02/26/2018

Winter in Provence

From the dry countryside to the Black truffle market ...this is Provence in February !

As hard as it is to imagine Provence to be cold when you are visiting in the hot summer months, I can tell you that indeed it can get really cold ! The light is low , there is no leaves on trees , the landscape is in shades of grey-brown , there is frost in the morning , snow close by and pictures of a sunny day do not make you feel the burn of the Mistral blowing at 60 miles/hours on a 28F morning. It is not the colorful Provence postcard people dream to visit but just as real.  

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Today is not too bad , somewhere in the 40 F . With thermal leggings and  t-shirt , 2 sweaters and a well heated car , I can handle it ! The top of the Mont Ventoux is  hidden by a hat of clouds meaning that it will rain tomorrow...

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Vaison la Romaine and the Roman bridge that survived the massive 1992 flash flood when all other modern structures down stream were taken away leaving only foundations from many houses and a whole supermarket ! We were there that day ....rain was so hard we thought the roof was going to blow away , so much water coming down our chimney , it was flooding our living room but in the end we were safe and our old house made it through ...while many died and hundred of bridges collapsed cutting us off from many routes for months . 27750760_10203737612517680_5117080481834565173_n.jpg

People back then knew better and built their houses way up above the river.27657539_10203737612757686_5949325789729599305_n.jpgVineyards are all trimmed back ...It is an ongoing process that take most of the fall and winter months ; very hard work in this harsh weather .

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Les Gorges du Toulourenc at the bottom north of the Mt Ventoux are wonderful in summer .You can bath in the river and cool off when temperatures reach 95F ...in winter the romantic village of Brantes remains beautiful with the snow in the back drop . The cafe terrasse is waiting for spring and visitors to start coming again ...27858321_10203737609717610_1950962916205174475_n.jpg

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Today is an other story : 28F this morning and the wind is blowing at 60miles/hour . Not a day to put your nose out but I have to go to the market... At first it looks just like a winter farmers market....but soon you realize it is no regular market....it is the black truffles market held here in quaint Richerenche village from November through March....and February is peak season ! IMG_9255 (Large).JPG

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Special baby truffle oak trees for sale . Then all you need is a good truffle dog

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Most everything is truffle related and even the food truck sells truffle omelets ! 

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1200euros/kilo that's about $700/pound....people were buying a small truffle for $70 ....27751952_10203734622402929_5240726031905201313_n.jpg

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You have the street for regular shoppers or "tourists " and then the one where the real deals happen at the back of a truck ....dealers buy from farmers and negotiate with their big wholesale accounts....

 

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And there it is ...black gold , the beloved "Rabasse" ( the name in Provencal dialect for truffles) , bags of them !

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My mum use to have a dog and truffle oak trees . I grew up with the intoxicating smell of the tiniest truffle...Even in a Tupperware...the whole house was smelling ...there was no hiding you had found some black gold ....nowadays they do not come even close to what I knew ;  i find these truffles pretty tasteless in comparison...Even with my nose on it , all i smell is earth , dirt and a faint truffle aroma but still there is something special about this mushroom...

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The village restaurant sure serve some truffle dishes !27867088_10203734626643035_7412392283844714471_n.jpg

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With this weather , you have to eat something that stick to your ribs ! My favorite is a platter of "Quenelles de Lyon in a Nantua sauce / crawfish sauce"27332491_10203731826573035_3190423110314237772_n.jpg

Also the time of year to cook some orange jam , quince paste ....

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And  bien sur ....eat some crepes !

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I also discovered the French version of sushi . Here we have California rolls with avocado and crab meat ...the French who have to put Foie gras everywhere have managed to do foie gras sushis with fig jam , rolls of Seabass tartare with grapefruit , Salmon with mango and rose petals, beef carpacio with arugula and pesto...adapting this fashion phenomenon to French taste buds !

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A last stop before to fly home . Even the French Riviera is pretty bare .

These rose fields are grown specially for Chanel #5 perfume ...we are just a few kilometers from Grasse , the capital of perfume making !

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The mimosa is in full bloom everywhere , hills covered , sides of the freeways , growing wild and making the countryside smells like heaven in the dead of winter ! Brings sunshine to your home but unfortunately only last 1 day in a vase

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The town plaza of Valbonne is buzzing with people enjoying lunch even on a cool day

IMG_9166 (Large).JPGJust out of a magazine ...my architect friend's home is a dream

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I wish it was summer ....

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The best thing about February is that you can find Crepe Pans everywhere !

I sure did and shipped a bunch that will be available at the shop along with our magic crepe batter shakers !A new Crepe demonstration/tasting will be coming up very soon ! Stay tuned on Facebook , email or call us to find out date !

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Making some Crepes flambees for breakfast !

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Best crepes ever ! I think it is the La Cornue stove ...I need one of those too !

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04:16 Posted by Marielle Giai in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

10/25/2016

Yvonne Angyal's Provence photos

Yvonne is not only a friend , part of our " Maison en Provence" little team  but also a very creative and talented photographer . We sell some of her art , postcards and today I wanted to share few of her images taken in Provence on her last trip .

Yvonne Angyal's photography is about spontaneity, living in the moment and trying to capture something interesting that catches her eye . She believes that aiming for balance, interesting colors and shapes  make up for beautiful compositions.  http://www.yaphotos.net/blogger-feed

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19:52 Posted by Marielle Giai in Blog, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

11/15/2015

Fall in Provence

Provence in the fall can really be a beautiful time to visit . If you lock in a perfect week without the treacherous Mistral or any rain you can experience all the golden light in the trees and vines , the leaves changing color and some balmy temperatures .

Not that I am a chauvinist when it comes to our area in Provence but I will say it again : it is more untouched , not as famously touristic and so worth exploring the northern part of Provence ! There is no hip restaurants or shops but there is no tourist trap /Disneyland of Provence either ...it is the true land , its culture, produce and people ...and yes it is remote but that's what I like about it . It's real farmland , olive groves and cherry trees , vineyards , sheep or goats  grazing on a hillside , a tractor going by on a Sunday afternoon and no chic Parisian with high hills and perfect manicure to be seen ! It can be a very harsh environment but this week happened to just be perfect . As I am meeting my potter and other craftsman making some real treasure soon to be in our shop , I took the tiny windy roads detours so I could share some beautiful fall scenery with you and maybe make you want to check out the Drome Provencale ...

Tulette , Pascal's home town . Nothing special about it but I love the little Cooperative where I can find all local products under one roof , specially the most delicious sheep milk "cailles" much lighter than yogurt non acidic and the only thing I'll eat for dessert all week !  IMG_8836 (Large).JPG

Far in the back ground : The Mont Ventoux nice and clear . There is no rain in the forecast or it would wear a hat of clouds .IMG_8839 (Large).JPG

Plane trees growing sideways because of the Mistral IMG_8843 (Large).JPG

Nyons is a cute little town very well known for its olive oil . The olives are very specific and only grow here ...not very meaty , with a big pit but they make a very fruity olive oil that is our favorite ! IMG_8846 (Large).JPG

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Le Col de Valouse is the most narrow road ever ...it goes from Saint Ferreol Trente Pas to Dieulefit . I stop for lunch at the only restaurant but found it totally booked for a private party . Good thing I have plan B : a picnic emergency basket  . My mum and I are back on the road looking for that perfect spot .....Below is the view from the restaurant .IMG_8867 (Large).JPG

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We back track a little and take the Gorges de Trente Pas ...IMG_8877 (Large).JPG

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...and found the perfect picnic spot with an incredible view !IMG_8889 (Large).JPG

The lavender fields have been trimmed down already but this area is so beautiful in summer too !IMG_8890 (Large).JPG

What else can we ask for ?? A fresh baguette , some saussison , my favorite sheep cheese and a caillette ( a specialty from Provence made with spinach , herbs and a little grounded "mystery meat " ...I'll leave it like that or I'll scare you  ! ) IMG_8892 (Large).JPG

Fresh Chouquettes that we stuffed with some chocolate pot de creme and topped with fresh raspberries . It does not get better than that !IMG_8899 (Large).JPG

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Goats in the back ground IMG_8903 (Large).JPG

Down the hill : Bouviere where we stop for a coffee in the other restaurant that got fully booked today ...some other people know the good spots of the back country ! From there you could keep going north to Bourdeaux and Dieulefit or make it shorter like we did going back down to Gumiane , Arnaillon, Villeperdrix and back to Nyons .IMG_8904 (Large).JPG

On the hillside of Nyons is where my cousins have their Olive groves . I am stopping to pick up some goodies and say hello. IMG_8909 (Large).JPG

It's been so dry and hot this year again that the harvest will start mid November instead of late December /January . The olives are starting to drop so it is time ....IMG_8908 (Large).JPG

Beautiful view from the patio . Nyons nickname is "Le Petit Nice" referring to the mild climate of the French Riviera ...and is spared by the Mistral most of the time ...Palm trees grow in Nyons !IMG_8911 (Large).JPG

Not only their olives are totally organic but all the food my cousins eat is home grown in their large vegetable garden ! IMG_8913 (Large).JPG

Every country has their own tradition when it comes to the Day of the dead . In Mexico there are big celebrations and in France even though now days kids dress up and trick or treat too , the tradition is to remember your loved ones who have passed and bring them flowers ...not any kind of flowers but Chrysanthemums . We picked some at the farmer's market to bring to my family and Pascal's family's grave.IMG_8784 (Large).JPG

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My mum's back yard IMG_8782 (Large).JPG

Japanese Cosmos Flowers are in bloom right now !IMG_8780 (Large).JPG

My mum enjoying some nice weather in her back yard jungle ...IMG_8781 (Large).JPG

Today is a rainy day so I planned a special cooking class at my aunt .IMG_8751 (Large).JPG

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I've asked my aunt to teach me how to make "Pieds Paquets"  translate as "feet and Bags". It is a very old traditional recipe in Provence and one of my favorite but nobody makes them anymore and what you find at the butcher is never quiet as good as what I remember my aunt making . So today is a special day as my cousin Francoise and I will get a hand's on class ! The recipe start like that :  " les pieds paquets de Meme Lucienne  / the feet and paquets from grandma Lucienne ( who was my aunt's mother )  . You will need time and patience and also make some for at least 10 people ! We are on for a challenge for sure ...but we have all afternoon !

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 All you need is : a dozen lambs feet , grounded "farce fine " a fine grounded meat stuffing , salted pork belly , 8 lambs stomachs , garlic and parsley ...Good thing is the butcher supply us with clean , already blanched parts. We'll wash and clean them again but there's no smell :)IMG_8727 (Large).JPG

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No gadgets , no ceramic knifes ...we use the same cooking tools as Meme Lucienne did !IMG_8742 (Large).JPG

Lots of garlic and parsley to mix in with the stuffing as well as some of the cuts from the lamb stomach that we ground . This is the secret that will make the stuffing smooth and not hard ...IMG_8746 (Large).JPG

The hardest part ! Figure out how to cut a stomach pouch into something that we can stuff, roll up , that won't come undone while cooking without using tread or picks ....we'll cheat and attached a few like tiny little "rotis" and manage to make 50 bags ...enough for 10 people ! While we are struggling with our bagging ....our home made sauce is slowly simmering : a fragrant mix of onions, pork belly cubed , tomatoes, bouquet garni , leeks and carrots . We lay some pork "couenne" or pork skin at the bottom of the pot , the 12 feet on top, our paquets and top off with our broth ....it will then cook for a good 3 hours .....and we'll have to wait until the next day to savor our work !IMG_8759 (Large).JPG

Our stew will cook an other 3 hours before we can taste it....but this was so worth it ! There were just like I remembered : soft , tender , melting in your mouth little bundles of flavor and the feet just falling off the bone with a sweet gelatinous texture so gooeyly delicious !IMG_8769 (Large).JPG

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A ray of sunshine after the rain on my childhood playground IMG_8754 (Large).JPG

From my aunt's house you can see way far in the back ground Saint Roman de Malegarde ...a village of some 100 people where Pascal and I leaved for 10 years before we moved to San Diego IMG_8757 (Large).JPG

Back yard fall magic ...makes everything look beautiful !IMG_8775 (Large).JPG

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Today , I am on the road again , an hour and a half away and a speeding ticket later ( can't go to France an not get your speeding ticket .....) I reach the famous Luberon area ! I stop for lunch in Cucuron , drive by Bonnieux, Menerbes ...IMG_8700 (Large).JPG

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The village of LacosteIMG_8712 (Large).JPG

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Some of the treasures that will be in our shop soon ....the original lavender sachet is still being made here in Provence ! I grew up weaving lavender wands when the lavender is fresh and you can bend the stems to enclose the flowers . I would sell them at my parent's gas station every summers when I was not picking up melons , peaches or apricots !  It takes for ever to make one but the scent will stay inclosed for years . Gently press the wand to release the best lavender scent  !

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22:23 Posted by Marielle Giai in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

08/14/2015

Back to Provence

Late April is a bit too early but this year I had some pretty nice weather and could enjoy my mum's amazing wisteria , Lilac , iris and lily of the valley .   DSCN0930 (Large).JPG

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First trial run with the walker ...we are off to the marche !  My mum is still very skinny but I plan to put some fat on her body this time and do some cooking as always !DSCN0981 (Large).JPG

These were the cutest pet pigs !DSCN0986 (Large).JPG

The white wisteria on the "place de la mairie" main square .DSCN0987 (Large).JPG

I am making Pascal's grand mother's baby goat stew recipe ...a family tradition in the spring . I know my brother in law will appreciate as he too grew up with this .DSCN0970 (Large).JPG

I gave the recipe in a blog post in Provence a couple of years ago ...you can make this recipe with veal as it has a mild flavor as well . Now it has to simmer for an hour or more before I can finish the sauce with an egg yolk and cream just before to serve ....DSCN0977 (Large).JPG

 

My County in the Cote du Rhone area use to be just vine fields and wineries everywhere but the big wine crisis changed the landscape . When the price of French wines dropped drastically a lot of small wine makers saw their income slashed again and again .... a lot of them had to find a way to make ends meet . This one decided to change career . He and his wife removed all the vines and planted grass to feed some cheeps ,  trained for a year and are now making cheep's milk cheeses  and "yogurts"  my ultimate favorites. They are called "caille" and they do not use the same starter as a culture . It makes the yogurt very mild with zero acidity and extremely light like a fluffy milk . I could not find it anywhere but in Biarritz near Spain but now I can buy these at the market or at the farm for 0.60E each . Top with some crunchy sugar and a bit of whipping cream !DSCN0989 (Large).JPG

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Le "Chateau de Rochegude" a Relais and Chateaux hotel and restaurant just a few miles from my home town is a great place to stay in Provence , hidden in a quaint little village , quiet and close to everything at the same time . Perfect to explore the northern part of Provence , the Drome Provencale that I love so much . Less tourists and beautiful landscapes ! DSCN0998 (Large).JPG

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They are hosting a vintage car gathering today , the occasion for me to see some friends who have come from all over the south .DSCN1024 (Large).JPG

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Today we are celebrating my mum's cousin  100th Birthday ! She is still living in her home with the help of her daughters . I get to see my entire family this time and enjoy some fabulous Choux a la creme ! DSCN1035 (Large).JPG

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Mum making my favorites : Vietnamese fried rolls ....nobody makes them better than her ! Eat with lettuce , mint , fish sauce and rice.DSCN0931 (Large).JPG

Bringing back some very special souvenirs ; 3 vases in raku that my mum made DSCN1068 (Large).JPG

Now back in San Diego , I get to practice my Ikebana and make some flowers arrangements in those special vases  ! 1610932_10200333027605185_868294500195871707_n.jpg

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01:46 Posted by Marielle Giai in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

06/20/2015

Lyon the capital of gastronomie in France

I had not been in Lyon for over 25 years but this year I will lay over on my way to Provence ... I have been dreaming about a REAL Quenelle de Lyon for way too long !

Many world famous chefs , 3 stars Michelin Restaurants , Paul Bocuse school ...but I am not after some fancy food in a high end decor but old fashion Lyon rustic food !

First I am renting a "Velove " ( the response to the "Velibre" in Paris ) to get around this not so big city ....plus I know I will need to burn some calories today ! To get into an appetite ...nothing like going to the market : The famous covered "Halles Bocuse "

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My favorite cheese ...never seen in the US : a creamy  Saint Felicien

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How about a cheese shaped like France  ! DSCN0819 (Large).JPG

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Escargots ready to go...DSCN0821 (Large).JPG

Pate en croute  with black trufflesDSCN0822 (Large).JPG

Famous chicken from Bresse, Guinea fowl , pigeons ...DSCN0826 (Large).JPG

Specialty Quenelles : with squid ink , fish or crayfish . Now I am shopping and taking some home ! I have tried to make some quenelles here in San Diego from scratch without any success and cannot wait to get my hands on these delicate "dumplings" . When you cook them in a creamy white sauce "nantua"  ( with more crayfish )  they fluff like a small souffle ! DSCN0815 (Large).JPG

The cheese stand was amazing but the charcuterie stand is not shabby either ! Do not mix saussisson sec and saussisson de Lyon: one is a dry salami , the other is fresh like a large sausage . This is what I came for too .DSCN0823 (Large).JPG

I guess everything is good with truffles but I will stick to the classic pistachio . Just simmer the saussisson slowly for 45mns and serve with steamed potatoes ...DSCN0824 (Large).JPG

Bulots are some of my favorites too...a sea snail delicious with some aioli .DSCN0825 (Large).JPG

A few Bulots and Oursins will do it as an appetizer today . The sea urchins are from Bretagne and despite being smaller than our local San Diegan monsters , they have a very similar delicate and flowery flavor ...eat French style with a good fresh baguette and sweet butter to mop the shell ! DSCN0830 (Large).JPG

I cannot help drool just looking at the pastries ...DSCN0828 (Large).JPG

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Time for lunch ! Chez Paul ...DSCN0835 (Large).JPG

In Lyon we do not call these Bistro or Cafe but Bouchon ... it all about meat , heavy , creamy delicious rustic food ! DSCN0836 (Large).JPG

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It's about the food but also a convivial atmosphere , sharing your table with other guests ...talking to the owner . At "Chez Paul"  they serve the appetizers family style ...you pass around big salad bowls with head pate , beat salad , lentils salad, more cured meat and more pate ....I am pacing myself ... Next is my piece de resistance : Blood sausage with mash potato and apple puree ....French blood sausages are not like any I've had made by German or here in the US ....they are the creamiest texture , sweet mild flavor and crunchy outside ...a must try next time you are in France !DSCN0838 (Large).JPG

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I take a bite of the saussisson de Lyon ....miss the pistachios and move to the cheese platter , then "fromage frais" a very fresh goat cheese served with fresh herbs , cannot resist having seconds of "faisselle" a fresh cottage cheese like but much more smooth and light topped with a big ladle of creme fraiche before it is desert : a large platter of Creme caramel ( custard flan in caramel sauce ) , a couple of plums cooked in red wine to help digest and I am done ! 25 Euros for the menu ...I am full !DSCN0842 (Large).JPG

Place des Terreaux  square is classified as Worl Heritage site by Unesco . It is in the center of Lyon on the Presqu'ile in between the 2 rivers : The Rhone and the Saone L'Hotel de Ville ( Lyon main city hall ) built in 1672DSCN0849 (Large).JPG

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Fontaine Bartholdi DSCN0851 (Large).JPG

In the former benedictine convent is the Musee des Beaux ArtsDSCN0844 (Large).JPG

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L'eglise Saint BonaventureDSCN0853 (Large).JPG

On top of the hill stand the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere looking more like a fortress than a cathedral . It took 24 years to built and was only finished in 1884 .DSCN0854 (Large).JPG

You should walk and wonder in the streets of the Vieux Lyon well known for its Renaissance architecture , but I only have one day so I am back on my bike ... DSCN0852 (Large).JPG

Cannot be in Lyon and not stop at Francois Pralus . His famous Praluline created by his father celebrate its 60th anniversary this year . It is a "simple" brioche mixed with a lot and I mean a lot of pralines !! DSCN0855 (Large).JPG

Not that I am already hungry ...but I step inside to buy THE famous Praluline . I am told that they are sold out but a new batch fresh from the oven is coming out in 15mns ...and I should stay to wait inline ...but I need to lock my bike so by the time I step out , lock my Velove ...the line is out the door already and by the time I make it back inside ...there are just a few Praluline left  ! This is a highly coveted brioche and totally worth the fight I can tell you that now !

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The brasserie Georges, an institution near the Gare Perrache ; the place you go in a hurry before to catch a train or to savor a classic choucroute garnie on a  late night...I plan to come back for desert tonight . I want an Omelette Norvegienne flambee table side tonight ! So few restaurants still serve this incredible dessert ...DSCN0861 (Large).JPG

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The new Quartier de la Confluence with its hip restaurants and shops DSCN0865 (Large).JPG

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My bike for the day with all my goodies from the market DSCN0876 (Large).JPG

Traditional house boat along the Saone river . This previously industrial area is being rehabilitated now so people can enjoy the river banks.DSCN0877 (Large).JPG

What a contrast with the old boats !DSCN0880 (Large).JPG

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The Saone on the left , The Rhone on the right and in the middle the brand new Musee  des confluences looking like a floating crystal cloud of steel and glass . DSCN0889 (Large).JPG

The confluence where the 2 rivers become one .DSCN0891 (Large).JPG

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All this biking around the city all day helped me work an appetite again ! I've heard of this bouchon hidden in a tiny street ... One last feast of creamy goodness before to get back to my Mediterranean diet of Olive oil and tomatoes tomorrow .DSCN0908 (Large).JPG

Advertising their "Famous Quenelle " ...this is it ! DSCN0909 (Large).JPG

Love the quaint authentic decor  !DSCN0910 (Large).JPG

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I am sharing this meal with my cousin's daughter Amandine and her boyfriend Cedric.DSCN0915 (Large).JPG

First some of the most delicious foie gras on a frisee salad .DSCN0916 (Large).JPG

A dream come true ! This is THE quenelle de Lyon at its perfection !DSCN0919 (Large).JPG

Sweet breads in a morel cream sauce , crispy and creamy on the inside DSCN0920 (Large).JPG

And a Baba au Rhum to top it off ! I have not forgotten about the Omelette Norvegienne but there is no way I can eat anything else right now !!! The most incredible thing is that I will digest like a charm everything I ate today  ...when I can have such a stomach ache eating nothing special in San Diego . I am not sure what it is but there is something about the food in France that not only taste better but process better . DSCN0921 (Large).JPGTomorrow I head down to Provence by train with a cool bag full of more great Lyon food to cook at home . My Mediterranean diet will wait a few more days !

02:26 Posted by Marielle Giai in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

12/28/2014

Olive harvest in Provence

I have to share these photos of my family in Provence in the village of Nyons ....where the famous olive oil is produced .  My cousins Alain and Regine own and operate the family  olive farm just like in the old days ( It is the 6th generation and  they make the most delicious organic first cold pressed olive oil I know ). Yes it is Christmas and it is also the season to pick up the olives . The day after Christmas everybody is giving them a hand  !

http://fermebres.fr/index.html

 

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My little cousin Lou-Anne

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My cousin Regine

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Processing all the olives by hand as always .

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Nyons is a cute little town in "Drome Provencale" the northern part of Provence at the foothills of the lavender fields ( we get our lavender oil from there ) . The olives are legendary and driving east and north of Nyons is just marvelous ... our very favorite area to go to ...unspoiled tiny roads and villages . ..worth exploring if you go to Provence ! 

 

04:47 Posted by Marielle Giai in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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