Five whole fish stuffed with fennel, shallot, lemon, corianider seed an butter, packed in grey sea salt. Served with tomato concasse and a lemon garlic mayonnaise. No time to make the lemon tart cause we were having so much fun. Xo

Best Buy: fish with teeth on a plate

On a Sunday in the Loire Valley, the streets are empty and shops are closed except for anyone wanting to buy chocolates or flowers.
I dropped my apron across the back of a kitchen chair and stepped out with my group for a drive to Tours. We passed by vineyards and fields of sunflowers and poppies and lavender and trogolodyte. The sun lit up the lazy river, and boats that could have been second homes to pirates waited, completely still.
The church of old St. Martin towers over Tours and his tomb lies below. It’s hard to imagine that someone has been buried in the same place since 397, but there he was, or so it said on the sign.
The avenue that runs down the middle of Tours is filled with a sort of flea market antique party once a month. Everybody puts out their best stuff and asks way too much for it. Everything from naked porcelain ladies to wardrobes and winestoppers. Crepes from the truck were excellent. The guy rakes the dough across a completely flat hot round and then covers it in butter and sugar.
We ate the crepe and thought about a dozen plates painted with fish, a fish platter and a fish sauce jug. Who needs a set of fish plates that won’t fit in anybody’s luggage? We did. It was a deal.

To Fausta, with love

My friend Fausta died last night. It’s hard to imagine and harder to believe. I will always remember her with her children never more than a few feet away, her voice calling out to them, her laugh, her patience with life, her quiet elegance, wherever she went. There is no rhyme or reason to a mother of young children, dying. It is a sadness deeper than measure.
My whole heart and all my love.

What does voulez vous mean, anyways?

Just about a block away from the Hyper-U in Bourgueil is Cafe Promenade, strung with naked colored light bulbs out front and in the back, under a grass shed roof are painted wooden tables that look like they could have been barn doors in their first life. We ordered “formulas” of fois gras sauted in butter, chunks of braised bacon, rabbit terrine and crushed chicken livers drunk with wine, then platters of cheeses from local sheep and cows so good, I had difficulty sharing, then 16 skewers of spiced chicken, seared duck breast, scallop with sausage and escargot, and finished with apple tart. Jean-Pierre treated us to Rose and Druet. The restauranteurs offered us a bottle of red from the 80′s. We couldn’t help ourselves but to start to sing. It can be tricky remembering the words to favorite songs in French, but we did it.
At 10:45 in the evening, it was still light. We wandered the winding streets home without passing a soul.

Butter and salt

I bought 25 pounds of a sea salt the color of a cloudy day and walked it home from the open market in Bourgueil, thrown over my shoulder like a baby. The woman who sold me the salt then dug a little scoop into about six different bags of spices and shook them together in a little plastic bag and said, “if you love it, or if you hate it, come back and tell me. “If you don’t like it,” she said, “no problem. I never make it again, because I won’t remember. I don’t mix with a recipe, ah? I mix by how how I feel in the moment, and I never feel exactly the same.”
When I got back to my kitchen I toasted walnuts with a little butter, and sprinkled the mix of lavender, ginger, chile, rosemary, tarragon and grey salt aover the lot. It was exquisite.
With half of the salt I bought, we made a thick bed, packed two bass and two trout on there that had been stuffed with fresh fennel, parsley, garlic, lemon and, shallot and tomato, covered them with another thick blanket of salt and then a slurry of flour and water.
to serve with–a concasse of blanched tomato sautéed with butter, shallot, thyme and coriander seed. In butter. You can’t teach cooking in France without butter. Or salt. It would be like teaching someone how to swim without the water.

Bouef and chocolate souffle

Everybody’s here, if only a day late. dedicated students that they are, they drove all the way to JFK from North Carolina when the first leg of their flight to Paris was cancelled. We had a lovely rose from the vineyards of Mssr. Jerome Godefroy and dined on ratatouille, flageolet, a tray of cheeses and a salad. We started with a chilled cucumber soup with fresh mint (typically used for a sauce with salmon, but perfect for a reviving first course after 3days of trans atlantic travel Hell) and finished with a galette de Bourgueill-a brioche style flat round caked filled with two inches of pastry cream-a climb that walked us back up to much more of a classic pearly gates and birds singing kind of feeling. Went ever so nicely with caramelized fresh apricots.
They left this morning for the abbey of Fontevreau and will come back for a walking tour with Mr. Criddford of the very local wineries just down the road. Tonight’s class: Bouef and chocolate souffle
Such is life at Chateau des Sablons

I love my job

When you go to buy wine at any of the wineries that I have been to in jogging, skipping or driving distance from Chateau des Sablons, they always offer you a taste. Mr. Jerome Godefroy of the same named wine, kissed me good morning and handed me a glass. Luscious little rose and a fruity red were on offer, and that,s what I bought.

Butter when you need it most

Croissant and coffee are my revivalists. They renewed and restored. They also reminded me how absolutely ridiculous it is that I don’t speak one word of French. Except for “un cafe e un croissant.”. And a lyric from a song I learned in the 70′s which could be considered over sharing that early in the morning. I moved on to the meat market where they have a good selection of fruit and vegetables to keep the revival going. I bought cherries, apples, red leaf lettuce, carrots, and fresh peas and ate them all for lunch with a beautiful baguette and local goat cheese.
Today I shop for all my lovelies who arrive tomorrow. I’ll decide what we’ll eat our first evening when I get to the shop and then on to Saturday morning’s open market. It’s been going in Bourgueil for 750 years.

En route

Thank God for Pret Mange. It was like a bad reality television episode trying to get myself from Heathrow to Stansted. One train to a new terminal, another train called heathrow express (18 pounds for a five minute ride!!!,) then to Liverpool for 6pounds, the a Stansted express for 21 pounds. My plane ticket to Tours: 19 pounds. The highlight: Pret Mange. I don’t know how to spell it, but it saved me from going down. Fresh fruit is piled in bins by the entrance and sandwiches stuffed with vegetables and curly leaves of greens,made that morning are waiting for you in the cases. There are fruit drinks, vitamin and berry elixirs, nut and seed bars, salads with seafood, and happy people behind the counter. I got one of everything. I probably spent as much on my food as I did on my train fares, but it was worth it. Survival is critical for travel.
When I arrived: a slice of black bread with Brie, and then bed. for 16 hours. Breakfast with Charlie (the dog) at Pattisserie Metry in Bourgueil. the croissant was as big as my (huge) hand, tender and flaky and still warm. The cafe au lait, delicious. The handmade chocolate that comes with, so choc o late. In search one of more.

Taking with

I’m taking with me: almonds, apple, raisins, 9 grain bread, crackers, cheese, carrot, I FORGOT CHOCOLATE.
I’ll buy some at the deli on they way.
All of my luggage fits in 1 bag, 12 inches, by 12 inches by 16 inches, including my ipad and my pocketbook.
I am wearing an awful lot of clothing, and I have eaten an awful lot of lunch.
I’ll be transferring from the 7 train to the E train to the Airtrain to JFK and then to London. In London transferring from Heathrow express to Paddington Station to Liverpool Station to Stansted Express to Ryanair to Tours, France.
Tomorrow I will eat a croissant at Metry in Bourgeuil on my way to buy 30 liters of a fine red wine from Mssr. Jerome Godfrey.