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"!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ten Minute Tabouli

The staples we always have in our house are: pasta, rice, lentils and couscous. You can make a thousand recipes with these ingredients, but today I decided to make tabouli. You can mix and match different vegetables and even add chicken or fish to this recipe. But if you only have 10 minutes, follow this recipe and enjoy!

Ten Minute Tabouli
serves 4-6

1 cup coucous
1 cup hot water
1 T. olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small can of corn, rinsed and drained
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup dijon vinaigrette, recipe follows
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Put coucous in a bowl and pour in hot water, olive oil and salt to taste. Cover bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, dice vegetables, chop parsley and mint. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add all other ingredients, salt and pepper to taste and stir. Done!

Dijon Vinaigrette

We make a batch of this in a glass jar at the start of the week and keep it in the fridge. It is great on everything and much more healthy than any store bought dressing. I am adding measurements, but you don't have to measure this recipe. You can also substitute balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, different oils, etc. Once you make this a couple times, it will become a habit!

2 soup spoons good quality dijon mustard (i.e. Maille brand)
2 soups spoon red wine vinegar (homemade vinegar is best)
1/2 cup plus some olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a jar, shake mustard and vinegar, salt and pepper. Add half the olive oil and shake again. Add the rest of the olive oil and shake. Taste and add what is needed. Drizzle this on everything!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chateauneuf du Pape

The rolling vineyards, Cinderella's castles, hundred year old vines, old men tending to their most precious possession...we are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

What we tasted and recommend:
-Château La Nerthe "rouge" 2005
-Mont Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape "blanc" 2007
-Château La Gardine "Generations" 2005

Fun Facts:
-Chateauneuf-du-Pape means "new castle of the pope" and refers to the 14th century when the pope resided in the walled city of Avignon, just south of these vineyards.
-There are thirteen grape varieties (fourteen if you count the Grenache Blanc) permitted to be used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines. Chateau Beaucastel is the only producer to grow and make a wine from all.
-Many of the vineyards in Chateauneuf are rock beds with no visible soil.
-More than 90 percent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is red, about 7 percent white and the rest...
-In 1954, the vitners of Chateauneuf mandated the following law about UFO's:
Article 1. The flying overhead, landing and taking off of aeronautical machines called "flying saucers" or "flying cigars," of whatever nationality they may be, is strictly forbidden on the territory of the commune of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Article 2. Any aeronautical machine-"flying saucer" or "flying cigar"-that lands on the territory of the commune will be immediately taken off to the jail.

Best Kept Secret...

Walking through the stone village of St Maximin, we wondered if we were at the right place. A Sunday noon, the middle of winter and a rainy day, which is rare in the Gard region, there was not a soul in sight. The sign above the restaurant read Café de le Mairie, but we had reserved at La Table de Julien? As we walked in to the café, we were directed down a flight of stairs to a vaulted, candle lit dining room. Welcome to La Table de Julien!
Jennifer Henriksen, co-owner and wife of Chef Julien Lavandet, greeted us with a smiling, down to earth attitude that immediately put us at ease. The small, elegant dining room was filled with people from England, Belgium and France, all there for the same reason...the incredible food. This was our first time dining there, since we were never able to get a reservation last minute, and now we know why. The food was out of this world! Scallop carpaccio seasoned with lime and peppercorns, pan seared fois gras with a caramelized pear, homemade brioche spread with wild mushrooms topped with a perfectly poached egg, juicy beef tenderloin with a rich cocoa sauce, vegetable stuffed rouget topped with langoustine froth (pictured), and delicious desserts. A perfectly balanced Gigondas to sip throughout the meal and we were in heaven!
We reserved at this tucked away restaurant not knowing what to expect and left knowing we now have a new favorite restaurant. La Table de Julien is by far St. Maximin's best kept secret!

La Table de Julien
30700 St Maximin