Archive for January, 2011

Nadège, Julia and I spent the day at Karine and Fred’s house. We drove out around noon. They live about 25 minutes from Nadège on a family owned farm where they raise ducks, chickens and guinea fowl; they also make some of the best foie gras around.

Nadège and Karine’s parents, Henri and Yvette, were there also. Henri and Fred and Fred’s father are renovating Fred’s grandfather’s house for him and Karine and their growing family to live in. So when we arrived the men were at that house working.

I got to meet the newest addition to the family, Sarah, all of 6 weeks old and as cute as a button. Alexis (4 years old) has really grown since the last time I saw him, which was a little over 2 years ago. We settled in and Julia played with Alexis, and I did my best to speak French with Yvette and Karine.

The house was nice and warm. They have a really large fireplace that heats the family area really well. Lunch was in the oven and the aroma wafted through the air. We were having guinea fowl for lunch, roasted with string beans and potatoes cooked in duck fat. There was an amazing apricot tart sitting on the counter which had been made earlier for desert.

Henri and Fred came home around 1:30 and we sat down for lunch. We started, of course, with some of their foie gras on toast. Then the guinea fowl I love game birds, they’re so rustic and flavorful. I envy Fred and Karine’s life, growing your own food is an amazing thing. It’s too bad we (Americans) have gotten so far away from that life, and we were healthier for it. I kept telling Karine that when my French is good enough to follow orders, I want to come out here for a month and just work the farm. I think it would be a really good experience.

After lunch Henri and Fred went back to work and we sat round for a while, and decided that since it had stopped raining we would take a walk over to the house to see the work in progress. It’s quite a project that they’ve taken on, but I don’t doubt for one minute that it’s going to be incredible when it’s done. I’ve seen Henri’s work in Nadège and Larry’s house. He’s a carpenter by trade and an extraordinary one at that.

I got some video of the house being renovated. It’s going to take a year-and-a-half to complete. There was a large hole (several actually) in a back room that goes down quite a ways. When we arrived they were trying to determine if it was possibly a tunnel, it turned out not to be. But it was exciting (?) when Fred’s father pushed me toward the hole as I was filming it (comedian). Ha ha!

We headed back to the house for some coffee and tea. We arrived back at Nadège’s around 5:30 pm. We had leftover clam chowder for dinner. C’est tout.


Sarah                                                             Alexis and Julia


Karine, Yvette and Nadège             Henri and Fred


The fowl and the tart.


The current house                          The new one in about 18 months


Fred’s parents’ house which is in front of Karine and Fred’s soon to be new home.


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My night to cook


It’s my turn to cook something for Nadège and Julia. I searched my recipes on my computer (my saved recipes from Saveur and Food & Wine) and sent Nadege several via email to choose from. She chose Creamy Clam Chowder with White Beans from Food & Wine.

It’s a simple recipe but delicious. We added a green salad with bread and cheese and a nice white wine.


1. 1 1/4 cups dried cellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 2 hours

2. Kosher salt

3. 1 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)

4. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5. Freshly ground pepper

6. 3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed

7. 6 thick slices of bacon (4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

8. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

9. 1medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

10. 3 large celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice

11. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

12. 4 large garlic cloves, minced

13. 1 1/3 cups dry white wine

14. 1 cup heavy cream

15. Garlic Bread, for serving


1. In a saucepan, cover the beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 1 1/2 hours; add water as needed to keep the beans covered by 2 inches. Season the beans with salt and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with the oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until browned.

3. Set a colander over a bowl. In a skillet, cook the clams and 2 tablespoons of water over moderately high heat, covered, shaking the skillet a few times, until the clams open, 5 minutes. Transfer the opened clams to the colander; discard any that do not open. Remove the clams from their shells. Strain and reserve 1 cup of the clam broth.

4. In a saucepan, brown the bacon over moderately low heat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the butter. Add the onion, celery and crushed red pepper, cover and cook, stirring, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cover and cook until fragrant, 4 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced by two-thirds, 6 minutes. Pour in the reserved clam broth, the reserved bean cooking liquid and the cream; simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans, squash and clams; simmer just until heated through. Serve the chowder in bowls with the Garlic Bread alongside.




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Lunch in Cognac

Nadège, Julia and I went out for lunch to Julia’s favorite spot ( they have pizza)  She could hardly contain herself!  Nadège has a vegetable crepe and I had mussels.



Julia running ahead of us on the back to the house.

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French Markets

I wish we had these in the US. As most of you know, Les Halles was a very famous outdoor French market located in the 1er arrondissement, just south of the fashionable rue Montorgueil. It was an amazing market and I wish I could have seen the real deal. Eventually they had to move it indoors to control the rodents, and, of course, it was never the same after that. The original Les Halles site was torn down in 1979. But the tradition lives on in cities and small towns all over France.

Anyway, these markets are kind of like farmers’ markets on steroids. In addition to all the fruits and vegetables, there are spices, charcuterie, cheese, wine, fresh fish, fresh meat, fresh duck, chicken, goose, all with head and feet intact, ready to be prepared by your very own loving hands (or at the hands of someone more accomplished in these areas!). All these are sold to you by the people who grew or made the products. France has been home to artisan products for centuries. They are truly wonderful!

In the Cognac market, there’s a stand that specializes in cooked birds, quail, cockles, pigeon, turkey and rabbit. Just standing near these stalls is an experience in itself for the senses

Shopping these markets has always been one of my favorite things to do while in France.

This trip I met a woman (Nadège buys vegetables from her) who, after seeing us together a few times and hearing us speak English, told us she was an au pair in Los Angeles when she was in her early 20s and learned English there. I’ll be frequenting her stand whenever I’m in Cognac.


This market is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday


I wish I’d gotten better pictures of the fish, but you get the idea!  This lady is British and makes all her deserts in her home the night before, staying up until the wee hours of the morning!


This is an outdoor stall in front of a store near the hotel we stayed at when we arrived in Paris a few weeks ago.

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On to Africa

On to Africa

Tonight the guys leave for Bordeaux right after dinner. Their last meal with us will be a green salad, pigeon and cockles from the weekend market, which I love, and lots of wine. Right after dinner they will drive to Bordeaux and stay overnight. The next day they fly to Paris and change planes for their final destination Africa.

I will spend the next week in Cognac with Nadège and Julia, visiting family, reading, blogging, and getting to know my new laptop.




My brother-in-law Larry


My sister-in-law Nadège


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Nadège and Larry have an indoor pierrade. It plugs into the wall and voila! I have a pierrade stone at home but it can only be used on a grill. I’d love an electric one that I can use during the winter. I’ll have to do some research when I get back to the states.

Tonight we’re having an extravaganza: langoustines, salmon, calamari, and scallops cooked tabletop on the pierrade with sea salt as the only seasoning. While Larry was preparing the fish for the pierrade, Nadège boiled some live shrimp for an hors d’oeuvre. There was quite a bit of jumping around going on in that pot! They were sweet and tender.

Julia and Bill gave us a little show on their guitars, very impressive! The meal was great and we ended it with what else? Some great cheese.


I love that you get the whole scallop in France.



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The Party at Glemet’s

Matthew, Larry and Bill did a trio at Glemet’s estate. Glemet is one of the cognac producers for Family Traditions Cognac and a friend. The concert was held in the distillery in front of the Cognac vat. It was a word-of-mouth event and about 75 people showed up.

We had a potluck dinner beforehand with a few of Glemet’s friends and the sound guy. Nadège made her famous apple tart and a really interesting (good) salad with shredded carrots, beets, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, with vinaigrette. I’ll be making that one at home! Jean Luc and Marie Françoise Pasquet were there also (they are also cognac producers for FTC and actually were the first artisans Larry met and are the reason that Larry, Nadège and Matthew got into the export business). Marie made a Tourte au Roquefort that was to die for (I’ll post the recipe after I transcribe it). Another lovely lady named Marie Brigitte made the best salad I ever ate! I had two servings, and the wine was divine! We had a grand cheese plate with the best Rebochon I ever tasted It was like butter. Both Bill and I were blown away! I wanted to sneak back into the house while the concert was going on and wrap it up to take it with me but I didn’t.

My bad, I forgot my camera, but my darling sister-in-law sent me some photos from the night; unfortunately her flash wasn’t on so they are pretty dark. After the concert Larry, Matthew and Bill were each presented with a bottle of cognac and Bill received a special gift for his exceptional performance on piano and guitar a bottle of XO 1979!

A galette des rois frangipane (kind of like a beautiful apple tart but not really) and hard cider were served after and the guys got to hold court again.

C’était une soirée super.






In front of the cognac vat                    Nadege’s famous apple tart

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