Monday, August 31, 2009

a gastro guide en france

my favorite part of traveling somewhere unfamiliar is always the gastronomic experience - its an adventure in itself, sometimes simply ordering can prove unfamiliar and strange, but with out a doubt it is always memorable - i managed to buy a a few ounces of black peppercorns from this spice merchant tucked away in the cool streets of this old seaside town - now every time i make a dish using black pepper i will instantly be transported back to this moment in time! i love the way a smell has the ability to do that -

i also bought a few kinds of these olives to accompany lunch one day - i ended up with some of the bright green ones - which had a fresh almost lemony flavor and soft texture and a firmer olive which was infused with a bit of spice from some chillies - they were just as tasty as they look! i wish there was one of these stands in san francisco -

one of they days i spent in Chapsal there was - thank my lucky stars a french street food festival in honor or what else? cheese!! blue cheese to be exact, a blue specific to that region in france and so so so tasty - of course while the blue was the bell of the ball what would a street food festival be with out bread! unfortunately this baker asked me not to take pictures after i snapped this one below - which is to bad he has some mouth watering offerings. of course he did make it up to me buy offering a huge hunk of blueberry sweet bread - a truce to be sure

making blue cheese crepes - to die for!

this little guy was there too - dont worry he wasnt with the street food vendors - he was simply there to look cute and get his picture taken - i just had to put him up for you to fawn over - i was glad to see that even french donkey moms give their kids bowl cuts! - but seriously isnt your heart melting right now

to die for and these are some of the yummy treats that we prepared for out lunches and breakfasts out of all of the good things we were able to find in the french markets - i miss it already - though with out it i will remain able to fit in my pants which is a good thing

moving to the country II - le petite maison

happy monday everyone! today i have some more of the gorgeous interiors from a country home in france - in may ways this space is exactly what you would expect to find in a small village in the heart of french farmland - but further exploration reveals that this house has a lovely balance between the expected and the unexpected - between traditional/classic farmhouse decor and a totally modern sensibility! - i hope that you are able to find inspiration and comfort as you view this post, as thats what i experienced while in this space.

hey - anyone else think that that metal basket looking thing hanging closest in the photo is for eggs - turns out its not - its for washing and shaking out lettuce - who knew?!!!

one thing i particularly love is that the wood in the house has many different depths of color and texture. i normally don't fall for light wood, but in this case i think it brings a sense of modern rustic to the space - and another interesting thing about this wood im told is that it never really ages - it is not treated or stained to look like this, but it retains a light fresh milled look to it - very unusual dont you think?

i always love sleigh beds and this one is incredibly beautiful but at the same time its absolutely a piece that i expect to see in a farmhouse - the leggy furniture paired with a a sleigh bed helps to take some of the heaviness out of the piece. and the two tables paired with the ladder back chairs seem to fit together so effortlessly - which is actually exactly the phrase i would use to describe this entire space- effortless, timeless and beautiful.

how amazing is this table - it anchors the center of this very open floor plan and is beautiful just as a focal point - not even considering the kicking dinner parties you could have tucked away up here - dining on wine, cheese and rabbit pate

love love love this old metal tub - which now stores extra linens and pillows for the house - an the open case clock hanging casually on the wall behind it - i usually find clocks like this pretty stuffy but this one is so cool looking - ill be keeping my eye out for something similar i have a great spot in my apt for one!

hummm... doesnt this bottle lamp look familiar - looks like it was just as stylish 30 years ago!

im a total sucker for impromptu still lifes! the light here was just too good to pass up!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

fruits of labor: fennel, orange and beet salad

a little break from the france posts for a minute - i served this salad with delicate fillets of sole and fresh ears of corn for a nice bright summers dinner -
i love this salad its so light and refreshing but still has intense flavor combinations - the bright citrus from the orange the snappy licorice flavor from the fennel and the deep earthy flavor of the beets.
i prefer to roast my own beets, its easy and i think it intensifies and caramelizes the sugars in the beets exposing the rustic flavors of this root vegetable that makes it so wonderful -

serves 6
for this recipe you will need:

12-14 medium sized beets (if you don't want to roast the beets you can use 3 cans of whole baby beets drained)

4 medium or fist sized oranges plus the zest of one orange

1 large fennel bulb

3 tbsp of orange muscat champagne vinegar (trader joes has a great one)

1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar

3/4 of a small red onion

olive oil
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 400.
begin by roasting the beets - remove beets from greens and scrub the outsides. then cut each beet in half and place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. i like to leave a bit of the stems and a bit of the tip on - it makes removing the skin after roasting a bit easier - see photo below - drizzle the beets with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper - toss to make sure beets are well coated and that the cut side of each is against the foil - place in the oven and roast approx. 40 minutes or until you can insert a fork all the way through the beet.

while the beets are roasting - add the zest of one orange into the bottom of a larger bowl - then cut and section each of the four oranges - the easiest way to do this is to straight cut off the top and bottom of each orange, then in a curved motion cut from top to bottom of the orange with a knife to just remove skin and pith. then over the bowl - insert knife on the inside of each section and cut toward the center when you reach the center pivot the knife to cut back out toward you on the inside of the opposite section. if you are not sure what i mean there are some videos on youtube that can help. once you have removed all of the sections squeeze the juice from the discarded part over the bowl. do this for each of the four oranges. when you have finished slice the fennel bulb into approx. half inch slices then quarter each of those slices so that you have more manageable pieces and add them to the orange sections and juice. then mince 3/4 or a small red onion and add it to the bowl - after doing this add the 3 tbsp of orange champagne vinegar and and a good pinch of salt, stir and let macerate together while the beets continue to roast.

when the beets are tender remove from the oven and let stand until they are just cool enough to handle (if they cool for too long you will have a hard time removing the skin) - here is why i leave the tip and a bit of the tops on the beet - with a knife cut slice off the tip and the top you should be able to slide your knife tip or finger under the skin and peel it back - repeat this for all of the beets - then cut into large chunks and add to the bowl with the orange, fennel and onion. when you have finished peeling and cutting the beets add the remaining 1/2 tsp of red vine vinegar, and approx 1/2 a tsp of salt and pepper to the bowl - stir together. At the very end drizzle the whole salad with 1 tbsp of good olive oil and stir to combine - chill for approx. 1 hour or up to a day ahead and serve. it is also excellent served with a round of fried goat cheese on top!

Friday, August 28, 2009

moving to the country - chapsal france

have you ever had the experience of going to a place you've never been before and feeling really and truly like its home? that was my experience in this little country village buried deep in the heart of france, this village of chapsal, in this house of julliard - right at home, and from the pictures below you'll probably see why!

this house is at least 300 years old but it has belonged to the family of my friend for so long that no one really has any idea when exactly it was built - but they do know that at least 8 generations have been on this ground - how romantic is that! there is the big house, and the one i will be focusing on in this post, but there are also multiple out-buildings including a bread oven and the petite maison (little house, where my friends 93 yo aunt lives) and another house in the middle of construction (an old structure with a new roof and guts).

a giant fire place that dominate the first floor - its so big that there are actually chairs inside where you can sit! its so cozy and you would also imagine a necessity in a house this old in a climate that gets snow at in the winter - cant you just picture all the gatherings, activities, dinner parties that would take place in front of this magnificent focal point! and the paneling around it just to give it a bit of added rustic detail -

i tried really hard to get a picture of the fabulously modern light fixture that seems more than at home in its rustic setting - its sooooo great - mounted on the corner of the colossal bookshelf it provides lighting for the living room and eating nook- note the totally great and untraditional use of fabrics on the furniture too! i love it - its sleek and super chic and manages to tie everything together - just the way the mod. chairs did at the beach house - im working to find out the designer of this lamp - ill keep you updated on what i find out - an im so sorry i couldnt get a better picture - but maybe ill find a great product shot somewhere instead -
and how amazing are the benches at the old farm table - all smooth and shined from years and years of bums sitting there! i think this table and benches were my favorite part of any of the houses - its totally what i want for my kitchen someday!!

the bread oven - which was used a few weekends before for a bread festival in the village - imagine all the loves of bread made in here - its huge inside and would make any us wood-fired pizza place so jealous!
below i just included a few shots of the outside of the house and grounds around it - and the neighbor anthoni and his pooch bandi!!