Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blackberry Picking

The lane leading to Jardins des Thevenets is lined with Blackberry bushes. One afternoon Tami, Kelly and Susan came back with handfuls of berries. They were so delicious we decided to return and pick a few bowls of them for breakfast.
On the walk we passed century old buildings.
Bits of  pieces of charm littered the path.
Windows were dressed with graceful branches and wild roses .
There were flowers everywhere.
Even the barn has that certain French charm:-)

Tami found the choicest berries.
Kelly managed to look chic even though she was being pricked.....
We used the berries for breakfast, served in a large compote dish they were a lovely addition to the yogurt.
They were so sweet we decided to use them for these delicious dessert verrines. Layers of berries, whipped cream and Speculos cookies were a light but satisfying sweet. As Lynn would say, "It was sufficient."

All photos and text are property of The Gypsy Chef.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Quick but Satisfying Lunch

The thing about being in the country is that your always hungry. Whether it's the fresh air, exercise (sitting on the train reading is rather strenuous) or just picking vegetables in the garden, I find I'm always hungry when someone mentions lunch. Lynn took us to her chicken man, who had an Airstream trailor he had configured to roast chickens. At the bottom of the roaster he cooked sliced potatoes in the chicken drippings. The aroma was enticing.
Just look at those potatoes, couldn't you just take a fork to them? And let me tell you, the chicken was spot on also.
The chicken man was a delight. he had decorated the inside with Vintage American signs. Give us a smile, I ask, and he obliged.
The next stop was for macaroons at the local Patisserie.
Sweet and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, they were as good as they looked.
Lynn said the best way to have the chicken man's potatoes was to saute them with garlic. We quickly minced garlic and sauteed the potatoes. She was right, they were rich and flavorful with just a touch of garlic and sea salt. 
Our french chicken was delicious. We popped him in the oven just to keep him warm. Perfectly cooked and well seasoned, we devoured him with hardly a bit left. 
What do you crave most after a satisfying lunch? A nap of course, we relaxed in the garden under the soft Auvergne sunshine.  If you look closely you will see Lily the cat, Kelly is offering her a caress.
These lovely garden shoes drew my attention. I mean really, even the shoes in France are beautiful.
All photos and text belong to The Gypsy Chef

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Traveling is a funny thing. No matter how many times I cross the Atlantic or Pacific there is still that anticipation of adventure and excitement. What’s that you say? I’ve been to Paris so many times there is no adventure? No, your wrong. Adventure and excitement come in small bits coupled with seconds of confusion and miles walked on tired, swollen feet. It’s a glass of wine at a cafe, or sharing a coffee with a new friend in a strange kitchen. Adventure is getting to know people you would have never met in your own neighborhood.
Adventure comes in the form of ticket kiosks, at large and busy train stations, making reservations for restaurants in a language you don’t speak and staying at hotels where it’s a journey to your charming room at the top of 6 flights of stairs under the garrett (the elevator only goes to floor 5). It’s realizing the ground floor is 0, and cold is hot and hot is cold when you turn the tap. 
Such was the many experiences of my guests this year. The first to arrive were Tami and Kelly, who traveled to London, caught the train at St. Pancras Station and slowly but surely made their way to Paris.  Here they are with Annette, whom they met on the plane. She took them under her wing and delivered them to St Pancreas.
 From Gare du Nord they decoded the metro map and arrived at the Grand Hotel Dore. In the true spirit of adventure they didn’t nap, but toured the Eiffel Tower, dined at a local cafe and finally ended the evening at the bistro across the street. 
Next was Susan, a South African living in Canada, whom, never having been to Paris, stood in front of Gare de Lyon to orient herself and decide how she would travel to the Pierre’s apartment in the 12th. According to Susan, everyone helped her with her suitcase and directed her to the right stop. When she rang the bell, I opened the door to a big smile and a lovely voice saying, “You must be Pam”. We hugged and I knew instantly we would be friends.
Ok so I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM. I had planned on meeting Lisa, the next arrival at the Gare de Lyon Air France bus stop. Needless to say I overslept, Lisa waited for me 3 hours. Her adventure was only just beginning. She navigated the soda machine and managed a Diet Coke. At the cost of 2 Euros a bottle, she was looking for the bill slot when she realized the she had a 2 Euro coin. Voila! Another mystery solved. Feeling confident she then stood in line, bought her ticket and decided if I didn’t show up, she would just climb on the train and head to Vichy. Bravo Lisa!
When I climbed out of the cab at the station, I remember thinking there can’t be too many blonds with curly hair. ”Monsieur, avez-vous vu une femme blonde aux cheveux bouclés? “ I ask the Air France busman. In a very stern manner her replied, “Elle a attendu trois heures.”
Pointing three fingers at me.  Où at-elle aller? Where is she? Ou est cest trop?   "Je ne sais pas" he replied. I climbed the stairs and looked toward the station and there she was, that blond hair shining in the sunlight. “Lisa” she looked up and with relief in her face we feel into each others arms.  “I was afraid you wouldn’t show up!” she said. “I was afraid you were lost!”I replied.
Over cafe creme and chocolate croissants we talked about her trip, her wait and the upcoming week. We then bought sustenance for the train, found our coach, seat and headed to Vichy.
At noon Debbie arrived tired, but game for anything. She had traveled from New York, through Cincinnati into Paris and finally Vichy. Having attended last year, Debbie and Lynn were thrilled to see one another again.
Off we went to La Galea, the local tennis club restaurant.
 We were wined and dined by the very handsome owner, Patrick Corrazzin. Here's a snap of Lynn and Patrick.
 And then the rest of the girls arrived, their train was delayed by a knife wielding, ticketless ruffian. After a bit of a struggle he was apprehended, and the train moved on. Only 10 minutes late, their train pulled in and out they spilled, luggage and laughter.
  Stay tuned for more adventure.......... 
All text and photos belong to The Gypsy Chef.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Royal Marines are a bunch of Jolly Chaps!

One of the wonderful things about visiting friends in other countries is that you can actually live as a local.  There are far more opportunities to get to know the country than the average tourist. Visiting Vic and Mel in Exeter is no exception. They have endless friends and parties to attend. On Saturday they had been invited to a Royal Marine Garden Party, and were generous enough to include me! Hosted by Ann and her husband, Ray, a retired Royal Marine, they put on a spectacular event. Ann is an incredible woman who does it all. Her garden was gorgeous, her scones delicate and her home was beautiful!
The party was attended by retired Royal marines to benefit the active marines and their families.
The British Navy had a tradition of serving a tot of rum at noon to the sailors. The officers would serve each sailor out of a barrel. The men could drink it down, or say “Sippers” Which would entitle the officers to have a sip of their rum. Gulpers of course would mean the officers could drink their rum. I was told that that never happened and I’m inclined to believe it!
The Officers in uniforms of 19th century sailors, rang a bell and lead the crowd in singing "God Save the Queen". The guests then proceeded up for their tot. I joined the procession and of course said "Sippers" making me vary popular indeed!
It was a jolly time, with a sing-a-long of Navy songs, such as “What do you do with a drunken Sailor” and several others I had heard of but never knew they were traditional Royal Navy Tunes. Colin offered a toast to welcome me to Jolly Olde England.
Afterwards we had an incredible Devon Cream Tea. I was told that a Devon scone is loaded cream first than Jam but a Cornish scone is slathered with jam first and then cream. Either way it’s incredibly delicious and I just can’t get my fill. As I write this I am longing for a Devon Cream Tea.
Anne made all the baked cakes and scones. Each one was more delicious than the next. She set a table laden with tea sandwiches, cakes, sponges and scones. I ate until I thought I would burst.

The end of the day was followed by a personal guided tour by Anne of her beautiful Garden.

These are just a few of the pictures I took of her beautiful garden. The rest are on my other computer. I'll add more later. 
At the end of the day her husband presented his bride with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. 
It was a wonderful day. I felt like an honored guest. I can honestly say The Royal Marines and their Spouses are all Jolly Good Fellows!
All pictures and texts are property of The Gypsy Chef. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tennesse BBQ

I've spent the last 6 weeks traveling and I'm not done yet. I've tried to put out a few posts but lack of WiFi or just plain inertia kept me from my duty. So after reading Kate's post at Serendipity. I decided to take the bull by the horns or actually by the rib and just post. So here goes...
I'm in Winfield, Tn visiting my sister. It's a rural farming area, much different from my neighborhood. Due to traveling, I have a habit of keeping my eyes wide open. That's why I spied the BBQ stand, Fat Baby's Meats, while we were headed down the highway. 
My sister made an immediate U turn and we parked in front of a BBQ smoker and grill. Thank goodness I had my iphone and was able to take a few pics. 
My mouth was watering and I couldn't wait to bite into anything. Seriously. 
Anything Bar-B-Qued.
The stand was maned by Ray and Dustin Kennedy. A father and son operation. Dustin made his own dry rubs and BBQ sauce. The baby back ribs were wonderful, meaty, and falling off the bone tender. I polished off several before I came up for air. I ask Dustin where he learned his technique and he told me he trained for five years with a French chef. The stand was so busy ( and I couldn't stop eating) so we really didn't have much time to chat. 
However I found out it was his butcher shop and he's out here every weekend smoking ribs, pork shoulder for pulled pork, bologna (this is Tennessee after all) polish sausage and hamburgers. People around us were ordering slices of bologna, ribs and sausages which were served on buns.
Everything smelled delicious. I immediately ordered a rack of ribs. Ray pored the signature BBQ sauce into a styro cup. Dustin said he didn't need to cut them up because they were so tender they would pull apart. They did! I stood in the parking lot, eating ribs, the sauce dripping off my fingers. 
We opted for more ribs, smoked bologna and sausages. We headed home to feed the troops and glory in our new found largesse. Yes, it was a wonderful lunch. I may cruise tonight looking for more BBQ. 
Meanwhile accept my apologies for my neglect of my blog and yours. I'm back in the saddle. 
I've got loads to blog, I had a terrific visit with Kate and Dan, Mel and Vic and Jenny. Just to mention a few. So hang in there I'll be posting more stuff! By the way, this truck pulled into the parking lot for BBQ and just never left. I'm tempted to do the same.
All photos and text belong to The Gypsy Chef.