifts, and happy belated bday, clotilde!

    xxoo
    margaux.

  • Lilia

    Belated happy birthday! What a lovely time you’ll have enjoying all those lovely gifts.

    Puyricard – brings back lots of fond memories! We used to live on rue Sedillot just behind avenue Rapp which took us to the boutique lots of times. I remember the fun my children had the first time we bought their “poissons d’avril”.

    Merci pour la bonne souvenir!

    -Lilia

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    Clotilde, I don’t know where to begin in responding to the “what did I do to deserve this” question…you are a lovely person and I’m honored to feel like I’m one of your friends!

    Happy birthday! You deserve all this and more!

  • Karen

    Hi Clo, I don’t know if you already know, or someone has already mentioned it, but I just made a search, and C&Z came up as Yahoo’s blog pick.
    I know it’s not in the league of being picked by Time, nonetheless, you’re all over the place, girl!
    You deserve all of those envious gifts and all C&Z’s achievements, the loving adoration of your readers, and more!
    More power, and more chocolate and more zucchini to eat!

  • http://www.movable-feast.com Louisa

    Hi Clotilde – thank you so much again for having such a wonderful birthday party. It was such a pleasure to share your day with you, many good friends, and your family! We’ll have to do it again soon. ;)

  • http://www.passionatenonchalance.com aria

    hello clotilde,

    the fleurs de sucre are beautiful. i wonder if anyone knows where to het these in the states? i’ve googled to no avail.

    happy birthday and i love your blog.

  • http://www.gottula.com slgottula

    I have seen sugared violets at surfas http://www.surfas.com and also in specialty baking supply stores in Los Angeles. I even saw some in Kansas City albeit very very expensive at the Better Cheddar.

    Clotilde where can I find this pepper grinder? My husband is searching the internet furiously. He has an obsessive love for gadgets such as this.

  • emi

    btw. surfas’ website is surfasonline.com not surfas.com.. sorry for the correction. Just want to make sure people go to the right place.

  • http://www.gottula.com slgottula

    Thanks for the correction. What can I say I have a very active 2 year old to run after and find myself commonly making shortcuts and assumptions I have probably no right to. Any ideas about where I can get my hands on that pepper mill?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Radish – Le Creuset is good too (excellent reputation at least) but I have had people tell me that the magic in the Staub cocottes lies in the “picots”, those little bumps inside the lid which allow the water evaporating from the food to drip back down, thus making your dish super juicy and tasty.

    Aria – I am not sure how you could get those in the US. There may be some equivalents (surfas in particular, as sigottula suggested) but you could also email the people at Place des Lices (info@placedeslices.com) and enquire whether they are distributed and/or would ship to the US.

    Sigottula – The one-hand grinder is made by a French company named Sitram (http://www.sitram.fr/). I am not sure where Meg bought it, but I can ask her!

  • Flo

    Hello Clotilde!

    I am discovering your blog, and am thinking what a good idea to combine practicing your superb english and talking about great food this blog is!!

    I was just wondering how you cooked the beautiful fleurs de courgettes you got.
    I did not dare yet to give them a try although I have been tempted for a very long time!! I just seem to find too complicated recipes and am looking for something nice and easy!!

    I’ll keep reading your posts!!

  • http://www.passionatenonchalance.com aria

    thanks for the link slgottula and emi; I’d not heard of them before and they have so many great supplies. I live in LA so I think I’ll take your advice and go to some of the smaller baking supply and candy shops to see what I come up with. clotilde, thanks for the email for place des lices and for the inspiration. I am dying to bejewel a sweet treat:)

  • Shira

    Happy Birthday Clotilde! I noticed you haven’t posted about restaurants or market shopping during August–also last year. Is it (I hope not) b/c the offerings are none too excitingduring that month? My boyfriend and I are considering heading across the pond in the last week, but I’m not sure whether it’s the best time for a gastronomic bonanza (we’d be renting an apt, so markets would figure heavily).

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Shira – To be truthful, August isn’t the best time to come to Paris because so many stores and restaurants close for a vacation. However, the last week of August is a little better than the beginning or the middle of the month because some businesses start to reopen then. And the markets stay in operation for the whole month (although some stalls are missing) and the offerings are fabulously summery!

  • Shira

    Thanks for such a candid and quick response! Happy eatings.

  • Alisa

    I am so glad you loved your gifts – I loved your gifts too!!! Great party!

  • http://www.foodparcels.co.uk Jonathan

    I am a newbe to food blogs but stumbled across this one. I love the mix of stories and talk about food. Keep it up :)

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