Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So cute, I could eat it!

Flax seed baguettes, walnut loaves and almond croissants are a few of the delicious items you can purchase at Chez Paul Boulangerie, a chain bakery in France. Chez Paul Boulangerie is like a French Starbucks, in the sense that they are all over the place, but the baked goods and coffee could not compete for a second. I love their tomato-mozzarella sandwiches on olive bread and chocolate chip brioche. Today when I stopped by for an afternoon snack, I saw these fantastic Christmas tree shaped brioche covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sugar. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nutella Cupcakes: A French Twist on an American Classic

This was such a fun idea to do with my French girlfriends because they are always asking me about "those brightly colored cakes you see in American movies and series". I used the Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes recipe, which is excellent, then we iced them with vanilla icing and Nutella. Without a doubt, the Nutella cupcakes were the best and most popular. We even ended up scraping off the vanilla icing and using Nutella for all of them.

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes


• 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marché aux Vins Chavanay 2009

Have you ever been to a book fair or bead show? Imagine that, but with only wine. A Marché aux Vins usually exposes wines from a particular wine region, most likely wherever it is being held. Marchés aux Vins are almost always held in the fall after the harvesting of the grapes and barrelling of the wine. The Marché aux Vins in Chavanay, which only exposes wines from the Northern Rhône wine region, started in 1924 and is still held every year during the second weekend of December.
Before entering into the large gymnasium where the Marché aux Vins is held in Chavanay (Loire 42), we strolled by stands of saucisson, cheeses, olives and tapenade. Some stands were selling sandwiches of sliced jambon cru and pain de campagne or fromage de chevre on baguette. Our taste buds were already watering by the time we got to the entrance. At the entrance, we paid 7€ in exchange for a wine glass each. Looking around the room wondering where to begin, Christophe pulled out a piece of paper where he had noted 7 or 8 vignerons that we should taste. We started our way around the gymnasium tasting and spitting (unless the wine was too delicious to spit), noting which wines we would like to purchase. Each vigneron had about 6-8 wines to taste, including St Josephs, Côte Rotie and Condrieu. After 3 hours of swishing voluptuous wines around in our mouths, we purchased several cases for Christmas gifts and personal consumption. A true French experience for anyone to try!

Here is a list of the Marchés aux Vins in France.

Our favorite wines from the Marché aux Vins in Chavanay:
  • Condrieu 2008 Louis Cheze
  • St Joseph white 2008 Domaine De Boysset-Chol
  • "Cuvée du Papy" St Joseph red 2007 Domaine Monteillet
  • "Amarybelle" St Joseph red 2007 Yves Cuilleron
  • "Fortis" Côte Rotie 2007 Domaine Monteillet
Marchés aux Vins- wine fair
vigneron- winemaker
jambon cru- cured ham
pain de compagne- country style bread, often times made with rye flour and shaped in a round
fromage de chevre- goat cheese

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamless "Potiron" Soup

The grocery stores are overflowing with all types of squash right now. Potiron, which is the French version of a pumpkin, is the most popular and widely used. The grocery stores will cut and seed a potiron and sell it in quarters which is great when making a smaller quantity of soup. If you can only find a whole pumpkin, it is easy to cut into quarters with a large, sharp knife and keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. You can also freeze part of the pumpkin for later use.

This recipe is inspired by my adoration for the Creamless Butternut Squash Soup that Terry makes at Sage Restaurant in Tallahassee. It is a hearty meal without all the calories. I make this once a week during the Winter and never get tired of it. This soup energizes me like spinach energizes Popeye!

Creamless Pumpkin Soup
serves 4

1/4 medium sized "potiron" or pumpkin, seeded (you could substitute with butternut squash)
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put pumpkin quarter on baking sheet and roast until tender. Let cool then scrap out the interior of pumpkin and set aside. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and carrots, cook for 10 minutes. Add roasted pumkin, potatoes, broth and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Blend the soup until smooth. Add honey, nutmeg, pepper and more salt if needed. If soup is too thick, add some water. Let simmer another 30 minutes. Serve with goat cheese or grated swiss cheese and croutons.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon

Winter has finally arrived and brought with it cold, rainy weather. It's amazing how our appetites change with the changing seasons. This summer I couldn't even think of eating a meat stew and now it's all I want!

Yesterday was a lazy day at home which was perfect to get some cooking done for the week. I decided to make boeuf bourguignon because it is an excellent dish to reheat over and over. If you make enough, it can easily last half the week or you can freeze it.

This recipe is easy and comes from Christophe's grandmother, Mémé.

Boeuf Bourguignon
serves 4

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch chunks
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 large button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons dried herbs de Provence or dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 teaspoon flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy pot over moderately high heat. Brown beef pieces well in several batches making sure not to overcrowd the pot. Transfer beef and it's juices to a bowl.

In the same pot, sauté the onions 10 minutes. Add carrots and garlic and continue cooking another 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot along with dried herbs, bay leaves, tomato paste and red wine. Bring to a boil uncovered for 10 minutes then turn down heat and cover pot. Let simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced mushrooms to the stew, cover and let simmer another 30 minutes. When the beef is tender enough to be cut with a spoon then it's done. Be sure not to overcook it because the meat will fall apart.

Stir together the flour and water in a bowl. This is called a slurry. Add a couple spoons of the hot bourguignon into the slurry and pour it back into the pot. Bring to a boil for five minutes while stirring constantly. You will see the stew thicken and become creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you can either serve the boeuf bourguignon now or let it cool and refrigerate it for the next day. I think it is better reheated the next day but sometimes you just can't resist waiting. Serve this dish with fresh pasta, roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes. Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Addictive Chocolate

I guess have to blame my mom for eating too much chocolate when she was pregnant with me because when I stepped foot into this world, I was already addicted! Hot chocolate for breakfast, chocolate sandwiches for lunch and of course, something chocolate after dinner. This routine started at an early age and I have now broken the habit of chocolate sandwiches, but still must have a piece of chocolate after every meal.

Luckily there is a large chocolate section in every grocery store in France. New chocolate bars make their appearance every season and I like trying all of them! The latest bar I discovered, fell in love with and keep in stock at all times, is the Côte D'Or "Recette du Soleil", or Sunshine Recipe. Dark, velvety chocolate, toasted sunflower seeds, salted pumpkin seeds and caramelized sesame seeds all wrapped up into a bar.

No luck so far on finding this one in America or online, but if you are in Europe soon pick one up at the local grocery!

This blog posted a description about Côte d'Or chocolate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

Bastille Day is the French national holiday, celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is called Fête Nationale ("National Celebration") in official parlance, or more commonly le quatorze juillet ("14 July"). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. (

Listen and read along, in English and French, to the French National Anthem.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Loaf

Here's a recipe from the French version of Food and Wine Magazine, called Cuisine et Vins de France. This Roasted Vegetable Loaf is perfect for picnics, barbecues or apéritifs.

Roasted Vegetable Loaf
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 bell pepper (green, red, yellow or orange)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 salt or to taste
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs or 1 teaspoon fresh herbs of your choice
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus some for roasting veggies
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a loaf pan with butter or oil. Slice the vegetables so they are approximately the same size and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until golden and tender. Let veggies cool. Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and the liquid ingredients in another bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid. Whisk until completely incorporated. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared loaf pan, top with 1/3 roasted veggies, repeat two more times. Bake for 40-50 mins until a knife comes out clean. Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy 60th Anniversary!

No, this is not the King and Queen of France. I introduce to you, Jacques and Bernadette Bleuze, Christophe's grandparents whom with we just celebrated their 60 year wedding anniversary. This was not JUST a celebration, but an entire weekend of food, family and activities.
Bernadette, whom everyone calls Grandmère, had made lists, menus, sleeping arrangements and called upon the caterer, all before our arrival on Thursday evening. Friday morning started early with coffee and brioche, followed by helping in the kitchen and then a late lunch. Grandmère had baked quiche, boiled green beans and prepared a big bowl of rhubarb from the garden for dessert. This lunch was only the beginning of many meals throughout the weekend. But the prize winner was the caterer's dinner. Scallops with the coral and large pink shrimp simmered in a cream, leek sauce to die for. That could of been enough for me, but there was much more to breast in a cherry sauce, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, baby greens tossed in walnut oil, goat cheese and a plate of five different desserts. And let's not forget the Champagne! Grandmère had specifically chosen the Champagne Lanson because that is the Champagne she drank the night the Americans landed to liberate France, 65 years ago.

This weekend was not a experience that you would be able to duplicate and I felt so lucky to be involved, which I why I am writing about it. A weekend rich in history, food and love. I would like to be exactly like Bernadette Bleuze when I am her age...89.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Apricot Pecan Tart

Last week Christophe's grandmother gave us a crate full of apricots and we accepted gratefully. But what in the heck do we do with an entire crate of apricots? Again, wishing I had a restaurant to bake for!

The apricots lucky enough not to have been eaten already, patiently waited this past week to participate in some kind of delicious dessert. Today was their special day. Since I was thinking about baking for the old restaurant, I decided to pull out my chocolate covered pastry book (accidentally dropped it in a flourless chocolate cake batter), that consists of recipes I have collected over the years. I knew exactly what I wanted to make when I pulled out the book...Chef Terry's Tart Batter. This recipe can be made with lots of different kinds of fruit and can be the filling to a tart dough or you could bake it in a baking dish without the tart dough. It's a great recipe to accentuate really ripe fruit. I chose to make a real tart with the tart dough, only because I can buy flaky, buttery tart dough at the store. It costs 2€ and it's already rolled out. So I will admit that it is rare that I make tart or quiche dough nowadays. It tastes just as good from the grocery store, no joke.
Apricot Pecan Tart
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans or almonds
  • 15 medium sized apricots or enough of another fruit to fill a 9-inch pie dish
  • 1 store bought tart dough
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or parchment paper a 9-inch tart dish.

Blind bake the tart dough. Once the dough is cooled, remove the dried beans or rice.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients. The flour may clump up so you will have to strain the batter through a sieve before baking. Halve the apricots and remove pits. Arrange them in the tart dough as you like. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the apricots. Strain the batter over the fruit and nuts. Bake tart 20-30minutes until firm and golden. Serve at room temperature...with vanilla ice cream!

To talk about Chef Terry quickly. He used to be our chef at the old restaurant and we worked side by side everyday. He is amazingly talented and we exchanged recipes all the time. He actually gave me a lot more than I gave him, but whatever. Now he has taken over the restaurant from us, creating eclectic menus from Asia to France to South America. If you are ever in Tallahassee or are living in Tallahassee, please check it out.

Sage Restaurant
3534 Maclay Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Join Sage on Facebook soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"C'est la France"

Every time we are invited for lunch with our friends, I feel like I am on a Food Network show. The setting, the people and of course, the food! No, we do not have any cameras filming us, besides my little Canon that I keep with me at all times, but we could definitely be filmed for a show I would name, "C'est la France". Enough about my crazy ideas and on to more important, the way the French lunch.

We arrived at noon with a bottle of Pic St Loup, a red wine from the Southern Rhone Valley. Greeted by our good friend Aurélie with the traditional French hello of kisses on the cheek, we were then led to the table where the apéritif was being served. The French always have an apéro, the short version of the word apéritif, before starting a meal. It is to help stimulate your appetite and prepare you for a meal of no less than three courses. An apéro can be juice, I guess if you are pregnant or something, but it mostly consists of wine, pastis or beer. Today we had Viognier, a white wine from our region around Vienne. The Viognier was served alongside a simple platter of crudité, a raw vegetable platter, with a creamy yogurt dipping sauce. After two bottles of wine, a few beers, some juice (Emilie just had a baby) and some great conversation, it was time to for the first course to begin.

Today the menu was simple, delicious and all homemade. Aurélie definitely out did herself on "C'est la France"!
Fresh pasta (homemade) with bolognaise sauce
Bowls of gruyère cheese
Mixed field greens with balsamic vinaigrette
Cheese course: St Félicien, St Marcellin & Comté
Crusty baguette from our village bakery (we can walk there!)
Homemade cherry sorbet
Genépi, Vieille Prune & Calvados (digestive liqueurs)
Another espresso
We sat around the table eating, drinking, chatting and watching passing clouds in the deep blue sky. The lunch was coming to an end and it was FIVE O'CLOCK! This is the part that makes the lunch so French. Note if you are in France and invited to lunch, make no other plans for the day. Sometimes it goes on so long, like with my French family, that you stay for dinner too! Being around the table with friends and family has created some of the best memories of my life. Thank you to my French friends that have helped me integrate into my new life in France. Without them, the days wouldn't be as fulfilling and tasty!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Uzés... a town less traveled

Uzès is a small town on the edge of the Languedoc Roussillon region, 30 minutes west of Avignon. Rich in architecture and religious history, Uzès could be visited over and over again and never get old. The small town is also home of one of the most beautiful markets in the South of France. Note that I do not say Provence because Uzès is not in the region Provence. I know there are a thousand markets in France and everyone claims to have the best, but I honestly think this is one of the best and biggest in the area. It sprawls throughout the cobble stone streets of Uzès, but the main market is in the Place aux Herbes which is what makes it so magical. If you have only visited the Place aux Herbes during the market, it is well worth it to go back on an off market day and sit in one of the outdoor cafés and take it all in. It is the vision people have of the South of France and you will be living it!

The Wednesday morning market in Uzès displays many produits du terroirs, regional products and specialties. Cheese, olives, wine, olive oil, fruit, bread, herbs and so much more. The other day I found a creamy goat cheese, produced in Uzès, that made me want to pop open a bottle of red wine immediately, even though it was only 10am. In France, no time is too early wine, which is one thing I love about living here! If you are heading out for a day of discovery, I would definitely recommend stopping by the market to pick up the goods for a picnic. There are picnic spots at almost every tourist attraction in the area or you could stop on a back road in the middle of sunflowers and vineyards. A must do while visiting Uzès!

The Saturday morning market is a grocery store, department store and florist all wrapped in one. You can find clothes, jewelry, linens, pottery, flowers, plants and all the produits du terroirs. You can spend hours wandering the streets filled with market vendors so get there early to give yourself enough time and to avoid the main crowds.

Besides the markets, there are numerous restaurants, wine bars and outdoor cafés to discover. Uzès is touristic, but less than the villages in Provence that only come alive in the summer when the tourists arrive. Uzès lives year round, buzzing with tourists and locals, including many expat English and Americans. If you love Provence, I promise you will love Uzès and everything it has to offer.

Uzès is in the Gard(30) department of the Languedoc Roussillon region, which seems to be less traveled than it's neighboring Vaucluse(84) department in the Provence region...or at least for now.

Uzès Market: open all year round with July and August being it's busiest months
Wednesday Market 8am-12pm: foodies who prefer a less crowded market
Saturday Market 8am-1pm: there is something for everyone, but get there early if you don't
like being a human sandwich

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Wine Adventure=Success!

We have officially broken in our new business, "A Taste of France Tours", with a Wine Adventure in Châteauneuf du Pape! Not only did everything run smoothly and right on time, but our clients were fun, helpful and perfect for our first tour.

The day started with breakfast, Mimosas and croissants, in front of the village church in Masmolène. Soon after our luxury bus arrived, we hopped on and started for the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape. Throughout the ride, Christophe explained the history and geography of the region, including maps of the Rhone Valley. We were glad to get that part in before the wine tasting began and while we still had the guests attention! The first winery was Château La Gardine, a 15th century winery owned by the Brunel family. Marie-Odile Brunel greeted us and took us on an intimate tour of the winery, including the barrel room and bottling room, explaining the wine making process in Châteauneuf du Pape. A wine tasting of six different wines followed in the elegant tasting room.

Next we had a French style pique-nique overlooking vineyards at Château Mont Redon. Local meats and cheeses, juicy ripe tomatoes and bright orange apricots from the Uzès market, crusty baguette and of course, lots of wine was the spread for our picnic. Delicious, but we eagerly awaited the next winery to get out of the hot sun. Château Mont Redon was the next winery visit. Much shorter visit, lots of pictures and wines our guests appreciated and even purchased. We even got to try the house Marc, which is a brandy distilled from the material remaining in the wine press after grape pressing.

Château La Nerthe was the last winery we visited. We had a short introduction on the beautiful terrace of the chateau and then got to visit the wine cellars. The winery features what is alleged to be the oldest stone fermentation tank in France. We tasted their regular cuvées as well as the superb Cuvée des Cadettes. We even tasted a bonus bottle, a 1994 Clos de Beauvenir. There are only 600 bottles left at the estate.

The guests were happy, we were happy and it was time to get back home. The day was over and we felt successful with our mission: teaching our guests about the region, trying wines they did not know, and making everyone feel comfortable throughout the tour. We hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as we did!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gâteau au Cerises

Cherries, cherries, everywhere! Every year at the beginning of summer, the cherry trees produce millions of dark red, juicy cherries. The problem is that the trees produce fruit faster than we can eat it. Cherries from a neighbor, a local farmer, Christophe's grandmother and friends! It's kind of like a dream come true.

Remembering how difficult they were to find and how expensive they were to buy when we had the restaurant in Florida, makes this seem unfair. Now I am only baking for two and I can't keep up! Here is variation on a staple recipe in most French homes.

Yogurt Cake with Cherries

  • 3-4 cups ripe cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10 inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pit and stem cherries.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. In another mixing bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the liquid ingredients to dry and whisk until blended. Place the prepared cherries in the greased cake pan and pour batter to cover cherries evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bottle Shock!

Mom and I watched this really great movie, Bottle Shock, based on the true story of the 1976 blind wine tasting in Paris, that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris". A British sommelier collected wines from California, Bordeaux and Burgundy for a blind wine tasting in Paris. The judges for the tasting were mostly French and included sommeliers from some of the finest restaurants in France. The result...shocking, but you have to see the movie to find out!

After seeing the movie, I decided it would be fun to take a California wine to our wine tasting class. Our final class was a blind wine tasting of wines from all over France. We were to try and figure out what region the wine came from, which cépages (grape varieties) were used and the year each bottle was produced. The bottles were covered with aluminum foil and served in no particular order.

What we tasted:
  • 1999 St Joseph (Syrah)
  • 2006 Minervois (Mourvédre)
  • 2000 Côtes du Rhone Village
  • 2004 Chinon (Cabernet Franc)
  • 2006 Beaumes de Venise (Syrah, Cinsault)
  • 2003 Cotes de Gascogne (Tannat, Merlot)
  • 2005 Côte de Marmandais (Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot)
  • 2006 Cline Estates (Petit Mourvedre)
When we started tasting the Cline Estates, people immediately started saying "Ooh la la. This is not a wine I am familiar with." Hints of white pepper and licorice had everyone perplexed. What could this wine be?

After tasting the wine, without spitting, everyone agreed the wine was delicious and interesting. Then it was revealed to be a Californian wine, and...gasp! Some had already experienced a Californian wine and for others it was their first time. The entire class, including our teacher, were very impressed. At the end of class, we finished off the bottle with French cheese and bread. An shockingly yummy wine tasting!

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Business: A Taste of France Tours

Wow! We took a "French style" vacation and spent 7 weeks in Florida. Lovely time, but now we are back to the reality of work and blogging. So much to write, so little time.

What are we working on now? A new business, A Taste of France Tours, designing food & wine adventures in the South of France for any foodies who want to come. Our website will be launched soon and you will be able to see what it's all about!

Even though the website is in the works, we were able to book our first tour for a friends upcoming wedding in Provence. We custom designed a day of wine tasting in Châteauneuf du Pape, one of the most famous wine regions in France, for friends and family of the soon to be married couple. The tour will be taking place the Thursday before the wedding day and includes visits and wine tastings at 3 château wineries and a gourmet picnic in the middle of vineyards. It will be a day of fun and wine in the South of France!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Candied Orange Peel

Hey y'all! I have arrived in the Sunshine State for some "fun in the sun" vacation time. So far, I have been outraged at the prices of food and wine compared to France. The French have been complaining about their rising food prices, but they should be grateful not to have to pay US prices! Besides the price shocks, the weather has been sunny and warm, making me want more fruit, seafood and lighter fare than the last 6 months. Florida is known for its citrus fruit so I decided to candy some Florida oranges. And with the help of my dad's chocolate dipping machine (see the "No more chocolate?" post below), I dipped the candied orange peel in dark chocolate. You could dip the peel by hand at home. These little treats are tasty and healthy!

Candied Orange Peel
-3 or more organic, thick skinned oranges
-powdered sugar
-dark chocolate

Peel the oranges by hand, trying to peel in wide pieces. Cut pieces into 1/4 inch strips and remove most of the pith (white part of peel). Soak peels in water overnight. Change out water everyday for 4 days. This will reduce or eliminate the bitter taste of the orange peel. On the fourth day, drain peels and weigh them. Place equal amounts of the peels and sugar in a saucepan. Bring saucepan to a boil. The water from the oranges will extract and create a syrup. Boil mixture for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the peels are candied. If you over candy the peels, they will be hard. Remove peels from sugar syrup and place on a cooling rack overnight. Roll each peel in powdered sugar. This will help the chocolate stick to the peel. Dip candied orange peels in tempered chocolate to create smooth, shiny "chocolate covered candied orange peel". Let chocolate cool and eat!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

25 Things About Food in France

This is a spin off on the Facebook notes people have been writing lately. Hopefully you will enjoy this and learn something new.

1. Traditional French culture places a high priority on the enjoyment of food. The French view eating as not just a neutral act, but as a culture.

2. France has a different cheese for almost everyday of the year.

3. In France, people eat approximately 500,000,000 snails per year.

4. Ten billion baguettes are produced each year in France. By law, a traditional baguette can only have three ingredients: flour, yeast and salt, and must weigh 250 grams, just short of 9 ounces.

5. To help with the rising obesity in France, Starbucks has opened 46 stores in Paris and Lyon.

6. Many people in France drink their hot beverages from bowls and dip bread in it.

7. The legal drinking age is officially 18 for strong liquors (21% vol. alcohol), and 16 for most alcohol drinks, like beer and wine.

8. While French cuisine is often associated with rich desserts, in most homes dessert consists of only a fruit or yogurt.

9. France is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products — and Europe’s largest.

10. France, is the world's second-largest consumer of pesticides after the US — and the world's first-largest consumer of fungicides. The widespread use of chemicals is one reason people in France are turning to 'bio', or organic, products. In fact, almost 30 percent of French are now 'bio' buyers.

11. Even though one in five French say they have stopped eating beef, most of them do not like tofu. They have obviously never tried the tofu dishes at The Bamboo House in Tallahassee!

12. The French enjoy eating horse and rabbit. It is normal to see these items on a restaurant menu.

13. Almost all grocery stores close at 8pm and are closed on Sundays. There are exceptions in big cities.

14. Wine is considered an important part of the French meal. "Wine ...the intellectual part of the meal." - Alexandre Dumas, 1873, a famous French writer

15. It is almost impossible to find true Mexican food in France. I say "almost" because I am hoping someone can prove me wrong.

16. In times of celebration, the French always drink Champagne. The first written reference to Champagne was English, not French! In 1676, Etherege wrote in praise of "sparkling Champagne" which "Quickly recovers, Poor laughing lovers, Makes us frolic and gay, and drowns all our sorrows."

17. At a French McDonalds, you can order a beer and a Croque McDo. Prices on most items are twice as expensive as the USA, most likely because 90% of all agricultural products used at French McDonalds are produced by local farmers.

18. Cuisine TV, which is the French Food Network, is way boring. The recipes are interesting, but if you are not passionate about cooking, you won't want to watch.

19. A traditional French Christmas menu consists of: raw oysters, escargots, fois gras, smoked salmon, scallops and Champagne.

20. "Goûter" or "quatre-heure"- afternoon snack mostly for French children; ex. crepes, croissants, brioche, cookies, hot chocolate

21.It is common in much of France to take a two hour lunch break. Therefore, most shops close at 12pm and reopen at 2pm or sometimes even 3pm.

22. The cuisine from each different region in France differs greatly. The Provence region uses olive oils, tomatoes and herbs in many dishes. In Normandy, the food is influenced by butter, crème fraiche and apples. The Alps region is known for its cheese dishes, including fondue and raclette, while the Alsace region has a strong German influence which includes beer and sauerkraut.

23."Grand Cru" is French for "great growth" and designates the best. In Burgundy it refers to the best vineyards which usually have multiple owners. In Bordeaux its meaning varies by the specific region, but it always refers to properties with a single owner.

24. AOC, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, is a system of labelling products- wine, cheese, chickens, olive oils, potatoes and even lentils- serves as a guarantee of the origin of a product and its quality.

Côte-Rôtie is a French wine AOC (see above) in the northern Rhône region of France. The earliest record of wine making in the region dates to the 2nd century BC when the Romans settled in the regions around Vienne. The vineyards surround the tiny villages of Ampuis and Chavanay. The vineyards are unique because of their vertical slopes and stone walls. Côte-Rôtie meaning "the roasted side", refers to the long hours of sunlight that these steep slopes receive. The wines are red, made with Syrah grapes and up to 20% Viognier.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No more chocolate?

In a couple of weeks I am traveling to Florida, the land of fresh seafood, beautiful beaches and my parents! Pierre & Rainey Vivier, my parents and owners of Pierre Vivier Chocolates, have been living, owning restaurants and making chocolate in Tallahassee, Florida for the past 30 years. My dad is a French chocolatier and patissier, which is just as wonderful as it sounds! I have been spoiled my entire life with handmade French chocolate and pastries. But just like when eating a chocolate bar, there comes a time to wrap it up. Yes, my parents are retiring and moving to Provence! They are selling their goods, but not their skills. Pierre will be giving chocolate lessons in Provence...more on the subject once they move.

With the release of an incredible article that announced their last Valentine's Day in business, they called on friends and neighbors to help, but it wasn't enough. They could not produce faster than the customers ordered. A very memorable last Valentine's at PVChocolates!

Check out the article in the Tallahassee Democrat:

Get your orders in while the chocolate lasts!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate)

This weekend "Foodies" crossed the border to Italy in search of "cioccolata calda" (pronounced cho-ko-LAH-tah KAHL-dah), the Italian pudding like version of hot chocolate. We had been sledding all day in the Alps de Haute Provence, which are France's most southern Alps, bordering Italy. After a fifteen minute drive, we stopped in the first Italian village we came upon. There was a small grocery store, a few houses, a café and a ton of snow! Without much choice, we went to the café and discovered a crowd of families, couples and children all ordering cioccolata caldas. After a short wait for a table, we ordered cioccolata caldas with homemade whipped cream and an assortment of Italian cookies. Taking a bite of each different cookie made with apricot jam, almond macaroon, sandy textures, flaky pastry and powdered sugar, we decided we were in foodie heaven. The hot chocolate arrived with a spoon. A warm chocolate pudding topped with sweet whipped cream and consumed with a spoon. Cioccolata calda is a meal in itself and so worth crossing the border for!

Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate)
serves 1

1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 3/4 oz. or 50 g. 70% dark chocolate
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of cinnamon

In a small saucepan,
melt chocolate with a bit of milk on low heat. Add cornstarch and sugar, mix well. Add milk and cook on low-medium heat until the chocolate thickens (it should take about 20-30 mins). Keep stirring constantly to avoid the chocolate from sticking to the saucepan. When the chocolate is ready, serve it in a cup with a pinch of cinnamon and whipped cream.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Chicken Pot Lasagna"

I bought the ingredients to make lasagna bolognaise over the weekend, but somehow forgot the ground meat. Veggie lasagna sounded boring so I dug through the freezer trying to come up with plan B. I found chicken and that is how I decided to create a "Chicken Pot Lasagna".

Chicken Pot Lasagna
serves 6-8

5 cups chicken stock, homemade* or store-bought
3 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
2 onions, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3 T. olive oil
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, pulled or cubed (about 1 pound)
1 stick (8 T. or 4 oz.) unsalted butter
8 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
pre-baked lasagna pasta sheets

*If you are starting with raw chicken, then I would suggest making your chicken sock by boiling the chicken in 6-7 cups of water with salt, peppercorns and bay leaves. This should leave you with the 5 cups needed to make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large sautée pan, add the olive oil and onions. Cook 7-10 mins until onions turn clear in color. Add the carrots and celery and sautée another 5 mins. Add the mushrooms and sautée until all veggies are tender.

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Melt butter in a large saucepan on medium. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Add 1 cup heated chicken stock, whisking constantly. Once mixture has come to a boil, add another cup chicken stock and boil again. Repeat until chicken stock is used or until you have the right texture. If you need more liquid, add some water and boil again. The sauce should be more liquid than a regular chicken pot pie recipe. Add sautéed vegetables, chicken, herbs, spices and s&p to taste.

Layer chicken mixture alternating with lasagna sheets. I used about 1/2 inch of chicken mixture in each layer because I wanted a lot of pasta, but do as you want. I didn't use cheese or extra salt. Cover in aluminum foil and bake 45mins-1hour.

We didn't eat the lasagna until the next day, which I think makes it even better. The outcome was surprisingly delicious! Et voila, you have "Chicken Pot Lasagna"!