Monthly Archives: September 2010

Day One, Beynac and Sarlat

I’m breaking the silence!  I find it extremely daunting to think about blogging about our trip.  Because I have it broken up into different blog post categories in my mind:

1. Beynac/Sarlat
2. Amboise/Chateaus
3. Honfleur/D-Day Beaches
4. Eating at Le Chateaubriand
5. Adventures with Angela
6. Dinner at Spring
7. Lunch at Aux Lyonnais, Chez Janou
8. Dinner at Chez Dumonet Josephine
9. Pastries/Bakeries
10. All other food adventures
11. Eiffel Tower/Notre Dame

And perhaps others.  Oh yes, these will all be individual blog posts.  So much so that you will grow to hate my blog.  I care not.  As everyone does with their blogs, I’m going to treat this like my journal.  I kept a real journal on our trip, writing with a pen on paper and everything!  It was quite abbreviated and I wrote a LOT about how horrendous actually getting to France turned out to be, so I’ll spare you those details.  Here we go – Day One, Beynac and Sarlat:

We arrived at the train station in Paris after a very long flight and had to wait a couple hours for the next train out of the Montparnasse line to Bordeaux, and so we got our very first French snacks.

A baguette with ham and tomatoes from a nice boulangerie chain called Paul. (iPhone pic)

Un baguette au jambon, sil vous plait

(it says Citron)

an apricot tart with creme anglaise (sorry, we ate it before we could take a pic) and a lemon tart

After a loooong and crazy train ride, we found our way to the rental car station in filthy Bordeaux.  Bordeaux might be nice and wonderful, but the downtown area was, as we both said at one point and pardon my French(!), a s@%# hole.  It just was.  It was like a third world country and they made us walk about a half mile with all our luggage to find the place where the cars were parked, and once we found the garage, we spent the better part of an hour trying to find our way OUT of Bordeaux.  Correction – a better part of an hour trying to find our way off the SAME STREET as the rental car place

Our car all nice and shiny before The Incident

We finally found our way to the highway and yay, saw the signs for St. Emilion, a town that our friends, Craig and Ann told us to go because Craig had been stationed there in the 50’s and said that it was charming and not much had changed.  He was right, it was gorgeous:

Arriving!

An abandoned church in St. Emilion

my first time using a paid toilet.


As you can see, it was a bit scary walking into.  Kinda looked like a prison toilet and water was at least an inch all over the floor.  I hope it was water.

You see? You see how easy it was to get lost?!


You shoulda seen the other guy...oh wait, that is the other guy.

Then…about 15km outside of St. Emilion, we took a wrong turn.  We corrected, turned around, came to a stop sign and STOPPED, and seeing no one coming around an 8ft stone wall, we pulled out into the intersection, and a lady in a mini-van with her two kids and dog plowed right into us, going at least 50mph, throwing us off the road.  She was way more bashed up than we were because thankfully, her van just clipped our front side and pushed us off the road.  So glad no one was hurt.  I can’t even imagine the trouble we would have had to deal with had we had injuries on her, her kids, or us.

Apparently every car in France comes with this packet that includes a folding road cone and a yellow jacket (like she’s wearing.)  See, that’s how bad the driving is in France.  Every car has to have a crash packet.  We first thought she must have been a crossing guard in her spare time when we saw her put on her vest…

So this all happened around 7:45p.m.  The rental car sent a taxi to take us from the crash site to our hotel in Beynac, almost 100km away!  So we waited till almost 10pm when a crazed taxi driver in a Mercedes pulled up and loaded our stuff into his car.  If we hadn’t been so beyond exhausted, up for 24 hours and in shock from the wreck, we might have been a little more concerned at his going 90mph around Pike’s Peak type turns the entire way.  He even mentioned the Pike’s Peak race at one point.  We had a hard time communicating with him as our French is terrible and his English wasn’t much better, but we both spoke the language of food and so we asked him his favorite dishes and suggestions.  That got him really excited.  So for an hour he told us about the regional specialties: walnuts, walnut oil, duck confit, foie gras, etc.  We really enjoyed talking to this madman, but were happy when we arrived (alive) in Beynac at our beautiful hotel (with a funny name: Hotel Restaurant du Chateau) and didn’t have to pay the $250 cab fare!

Beynac the next morning - our hotel. Our window is right over the right patio

The view from below our hotel

Beynac is gorgeous.  A town of only about 500 people, it’s quiet, relatively untouched by tourism, and really friendly (the French are really nice, honestly!)  I wish we had taken a pic of our first breakfast – a wonderful reminder that we were in France, waking up our weary bodies to the fact that we were no longer traveling or wrecking our rental car, or being driven at midnight by a madman.  We were instead eating baguettes with prosciutto and brie, croissants with butter and jam and pain au chocolat (yes, bread wrapped around dark chocolate)

The view from sitting outside our hotel in Beynac. Notice the foie gras sign - it's everywhere!

My rock, my help, my sanity on our trip. Always smiling, always telling me it was going to be okay.

After breakfast, another taxi (still crazy, but a lady this time) came to take us to a nearby city to pick up a new rental car.  Once we got there, we drove back and stopped in a little town called Sarlat (sar-lah) and found a market going on downtown.  So of course, we made our first stop for one of France’s obsessions: glace

I got the one in the middle - apple pie, and the mystery flavor of the day. Matt got popcorn and coffee flavors - both awesome

It was time for our first official lunch in France.  So we stopped in the market at a place called La Practice.  Here’s the menu:

Duck Confit, Duck liver pate, walnut cake and a cheese for dessert

A very French looking man - just loved the mood of him watching the market patrons

The pate and bread and a "pichet" of wine.

Confit de canard with pommes Sarladaise

The cheese - cheese is as common as ice cream for dessert. That's why I love the French 🙂

A big poster about foie gras in the market. I find it funny how completely common it is over there and over here, it's a culinary faux pas. They take great pride in this product and it's evident.

Our crazed cabbie was right - Walnut products are a regional specialty: jams, oils, breads, liqueurs, etc

One of the many beautiful doorways in Sarlat

I loved this scene - Woman with a baby, Woman on her patio observing people go by

Another cute tiny shopping scene in Sarlat

Pain au noix - they aren't kidding about their walnuts. This was way more nuts than bread, but it did keep us alive a few nights in a row when we were hungry at our hotel!

We headed back to Beynac (bay-nock) a couple hours before sunset, so we decided to hike up the hill to the top to see the castle and the view from on top, looking down into the Dordogne valley.  Along the way up the hill, we marveled that people actually lived in the side of this mountain, on streets that were several hundred years old.

A close-up of a man on his porch

Aaand the wide angle view. Can you believe he actually lives there and conducts his daily life there? It's a dream!

More gorgeousness on the way to the top of the hill

Just a random porch

Halfway up - still a lot of climbing to do! Glad I wore heeled boots...

Flowers growing out of the walls

Just stare at this for a moment. How does that dude get his car down that "street" Eh?!

a passage way at the base of the castle on top of the hill

A cemetery was on top of the mountain - must have been some pretty rich people!

Another tombstone

And there she is in all her glory. The Dordogne valley, as seen from on top the hill by the chateau in Beynac

Another view

I was there. I could have stood there for hours taking it all in

God is awesome

someone else felt the same...

Matt in front of the valley

In front of the best view we saw the entire trip

Heading back down

Matt at dinner that night.

with a lovely view...

Dinner was great at this restaurant.  We didn’t take pics of each dish because we were probably just enjoying the view too much and the sunset.  But I remember our dessert of ice cream and walnut liqueur and fresh whipped cream.

And the next day, we just walked around the town a bit more before heading off to our next town of Amboise.  I had to snap this little guy, sitting outside his mother’s store, watching tourists go by.  What a magical place.  I’m so glad we began our trip in these sleepy towns.

Could he be any cuter?

Next blog: Amboise, castles and D-Day beaches.  Stay tuned!

7 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha, Photography

La Vie en Rose

So we’ll be heading off in about an hour – just wanted to post a few pics of where we’ll be.

We’ll start off here: Beynac

Then we’ll go to the market in Sarlat on Saturday:

Then to Amboise to see some castles like this one:

Then on to see Mont St. Michel

where we’ll stay in this lady’s house:

La Jacotiere

Then on to Honfleur to spend the night and see the Normandy Beaches the next day:

D-Day Beaches (I’m already getting sad thinking about this one):

Then, down to a little town called Falaise where they specialize in Apple Brandy and Camembert cheese:

And then, off to Paris!  Where we get to eat at some amazing places like:

Frenchie

and Le Chateaubriand (the no. 11 restaurant in the world, and affordable!)

and we’ll get to see my dear friend, Angela, who will show us around for a day and eat dinner with us at a cute little mom and pop place called Le Felteau.

Then I’ll get to stand on the same street Edith Piaf did, singing for her life:

I can’t even begin to comprehend that all of these places  exist, much less that I’ll get to see them with my own eyes.  And then I’ll come back and write a blog with my OWN pictures of these places.  Au revoir for now – wish you could all share a croissant du chocolat with me.

3 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha, links

Eat Your Vegetables!

Before we head off to our September adventures in France and Florida, I wanted to get another blog post up.  Many of you have expressed interest in the way we prepare vegetable dishes, as that always seems to be a complaint.  “I would eat healthier, except I just don’t have good veggie recipes!”  And ain’t that the truth?  Our vastly meat-eating culture has bang-up recipes for meats and starches, but not a whole lot of veggie dishes that don’t include bacon grease (although that is a good way to make any vegetable edible, see my brussels sprouts variation below)

Our household favorite veggies to eat: Roasted Carrots with Thyme

Preheat oven to 400. Peel carrots.  Split them down the middle, length-wise.  Arrange them on a sheet pan, toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.  Let bake for 20-30 min, until the small ends start to curl up and get a little charred.  This is good – makes them taste like sweet potato fries!

Next: Roasted Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Pie Spice and Brown Butter

Yes, we have eaten this numerous times on weeks that we’ve lost weight.  Moderation!  All of these recipes require some effort.  I’m sorry if you’ve come expecting to not have to chop anything.  If you do, you don’t deserve how good this dish tastes (ouch! I know, but it’s true)

1-2 butternut squash – however many.  2 makes a good amount – perhaps 4-6 side dish servings.  I cut the squash in half, then in half length wise, scoop out the seeds and discard, and then I get to chopping.  I chop it into about 1/2 inch cubes – I cut the rind off (way easier than trying to peel those suckers)  Once you get it all cubed up, put it on a baking sheet (with sides to prevent dripping) and roast in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at  400 for 30 min till the edges start to brown and they are really really tender.  You may have to cook it longer depending on your oven (if it’s like ours, it lies to you about how hot it is)

Now, the magic.  Take 2 tbs unsalted butter – heat over medium heat in a skillet till it starts to froth up and turn brown and smell like caramel.  Remove from heat.  Take your squash, put it in a bowl big enough to have room to toss the squash around, and sprinkle liberally with pumpkin pie spice.  (if you don’t have it on hand, use nutmeg, only don’t be so liberal with it) Then, drizzle the browned butter and toss to coat.  HOLY CRAP this is good stuff.  We eat this alongside grilled chicken breast or some other lean protein.  The key is balance.  This is a more decadent dish so we serve it with something really simple.

Follow this simple formula for almost all green veggies:

Get a pot of water to a rolling boil – salt it with about 4 tbs salt.  Toss in one of these:
Asparagus (ends trimmed)
Green Beans (ends trimmed)
Sugar Snap Peas (ends snapped off)
Snow Peas (ends snapped off)
Brussels Sprouts (ends cut off, cut in half or quartered if they are big boys)

and boil till it’s the tenderness you like.  Remove from the water and shock under cold running water.  Pat dry.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil (1-2tbs) and salt and pepper, maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.  Perfect.  No need to get fussy, it’s so easy.  To jazz up a brussels sprout, cook 2 strips of bacon, and after you’ve boiled and shocked your sprouts, toss them in a hot pan that you used to cook the bacon.  Let it sear off a bit, toss the chopped two pieces of bacon back in and say hello to your new favorite veggie.

We also cook a LOT of stir-fry.  It was easy to use the snow peas, bell pepper, onion, and garlic, toss in with shrimp, soy sauce, fish sauce, a little ginger and a tbs of sugar.  We just don’t serve things over rice, alongside potatoes, with pasta, etc.  We eat those things (complex carbs) on Saturdays and Sundays with much glee and frolicking.  🙂

And never, ever, underestimate our favorite, fast, simple lunch of turkey sausage, chopped up and heated on the stove with Bush’s Grillin Beans.  It’s high class around here.  But hey – it’s got a lot of protein, fiber and tastiness.  And it’s crazy cheap.

FYI – if you want to enter a beautiful and amazing world of cooking vegetables the way they were meant to be cooked, get an Indian cookbook.  Most Indians are vegetarians and they KNOW their vegetables.  And can make them taste like main courses!  One of our favorite books:

Bon Appetite!

2 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs, General Hoo-Ha