Friday, June 3, 2011

MY FRENCH SOUNDTRACK


You know how they say that certain songs or smells can cause you to flash back in time?  Well, from now on, each time I hear a song by Edith Piaf, or hear anyone sing La Vie en Rose or La Mer, or hear any haunting melody at all played on an accordion, I'm fairly certain that a time warp hole will open up directly beneath my feet, and cause me to be sucked straight back to a cafe on some plaza in France.  In fact, I'm counting on it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OUR LAST TRIP

Everything about France was amazing, and the people couldn't have been any warmer or more hospitable.  In fact, when coming back to our hotel last night, we waved goodnight to the fellow who had served us croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast each day at the brasserie next door.  He motioned for us to wait a minute, then ran out carrying an iced down bottle of wine for us to take back to our room!  How sweet is that?  But, despite all that, we may never travel again, for trying to get home has been an absolute nightmare of late flights, racing through airports, interminable lines, cancelled flights, lost luggage, being stuck in D.C., and still not having a flight home.  Right now we're in ├án airport hotel room, stuck sitting on hold with reservations, and we've been told the wait will be an hour and a half!  We're just too old for this shit!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME


In one of my foodie magazines, they used to interview various celebrities about "the best meal I ever ate".  I was never sure which one I would describe, if they ever came to interview me...until now that is.  However, if our travel agent hadn't made that mistake that caused us to have a layover in Marseille, and if I hadn't stumbled across that Peter Mayle mystery novel at the bookstore just a few weeks ago, and if I did't have the kind of hubby who's always up for an adventure, I might be wondering still!


There is one scene in the book where the investigator arranges a meeting with a local reporter. The reporter suggests that they meet at "this place I know" on Rue du Village.  He said it looked like any ordinary butcher's shop from the street, but if you walk through the door at the back, you will get the surprise of your life.  Of course, we had no way of knowing if such a place really existed, or if Mayle had made it all up, but what did we have to lose? 


Well my friends, it does exist, and because we were willing to take that chance, I have now had a meal that...well...not only did it make me moan, John swears that when I took my first bite of beef cheeks with fois gras, my eyes actually rolled back in my head, and I had to grab onto the table edge to keep from vibrating!  This was it!  This was the meal I traveled all the way to France for, and the one that will go down in history as the best meal of my life.  Just in the nick of time, non?  We head home tomorrow morning!

My starter was an artfully arranged platter of bresaola, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and shaved parmesan, lightly drizzled with the finest olive oil -- which I forgot to photograph before digging in and messing it all up.  It looked almost just like the carpaccio platter that I love so much at Vespaio, in Austin, but bresaola is not raw meat.  It's air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months, until it becomes hard and turns dark red, almost purple. I guess it's the beef version of prosciutto.

In case you are wondering just what beef cheeks are, they are the meat from the cow's face, which can be a bit muscular and tough, and is therefore a cheaper cut, right?  But the French are brilliant this way!  They discovered that if you braise it for a few hours, it turns into the sweetest, most tender morsel imaginable -- a morsel to rival the most expensive cut of tenderloin! (which is exactly what it looked and tasted like) In this photo it is hidden under a thin slice of buttery-rich fois gras.

Oh dear.  I think I just moaned again!

Monday, May 30, 2011

MERCI, MR. MAYLE



Yesterday our cruise came to an end, and we had to say goodbye to all the new friends we had made, and the staff-members we had fallen in love with.  Very sad, but now we are in Marseille!  Although it is on the coast of the Mediterranean, it is not a resort town like Nice or Monte Carlo. It is very much a working town - which is good, because I didn't come here to see a bunch  of rich Americans lying on the beach.  I came to see French people.  Real French people.


This was most unusual for me, but I didn't do any research at all on Marseille before we got here.  The only information we have is what was gleaned while reading a mystery novel called The Vintage Caper, by beloved writer/foodie Peter Mayle - author of the memoir A Year in Provence.   As I was reading the story, I would jot down the occasional point of interest.  I also made note of where the characters went to eat, and what they had while there.  Thanks to these notes, we had best meal of the trip so far, last night, at a little place called Peron.


The first wine I ever loved.
It sits high on the Corniche President  Kennedy, and from its terrace we were able to watch the sun sinking behind the small island which holds the Chateau d'If -- the place where the Count of Monte Christo was said to have been incarcerated.  It just doesn't get any better than that!
Chateau d'If