18 December 2014

A Glorious December Day!

 After so much grey and rain, we began to wonder if the South of France had changed its colors!  We were ready to build an ark after one storm that dumped more than 30 cm of rain in less than 3h30!  Then we had a previously unknown occurrence of 48 straight hours of rain...drizzle turning to downpour turning to steady drumming on the roof rain...How could this be Montpellier!?!

But then there are days like today when I remember why we live here.  WOW!!

Un Peu de Noël Américain!!

Our front porch
The twins in their Christmas finest!

Christmas decorations in France are definitely on the subtle side.  They adore and are amazed at the way we Americans decorate for Christmas.  The hotels, the stores, the streets, the houses!!  We have had friends visit the States at Christmas and gush over how beautiful it all is.  

On an American scale, the decorations chez Faigle are definitely on the simple side, but in comparison to our neighbors, it is extravagant!  :)
Our neighbor's outdoor decorations.  Very typical of a French house at Christmas.  Can you spot their decorations?

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


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.

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!!!