Friday, June 25, 2010

France: Pique-nique

We did some creative eating while traveling through France, mainly in the form of "pique-nique" or "picnic" for those of you who aren't fluent in "franglais."  By eating pique-nique meals some of the time, we were able to save some of our budgets for the important meals (and of course, ice cream)!

How simple to run to a Monoprix or Carrefour for some cheese, bread (though generally crappy), yogurt (because Europe has greatly superior yogurt than the US has), fruit, and probably something sweet.    Ironically, I'm not a big cheese fan (except for parmesan) in my daily life in the US.  Nor  do I particularily fancy yogurt (thought I've taught myself to tolerate greek yogurt).  But in France, neither of those indifferences mattered!

Mmmm.... Cheese!

Delicious comte cheese, my second favorite cheese variety of the trip, devoured in Lion-sur-Mer  

Amazing, amazing Mustard cheese from Alain Hess in Beaune.

Seriously best cheese of my life! 

And then the delicious mustard cheese was turned into one of the best sandwiches ever during our "biking through burgundy" picnic!  We bought all our ingredients from the "smashing" Saturday market.

Baguette, cheese & local tomatoes, combination recommended by the owner of the bike shop where rented our bikes. 

But alfresco meals pose a few challenges one often doesn't think of prior to buying the desired ingredients.....

picnic in Nice 

Like I said, we consumed copious amounts of yogurt.  But, we didn't have any spoons! So, we drank all our yogurt!

mmm.. rhubarb yogurt, consumed during a pique nique in Dijon!  

Aaand, we also didn't have any forks.  So a wicket from a bottle of Cremant (French sparkling wine that is not from the champagne region) was used to eat carrot salad!

yes, we are very creative.

But, even with all these pique-niques and creative eating, we still had many memorable times filled with laughter and good food! 

only a couple more France posts... I promise!  I'm using these as a sort of visual journal for myself as well! 

Monday, June 21, 2010

France: Markets

Charleston is very fortunate to have one of the best farmer's markets in the US offering "fresh locally grown produce & locally processed food products as well as distinctive hand wrought arts and crafts." You can read more about it here.  After moving from the midwest to Charleston, I became completely spoiled by both the length and the products available at various farmer's markets around where I live.

Well, hold on to your hats (or perhaps reusable shopping bags), because if I thought the Charleston farmers market was amazing, it's nothing compared to what I saw in France!  Here are a few markets I had the pleasure of experiencing during my trip.

CAEN: Friday Market

And Kelli's favorite part of the Market?  Fry Man!  He makes some of the most delicious "frites" I've ever had!  We got spicy Samurai sauce with ours.

BEAUNE: "Smashing" Saturday market. 
I like to research (yes, it's true). And so I bought several guidebooks before our travels.  This book mentioned that Beaune had a "smashing saturday market." And WOW they were not at all joking!  We felt some sorrow we couldn't spend more time experiencing the Beaune Saturday market, but alas, we had already rented our bicycles for the day and planned a slightly vigorous route (well, vigorous for me).  Another sad fact about the wonderful Beaune market: my digital camera card decided to corrupt a good chunk of photos I'd captured at the market.  So unfortunately I cannot share all my memories with you.  I just encourage everyone to go themselves!


potentially the largest asparagus stalks I've seen in my life! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

France: Burgundy Region

I've been back in "The States" just over a week.  Coming home should be relaxing..... time filled with extra rest, lots of laundry, time to edit photos.....  Well, so far, only the third one has been happening!  And it's only happening because I've been physically exhausted, but not necessarily "sleepy" exhausted, so many hours have been spent in bed, with my laptop, trying to edit photos :)

I returned to Charleston at 10:30pm EST on June 9th, collected my luggage, and spent two precious hours with A, who had driven down just to pick me up from the airport.   Then, the following morning (last Thursday), I had to get up to be to my summer school class by 7:30.  The getting up early wasn't difficult.... it was the staying alert part!  On top of getting over jet lag, catching up from being gone over two weeks, and starting summer school, I also began my new job.  Exciting and stressful all at the same time!

I've simply come to realize that my life, most assuredly this summer, but potentially from here on out, will most likely have no routine or pattern.  This fact is difficult for me to wrap my mind around, as I am one of those "ducks in a row" kind of person.  So please forgive me, dear elusive readers, if my sporadic posting becomes even more sporadic.

I've got a bunch of France posts still in the works, though? Hope no one's sick of france quite yet....  

Today's post is all about the Burgundy region.  Burgundy had the most highs and lows (both in relations to our spirits and geographically), but it probably remains my favorite area visited on the trip.  Kelli has also written a wonderful post about our time in Beaune, which I encourage everyone to read!

Biking through Burgundian Wine Country.  

Though we stayed in Dijon during our time in the Burgundy region, we took a day trip to the picturesque village of Beaune.  We rented bicycles, stopped by the "smashing" market (post to come), and headed out into wine country on a 24km tour.

The beauty was unbelievable!

We participated in a wine tasting at  Olivier Leflaive in Puligny Montrachet where we sampled Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

I'm not the most physically fit person (actually, I'm not athletic at all and I'm terribly, terribly out of shape).  And so I spent most of this day dying surviving on the trail and not taking as many photos as I wished I could have.....   I'm not kidding when I say I thought I was going to die while biking.  And no, it was not from the wine tasting (the French do a lot of spitting when tasting wine, a practice which I embraced!)......

Still, even though the act of biking through vineyards in France sounded much easier than it actually was, completing the tour is probably my most proud accomplishment of the trip!  I made it!  Even if I was painfully slow (and in great pain later that night and into the following day)!

Eating in Burgundy: 
I did a great deal of research prior to this trip....  lots of hours online.... time spent pouring over books....  And from my research, I learned that Burgundy has some of the best food in France!  So although eating had been on my agenda this entire trip ("eating" was even the purpose I gave for this trip when I went through customs in Atlanta upon returning to "the States"), it became even more important to me during our time in Burgundy!

Beaune celebratory meal
We celebrated surviving our bike tour by a lovely, lovely outdoor meal in Beaune.   We asked the owner of the bike shop for a good place for "traditional burgundian" food and his suggestion did not disappoint!
I chose to do a four course meal to experience a little of everything and to share with my companions.

First Pre Course: Wine was a must with this meal!  A nice spicy, peppery red from Beaujoulais

First Course: Escargot with mushrooms and puff pastry 

Snails, take one!  Snails take two happened the following night....

Second Course: Boeuf Bourguignon with lovely buttered pasta and garlic toast 

Best. Beef. Ever!  And that's coming from someone who really hasn't eaten beef at all in the past 12 years, until finally venturing to make Boeuf Bourguignon this past winter.   This boeuf totally blew my boeuf out of the water

Third Course: Fromage 

The most stressful portion of the meal.... choosing cheese!  Thankfully our waiter spoke a bit of English and could help explain some of the cheese to me.

I ended up choosing (from left to right): a soft burgundian mustard cheese, comte, a goat cheese, and a soft cheese similar to brie.   The mustard cheese though: Best. Cheese. Ever! (more will come on that one during a future post)

Fourth Course: Pears poached in Burgundian wine with Cassis (black currants traditional to the area) sorbet & a raspberry/currant sauce.  

Fruity, slightly sweet, delicious!

It was a meal to remember!  A meal filled with laughter, good company, and lots of eating :)

Dijon celebratory meal
The following night, we had yet another, what I consider, "celebratory" meal.  You see, although it was our 3rd night in Dijon, it was as though we were in a completely new city!  There were some slight "issues" with our original hotel in the Dijon area.  Actually, we weren't even in Dijon--we were in an adjoining city at quite possibly the worst hotel ever.  I double checked my finances (discovering I was quite under-budget) and insisted we move to another hotel for the last night.  Although it wasn't an easy decision for anyone, by the time we checked in to our clean, cool, wifi-compatable hotel in the heart of old town Dijon, we honestly did feel as though we were in a whole new city!  So celebrations were in order.

First course: Les Escargots.

This first picture is for my dear Grandma with whom I use to watch "I Love Lucy" at times that were way, way past my bedtime....   For those not versed in the specific episode of "I Love Lucy" which I was imitating, Lucy goes to France and orders "les escargot" off a menu, not realizing what they are....  And she then proceeds to try to tell her french waiter, through words and pantomime, what exactly they are: SNAILS!

Actually, though, they were quite delicious!

Second Course: Poulet a la Gastron Gerard.

Some of the best chicken I've ever eaten!  But really, when you cook chicken in cream and wine and mustard and cheese, what's not to love?

Once again at this restaurant, I did a multi course package so I could try many things.... but the only unfortunate side was that I had only two dessert choices.  So I twisted Kelli's arm and asked forced her to order a dessert as well! How terrible, extra dessert.....

Mine was a pear and cassis crumble.  Mmmmm! Tasty and not too sweet!

Kelli's dessert was unbelievable!  A Trio of Chocolate Desserts! The chocolate macaron was one of the best of the trip.

Stay tuned for more memories from France!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

France: Ice Cream!

My trip is winding down and this is the first hotel where I've had free WiFi.  Currently we're in the city of Dijon in the Burgundy region, and we've had a few ups and downs with this city.  But it's ending on an up note!  You get what you pay for with hotels.... a 33 euro a night hotel may look tempting for the sake of your pocket book, but it's NOT a good idea.  Just say NO!

Regardless, we've been eating quite well on this trip.  After all, one of my main goals with this trip has been to experience as much of the food culture as possible.  That being said..... we've also made it a goal to consume as much ICE CREAM as possible!

Starting in Paris......

Even though it was quite chilly, and nearly raining.  I just couldn't resist some pistachio ice cream in the Tuilleries garden while I waited for my companions to finish touring the Louvre.

Yep, I'd totally eat ice cream for lunch any day, especially if it's pistachio!

Then, when we went to Nice, we discovered the wonder of Fenocchio: maitre glacier!

They have 96 flavors!  Oh my!  

And the flavors range from the normal to the abnormal, including savory flavors, like Tomato Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Olive etc! One flavor that really intrigued me was the "Vanilla Pink Peppercorn Rose" but I didn't get a chance to try it before we left.....

We frequented Fenocchio, many, many times.  But we have no shame!

Kelli's first flavors: Pamplemousse (Grapefruit) & Ananas (Pineapple)

My first flavors: Speculoos & Nougat

Laura T's first flavors: Rose, Violet & Jasmine

Fenocchio seriously has the best ice cream I've ever had in my life! So smooth and creamy.  Great consistency.  True, pure flavors.

In fact, it is so good my camera and my shirt wanted to have a taste!   Camera's still a bit sticky, but no worse for wear!

Fenocchio round two later that night after dinner.  Kelli (left) had Mandarin flavored, Laura T (right) had Cactus, Baileys, and Abricot (Apricot).

I had Rhubarb & Poire (Pear)

And Fenocchio round three (the following day.... no, we didn't eat ice cream three times in one day!)

Laura T's (left back) were Coconut & Chocolat Orange, Kelli's (left front) were Pain d'Espice (spice cake) & Lait du Caramel (milk caramel) and mine (right) Banane (Banana) and Nocciolato (Nutella)

Needless to say, we've been a bit spoiled on this fabulous ice cream!  So our dessert the following day in Monaco was a bit disappointing....

Plain-jane Vanilla with hot chocolate poured over it? hmmmm.... could be really good, but not very memorable.  At least it photographed well....

Then our final ice cream experience thus far occurred last night in the town of Beaune in the Burgundy region.....

We ate very traditional burgundian food and I decided to have a very traditional dessert as well: Pears poached in red burgundy wine, Cassis sorbet (black currant) and a raspberry/currant sauce!

Then Laura had profiteroles with chocolate sauce.

Stay tuned for more sweets from France!