06 November 2014

Autumn is here!

 One of the things that is a big difference for us in France is having very marked four seasons.  My favorite has always been autumn -  the cool crispness of the air, the brilliance of colors, the season of waiting and preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.


02 November 2014

Cassoulet!!





There is a tinge of coolness to the normally warm sunny climate here in Montpellier.  Yeah!!  Time for cozy sweaters and comfort food!!  One of our all time favorite comfort foods in the South of France is CASSOULET!!

This is definitely rustic food.  The kind your grandmother would make...if your grandmother was French and lived in the Southwestern region of France!  It is a frugal food, but it takes loving patience to make perfectly.  To get the creaminess in the beans without a hint of resistance in their skins.  To get that crusty top layer to the perfect almost burned crunchiness.

I do have the dream of making this incredible dish one day just to get the satisfaction of knowing I can.  But for now there is no where on this continent to get better cassoulet than at Hostellerie Etienne near Castenaudary just outside of Carcassonne.

They serve family style if you order the cassoulet menu.  A big bowl of garlicky greens and a bubbling terracotta  bowl of cassoulet.  Creamy white beans, duck confit and sausage are all nestled together in the bubbling sauce and covered by a crust of bread crumbs.  As much as you can eat and you will try to eat well more than you should because it is so incredibly good.



               hostellerie etienne

28 July 2014

Pierre Augé Prepared Lunch For Me!!!! What.A.Meal!!!

 One of our (my) obsessions in France is watching the French version of Top Chef.  These chefs are really well trained and are put through some serious challenges.  Pierre Augé was always one of our favorites.  He is calm when others are in full diva mode; yet he is passionate about his cuisine.  He came in second in 2010 and won in 2014.  Then he faced a challenge from the winner of 2013 and won against him.
www.m6.fr/emission-top_chef

We have wanted to visit his restaurant since 2010 and finally in June I called to see if I could get a surprise reservation for our anniversary.  There was one table for two persons available in two and a half weeks after our anniversary and I quickly jumped on it!

It was as if we were finally tasting what the judges were raving about.  Each plate was individual in its personality, yet the six course tasting menu flowed seamlessly.  Pierre has a very disciplined hand and lets his ingredients mix and explode in your mouth.  The soup course was completely indicative of this.  It was presented at a slightly less than room temperature freshness.  There were a lot of different flavors that could have each bullied their way to dominate the mix, but they all stayed at a level that caused you to let the soup linger on your palate searching each one of them out to the spotlight with the creaminess to soften their arrivals.

The ultimate indicator of Chef Augé's talent was the Black Angus Beef course.  Without even taking a bite of any of the wonderful sauce - just the beef alone - the multitudes of flavors from the grilling process that he was able to harness were amazing.  I actually - for the first time - accepted Mike's pronouncement that this was THE best piece of meat he had ever eaten!!

Chef Augé's staff members are very down to earth and personable.  The dining room was overflowing with families with children. A bustling comfortable fun restaurant.  The sous chef and prep cooks are relaxed and friendly. The menu and wine prices are very decently set so that it could be more than just a special occasion restaurant.  Very different in atmosphere from the starred restaurants that we have been so very lucky to try. Bravo Pierre Augé and please (!!!) continue as such!!  We hope to become repeat customers!!

Beautiful Indoor/Outdoor Kitchen


Pierre's Second Place and Champion Top Chef Knives!



The Humble Chef
Amuse Bouche of Crab, Caviar and Patate Doux


La Soupe...d'Ail, Girolles, Oeuf, et ses ingredients secrèts!!

Carpaccio de Canard, Glace de Moutarde à l'Ancienne et Noix

Cabillaud Sauce Ricard et ses Cacahuètes

Black Angus avec sa Fougasse
Les Fromages - Tomme de Brebis,  Tomme de Vache et Chevre avec ses gelées Piment d'Espelette et Cerise Noire


Glace de Yaourt avec Coulis de Fraise

Tarte Citron avec une Base de Speculoos, Sorbet de Basilic, Gelée de Citron


J'ai bien mangé!!!  Merci, Chef!!!

30 November 2013

Transport Strike

Taking it to the streets!  A tax on French transporters that is unfairly not assessed on all other non French trucks. The truckers blocked all but two pistes of the toll booths. Civilized rebellion. The protester that handed us the paper apologized for the inconvenience. 


29 November 2013

Autumn Afternoon


After so many years in the beauty of the central coast of California with its subtle season changes, the almost abrupt and grand arrival of autumn here in the South of France still amazes me.  The air is crisp with smoky tinges.  The days are so much shorter than the long hot days of the summer...you have to push yourself to not begin to hibernate! The sun is a glorious contrast to the frost tinged vineyards.  How blessed are we to live in such a magnificent place!!




25 November 2013

La rénovation encore!!


And so it begins once more...This time we start with the attic.  In the never ending battle to halt all cold air from entering our cosy abode and lower the evil EDF power electric bill, Mike has torn down all of the existing ceiling in the attic to replace all of the insulation and reseal it with proper drywall.  In doing so we have also added about 80 cm of floor space to the main guest room!  It seems so much more spacious!! 

Next phase is new tile flooring in the lower part of the old section of the house and finally moving the kitchen to where Mike's office is and creating a cosy tv room in the current kitchen.  Gotta get my head around the fact that we will live in a dust storm for the next year!!