arrived in Arles and it is HOT

looks like i am sharing the heat with you folks back home.

i am so overwhelmed with everything i have seen so far i cant really put it into words but i have some pictures so far. lets see if i can download them yes? OH and postcards went out 2 days qgo so….lets see how long it takes.

These are my french cows. There is something special about them dont you think? i havze been talking to the ducks and geese and dogs and cats and cows in french so they will understand me, the humans just smile and nod and i point a lot

So we stopped in the Dordogne River Valley for a quick bite of lunch. while i was waiting for my lunch i ran up to the top of a castle ruin (of course) and am SOOO glad i did.

this is considered a sanwich… the beef and porc melted in my mouth, the onion marmelade and hot mustard oh yeah and the walnut bread and huge salad wasnt so bad either. YUM! i ate it all too

As we were driving along on our first day this little pearl popped into view. i thought about buying it, what do you think? well come to find out these littel hovels are a dime a dozen here! i mean they are everywhere! who knew eh? ok i didnt. this was also in the dordogne river valley

And of course more meat. does it taste better because it is considered vacation meat? i dont know but i swooned right there in the market square in plain site. these people can do things with the piggy that should be offered up as a nobel prize for food

OK so this was my first official still in one piece castle to tour. Apparently Richqrd the Lion Hearted lived here for awhile, i know it is true because i saw his sword and his bedroom! the french wouldnt make this up! the views up here were rediculous and you could see not one but 3 other castles from this one!

below is the dordogne river and i have vivid fantasies of coming back for a really incredible kqyqking trip: people are rafting and kayaking and camping along these river gorges with little towns about 10 km apart (read fresh market supplies) soo many camping fools! i love it!

OK so that is it for now! my hotel is right in between a roman coliseum and a roman amphitheater so i am going to brave the heat and do as the romans do, er french?

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Bonjour!

I have arrived safely in the Dordogne Valley and I know see why the french are so proud. This countryside is beyond anything i have ever seen. There is a castle on each swell of the land more beautiful then the last, winding rivers with cafes perched on limestone cliffs, corn fields we think to fatten the ducks and geese, I have thousands of pictures but dont have my cable so i will post at a later date, i hope.

Our flight to Limoge was cancelled after 4 hours in the airport but we landed in a tiny town grabbed our car and headed into the sunset, literally. Our fearless driver Tom has only killed the car 10 or 11 times thus far with explitives i refuse to reiterate, thank god for the old ipod. we stayed in a farm that specializes in foie gras and i dont think there is a more magnificant product on the market…maybe truffles but this is a tie for first. the family is generous and speak no english but boy can they cook! i feel like our hotel is something out of a movie set. it is so spotlessly clean and charming. Our dinners have been fresh from the garden and compare to the finest meals i have had, beautiful soups of fava bean or tomato, foie gras wrapped in pate from their own ducks and piggies, veal cutlets in port reduction, fresh salads, piles of cheese and walnut bread…that was one meal. i think i shall gain severql proud pounds of duck fat and have indigestion for the rest of my life but i really dont care…yet.Yesterday we went into the Bordeaux area for wine tasting and a visit to the town of st emilion. This place has a moat and the largest church in the world carved into the side of a limestone rock. it is so old feeling, you can almost taste it. the french revolution lopped the heads off of all the statues! god i love history!

today we are in sarlot, a medieval city also surrounded by a wall with a moat. it is market day and the tastes of fresh peche liquoir, sausages, wheels of cheese stuffed with walnuts, ahhhhh so lovely. i love the french, they are so warm and welcoming. i LOVE trying my french out on them and they are very patient with me, much more so then italy. i never thought i would find a place i am already craving to return to…i want to crawl inside the earth here and qbsorb it for about 50 years.

until next time Auvoir mes amis

Chop a Broccoli

This is going to be quick because i havent started packing and i leave for france in the morning. But i couldn’t resist including this picture for your entertainment.

I have been growing broccoli and cauliflower with some moderate success this season. i have also been keeping the girls out of the garden so the broccoli and cauliflower will continue on the path of success…that is until i forgot about them. I ran over to the garden and this is what i found.

now i am going to be gone for 2 weeks and we shall see what i find when i return. I think that it will be ok and i know my house-sitter will take excellent care of what is left.

So i bid you Adieu and i hope to blog from the South of France…a sigh :)

The Magic and Wonder of Beast

Last Friday night 3 of my most favorite girlfriends and I went to dinner at Beast in honor of my mom. I had heard about it and knew i was in for a treat with the prefix 6 course menu and wine pairings. I felt like i had been in a rut though. Portland has SO MANY amazing restaurants that i was getting snotty about my food and nothing had made me swoon in a long time. Apparently i didntneed to worry so much. Beast made me swoon with every single bite! I have never had such a meal so perfect in my life. This is why i love food so much.

I had also just finished a book called Julie and Julia in which the author spent a year recreating every single recipe in Julia Child’s masterpiece; Mastering the Art of French Cuisine. There are huge chapters in there about Aspics and organ meats galore. She tackled them and made sense of them, and if figured if she can cook aspic from a calf hoof and set it with a cold piece of foie gras, i could try anything.

Here is the Menu from Beast for Friday June 13th.
I think that the theme for this menu should be “Things That Melt in Your Mouth””

First Course

Spring Carrot Soup with Fava Bean and Herb Salsa Verde
 – this soup was so divine that it melted into your taste buds before it left the spoon. and the fresh fava beans were just a tiny bit salty so they added the perfect accent. this is what soup should be

Second Course

CHARCUTERIE PLATE
i must preface this section by saying that this was the portion of the menu that i was terrified of. I HATE organ meat. I think it is one of the most disgusting things we eat and i dont understand why people think it is a delicacy…well until i ate here. Now i am a bit less afraid and also know that when done properly, it is mana from heaven. I am still salivating for the damn bon bons.

Foie Gras Bon-Bon
  – HOLY HELL! this little morsel was made with Vanilla Bean and Cognac. It had the texture of a chocolate truffle center and was so dense and delicate. None of the flavors were hidden. My friend Sami wasnt into it so i ate hers too. i want to eat this every single day of my life. Some dream of lounging on a chaise wearing silk and eating a box of chocolate bon bons, I will eat these, in a cardboard box next to the detroit train station if i must.
Chicken Liver Mousse with Seville Orange Marmalade
  – maybe you didnt know but I have never been a fan of the organ meats So this this little bite was a shock. It also melted in your mouth and didnt have  that horrid I am a liver after bite. Sami loved it until i told her what it was. It is amazing how our memories can affect us more then our taste buds. Case in point would be the following,
Steak Tartare with Quail Egg Toast
  –
The Steak melted in my mouth but i still cant do the raw yolk. I know everyone tells me it is just like a complimentary sauce but i have never been a fan of the yolk. This was the only thing on the entire menu i didnt lick off the plate. in fact i very systematically cut it away from the steak portion of the toast without breaking the yolk and tried to pawn it off on everyone else.
Pork and Liver Pate with Cherries and Pistachios
  – This was lovely. It reminded me of a really fancy but delicate sausage with all the nuts and fruit in it.

Rose Petal and Champagne Sorbet
perfect timing to cleanse the pallet after all that rich meat. and so simple

Third Course

Riesling Braised Carlton Farms Pork Cheek
Porcini and Morel Turnover
Baby Nantes Carrots with Spring Herbs
  –
What can i say? I am a pork loving fool. I cant get enough of it and when you braise it in Riesling…They gave us these serious steak knives but the meat just fell apart and melted in your mouth. The turnover was a buttery bit of heaven with perfectly diced cubes of fresh mushroom and the carrots were still crisp.

Fourth Course

Arugula Salad with Crushed Strawberries & Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette
with Shaved Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese

– we each got a pile of spicy arugula lightly dressed and topped with the lightest of goat cheeses. I LOVE arugula

Fifth Course

Selection of Cheeses with Poached Apricot, Candied Hazelnuts, Date, Salt and Pepper Shortbreads and Wildflower Honey
  – yes indeed, it DID just keep getting better. The Poached Apricot tasted exactly like my mom’s apricot pie (which i now need to make) and the cheeses were really strong!
we could have ended it here and been perfectly content but no, we had to persevere. I say that with glee

Sixth Course

Chocolate Covered Coconut Chiffon Petite Four
with Salted Caramel Ice-Cream
  – oh yes, it was as lovely as it sounds. This was served with a red dessert wine that complimented the salty chocolate and caramel goodness. It also wasnt as heavy as i had imagined. It was plenty rich, but wasnt the entire meal??

So that was it. it was, in my humble opinion, perfection. I have never had a prefix menu that paid such close attention to each detail. There was not one weak course. The wine pairings were perfect and so thoughtfully planned out. I went home and plotted what i had to sell so i could eat here each week.

Figuring It All Out

Last night i came home from dinner with Denise and Johnny and my wonderful neighbor was outside working in her garden. I went over to see how she was doing and she mentioned that the girls had been very fussy that evening. She was a little worried about them but they weren’t squawking as much as they were flapping around  a lot.

Earlier that day I had them out in the garden to fuss about and i noticed a lot more posturing and squabbles but i know they have to sort the pecking order. After I talked to my neighbor i went in to see if they had settled in for the night and this is what i found.

GW thought that the queen bee would take charge  on the top roost while her peons got the lower  roost…i still think Harriet is the Queen Bee but i also think she isnt as tough as she thinks she is. I love that she is right smack in the middle of the roost and the other girls are smooshed to her side.

 

A Delightful Surprise

I have been battling a bit of a flu bug i think. Needless to say, i havent had any interest in anything beyond bum radius of the couch, the remote and my box of tissues. I think i beat it with my magical bottle of Bee Propolis and Elderberry Extract and am back at about 95% full swing. The thing is, no matter how detached I become from the world, the world doesnt seem to pay attention and just keeps moving forward. It does feel rather good to jump off once in awhile and create a cocoon around yourself but getting back on can be the real challenge!

I had a remarkable moment of right place, right time,  to help me climb back up.

 I had to drive up to Olympia for a funeral on monday. This may not sound like a real energy booster but I love Olympia and still feel like it is home. It was also wonderful to see the family together from all corners of the country and spend time visiting. Grandma was 93 when she passed away. She would have been honored by our celebration of her life. Having lived in Olympia myself for 18+ years, it was inevitable to run into a familiar face or two. I have so many memories within this small community.

At the funeral luncheon, a woman I knew from my high school days sat down next to me, “Sarah! we were just talking about you this morning!” (i hadnt seen her in about 5 years). She mentioned that she was cleaning out some of the church banners and several of my mom’s banners werent going to be used anymore. Would i like them? I should add here that banner = 50-100 feet of embroidered fabric with some catholic motif on it like the lamb of god, a risen Christ or an enormous rosy cheeked angel.  But these banners were also hand-sewn by my mother. i have such memories of a pair of 50 foot angels stretched from one end of the house to the other with my mom sewing each detail by hand. She patiently taught me how to make french knots, sew on beads and slipstitch. While i “helped” sew beads or at least show her a dance routine while wrapped in the corner of fabric she simutaniously controlled the the cat crawling under the banner or sleeping on the banner and a dog and a dad and a daughter tripping over it, spilling things on it…etc.  I dont know how she did it but her banners were used for decades in the church for every season.

Now their time is up. I took them all home. I have 10 banners in my car. Ten. Bless the church ladies hearts but i will not be using the banner with the huge cross and the crown of thorns on it as my bed spread. I will also not be cutting them up or throwing them away. They are part of my past and such a part of my mom and they have earned a place with people who will appreciate them. I just have to figure out where that is exactly. Know any church that is in need of some banners?

 

and then some things never change

 

 

Inspiration

I dont know about you but after i read a great book, attach myself to a new piece of music or see an incredible piece of art, i think, there is just no way anything can ever beat this! And then something does! I LOVE THAT ABOUT LIFE! It continues to inspire and transcend itself. How does it do that? I have no idea except for the fact that there are people on this earth behind each and every new discovery and i think we are blessed for it.

I just saw this today and thought, i can do that to my own patio. stay tuned on that one. Isnt it pretty?

So now i have a new catagory; inspiration.