Archive for France

A Calvados by any other name….

To anyone following the saga, our little bottle of distilled apple happiness made it to Ohio.

To celebrate, we finally cracked open our liquid lovelies and sampled side-by-side: the Calvados we procured on Ernie’s quest, an apple eau de vie from Brittany (a “calvados” that can’t be called calvados because it wasn’t made IN calvados…it would have to be called “Côtes d’Armor” which, while poetic, sounds like something that would include vanilla, strawberries and honey…*), Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery eau de vie, and to mix things up, Laird’s applejack.

Not to be all francophile, but the U.S. contestants were so far in the basement we didn’t want to sip them with a ten-foot straw. As a cocktail mixer, if the somewhat caramel / vanilla flavor of the Applejack doesn’t interfere, we actually preferred its taste…not to mention price…over the Clear Creek offering.

But did we LIKE the two bottles we’d schlepped (and when I say “we” I mean K) back from France? Both bought at small farms with hand-written signs pointing up their driveways?

Oh HELL yes.
I mean, oh enfer oui.

They were very different but both delicious. The “Quest Calvados” has a darker color and quintessential Calvados nose of apple and brandy, with a hotter finish. The “Fine Bretagne” has an amazing apple nose, and is completely smooth going down. Though not sweet, it has an aspect of sweetness on the tongue. While both are excellent for sipping, only the heat of the true Calvados would suffice for a trou Normand.

K, the traditionalist, preferred the Calvados. bb, the diplomat, wouldn’t declare a favorite, b2 held off on a pronouncement…I suspect so that he’d have to come back to try them again. And wishy-washy me didn’t have a favorite: different drinks for different moods.

To do a true scientific test, we’d need to buy a few Calvados’ of different ages (I thought the quest bottle was an eight-year-old, but it’s hors d’age, which Wikipedia tells me means aged at least six-years), and a few bottles of Fine Bretagne, to see if the differences are truly regional or just age, distiller style, barrel wood, etc.

Next time. Next quest……

*Côtes-d’Armor, a department (like a county) in Brittany, has nothing to do with love nor armor. It’s derived from ar mor, which means “the sea” in breton. Makes sense. Here’s a shot from our walk less than ten minutes from where we bought the Fine Bretagne apple eau de vie.

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Le Cannonball Run – the Calvados Connection

As I write, a small lonely bottle of Calvados sloshes its way cross country in the back of a UPS truck. Will it make it intact? Will rough treatment do it in? Will its liquid state make it suspect, leading to its destruction at the hands of the ATF or homeland security, hauled away on the last leg of its long journey?

Plucked from an apple orchard in the brilliant green and yellow Norman countryside where it was grown, distilled, and aged to eight years, it made the journey to Paris with a few of its brothers in the back of a rental car. Wrapped tenderly in dirty socks, scarves and coats cast off in the early spring heat, it was gently nestled into luggage, dragged across cobbles to the #68 Clichy bus, to l’Opera and the Roissybus, to CDG and into the hands of uncaring baggage handlers, into Iceland, over the pole, and landing in the Pacific Northwest to become a US citizen. One bottle stayed in the rainy NW, while the other still has 2,400 miles to travel, over mountains, across prairies, past cornfields…into the open arms of its adoring new papa.

How did this intercontinental adoption story start?
As with all great love stories of the 21st century, it began with the internet.

Obsessively planning (as I do) for two weeks in France led me to the Chowhound board (of course…the first stop for food obsessed travelers to get a local community’s first-hand advice and opinions), and searches for Bayeux / Normandy / Caen led me to this August 2010 cry for help:

Alert: I am in need of a favor from anyone traveling to Bayeux
To whom it may concern;
There is a farmhouse (dds note: more like an impossibly ramshackle chateau) outside of Bayeux where I bought a bottle of Calvados some time ago. I am now down to my last glass and I am in desperate need. I know precisely where the farm is but I am unable to contact the owner as he speaks no English. For anyone traveling there from the States, please help me procure another few bottles. If you are interested or able to help, I will happily furnish you with the requisite info and capital. If you are unfamiliar with the area, I can also provide you with some favorite places in the area and meals that I enjoyed.
My sincere thanks! E. Diamond

Several Chowhound posts ensued, with helpful advice, possible couriers, aborted trips and Google satellite identification of the farm. Six months later I happen along. (You can see the whole string on Chowhound here.) Hmm, think I. Our Normandy/Brittany to-do list looks something like this:

Cancale Oyster

– Mont St. Michel
– Calvados
– Omaha Beach
– Oysters
– Scallops
– Galettes de Pleyben
– Salt-marsh lamb

Calvados is already on the agenda, maybe I can help.
I fell in love with Calvados as a college freshmen in a basement restaurant in Les Halles—I even remember the glassware: tiny white ceramic cups, akin to a thimble-sized sake set. “Down the hatch!” says Dad, “To burn a hole and make way for the rest of meal.” It was smooth and appley, and the taste coupled with the surprise and ceremony of this fiery amuse bouche cemented the Trou Normand in my memory and affections.

This was 1981, and let me tell you, Calvados was cheap back then. Maybe it was the franc-to-dollar rate, maybe it was more commonly produced, maybe we were drinking younger stuff, but even back in the States I remember being able to buy it for the price of a mediocre brandy. Fast-forward 30 years and our classic cocktail habit (see Dr. Cocktail, see Boozehound) had us scouring Oregon liquor store shelves for Calvados again, only to find $70 French stuff and more affordable but not-quite-right Clear Creek Distillery apple eau de vie (sorry guys, I respect what you’re doing but you still have a ways to go, imho) made right in our own back yard.

So of course, E. Diamond’s request caught my eye.

“I’ll take the recommendation and the adventure on,” says I, “but selfishly, we may not be able to give your bottle any precious luggage space, since I anticipate stuffing our extra suitcase with cheap eau de vies of varying fruits, Galettes de Pleyben (a story for another post), and calvados.” “No worries,” says E., “do what you can. Enjoy, take some pics, and eat here, here, here and here.” (All his restaurant recs were closed on the Wednesday night we were in town…of course…oh those wacky French. But I’ve posted his email below, for anyone else traveling to Bayeux.)

Vente de Vieux Calvados, AOC

After a beautiful albeit drizzly night in Bayeux (where we broke into an okay but young Calvados from Honfleur), we piled into the car, wrinkled directions clutched in sweaty fists, four navigators hollering directions to one poor, mussel-poisoned driver. “It says exactly three miles from where the D6 and the N13/E46 intersect, on the left.” “Yeah but I googled it and only saw a farm on the right there. Maybe it’s 3 kilometers.” Maybe it’s on the right.” “Wait! There’s a bunch of trees!” “No, those are elms.” “Okay, we’re at 3 km…nothing here.” “Wait! There it is there it is! On the left! We’re at exactly three miles! There’s an orchard! Here’s a sign!” <with tortured pronounciation…> “Vente de Vieux Calvados A.O.C a la Ferme >>>”

You’re right Ernie, we never would have been brave enough to get out of the car if not for your instructions.

Ramshackle, deserted, and save for THE sign, no sign of Calvados. But then the door opened, a sweet old dog trotted out, followed by a woman in her rubber boots, motioning us in while she changed into her slippers, and the 10 a.m. Calvados tasting ensued. It was everything I remembered and everything our local apple eau de vie is not, though with the weak dollar, it also wasn’t cheap at 30 euro a pop. In non-existent French my sister and I tried to convey the story of who and what brought us to her doorstep: food obsessions, a complete stranger seven states away, Chowhound, Google satellite…. Lord only knows what she understood, though the internet made it through the translation somewhere (her children use the internet, but not she, oh heavens not she).

Madame Calvados

Et voila, the deed was done, handshakes were made, did we want more to drink?, and back out into the light we stumbled. Adventure complete, a fun form to our French wanderings, and now all that’s left is to wait patiently to see if the-little-bottle-that-could finishes its journey intact. Ernie, let me know when it arrives, and we can raise a glass simultaneously on nearly opposite ends of the country. Maybe the old dog at the Calvados farm will prick up his ears, and Mme. and Mssr. Calvados will grow restless in their sleep, dreaming of strolling in an American apple orchard.

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Bernard’s Postcard from Paris

Here’s how it goes in Paris. We remember the sour faces when we were young, and remember the changes after the turmoil of ’68. Those “young” people, now 60, have raised a generation, and what a difference! And then I look at us…returning in our 70s….

QUESTION: What happens in Paris when rain quits, drops stop, puddles dry, and sunshine explodes over the city of light? What happens in Paris when the spirit of winter retires and the spirit of spring arrives smiling and bright?

ANSWER: From nowhere people appear like blossoms on naked branches, from everywhere like green leaves on hibernating trees. In the midst of this fantasy, how to imbue the magic and join the festival of color and dance and extravaganza?

By taking to the streets old man! Bathe in the Paris fountain of everlasting youth, a Shangri-La youth still young at 900 years!
Walk! Walk along Boulevard de Clichy, but don’t stop for a dozen oysters at Wepler’s sidewalk cafe. Continue past the Moulin Rouge toward tawdry Pigalle down the four-lane park dividing cars and buses and raging motorcycles.

Find a street going south toward the center, always the center.
Maybe rue des Martyrs with Montmartre and the mushroomed domes of Sacre Coeur at your back, among mouthwatering, nose-tempting, eye-pealing shops—bright red strawberries neatly arranged in vertical boxes, cheeses of every region, color and odor, meats bold and red or subtly shaped, folded, encased in unidentified membrane, restaurants new and brash of plastic and neon or old and warm with scripted paneling set in shining walnut frames that say history, continuity, tradition.

Or perhaps sur le rue d’Amsterdam, cleaned up since Jacque Brel sang about it at the Gare St. Lazare,

Or turn left on rue Clichy at the corner near our apartment, pass theaters, wine shops, boutiques,

Always heading to l’Opera or Rivoli or the Louvre, Concorde, Tuileries among sun happy crowds walking with a spring or sitting-sipping in cafés released from the cold hold of winter rigor. Infused with heated vigor, the world opens like overenthusiastic tulips, pistils shooting skyward.

And if you’re lucky, pass through passages with exotic ware into tiny squares you’ve never stumbled on: this restaurant, that café or the other bistro tempting you with tongue teasing tidbits.

But you have already stopped for lunch or coffee or beer to see what world passes by when you look.

Later sated, arrive at the river or perhaps Place St. Eustache, at the foot of a monumental church, filled with families sitting on grassy steps watching children kicking balls or just running for the joy of running,

Or a grassy tree-lined confine like Place des Vosges. Having stood in long lines to pick up a falafel in the Marais, spread out now in view of Victor Hugo’s home and not far from the intimate “hotel” filled with work by Picasso.

That’s when you might decide to head home: by bus through the crowded ways you’ve already passed, by speeding through dark tunnels of the Metro, or if your “dogs aren’t barking” you might just rewind the experience on foot.

Because finally, in the end, the heart of Paris for any visitor, is in the character of his sole.

Bernard della Santina
(aka Dad)

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Ernie Diamond’s Bayeux Restaurant Recommendations

Addendum to the Calvados Connection, via email before the trip

DDS: Am I right in thinking (if you know, or have an opinion) that the place to eat in Bayeux is Le Pommier?

E.D.: Le Pommier was very good. I was trying to do the local thing as much as I could so I had the tripes a la mode du Caen there. Fantastic. I must say, though that if you are looking for good food and a quirky setting, Fringale is excellent. It is very casual and rustic in all the right ways. When we were there, the crowd was very small and so the owners spent as much time in the dining room with us as in the kitchens. I had the Andouillettes du Troyes (there are many different kinds of andouillettes) when I was there and won major points for my selection. The owner and I had a very impassioned pantomime conversation in equally broken French and English about andouillettes following the meal.

My meal at La Rapiere was good, very good actually but I didn’t find as many local (read rustic) offerings on the menu as I wanted. I did, however have a slice of foie gras from a terrine that was the inverse of the foie to bread ratio you generally see here; the foie was as big as a piece of texas toast, the bread came in the form of three small dominos. Outrageous.

In order of ambiance, from nicest to casual, it went;

In order of preference, from favorite to least, I may inverse the order. I liked Fringale. I desperately wanted to get to La Table du Terroir but wasn’t able.

If you are looking for provisions in Bayeux, there are two very good charcutiers in town. Just ask around, you can’t go wrong with either. My very first move when I arrived was to buy boudin noir, a bottle of cider and some pommeau (apple juice fortified with calvados). Boudin noir, by the way is very good cold. Oh! Just remembered! You may be able to find jars of babas au calvados, which is babas (little cakes) soaked in a syrup of sugar and calvados (think baba au rhum). These were an absolute treasure. They can be found in those clamp top mason type jars around town, maybe even at the charcutier. Save room for at least one jar as a souviner. I held mine for as long as I could before succumbing to temptation. They are dessert and a stiff shot all in one.

As far as cider, it is for sale everywhere as you might expect and the best kinds are cheap, local and light. If you snoop around, you will probably be able to find farms that sell it for far far less than what it is sold for in the stores and cafes. Not to be too gross here but if you drink solely cider, as I did then your pee will smell like apple skins. :) Don’t kill the messenger! It’s an interesting phenomenon! Cost from local producers might top out at four euro for a 750ml bottle. I paid almost half that for bottles that were still sticky from filling. The good stuff is only 3-4% alcohol, sometimes less so drink up!

(DDS: And so we did. Our favorite was the less sweet Brut, with a seriously funky smell that offset the apple sweetness. Fantastic! We paid about 4 euro a bottle and it was about 5% alcohol.)

On to calvados! The place was DEAD when I arrived. Don’t be put off if there is no one around or things appear closed. When we finally got the attention of someone, he was in the garage and came out covered in grease. I am still unclear if he was the owner or a caretaker or what but he happily let us in, showed us around and poured us samples (of which he took one or two) before selling us a bottle.

I hope you find this helpful. I LOVED my trip to Bayeux. It is a beautiful town in a fantastic setting. The best thing you can do there is get yourself hopelessley lost and then look around for good food. You can’t help but to find it.

— Ernie Diamond

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3/11: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost…

It’s been over for a month. Thirty days exactly since we were last together. 720 hours since our pre-dawn parting. And here I sit, trying to pick up the pieces of my life without you.

Friends beg me to move on. “Get over it already! It wasn’t healthy for you; we all know that.”

I stare at photos of us together…you, all sparkling blue sea, curvaceous hillsides studded with winter-sleeping vineyards, me standing shyly by your side. You again, this time a steaming bowl of mussels, me watching you lovingly, longingly, hungrily.

We were so happy together.

But things change. An ocean…a continent…a language…stretch between us; spring floods your shores with birdsong and bougainvillea, dancing further away as I’m borne back to the Pacific NW on frigid, sleet-bearing winds.

The memories have been warming, but if I’m to move on with life, the magic of meals past must be relegated to an amuse bouche, to make room for an entrée of living in the now.

So I’m opening the drawer and putting them away. Notes about our beloved home-away-from-home, Mas St. Anne, and its spirit guide Roxanne will never get posted. No one will ever learn how she’s spent her life sharing all she has with friends and total strangers alike, landing b1 and b2 in a villa in the late 80s based on an email that began, “Dear friends of Harry and Sharon, I can’t recall your names but understand you may be interested in living rent-free in the South of France for a year….”.

The poetry of my Cotes d’Azur-inspired prose will never see the light of day (and for that let’s all give a silent prayer of thanks): “Red tile roofs clatter up the steep hillsides from the coast….Yellow buds vibrate against brilliant skies, trees hang pregnant with oranges, gnarled olive trees shimmer silver over palm-tree-green; Matisse’s color palette in context, in the flesh.” (Watch for the romance novel in 2018.)

Meals will go unreported, stuck forever as incomplete notations in an unformatted Word document: “Jolly dinner of cheese at the fromagerie in Crest with the self-proclaimed King of Cheese.”… “Amazing lunch of veal crepes in Grignan…how so light & crisp under all that sauce?”… “Disappointing splurge, except for the truffle creme anglaise soup with sliced truffle and foie gras; definite second course front-runner in my all-star dinner lineup.”

And what about all the home cooked dinners we enjoyed? Jackie’s chicken and green olive tagine, Anne-Marie’s slightly Asian and yet-so-French lamb and pineapple stew, b1’s mouthwatering rabbit in white wine, and b2’s succulent veal chops…one of the best things eaten on the trip and definitely my all-star dinner main course pick. And dollar-a-pound Belgian endive?! Everywhere?! Am I to let those memories die along with the notes?

Can the grieving heart find a way to move on? To revel, rather than wallow, in what we had?

Because of this economic train-wreck-thingy you may have heard of in passing, reviewing restaurants on a daily basis, even on that bargain-basement-currency known as the dollar, is out. Besides, this is Portland. Don’t get me wrong, I love Portland. But in a little nephew, ‘aww, isn’t that so super cute, and look how much you’ve grown!’ kind of way, not a, ‘I lust after your lusciousness’ kind of way.


Besides, the playing field is a bit muddier here. It’s nearly impossible to buy veal in this town, and last I checked, the Willamette River wasn’t kicking out many sea urchins. But some of the best foods come from simple beginnings: chicken, eggplant, potatoes… Since I can’t recreate the magic I’ll simply have to find a way to pay homage to our time together. Lame electric stove, New Seasons, Trader Joe’s, here we come.

Fortunately, Bruce the Vinous One has taken care of my first stateside cooking post over at Eat. Think. Drink. I don’t really understand why he can’t just keep doing them but he whines about having a business to run, his own writing, blah blah whatever. For now, he’s captured one attempt to spread the joys of France via a meal of frisée tarragon salad with poached egg, grandma’s chicken in white wine sauce, better-than-grandma’s creme caramel, and a truffle potato appetizer invented as a stand-in for deviled quail eggs (it was envisioned as an all-poultry menu) when An Dong Market stopped carrying the miniature gems. 

As for the future? We’ll see how gracefully I manage to let the afterglow of my mid-winter love affair fade as I try to build something new and tasty with the ingredients at hand. (If that fails, I’m told there’s always an audience for the latest antics of a badly behaved dog.)

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2/24: I’m no frog’s toadie.

p1040155Lest you think me some kind of crazy francophile employed by the French government to usher food-obsessed tourists across their borders, let this post reinstate some credibility.

#1 I had pretty mediocre food here in 2005. Same route (Provence, Cote d’Azur), same budget (not very large). In fact, if it hadn’t been for the lure of free lodging…and lovely friends…I’d have laid bets on not returning to the South of France for a good long while. So what made the difference? I have a few theories:

       a) Frigid temps and no tourists, so the chefs have nothing better to do than stir sauces on/by the fire. Whereas in Fall 05 the air was balmy, the grape crush underway, and speaking of crushes, the recently departed hordes had probably trampled the spirit of the locals.

       b) I have a weakness for winter foods: salty, meaty, stewy, braisy, more comforting than finessed. But the food of Provence isn’t what you’d call sophisticated, so ratatouille, frites and green peppercorn sauce are pretty much a year-round thing. And would I complain about a spring lamb stuffed with spring onions on a bed of spring peas? Never mind, I just talked myself out of theory b.

       c) This set of travel companions wanted to eat one large meal midday, vs the 05 gang who wanted breakfast and then weren’t hungry til dinner. Biologically I prefer the latter, but intellectually I know the former is the way to go when traveling on a budget. Midday eating allows you to take advantage of more courses for a lower price, better prix fixe menus, and frankly, better company in the dining room. There’s something convivial about sharing a buzzing room (or is that sharing a room with a buzz?) with a bunch of daytime frenchies having their midday meal, rather than a hushed night-time restaurant sparsely peopled with other tourists.

       d) Though I don’t travel with picky eaters, it’s still a treat to dive headfirst into platters of the smoked, pickled, raw, internal and bizarre. And no one loves the nasty bits more than b1 and b2. So the compromises were more akin to, “tripe again?”, rather than what to have on the pizza.

#2 reason not to love the south of France? I’ve got two words for you: turkish toilet. Am planning a trip to Turkey next to see if they’re as prevalent there; suspect the Turks are getting a bad rap with what should be named a french toilet.

#3: Telephone showers. Let me get this straight. This is the birthplace of Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve and Jaques Pepin (well he’s glamorous to ME). 80-year-old women still don stockings and heels to go to lunch. The women under 65 all seem to sport long hair, skinny jeans tucked into boots, and an endless variety of Christian’s (project runway) conquistador chic jacket. But to bathe, they crouch in a cold porcelain bowl in an underheated room, using just one hand to lather, scrub and squeeze, while the other hand futily tries to direct a spray of water to the soapy bits and not outside the imaginary boundary of the tub.

Perhaps THAT’s the incentive for staying so thin? After my 5 minutes of bathing bliss my knees are bruised, the toilet paper across the room is soaked, and my bits are still soapy. Get a shower curtain and hang the damn sprayer up, people.

#4 Thinking of the trail of soggy rolls of tp I’ve left behind, not to be all ugly American, but how has Charmin not made inroads in France? Appreciate your enormous rolls of cushiness, because across the pond millions are making do with tiny rolls of pink industrial grade bond paper.

#5 Since it’s too late to reclaim my dignity let’s talk about the language. Do I feel ashamed for coming to their country, accepting their hospitality, and making them speak MY language? Absolutely. And it’s not as if English doesn’t have its share of silent letters (‘neighbor’ and ‘though’), multiple meanings (doe, dough and doh!) and the always pesky ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ distinction. But I slipped back further than ever this trip. Being with so many French speakers wiped away the foggy sense that I had a clue and replaced that with the realization that every “rule” I’d ever learned about French pronunciation has 166 exceptions…and those are the ones you’ll encounter the most frequently. In my shame, I realize I either need to learn the damn language or get moving on that trip to Turkey where expectations are nil. (Plus, having had a Turkish roommate in college, I already have a leg up, knowing that the ‘c’ is pronounced ‘j’. Her favorite movie star growing up? Rojk Hudson.)

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2/7: Quien es mas macho? Battle of the “perfect” French meals.

Marseille brought us La Garbure, “les richesses gastronomiques du Sud-Ouest”…aka duck heaven. But the hills above Nice gave my eyes, nose and stomach the Auberge de Caussols. Adorable? Check! Mouthwatering menu? Check! Bucket of butter? Check! But I’m getting ahead of myself. p1040388

After four hours on the autoroute from Crest we arrive at Mas St. Anne, jump out of our Yaris and into the backseat of an equally tiny car to be driven up (by a former rally car driver) impossibly steep, windy, narrow (“this is for two-way traffic? really are you sure?”) country roads above Grasse, above St. Paul de Vence, and well above the perched village (“I spit on your meager elevation!”) of Gourdon, above the clouds and fog, into the snow and blazing blue skies, past the sledders, the skating rink, the farmhouses, to the wide spot in the road known as Caussols. p1040334An inauspicious building was nested into the snowbank, through whose icicle-hung doors lay a fairyland of food…a warren of warmth…a tempting temple of tastes.

Apparently on Sundays the lines are out the door with families out for a drive, cold and hungry from sledding, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, or like us, uh, from sitting on their butts in a car. But our party of seven was happy to be ushered directly into a cozy room with a blazing fire, an old wooden bar and a few other occupied tables. (CSK: it reminded me slightly of Il Maladroit in the hills above Ravenna.) p1040335

There’s a set menu with three courses of choices for 30 euro, add a fourth course for 45, and possibly even a fifth for another 10…but I can’t remember for sure as the range of choices was too distracting. You know those menus where you can find two apps that sound great but then you struggle with a main dish that calls to you? Or the desserts sound wan and uninspiring? Not so much the case here.

Would it be brandade in a cold mint and olive sauce? pigs feet gribiche (a sauce of chopped capers, cornichons, garlic, olive oil…yum, yum, omg, yum!), a charcuterie platter (jambon cru, mortadella, multiple types of salami…)? Confit du canard, beef cheeks, lamb shank, whole local trout, salmon with sorrel…I’m kicking myself for not retaining the other choices (many) but the seduction started immediately as plates of wood-fire-toasted bread p1040339 with tapenade, vats of home-made pate, and buckets of fresh, sweet butter started covering the table. What? Who ordered these? No one? They’re just part of the fairyland magic? Alrighty then, bring it on!

If more than one person orders a dish it’s served family style, but what you can’t know ahead of time is that whether two, three or four order a dish, such as the roasted, milk-fed lamb, charcuterie, and pork gribiche in our case, they give you enough of each for a party of 12. So in addition to a Christmas-dinner-sized platter of roasted lamb, we had enough cassoulet so laden with duck confit you could barely find the beans, lamb shank in a wine reduced to black syrup, and beef cheek stew (Guy’s cheeks in my shank sauce would have been the penultimate braised dish against which I’d measure all others for eternity, so it’s probably best they were separated) to pass around (much to the bewilderment of our French friends who were by turns amused, disturbed and overwhelmed by the flying plates, forks and camera). And did I mention that, like the pate, they dropped platters of home-made ravioli, roasted potatoes, and transcendent ratatouille on the table for our “side dishes”? Would I be kicked out of the pork club if I admitted that while I succeeded in limiting myself to just one hunk of pate, a half slice of cured meats, and one ravioli, I had seconds (okay perhaps thirds) on ratatouille? (Note to self, get into the kitchen and work on your rendition. Make sure there’s plenty of olive oil on hand.)

Pieds du porc gribiche...for 3.

Pieds du porc gribiche...for 3.

And while the generous servings were cause for hilarity, there was nothing funny about the food. Intense flavors, complex sauces, glowing country-casual presentation…no square, spare, white plates here…and succulent meats (though to b2’s disappointment, the lamb was in the fall-apart-tender roast style, rather than the bright pink of a Sunday gigot d’agneau).

Enough, you say? Cry uncle for god’s sake? To my delight, we didn’t have to make the painful choice between dessert OR cheese. Though I love cheese beyond all reason, at the end of a meal such as this I usually opt out in an effort to stem the flow of salt. But at the Auberge, bless its heart, one doesn’t have to even think about doing the “right thing”, for what’s a French meal without the cheese course? Out comes the cheese, a sensible and wondrous mix of blue, brebis, soft and smelly / hard and tangy, not too much but just what was needed to accompany the remains of our 14 euro bottles of local (really, really local, called “Auberge de Caussols”) red wine.

And then dessert. It was part of the three set courses (remember? this was a three course lunch? Someone in the kitchen has to work on their counting skills). Now let’s be honest. We all know that even in France, dessert on a prix fixe menu can sometimes be uninspiring: a runny creme caramel, a gluey eclair, a soggy tart du pomme (strike that, I only had awesome apple tarts on this trip). Plus, I’ll pick salt over sugar any day of the week, and though this may surprise you? I was pretty much full. But in honor of my p1040363beloved K, at home struggling with single parenthood with le beast-o-wicz, I ordered a simple creme brulee. Like won-ton soup at a chinese restaurant, creme brulee is often my litmus test of a decent french restaurant at home. To me, it’s a pretty clear line between, “this is good” and “yuck”.

But now a new line has been added beyond “good”. WHAT makes it transcendent? Once you’ve hit creamy and delicious with a burnt sugar crust, where else can you go? But on this day, at this place, this little flat bowl (practically crema catalan depth) had the perfect proportions of vanilla that your brain knew was there but your tastebuds couldn’t single out, egg that coated your tongue / mouth / throat / brain but managed not to taste eggy, cream that kept the consistency soft and supple (I know some prefer a firmer custard, but this is MY perfect creme brulee and it was supple, I tell you!). Oh, and b1’s lemon tart, which she ordered after much negotiation with Roxanne and me so we could get a perfect dessert triumvirate was freaking awesome as well. Tart! Bursts of fresh lemon! Another vat of butter…one for the shortbread crust and another for the lemon curd! And Roxanne’s chocolate fondant was perfect as well, though it didn’t set a new bar for any other perfect flourless chocolate cake encased in a thin sheet of bittersweet ganache. (Well, perhaps the fact that it was insanely rich without being very sweet did set a new bar…let me think about that.)

p1040374What more is there to say? We stumbled out into the blinding blue light…wtf? it’s still light out?…stuffed ourselves back into the tiny car which now felt microscopic, wound back down the mountain, and fell about the house in various inelegant angles of repose. Curiously, no one spoke of dinner that night.

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2/5: Toe jam and innards…it’s a good thing.

Went for a country drive through the Drome (with two blind people stuffed into the backseat of our rented Toyota Yaris), the dramatic landscape accented by fast-moving clouds. Fifteen shades of beige, rocky fields with small bunches of new lavender starting to bush out above the furrows, wheat, a few vineyards for Clairette, then fruit trees in the higher plateau, backed by striated cliffs with flat tops, backed further by craggy snow-capped mountains.

p10402631It looked bleak and freezing out and the wind was blowing, but it was strangely warm, having switched from a frigid north wind to something blowing up from Algiers.

As we’ve done throughout most of the trip we had our main meal midday, today in the shadow of the cathedral in Die (pronounced Dee, thankfully). It was a warm and charming place where we’d hoped to meet up with Manouche’s brother, an old hippie, ex-chef/restauranteer, and apparent all-around character.

B2 and Manouche had sweetbreads in a creme fraiche sauce, M. with a side of ubiquitous frites and dad with a beautiful (and massive) plate of veggies: endive, ratatouille, zuke, string beans…. The French don’t share bites and pass plates around, more on that later, and Dad, guarding his personal space like a longtime resident of San Quentin apologized between bites that no one was getting a taste of his (though he was strangely generous with his greens). I was torn between outrage and pleasure that he was enjoying it that much. I love sweetbreads, but like foie gras, I want a taste, or an appetizer, not a full plate. And it’s a sad fact of life in the US that you’re only going to find sweetbreads on the menus of fancy restaurants, not some casual lunchtime place in the shadow of a 16th century church.

A light midday repast of rognons in phyllo and mustard cream.

A light midday repast of rognons in phyllo and mustard cream.

B1 had kidneys (sorry to the faint of heart for our penchant for odd cuts of meat) in a crisp phyllo drenched with an ambrosial mustard cream sauce, and I the full menu for a mere 13 euro: dressed frisee topped with a poached egg wrapped in an eggy crepe (I’ve decided everything is better with a poached egg); chicken leg and thigh in a half french (creme fraiche and butter) half morrocan (bitter lemon and cumin) sauce that was utterly unique to my tastebuds, overcooked but tasty zucchini, so-so apple / pear tart, and a personal pitcher (two glasses) of ridiculously good vin rouge du maison.

I swear most days we only eat one meal a day…though I’m still managing to feel sausaged into my baggy jeans. With my heart out so much and the b’s inability to walk much, this has definitely been a most sedentary trip. Even by my standards.

Afterwards, for a bit of exercise (heh) we went to a caveau to taste and buy their local specialty, Clairette du Die. By chance, the caveau we selected had a petite musee complete with 70’s store mannequins dressed in peasant garb attending to the various stages of growing, bottling and consuming the local sparkling wine. Usually fairly sweet (my preference) from being mixed with Muscat grapes, the Clairette Brut alone was surprisingly good…toe jammy and just how b2 likes his champagne.

Blasting from the motion-detection speakers, in what Manouche cackled was a heavy local accent, long-sideburned, lifesized Malibu Ken #1 bellows: “Beh…I am the bottler. Without me there would BE no wine!” “But without me,” says the pinafored peasant woman, “no one would get any work done!” So true, but so hard to take seriously with her bright blue eyeshadow and Farrah Fawcett hair.

As in Vacqueyras, tasting was free and copious, and the bottles were all under 7.50 e.

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2/4: “When I play zee flute I open zee eyes very vide to ear the full music bien!”

She’s got chimes in the halls between the bedroom and kitchen, bathroom and office, that tinkle as she brushes past. Though blind for the past 30 years, brilliant paintings cover the white walls, books are stacked on the tables and every surface in Manouche’s (born Louisette, dubbed Countess Manouch by fellow students at the Paris blind rehab center where b1 met her) home holds treasures and oddities. 

Quite the contrast to Mireille, our angry OCD “hostess” in Marseille! But you take what life hands you, including your genetic disposition.

So what if, after two years in the hospital you come home (without any eyes) to find your husband has moved his mistress into your house, with your three young kids…and won’t move her out? Or if he then takes you to court to contest the insurance settlement because he “obviously” suffered more than she from the effects of the accident? Well look who’s gone and who’s still living life to the fullest.

Puffin' the hooch.

Puffin' the hooch.

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1/30: What? Enough of family observations? Get back to the food, you say?

p1030783Scrumptious dinner with Pierre et Baby pronounced “Bahbee” so not quite as obnoxious as it appears in print), b2’s second cousin on Grandma’s side, after an exhausting day of sightseeing. SW french food from the Toulouse region, so specializing in all things duck: confit du canard, magret du canard, smoked proscuitto-like cured canard, gizzard of canard and of course, the liver of canard, the king of the innards, foie gras. (Balfour, stop reading right here, though I choose to believe these are gently and humanely raised giant-livered happy geese.) We climbed down a steep spiral staircase into a whitewashed cave with a very low stone ceiling (note to Bruce, Skip and other tall persons…duck! ar ar ar) lit unfortunately with 100 watt bulbs.

The gratis glasses of chilled, late-harvest muscat (gorgeously floral and syrupy with enough acid to keep it clean in the back of your throat) helped to mellow the wattage and illuminate instead how cozy and charming the two small rooms were. The women were handed menus without prices…whaaaa?! Is this cave a magical world that just transported me five decades into the past? Disturbing. Bizarre.

Peering over b2’s shoulder I received another shock…at the reasonable prices. (Hmm, maybe we have been transported to a few years past.)

Our hosts, who have a combined weight of 120 dripping wet, each ordered an entree and plat, whereas b, b2 & I split their special app of the day, brouillade: eggs whipped with truffle. A gray color with the consistency of gluey oatmeal and little truffle flavor that I could detect—though studded generously with flecks and shavings—it was strangely delicious. Though I was a wee bit jealous of Baby’s dinner-sized plate of dressed frisee, loaded with thin slices of cured duck and four large rolls of chevre fried till crisp, then drizzled with honey while hot, creating a chewy, sweet crust. Oh la la. I’ll be trying that one at home, though recreating that texture isn’t going to be possible. Pierre’s gizzard salad really was delicious…but it too was generous to a fault, which is perhaps a tiny bit of a fault when one is talking gizzard salad.

The tasty bowl of truffle goup was followed, por moi, with fresh pasta dressed simply in butter, topped with a couple of slices of light-as-air fried foie gras and ringed by prime-rib-rare and tender slices of duck…heaven on earth in every bite.  



b1 made it through half of her duck rolled in pate in turn rolled in a French phyllo, lightly sauced with a rich cream and jus reduction. You could have replaced the center duck with a napkin and it would have been delicious. b2 ducked the trend and had veal kidneys…with foie gras…and like the gizzards it was delicious but a bit too kidney-esque for my tastes. Baby continued the duck fest with a duck scallopini topped with morels in cream sauce (I believe there was a slice or three of foie gras tucked in amongst the bounty), and Pierre had their special of the day, magret with curry and pears. Curry seems to have taken southern France by storm – Jill take note. 

Dessert ended with b1 and me splitting an apple crepe “purse” in caramel sauce, pear sorbet floating in a glass of poire william for Baby, and b2 and Pierre quickly regretted the insane decadence of their preneaux glace (whoever heard of a too-creamy ice cream, but there you have it) drenched in Armagnac, poured over the ice cream at the table from a magnum, yes a magnum, of aged Armagnac.

Armagnac action shot.

Armagnac action shot.

With a bottle of 05 St. Emillon, out the door for $45 per person? Ridiculous. And happy. Oh, and the day in Marseille? Fantastic. But more on that in another post…maybe…..

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1/29 continued, La Bagatelle Baggage: “Ecoutez moi bien!”

La Bagatelle, the ancestral Marseille home well-loved by great great Uncle Louis and Aunt Marie.

La Bagatelle, the ancestral Marseille home well-loved by great great Uncle Louis and Aunt Marie.

So we find freeload pad #2 without much trouble…it’s on the edge of Marseille (huge! sprawling! dramatic!) that we’re entering, and we’re pretty mellow from our morning in Cassis and the sea urchin find. We park on the street, awaiting 3rd cousin Mireille, whom I’ve been forewarned is, um…how to put it…a bit high strung. 10 minutes later up zips a new bug and out jumps an attractive 50-something, and b2 goes out to greet her, arms outstretched for the customary 4-kiss reserved for family. The woman immediately launches into an impassioned diatribe, arms waving, voice rising and b2’s expression changes from a big smile…to a chuckle…to chagrin…to bewilderment, as he gives up trying to give her a kiss / hug / handshake / back pat. He puts up with 10 minutes of finger wagging before I get out of the car to see if my presence will break the monologue; it doesn’t even slow it down. Five minutes more and b1 gets out of the car. She doesn’t wait, but instead (in French) says, “Hey! How come we’re standing out in the street? Are you going to let us in or what?” Twenty minutes of rapid-fire and impassioned French pass before we even make it through the gate, up the driveway, and another 10 to get through the front door.

Apparently the vitriol has to do with sibling, parental and life resentments triggered by the channels by which b2 had asked for use of the house. Fortunately only a little of it directly involved us, (“N’est pas provoke moi, Bernard!”) but our appearance caused their unfortunate and unsettling exposure to daylight. The first 30 minutes were intriguing to piece together (understanding every seventh word), the second 30 minutes were like a scene from a movie. I kept thinking, “someone should be getting this woman on film.” Her gestures and repetitive tics (flick hair, pull up bra strap, pick at collar, pull down sweater in the back, repeat, repeat, repeat) made for a fascinating and disturbing study.

The third 30 minutes I was ready to get a hotel.

It would be a mistake to say she ever simmered down, but somehow we managed to get her out the door. Thankfully she was too distraught to join us for dinner as originally planned, but they made a date for lunch the next day. Hmmm, my datebook looks AWFULLY full.

Though the b’s have been here many times it’s usually family-oriented, so I was happy to lead them into a hopping maze of streets called the Noailles, populated by an eclectic ethnic mix.

Noailles daily market.

Noailles daily market.

Dusk was settling and the streets were teeming with produce sellers, doner kebab stands, patisseries, middle eastern bakeries and a 3-block long outdoor market that ended in a jam-packed market square. The gloriously grimy cobbled streets pulsed with energy and life. Beach towns and medieval villages are nice, but THIS is 7th heaven! (She says, til the next painfully cute harbor or impossibly narrow alleyway framing a lacy bell tower.) p10307622

Feeling smug with my success as a tour-guide, I played King Solomon and solved the dining dispute with a progressive dinner, starting with a shared platter of raw seafood (6 oysters, 6 clams, 6 mussels, 6 limpits, 3 shrimp and 3 large, round, flat, fluted somethings..cockles? my hands-down favorite), carafe of wine, bread, butter and 3 dipping sauces for 24 euro (insane!). Then after a political discussion with a fishmonger on the corner just outside of Toinou Coquillages, it was around the corner for a wood-fired pizza, salad and a wee bit more vin.

Nearly every day someone asks where we’re from, and when we say the U.S. they either shout “Yes we can!” or ask us how we feel about Obama. This fish monger not only knew about Obama but he had an opinion of Cheney, theories on our economic crisis, and updated us on Tom Daschle’s scandal. It’s astounding.

Jesus. This was the longest day of my life.

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1/29: Moving Day. “Where’s the pastis? Didn’t you pack the pastis? Oh my god we left the pastis.”

After days where the simple act of showering or getting gas filled us with a sense of accomplishment, we were ill prepared to hit the road. But by 11 b1 was stuffed into the back seat of our rented Yaris , along with the half of the luggage that didn’t fit in the hatchback, and off we chugged along the coast west to Marseille. Stopped in Cassis for an early lunch: jambon cru, cheese and a baguette from the open market. After a week of seaside towns, some cute (Bandol) some ugly (Six Fours) and some bustling (Toulon) I thought myself immune, or at least hardened, but nope. A-d-o-r-a-b-l-e little port…like the Mini Coupe of seaside towns.

The sun was warm so we had a pick-me-up coffee quay-side along all the French vacationers having their pre-lunch pastis or chilled bottle of rose. The man from our neighboring table deserted his companion for at least ten minutes, returning with a platter of glistening something…but what? As he set it on a tall wire stand I counted 15 raw sea urchins on the half shell. So THAT’s what those guys are selling from that table by that boat! Recently back in rhythm I wanted to limit my salt, but what kind of loser traveler would let that experience pass me by? So we had one apiece, scooping the insides out with our remaining baguette and tossing the spent shell into the water.

Spiny, briny bounty.

Spiny, briny bounty.

Then on to the big city and La Bagatelle, the now empty family home of my third cousin. The “cottage” sits just off the Corniche, a spectacular batch of coast (in the Guinness book of world records as the world’s longest beach, apprently) that changes from deserted cliffs to mansions and on into teeming, sprawling Marseille. Four blocks from the beach, one block off a major thoroughfare lined with grand houses, behind a large HSBC bank, and behind a low wall with a crotchety security gate sits a rustic country home. It’s a disconcerting juxtaposition and amazing location, though not without its price in family drama. Oooo…fodder for the next post

Mansions along the Marseille Corniche.

Mansions along the Marseille Corniche.

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1/28: Consider What Can be Gathered in a Glance

Had a breakfast of Jambon de Bayonne (French prosciutto) and bread outside in the hot sun of the veranda and read guidebooks about Marseille. It will be nice to have Dad at the wheel in that big, confusing city. Heart’s out, so I guess the salt / fat / caffeine diet isn’t so miraculous after all…had hoped I was on to something.

Took an afternoon drive to the intriguingly named Olliouilles, which we drive by daily on our errands, and after driving through that adorable town, a wrong turn wound us up a different gorge than planned. Ended up in a seeming ghost village Evenos, one of those gray, lichen- stone-covered (streets, buildings, walls, terracing) villages with stunning views, a dilapidated fortress, and our own spaniel guide dog. He’d run to us panting, dash off down an alley and come back five minutes later to see if we were still following. Through the streets, around a narrow path along the sheer cliff face, through the ruins, back into “town” where the only other living thing we saw was a restaurant patio full of chickens and geese. They seemed to be on good terms with each other…maybe they run the town? Like an Orwell story come to life. (Adorable photos either lost or locked in K’s camera, whose batteries have given up the ghost.

The sea is beautiful but honestly if you’ve seen one port you’ve seen most all, and we’re nothing if not port rich here. Give me a perched village any day.

Us, driving through a tunnel. No a culvert. No, maybe a tunnel...
Us, driving through a tunnel.
No a culvert.
No, maybe a tunnel…

A Parental Vignette

B1: Run the dishwasher.
B2: Okay.
B1: Is the dishwasher running?
B2: Yeah.
B1: It’s so quiet, are you sure it’s running?
D: Yeah, it’s running.

3 hours later…

B2: Oh my god, I never ran the dishwasher.
D: Yes you did.
B2: I think I set it up but never pushed the button.
B1: I knew it was too quiet!
B2: I’ll run it now.

Runs dishwasher. Very quiet. Exactly like the first time it got run.

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1/24: Letting the Frog Legs get the Better of Us

Cancelled our visit to “the big city” of Toulon (pop 170,000) to await the electrician after blowing up the stove while boiling eggs. Have I mentioned the technological black hole in which we live? It’s pouring rain with gale force winds outside so no one minds, but we’re becoming shut-ins. Looked for a local internet cafe or “le wee-fee,” and read The Tipping Point. Can’t stand that Giuliani’s team was right and that washing the graffiti off the subways in the 90s dramatically helped NY’s crime. But political affiliation aside, what an amazing thing.

Also couldn’t identify my “type”…neither a: maven, trendsetter, connector, nor may I be salesman. (Yes, it’s all about me.) As a job seeker in search of an identity was seriously hoping for some career-defining inspiration.

The rain-drenched view

For sustenance we raided the pantry and opened a bag of 70 individually frozen and wrapped miniature frog’s legs, garlicked, dredged and fried them up. Eh. A little weird, like eating fillet of sole.

With a pelvis.

And flippers. (Yes, I have a photo but I’m sparing you.)

Thank heavens for the marinated string bean salad (with stove-breaking boiled eggs…quelle forte!) and the cheese, toujours le cheese.

Decent movie library here so we’re working our way though Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Gosford Park, Bagdad Cafe, etc. I’ve seen them all before but since I have to describe them to b1, it’s just as well. Have you SEEN Gosford Park? “Okay now it’s the servant Parks who goes by the name of Stockbridge downstairs because that’s his master’s name, who’s really the bastard son of the lord and the housekeeper, who’s sister to the cook. And that’s the mean guy married to the poor woman who always wears the same dress but I have no idea how they’re related to anyone or why they’re there. With me so far?”

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1/23: A Gambol to Bandol


Had the worst croissant ever today and a below average coffee after the waterfront market in our village, but the place had character at least. Should have followed my instinct and ordered a plate of coucroute (sauerkraut, sausage, ham, hocks, more sausage, etc.) from one of the TWO market carts. At 9 a.m.  In a market with fewer than 20 stalls. (note the bay and bobbing boats behind them. painfully picturesque!)

After going out of rhythm in the middle of the night I’m hoping a steady diet of espresso and pork fat will get my heart back on track.

We met French friends back in Bandol for lunch at a waterfront restaurant (decor: Jetsons meets the America’s Cup). This time the moules were excellent (though I had the risotto, also excellent.), and served in the cutest pots with deep lids for the cast-off shells. I’ll bet I could find them at Carrefour, but schlepping them home…oy. Tarte tatin with caramel on a puff crust, and orange tart on a shortbread crust were included for 15e. And another bottle of excellent Bandol Rose. Then a promenade and an espresso, and a few wrong turns home for a nap.

Dinner was a snack of charcuterie and pastis at home, followed by a crepe-off: banana and chocolate by b1 (eh…try again with home-made chocolate sauce…) and lemon, butter and sugar from me. We each think we won………

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1/22: A Technological Canard


“Our” villa in Brusc is about a kilometer from the sea, and the open floorplan, well-stocked kitchen, giant pool (covered now), cat, lemon tree heavy with fruit, and outdoor built-in bbq fireplace makes me wish it was summer and that the cooking gang was here. It’s pretty perfect as long as you’re not trying to get any sort of internet connection. Or change the channel on the TV. We’re all having our separate tech issues: b1 with her hand-held “Brailleberry” that’s supposed to connect her to the internet, read her books, and be a notebook and calendar. b2 with the house computer, which he needs to consult with Rinpoche in Indiana and the editor in New York for their book that’s on deadline. Literally 12 minutes to boot up. About 7 minutes to connect. 45% of the time this crashes everything and you have to start over. b2’s gotten good about walking away while it does its thing (good buddhist practice), but if he gets wrapped up in a TV program in the meantime (oops, just blew the image of him meditating), he has to start the whole dance over again because after about an hour everything jams up and needs to be rebooted.

And me, trying to get connected to French internet so I can use my own laptop and avoid the horror….quelle disastre! Fuggedaboudit. I think I’ve managed to purge the 37 MB of French CDs I loaded fruitlessly and I’m praying our host doesn’t return to exhorbitant internet bills. Well, clicking on the thing that kind of sounded like, “are you willing to enjoy payments by the minutes?” was the only way to keep me moving forward, at one point…Who knows what I agreed to? As tech incompetent as I am in English, following instructions in French was quite the adventure.

So I’m working to change my expectation and “goals” of these first ten days. I’m tapping Havi!


We set aside our frustrations and jaunted to the top of “our” mountain to check out one of the six fortresses which gives Six Fours les Plages its name, then on to the supermarket to stock up on headcheese, wine and other staples, including a huge-ass can of cassoulet (vs the big-ass tin of confit du canard), to which we’d add to our own beans. That all punctuated by a long and loud debate about the relative merits of different brands: how big will the chunks of duck be? How much will we get? Remember the time we got that brand and the meat was microscopic? Oh but then the last time, what brand was that? It had tons of duck. I think it was from ___________. The best comes from ________. Let’s get the one from __________. But do we want cassoulet or just the confit?

The French canned food aisle has me mesmerized. Instead of Chef Boyardee and Dennisons, there are rows and rows of tinned foie gras, confit (of course), and tripe stew. Six different brands of that at last count.

Up til now b1 & b2 have been working their way through the prepared foods the stores have to offer. Instead of General Tsao’s Chicken and mac ‘n cheese it’s been Boullabaise, poulet au provencal and tripe. But tonight I cooked a bourguignon with mushrooms so I could use the host’s glorious blaze orange le Crueset.

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Tuesday 1/20: “Get me gunpowder, and all the empty champagne bottles you can find!”*

Long but easy day flying. PDX to Minneapolis was packed, cramped and miserable, but a quick jaunt to a faraway gate landed me in a spacious seat to Amsterdam. A trashy novel, plenty of snacks and a good movie (The Duchess…Ralph Fiennes in a supporting role with a large dose of his usual grimness but this time with some beautifully underplayed humor) made short work of a ten-hour flight. 

Three long hours in a cold Amsterdam airport, where the sun didn’t rise until after 9, then a short hop (and my first nap) through the clouds to a chilly but blue Marseille. Customs was nonexistent, and 15 minutes after landing we were in b & b’s awaiting car getting lost (not) navigating the roundabouts through Marseille. But an hour later we tucked into a weirdly floury moules frites and an excellent Bandol Rosé in, where else? Bandol, about 20 minutes from “our town.”

The Boules players on the waterfront court outside our heated pavilion window.

As I downed my third glass of wine I realized, “hey! my heart’s back in rhythm for the first time in 3 days!” 

Home sweet home for the next week.

There seems to be a to-do all over tv over some new leader of the free world. B2’s been flipping between BBC and CNN for the past few hours which have covered it live, moment by moment. I’m thinking bed sounds better than watching the parade, but can I sleep with such a recent vision of Cheney in that wheelchair with his black leather gloves? “Mwa ha ha ha!” echoes through my brain.

*Overheard on a western, as b1 was flipping channels.

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