Only in France…

Why is it that all of the things that are so fabulous in France are not nearly as fabulous here in the U.S. or are completely unavailable? For instance,  boullabaisse: I have NEVER had boullabaisse in the U.S. that tastes like it does in France. I’ve even followed the same recipe that my french “mom” prepared for us…not the same. How about Nutella…surely it is the same. Nope…not the same without the delish french baguette. French wine…not even close….in America it has sulfites.

So when faced with selecting a look for my new hardwood floors, I, of course, should have known better than to try to replicate those beautiful, aged, gray, rich, rugged, weathered french oak floors that I grew to love in France. But I didn’t…I tried to replicate. And it almost worked. We tried to match the old and new and it was a disaster.

Time to let go of dreams…I decided that if I couldn’t have what I wanted…we’d go to the other end of the spectrum and I chose a really really really dark stain. In the end, it will look fantastic- especially with the white cabinets, wool skein walls and ticking striped accents.

I guess I will save my fabulous french floors for my house in Provence (that I’ll purchase when I win the lottery)!

avec gas, si vous plait

Oui. Avec gas. I think it took weeks in France to figure out exactly what the waiter meant when they blurted out something about gas. But once I figured out what he meant…there was no turning back. Today, I only drink water with gas when dining out. For some reason those little bubbles just make everything taste better. Perhaps it is a memory association with my glory days in southern France.

Anyway- I don’t usually like fruit flavored water. But, of course in my quest to try something new, I found myself staring at a variety of Perrier waters. I chose the most outrageous flavor possible- pamplemousse rose also known as pink grapefruit. And actually the flavor was quite refreshing. A bit of a tangy kick and a mild citrus whim.

Bon appetit ya’ll

If you could have dinner with one person, who is no longer on this earth, who would it be? For me, without a doubt, it would be Julia Childs. And I wouldn’t even ask her to cook. She is truly a fascinating woman- a quirky personality, a love of France and a joie de vivre…certainly a kindred spirit for me. I record her show with Jacque Pepin every saturday and how funny is it that every saturday she and Jacque get a little tipsy while sampling the wine for the meal! I smile just thinking of her contagious laugh.

Julia’s dishes are extremely complicated and often not nearly worth the million steps it takes to complete. Don’t get me wrong, I do pay homage to Julia and whip up a little beef bourgeon every now and then…but on an everyday basis- The Barefoot Contessa is a much better option.

A local kitchen boutique often offers cooking demonstrations and I jumped at the opportunity to attend a Julia Childs made easy cooking class.  For a few bucks, I had a night with “Julia”, some red wine and a visit with a good friend.  Actually, our “Julia” was a fantastic, VERY southern African American woman named  Cynthia. Bon appetit ya’ll!!!

 Cynthia had a Julia-esque twinkle in her eye and even sounded a little like Julia and of course she drank lots of wine while preparing our dinner. She prepared Canapes aux Epinards, Fricassee de poulet a l’ancienne, tomates a la provencale (which took me back to provence instantly) and the coup de gras….tarte normande aux pommes….Custard Apple Tart. The dinner was fair…typical Julia…even Cynthia agreed that often her dishes are not wonderfully flavorful. BUT the custard apple tart was out of this world. OMG.  Imagine an apple tart…the best apple tart you have ever tasted…finished off with a rich, sweet custard…baked until perfection. It was almost like twice baked apple tart- baked once then again with the custard. You can’t believe how tasty this dessert was…and this is coming from a girl who says that if it isn’t chocolate, I am not interested.  This fall when apples are in season, I will definitely try to replicate this one.

I’ll tell ya…I want to be friends with Cynthia. She was the most fantastic host. So much fun. Insightful, funny and full of energy. And did I mention that she was the true originator of the sin pot? Yes it is true…and I learned that she made up the recipe because of a burned chocolate cake! So right now, I am trying to figure out an occasion to invite Cynthia to cook for me. Until then…in the words of my old friend Julia- Bon Appetit!

kindred spirits

I knew the day I met my friend, KP, that we would be friends for life. We had an instant connection. It didn’t take long before we could complete each other’s sentences. Though we are a lot a like…we are also very different…and we don’t mind setting the other straight when we are out of line. We worked together in a rather challenging environment for a couple of years. I don’t know how I could have made it without her forever support to help me through even the most challenging situations.

I don’t see her very often…but when I do, we are like wind up dolls: gabbing non stop, hardly taking a breath, picking up exactly where we left off. It had been way too long and we had lots to talk about, so we met for lunch today.

 The minute I saw her I absolutely laughed out loud…same style dress…same black belt…similar black shoes…same costa sunglasses….same style blue topaz ring! Separated I birth I think. Our lunch made my day, lifted my spirits and brought out lots of laughs. KP is the kind of friend who I can tell anything…no matter how embarrassing, no matter how personal…she’ll listen and carefully help me work through the situation…with logic and compassion. Not all friends are created equal…and this special friend is a kindred spirit.

So as we parted ways, she gave me a beautifully wrapped package with fab pink paper and a big silver bow…what in the world could it be? Did I mention KP is the most thoughtful person I know?! Inside the package was a pink apron with an Eiffel tower and a box of Eiffel tower stationary. I was so excited, I immediately tried on the new apron, even though I was sitting in my office! I can’t wait to find a fab french dish to try out while wearing my new apron. Thanks KP- You are the best!

Presh

My roommate in college was Presh. Yes – that is short for Precious. No – that is not her real name. Yes – she is PRECIOUS! This weekend we had our annual girls get together in Lake Summit, SC. One of the girls is lucky enough to have a house on the lake and we have been getting together there for years. It’s one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been. Our raging parties in college  have turned into girl gab fest. Someone made an astute comment this weekend, “I think we could spend 24 hours a day together for the rest of our lives and still not run out of things to talk about.” It doesn’t matter how long its been since our last visit, it’s like we were never apart. I’m sure you have friends like this. What would we do with out them?

Most of the girls have babies…lots of baby talk. But somehow we managed to mix in a few strolls or stumbles down memory lane, a little talk of travel, careers and of course fashion. I don’t know how we all came to be friends back in college. We are all completely different. We weren’t in the same sorority, not the same major, didn’t live in the same dorm….I guess there was some crazy connection that brought us together.

So what’s new about this….not much. Sometimes it’s an afternoon, a day or weekend with old friends that is more interesting than something new.

BUT- I am committed to this blog and trying something new EVERYDAY so at 4:00 after a gourmet lunch of mediterranean panninis, orzo salad, fresh fruit and bahama mama’s and a leisure afternoon sitting lakeside, Presh and I got motivated and headed into town to the wine and cheese shop (www.saludawine.com) to find something new. And you know the drill….desparate times call for desparate measures….you guessed it- a new cheese! Actually two!

Presh and I spent a semester in southern France sampling lots of delish cheeses elegantly presented at the end of each meal served by our french mom. We both LOVED gouda. So we found an interesting gouda to try- a blend of Mediterranean herbes, olives, garlic and sun dried tomatoes….very tastey! We gobbled up almost the entire wedge!

We also sampled a locally made cows milk cheese-Juusto (in Sweden this is made with Reindeer mil!). Juusto  is a traditional Scandinavian cheese that is pan fried and developes a crust almost like french toast. It has a buttery, creamy taste and the neat thing is that it is served warm and is not runny or stringy. It holds its shape. I definitely will consider serving this at my next party. It’s so interesting…sure to be a conversation piece!

We enjoyed a late afternoon sampling of cheeses, a little red wine and great sunset…not to mention the bond of special friends with stories to last a lifetime!