August 8, 2011

Provencal Cooking in the Var

Provencal Cooking in the Var

Nutmeg is a bit embarrassed to admit that after many months in France, they have barely explored all of Provence.  The departments within Provence are all beautiful and vastly different. The departments include Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var and Vaucluse. So much to visit! Clearly a break from their holiday was in order!!  Nutmeg booked two nights in a lovely chambre d’hotes (B&B) called Les Quatre Saisons near the village of le Castellet, in the Var.  Le Castellet is a medieval village dating from 1153. It is a fairly well preserved town on a hill, so there are magnificent views from the top.  The town buildings are highly picturesque. Les Quatre Saisons is easily accessible from the major regional centres, and it is a true oasis. The weather was smoking-hot, reaching 32C under cloudless skies. Patrice cool, calm and well practised in the kitchen. He and his partner Didier ran a small Parisian bistro for nine years and then a restaurant on the coast for a few more. The twosome are both originally from northern France, they are now fully integrated southerners.  They embrace the use of local, seasonal ingredients and where practical focus on organic (bio) products.  When Ginger and Nutmeg arrived peaches, apricots and lavender were all in season.  After a delicious breakfast with homemade jams, seasonal fruit compotes, fresh bread and hot coffee, they were ready for a cooking lesson. Patrice and Didier have created a delightful home and a welcoming resort for guests.  This pair has it figured out, each one plays their preferred role in the “ballet” of running a successful chambre d’hotes.  Didier takes care of the rooms, his attention to detail shows in the heavenly bed linens, private balconies, discrete breakfast tables and tasteful decor.  Patrice’s domain is la cuisine. The cooking lesson involved preparing all the courses for that night’s dinner. Following the cooking class, Nutmeg suggested it might be a marvellous idea to visit the beach and attempt to cool down a bit.  The coast is beautiful and not yet too crowded in June. The evening meal was excellent from start to finish. There is no way to choose a favourite dish but given the fact that peaches were in season Nutmeg would like to share this remarkably easy recipe for Tiramisu aux Peches. Print Tiramisu aux Peches Recipe type: Dessert Cuisine: French Prep time:  10 mins Cook time:  15 mins Total time:  25 mins Serves: 8   This desert is super easy, you can use what ever fruit is in season. Enjoy! Ingredients 12 Ripe Peaches, washed, pitted and cut in quarters 3 Large Eggs ¾ Cup White Sugar 1 Container (500ml) = 2 Cups Mascarpone 8 Large Lady Finger Biscuits, or equivalent 2 cups Mixed juice of peach, orange and a bit of thyme liqueur 1 Cup Honey Instructions In a heavy sauce pan cook the peaches and honey on the stove top Once the peaches start to ooze liquid, cover and lower the heat In total, cook for about 15 minutes until the peaches are soft and the skin can be easily removed Prepare the topping by separating the egg yolks from the whites With a mixed blend the whites until firm By hand in a separate bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar and mascarpone together until well blended Gently fold the egg whites into the above mixture In a bowl soak the biscuits in the juice and liqueur blend for 2-3 minutes Place the biscuits in the serving dishes (drain the juice) Top with the cooked peaches Finally the mascarpone egg mixture on the top Place in the fridge until ready to serve 3.2.2499   Ginger and Nutmeg had a lovely time exploring the Var.  The beaches, the hilltop towns, beautiful vineyards and most of all Patrice’s cooking!

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August 1, 2011

Monaco Grand Prix Amber Is The Lounge

Monaco Grand Prix Amber Is The Lounge

Twenty-three Formula One (F1) cars, 800 horsepower V-8 engines spooling, it’s the start of the Monaco Grand Prix (GP). Deafening! Full ear protection is essential. Within the confines of the city of Monte Carlo, the towering hills a natural amphitheatre, magnify the sound of the race circuit. The idiosyncrasies of the Monaco GP circuit truly test drivers’ skills. Cars come to a virtual standstill on some hairpin corners, head through a tunnel and then accelerate to breakneck speeds on the straightaways. If a F1 race were to be proposed in Monaco today, it would be considered unsafe. Former world champion driver Nelson Piquet described driving in Monaco as, “like trying to cycle round your living room.” Click here to watch Ginger’s video. In Monaco, track corners have their own names, such as Tabac, Louis Chiron, and Piscine. Many car aficionados only know the course by the names of the corners. Torrid action usually takes place at Sainte Devote, the turn located before the long uphill straightaway towards the Casino. This corner is named after the small church dedicated to a Christian martyr from the 4th century, whose treasured bones and thought to have protected the Monegasque locals from invasion for centuries. Not surprising given Ginger’s passion for speed that his “ European Top 10” list included a F1 race. He has had the thrill of flying above Mach 1 and has surpassed the speed limit in one sporty German automobile. Like most boys, he once envisioned driving a race car and reveling in the thrill of victory. Race car driving was not Ginger’s destiny. The next best thing was to witness a classic F1 car race, like Monaco.  Nutmeg felt auto racing was best included in the category of male bonding. Ginger needed a suitably minded playmate for this event. Who better than his brother-in-law Truffle? (more…)

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July 25, 2011

The Real Bouillabaisse of Marseille

The Real Bouillabaisse of Marseille

Ginger and Nutmeg had been on the road for 12 days travelling to Italian cities and ski resorts. They arrived back in Aix en Provence after a 9+ hour drive, and it took a full day to get through the laundry, pick up Jade from the “doggie spa” and buy some groceries.  It was at some point that day, that they noticed a text message from Truffle – he was just a few kilometers away. His planned high-mountain ski randonnée in Corsica had been cancelled due to awful conditions.  The great news is Truffle was in town and could come for dinner, the bad news: what do you serve a guy who makes foie gras and magret de canard for regular pre-dinner snacks? Dinner was fine, the wine and company much better. Nutmeg decided to make that up the next day by suggesting a little lunchtime trip to Marseille to sample “charter” Bouillabaisse, at a restaurant at the Vieux-Port in Marseille. Bouillabaisse is essentially a seafood soup, with origins as a typical fisherman’s meal.  The humble soup has evolved, and the dish now should include choice pieces of fish and sometimes crustaceans. With a pride of “ownership” and desire to standardize the ingredients, the preparation, and the service eleven (11) of the top chefs in Marseille created the Bouillabaisse Charter in 1980. (more…)

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July 18, 2011

The Faces of Genoa Italy

The Faces of Genoa Italy

The coastal city of Genoa (Genova in Italian) was Ginger and Nutmeg’s first overnight stop en-route to the Carnevale di Venezia and the Italian ski resorts.  It was a logical stop as it allowed for a just the right amount of time in the car (not too much, not too little). Genoa is the Ligurian port city where Columbus was born in 1451.  The current city and surrounding area encompasses a population of just over 1.4 million.  The historical city was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006.  Genoa is home to the Bank of Saint George, one of the world’s oldest institutions, and it continues to hold a strong place in the Italian economy today. Ginger and Nutmeg stayed at the Bentley Hotel in Genoa.  This hotel is really beautifully appointed, however has little classic Italian, Mediterranean or European charm.  The hotel could be found in any major centre globally – it was lovely and the bathroom did NOT include the dreaded Euro shower.  Setting out on foot from the hotel to the historic district is an easy walk, although involves a long set of stairs as the hotel is located on an upper ridge of the city. Genoa as a port city is well situated and organized for cruise ship traffic.  Many of the key attractions are found just along the waterfront including; the aquarium, the museum of the Antarctica, museum of science and technology for kids. The city tourist bureau has a large map (font and size) and an excellent web site available to visitors.  Nutmeg’s advice – get away from the very touristy port as one should not miss Genoa’s Via Garibaldi and the Palazzi dei Rolli.  These 16th and 17th century buildings were residences of the powerful families who were highly involved in the financial and sea based trade of the time.  For the most part these multistory palaces have been beautifully restored and are generally open to the public for viewing the open staircases, loggias and sculpted gardens.  Today these buildings are used for a combination of public (university, government offices, museums) and private uses. (more…)

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July 11, 2011

Are You Ready For The Bulls in Provence

Are You Ready For The Bulls in Provence

Ginger LOVES the Calgary Stampede.  He is a faithful rodeo attendee and never misses a single chuckwagon race. Every year, Ginger dons his cowboy duds for the full 10 days of the Stampede, and a few more events on either end.  He is a dedicated volunteer, who donates his time selflessly every year.  OK, not exactly selflessly, there is an official access badge and lots of beer involved.  This year he will seriously miss his favourite event of the year. The good news for Ginger, is there is no shortage of cowboy culture, horses and bulls in Provence. (more…)

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July 4, 2011

La Chartreuse Avignon’s Neighbour

La Chartreuse Avignon’s Neighbour

In Nutmeg’s books the Chartreuse liqueur is unappealing in colour (green) and definitely taste (distilled alcohol with 130 herbal extracts).  Thankfully, Ginger does not like it much either.  The production of this liqueur started in France in the 1740s by the Carthusian monks in the Chartreuse Mountains near Grenoble.  The production and sale of Chartreuse continues to support the order of monks today.  The history of the liqueur is interesting in that the production was stopped a couple times when the monks were expelled from France in 1793 and again in 1903.  It was not until after World War II that they were officially allowed to return to France.  Production today is based in Voiron and the exact recipe remains a well kept secret. The liqueur may be unappealing but Nutmeg was interested to see La Chartreuse in Villeneuve les Avignon across the mighty Rhone river from Avignon.  This beautiful mostly restored structure is now state owned and is the home of the Centre National des Ecritures du Spectacle (CNES).  It took almost 100 years for the government to buy back the majority of the property that had once made up this monastery, the last owner left in 1988. During it’s functioning time, the monastery structure and surrounding land was close to 400 acres.  The senior monks (fathers) led a contemplative life where they were physically and mentally solitary, in their devotion to the faith. (more…)

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June 27, 2011

A Taste of Bologna Italy

A Taste of Bologna Italy

Warning! This post has nothing to do with the horrible sandwich meat. Nutmeg LOVES the Italian language.  After fighting rush-hour congestion, some GPS misinformation, tiny crowded streets and a retail strip thronged with groups strolling on a Saturday evening – There is something immediately soothing to hear “buonasera signora“! Allora that is how the visit to Bologna began.  Arrival on a Saturday, at the height of late-day shopping and the start of the “apero” (cocktail) time, was an adventure.  However, once settled in the very centrally located Hotel Metropolitan, a city map in hand and some restaurants suggestions, Ginger and Nutmeg ventured out into the crowded streets.  Bologna is located in Northern Italy, it is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna was called Felsina in the time of the Etuscans and later renamed Bononia under the Romans. Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world, which dates back to the 1088. Today Bologna continues to have a strong student population.  It is also known as a gastronomic capital in Italy. (more…)

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June 20, 2011

French Recipe Favourites

French Recipe Favourites

Nutmeg has learned a few things about technology in the last couple months including: It is a brilliant idea to keep back-up files Software version updates can cause problems The benefits of saving documents to a cloud Luckily, there are a few loyal readers including CardaMOM, who prints everything.  Nutmeg has rebuilt the recipe database on this blog over the last few weeks, and she has been able to recover 99% of the recipes.  The new format is much better for printing.  Rather than make you search back through old posts for the French recipes, some of them are captured below (click the links) and enjoy! (more…)

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June 13, 2011

Bologna Italy Mercato delle Erbe

Bologna Italy Mercato delle Erbe

Ginger is a good sport and keen travel partner, he agreed to several days of sightseeing in the cities of Genoa, Bologna and Venice.  He gamely played tourist; walked all day, took lots of pictures, visited old churches, and climbed up towers, but when given the choice of sleeping-in or visiting a market – he chose his pillow.  Nutmeg was not deterred; she grabbed her camera, some money for a cappuccino and walked the short distance from the hotel to Bologna’s Mercato delle Erbe. Bologna is well-known as a city with a strong culinary reputation. This is not light cuisine; there is a heavy focus on meat, cheese and pasta.  There is a near addiction to cured pork meat; such as prosciutto, salami and mortadella.  Pasta comes in every variety, with the ragù alla bolognese as the most famous. The local region is also well known for Parmesan cheese, Modena balsamic vinegar and of course some great wines. (more…)

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June 6, 2011

Golfing in Chamonix France

Golfing in Chamonix France

Spring 2011 came early to the French mountain resorts, mostly due to a lack of snow during the ski season.  Ginger and Nutmeg needed to change the tires on the car to the “summer wheels”, as we had been rolling along on dry roads for several months in the South.  The “stars aligned” and Ginger found a few consecutive days with no commitments, a good weather forecast and a chance to visit Saffron and Truffle while they were on holidays in Chamonix.  The three of us piled in the car with almost no luggage and headed NE.  The drive was easy and Nutmeg’s only disappointment was that the walnut trees near Grenoble were not in bloom. We arrived in Chamonix and I headed straight for the river, Ginger went directly to the car garage and Nutmeg settled in for a massage – anybody wondering who is the smartest in the crew?  The next morning dawned and it promised to be a beautiful day.  The team was headed to the golf course and I was destined for a very big nap, or so I thought, until Saffron said that she was sure I could join them on the 18-hole walk. (more…)

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