Friday, October 2, 2009

Quails and Foie Gras, Can it get better than this?

The night the guests arrived, we sat outside drinking wine, getting to know one another watching the sun set.
When darkness fell there was a bit of a chill in the air so we moved into the dingroom. Lynn had prepared an amazing meal. Marlene van der Westhuizen, a chef, author and cooking teacher in Capetown and Charroux, described Lynn as a brilliant cook in her cookbook , Delectable. What she failed to mention is that Lynn is also a creative and gifted cook. She can pump out dinner for 12 in no time flat and it will be one of the best meals you have ever eaten.
Our first course was sauteed fois gras with Poilane Bread, garnished with Lynn's homemade Apple and Kiwi Chutney. The bread had been sauteed in the foie gras fat that had oozed out into the pan. Our wine was a Toussaint Doux from Cave Famille Laurent in Saulcet, Auvergne, sweet and clean it complimented the fois gras beautifully. I actually bought a bottle to have in New York, now I just have to find some fresh fois gras.
We then moved onto the braised quails filled with a frois gras stuffing and garnished with cous cous.
The cheese course came next, after all we were in France. A lovely blue, served up with Lynn's Rooibus Jelly. She tells me there is a sugar available in France that already has the pectin in it. You just stir it into your Jelly mixture and Voila! C'est Jelly! Why I left France without this I can't fathom.
Our dessert was a love affair. Lynn and Olivier worked together to present the Boudoir au Chocolate est Mascarpone, Lady Fingers with Chocolate Ganache and Mascarpone Cream.
The handsome and charming Olivier had us searching the kitchen for his favorite whisk. Once we procured it, he was able to whip up a lovely creme from Mascarpone and creme fraiche.
The dessert was plated in the kitchen and finished with a dusting of cocoa, it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, by that time I had far too much wine to remember to snap it at the table! C'est domage! To prepare the quail we started with these beautiful fresh birds, the heads were attached and tucked under their wings. This caused a bit of ruckus with the Americans!
When I held one in my hand, they felt very light and soft.
As you can see the sweet thing is rather small.Lynn quickly removed the heads, and prepared them for cooking.
This is a rather grisly photo. I just couldn't resist snapping it. Which of course got us all talking about Hitchcock's movie, "The Birds".Lynn made a stuffing of breadcrumbs, onion, carrot, celery, egg and fois gras. Each bird was stuffed and seasoned, ready for the pot.
To cook the quail, Lynn started with a little oil in a large casserole pot (I tried like hell to steal it but it was just too big to go unnoticed.) and sauteed some lardons, shallot and a bit of garlic.
She then added the quail, orange juice, veggie stock and braised them about one hour. See what I mean, it's a fabulous pot.
Right before serving, she popped them under the grill to brown. Cous cous was served alongside the quail with just a bit of sauce and a rosemary garnish.
It was a beautiful first evening in the Auvergne.

Recipes to follow. I promise!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Diderot Flea Market, or How I Bought New Flatware

We left for the D'Orsey Musem and headed for the metro. On our way we discovered the Saturday Morning Street Fair on Blvd. Diderot. We walked around and looked at the offerings.

Randy cam close to buying this fab cork screw. But priced at 60 Euros, it seemed a bit over the top.
We spied this women and couldn't decide if her hair or sneakers were more red. I still can't.
But then we found this very charming man selling fabulous antique silverware. I was completely taken in. Randy found a sweet mirror with an angel handle and a red silk cover. Doesn't he have a wonderful smile?
We negotiated a deal and the flatware mirror belong to us. Randy also picked up a few books.
We celebrated with a trip to Amorino, a terrific gelataria on Isle St Louis.
They scoop the gelato out and place it on the cone so that it looks like a flower.It's delicious and beautiful.
The perfect treat to enjoy while gazing at Paris.
All text and photographs are sole property of the Gypsy Chef

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grilled Sardines on a Lovely Summer Evening

Years ago on a visit to Lisbon, I had fresh grilled sardines on the street. Not being a fan of tinned sardines, I was sure I wouldn't like them. Taken off the grill, they were hot, rich and flavorful. I fell under their spell. I couldn't get enough. Over the years when fresh sardines would appear at my fish monger ( rare occasions, very rare occasions) I would buy a few and try to serve them to friends and family. Not everyone thought they were as delicious as I did. In fact my daughter flat out refused to eat them. It never stopped me though.
Anyway, that said. last June when I went to aux Jardins des Thevenets I was invited to Lynn and Olivier's friends for dinner in La Feline. Bernard and Marc and their lovely dog Cali have a beautiful home.
The garden was enchanting. Roses were blooming all along the stone walls and walks.
Over the wall was a Twelfth century church complete with a steeple. It added an air of antiquity to a stylish but traditional home.
That night was a lovely evening filled with champagne, gougeres and yes, grilled fresh sardines!
Bernard was a gracious host opening bottle after bottle of Champagne.
The sardines were absolutely the best I had ever tasted. His recipe consisted of gros fleur de sel. Simple but perfect.
We couldn't eat enough. He found himself at the grill preparing sardines until they were all eaten. "C'est fini!" he declared when they were done.
We finished the evening with a lovely orange tart and Cognac.
As we left the moon was rising, gently highlighting the garden. It had been a perfect "Welcome to France,"
These blogs are getting a little wonky, but bare with me, it will all be Ok in the end!
All text and photos are property of The Gypsy Chef

Monday, September 28, 2009

Being Blond in Paris or Voila la Cléf

It was an old fashioned hotel. Similar to the sort I enjoyed in the 1970's. Only this one was en suite and cost about ten times more! It boasted a 5th floor walk up hotel room the size of a janitor's closet and was staffed with a rather suspicious desk clerk. When Randy went down for breakfast, the desk clerk ran across the street so he could stare into the breakfast room. He thought he was going to foil our plot to pay for one breakfast and pinch enough food to get the second one free. Randy stared back, waving to him with a delicious French baquette in his hand.
Our stay was uneventful until check-out time. "Madame, may I have the key?" I told him it was in the room and we left for the Gare de Lyon train station. Halfway up the block we heard him calling us. "Madame the key, it is NOT in the room." Catastrophe had struck. An exhaustive search ensued, but no key was found.
This picture is supposed to look like a vortex in an old movie when things get out of control. "Madame, you must pay 150 Euros to replace the key." I wasn't about to pay that much and said so, ending with "Call the cops if you have to but I'm not paying!"
We left for the train station, checking our back for gendarmes. Half-way to Vichy I reached into my jeans pocket and was stunned to find the hotel key there.
After a contrite call to Hotel Mistral, we consoled ourselves with cookies.
We won't be returning to Hotel Mistral! Au revoir!
Written by guest blogger Randy Ashton.
All text and pictures are sole property of The Gypsy Chef

We've Arrived!

Randy refuses to travel unless it's First Class. Consequently we arrived in Vichy feeling relaxed and refreshed. Lynn picked us up and we immediately went to Chez Minor and Kiki, translated as Dick and Pussy Resto. From First Class to Low Class in one quick swoop. Honest, I didn't make that up. Chez Minou and Kiki is a small village resto in Espinasse Vozelle. They cook for the workers in the town. Our first course was Moules au Gratin, or Mussels au Gratin. Superb!
The plat du jour was a simple venison with a Bordelaise Sauce and the most wonderful Pommes au Fromage, garnished with sauteed wild mushrooms.
What would lunch be without a cheese course?
For dessert we had a lovely Framboise Tart. Fresh, not too sweet with a bit of cream piped around each slice. It looked so good I had a bite before I remembered to take a pic!
We finished with a cafe noir.
The Chef Minou is a genius. When Minnou appeared we applauded his efforts.
Kiki was divine. A gracious hostess.
The ride to aux Jardins des Thevenets was lovely. The hills under a perfect blue sky with cumulus clouds looked like a Turner landscape. The afternoon was a feast for the senses.All text and pictures are property of The Gypsy Chef.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Rose is A Rose is a Rose

Randy had one request, he wanted to see Gertrude Stein’s home. We left the hotel and went in search of the Jardins du Luxembourg.
We passed this lively square, I wanted to stop and have a refreshment, but Randy kept me on task.
We then found this wonderful shop which sold very old Jules Verne Books. The display was so rich and colorful we were drawn in.Illustres Romantiques! The sign claimed. And indeed they were. We wanted to buy a gift at this fabu shop for our friend Rodney.
But alas, the shop keeper was down at the Horse's Tavern, on the square. We found the Jardins du Luxembourg. The gardens were lush and colorful. Randy commented that although English Gardens are "nature the way it ought be", this garden was very French: nature subjugated." The topiary makes this perfectly clear.
It was the time in the evening when the sun was setting turning everything golden. We strolled through and just enjoyed the beauty.
The Senate was lovely. It made me think Louis the XIV, The Sun King.

As we exited the park we realized we had made it just in time. The park closed at dusk. These poor boys were not allowed in.
We found Rue de Fleurus across the street. Gertrude Stein's apartment was a few blocks away.
It was a beautiful block.
We feel in love with this building.And then, Voila! There it was. Randy swooned and reminisced about GS and Alice B. Toklas until I had to slap him.
We oohed and awed. Took a few photos and decided it was time to toast GS and her contribution to the Art world.
It was a lovely building. We wondered who lived in GS's apartment.
We ordered a glass of Rose at a nearby cafe
and watched the sunset over Paris.All text and pictures are property of The Gypsy Chef.