Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

Clotilde Dusoulier's new book just came out and knowing her, I'm sure it's wonderful. Since the New York Times just did a big story on it (see that here), I'll skip over the background and just get to the juicy part: Clotilde's publisher wants to give one of you lucky folks a copy. 

Since the book is about French culinary idioms--meaning, phrases such as prendre de la brioche (gaining brioche), entre la poire et le fromage (between pear and cheese) and manger son pain blanc (eating one's white bread)--leave a comment below and in it, tell us your favorite French idiom, phrase, colloquialism or even word. Or, just tell me why you'd love to have this book in your collection...or to give it as a gift. Your comment will be your contest entry and you'll get extra points for creativity! Also please make sure to leave me your email so I can reach you if you win; signing in with your Google account or web URL is not enough. 

To learn more about the book, visit the companion site here; it has excerpts and audio recordings of the expressions. And if you'd like to just go ahead and buy it, you can do that hereBonne Chance!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Georgeanne Brennan's New Labor of Love

Georgeanne Brennan's passion for Provence is well documented, most notably in her books A Pig in Provence (Harcourt and Chronicle Books) and The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence (Chronicle Books), the latter of which won a James Beard Foundation award.  (To see all her books, click here.)

Since 1970, Georgeanne has had a home in the Upper Var region of Provence (a few kilometers from Quinson), where, over the years, she has raised goats, made cheese, run a seasonal cooking school and along the way, became something of an expert on sustainable living. When she's not in France, she lives on a small farm in Northern California.

Now Georgeanne is sharing her passion for food, gardening, history and Provence in an online store called La Vie Rustic.  It officially launched last month, selling a range of products “for the kitchen, barnyard, tool-shed, orchard and field."

La Vie Rustic, she says, is designed to appeal to  “the new wave of backyard and urban gardeners, animal husbandmen and women, home cooks, and anyone, anywhere who, like me, wishes to practice a sustainable lifestyle mindfully producing, cooking, and caring for their own food or even just a small part of it.”

The product line will grow as time goes on. So far, her seed collection includes French Heirloom Lettuce and Chicory Seeds in beautiful letterpress packages, a Chicken Scratch Patch and a field of Red Poppies. 

In the cuisine/kitchen section, she offers fresh and dried sweet bay cut from her own trees, Sel de Figues, Sel d'Abricot, a DIY Roulade (French Pancetta) kit and coming soon, a DIY for Jambon Cru.

In the verger/orchard department, you’ll find one-year-old Sultan de Marabout Fig Trees, grown from cuttings from a tree that was a gift to the United States from the Agricultural Commissioner of Algeria during the first decades of the 20th century.

Every product Georgeanne sells she created herself, often from homegrown fruits and herbs.  All of them, she says, were made “in the spirit of Provence.’’ Coming soon are a hand-crafted sickle with a black-walnut handle…and letter-press holiday cards crafted by a master printer on a Heidleberg press.

This type of business hardly new to Georgeanne.  In the 1980s, she founded the pioneering company Le Marche Seeds, which chef Joyce Goldstein wrote about in her book Inside the California Food Revolution.  She was also the designer and packager for Smith & Hawken's vegetable-and flower-seed packet and planter gift line...and she created private custom seed-and-garden products for Gardener's Eden, a now-closed division of Williams-Sonoma.

And now, Georgeanne is thrilled to be back in the world she loves so much: making and marketing high-quality products, in beautifully designed packages, for those who value the thoughtful,  loving-the-land lifestyle that she does.

"La Vie Rustic is heavily infused with my love for and knowledge of Provence and its way of life,” she says. "I want to share wonderful products for all the areas of our world that make for a sustainable life, in the French style.”

For more info about Georgeanne, you can check out her website, sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter, find her on Facebook or send her an email:

Photos: (1)  Georgeanne's beloved Provence. (2) Apricot salt.  (3) Pretty plums, on the Vie Rustic site. (4) Goat Cheese with Olive Oil and  Georgeanne's Herbes de Provence. (5) The website is filled with photos and tales of life in Provence. "Taken just before we all sat down to eat dinner," she writes, "this photo (by Sara Remington, from the book Paris to Provence by Ethel Brennan), speaks of the essence of the French kitchen." (6)  A Pig in Provence: "In Provence, my neighbors kept rabbits, guinea hens, geese (which attacked me if I got near them), a few chickens and a pig," Georgeanne continues. "The animals were kept in the barnyard area, behind the stone houses, or adjacent to them. The animals’ shelters were built of stone and had red-tiled roofs, just like the homes..."(7) Lettuce Seed Packets: Scarole Cornet de Bordeaux, Scarole Pain de Sucre, Friée Très Fine Maraichère, Chicorée Sauvage de Verone and more. (8) A salad of frisée, haricot vert and toasted walnuts. (9) Poppies in Provence and (10) the seeds to grow your own patch. (11) French Cooking at Home is Georgeanne's video cooking class; for into on that click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

You're Invited: A Côte d'Azur Thanksgiving

Once again, the American Club of the Riviera will celebrate Thanksgiving in Monaco, with a gala luncheon starting at 12:30 on Thursday, November 27. The event is open to all...and members of the US Air Force will be hosted (and toasted!) as the special guests of honor. The menu is, of course, an American feast of turkey and all the trimmings...with a Champagne reception to kick things off. As the usual venue, the Hotel de Paris, is closed for renovations, the event will take place in the splendid Salon Belle Epoque of its sister hotel, the Hermitage. Somewhere between 150 to 200 people are expected.

Full details (including pricing, directions, parking and reservations) are on the group's website hereQuestions? Contact Burton Gintell: +33 (0)6 20 40 11 28, 

*If you know of other Thanksgiving celebrations open to the public in Provence or on the French Riviera, please leave a note under comments, below.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Winter Food + Wine Tour in Provence

For roughly 18 years, Madeleine Vedel (an American from New York and Michigan) and her husband Erick (a French chef from Arles) ran a successful company in Provence, offering culinary and wine tours, cooking classes and B&B stays.

While Erick led the cooking classes, Madeleine took clients all over the region, happily introducing them to her favorite ingredients, dishes and wines….and all the hard-working folks who produce them.

Somewhere along the way, Madeleine and Erick split up, but they continue to collaborate, helping each other and “working together to each other’s strengths.” They have two sons: Leo, 17, and Jonas, 12.

In 2012, Madeleine and the boys took a two-year hiatus from France so she could help launch a sustainable goat farm and goat cheese creamery in Northern Michigan (Idyll Farms in Northport). And now that that chapter is coming to a close, she’s returning to Provence for January and February, to lead three special winter food tours. 

Designed to take advantage of cooler temps, quieter villages and that favorite Provencal winter past-time--feasting by the fireplace--the winter trips will include truffle hunts, Châteauneuf-du-Papes wine tasting, chocolate visits, market tours and the chance to make your own fresh foie gras, duck confit and smoked duck breast (aka magret).

“It's been a glorious two years bringing Idyll Farms into being,” Madeleine explains. “The herd of goats is over 100 strong: beautiful,  healthy and producing excellent milk. We’ve won three national awards for our cheeses…and I’m so proud! I hired and trained an excellent team… I've done what I set out to do… and now it's time to look towards the future and new projects.”

In addition to the activities mentioned above, the winter getaways in Provence will include glorious meals in some of the region’s best restaurants, hikes amidst the flowering almond trees (yes,  they normally flower in late January) and much more. Along the way you’ll pop in to meet some of Madeleine’s great old pals such as the beekeeper, the baker, the cheese maker and the potter.

“Erick will join us and bring along the moulard ducks,” Madeleine continues. “I bow to his skill with the foie, the duck confit and the smoked duck breast. No doubt he'll also render the fat, fry up some amazing potatoes, and treat us all with some duck cracklings as we sip our Châteauneuf. He's been known to do things like that…”

Each trip will have just eight slots. The first is January 14-21, 2014 (Wednesday to Wednesday). The second is January 24-31 (Saturday to Saturday). The third will be February 8-15, a Sunday to a Sunday itinerary.  For skiers, Madeleine suggests starting or beginning your trip in the Alps, a short and relatively easy drive from Provence. 

For all the tour info, click here. For questions or to sign up for Madeleine’s email newsletter:

Photos: (1) Madeleine with furry friends in Michigan and (2, 3) making goat cheese from the herd's milk. Sign up for her winter tour and you'll spend some time tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Papes (4), where the winter sunlight casts an exquisite glow. (5) You'll taste wine with Guy Bremond in his vaulted caves, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries. (6) You'll visit gorgeous Avignon, which was home to the Popes in the 14th century. (7, 8) You'll zip off to St. Remy to taste with Joël Durand, whose Alphabet des Saveurs chocolates are filled with a rich, velvety truffle-type ganache,  and come in 32 flavors including Earl Grey, rosemary, cocoa bean and jasmine. (9, 10, 11) You'll visit a truffle market like this one at Richerenches, and taste truffles in a variety of products. You might even get to enjoy a truffled omelette at the village fête. (12) You'll taste goat cheese, of course, and almost certainly meet sweet goats!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Art Workshops at the Palais des Papes

This fall and early winter at the 14th-century Palais des Papes in Avignon, the association Altera Roma is offering a series of workshops in Medieval arts and crafts. You can take a half-day intro (55€) or a full-day class (140€).  Designed for adults, they'll be taught in French but a translator is available for groups, if booked in advance.

The schedule for Les Ateliers du Palais is as follows:

October 11 & 12: Calligraphy, with Anne Demoustier

October 18 & 19: Marbling, with Zeynep Uysal Kog

October 25 & 26: Ceramics, with Stephan Leclercq (full day)

November 8 & 9: Illuminated manuscripts, with Marie-France Parronchi

November 10:  Ikebana with Georgine Duquesne

November 15 & 16: Calligraphy, with Anne Demoustier

November 22 & 23: Ceramics, with Stephan Leclercq (full day)

December 6 & 7: Illuminated manuscripts, with Marie-France Parronchi

December 11:  Ikebana, with Georgine Duquesne

December 13 & 14:  Marbling, with Zeynep Uysal Kog

December 21 & 22: Calligraphy, with Anne Demoustier

To learn more or to reserve your space, click here or here.

If you need help in English, contact Stephan Leclercq ( or by phone: +33 (0)6 62 38 50 14.

You can also get info and reserve through the Avignon Tourist Office:, +33(0)4 32 74 32 74.

Photos: Examples of work by Marie-France Parronchi (Illuminated Manuscripts), Georgine Duquesne (Ikebana), Anne Demoustier (Calligraphy) and Stephan Leclercq (Ceramics).