The label may have changed but it is still the same good stuff in the bottle! At 9$ a bottle if you buy six, Vintage Cellars are doing their best to promote the current iteration of my favourite Cotes-du-Rhone for a few years in a raw.
We finished the 2007 vintage a long time ago, and it is a shame at it was certainly one of the best GSM i have ever drunk - in that price range, that is - and even if the current 2010 vintage could wait another couple of years to refine, it is still very drinkable.
You could also try the Cotes-du-Ventoux if you like it rougher, or you could uprade to St Joseph and Cote-Rotie if you are prepared to spend more dough! Up to you, but I want to hear your reviews!
The winery is about 40 ams south of Lyon, on the western bank of the Rhone just south of Vienne.
We will stop there on our way back from Provence towards the end of ou
Photo by Gregoire LIERE
One of the first challenges is to find my original photos...
The last time I went to Provence was in 2009, and I was not doing digital photography just yet, and was still content to use my Nikon F60.
So, I had to spend some time shiffling through quite a large collection of prints and CDs...and that involves a big trip down "memory lane"...
Why taking this challenge now? Well, it was triggered by an article in our local newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald and it is thirty days to my birthday, so it will give you a chance to save for a gift! Just kidding...
Episode 1 - Our journey starts in Paris
The TGV station at CDG airport
Chances are that wherever you are reading my prose, a trip to France will certainly either arriving or departing from Paris, and frankly who would miss the pleasure of spending a few days there when coming all the way from across the World?
And if you are on your way to the South of France, then you will take the TGV from Gare de Lyon in the 12th arrondissement and debark 2h40mm later in Avignon.
So, it might be a good idea to stay near by and stay for instance at
Pavillon Saint Louis Bastille.
It is close to the station, the Opera Bastille, the Marais is not far away
and there are many buses and metro stations within walking distance.
After a night at the Opera, it might be a good idea to dine in style at the station, at Le Train Bleu restaurant.
There are dozens of more affordable options around - just open your eyes and be prepared for a good time!
Stay tuned for Episode 2 tomorrow Paris to Avignon!
If you have been searching for the perfect place to stay in France during the European Summer, you may want to explore "Coin Secret", a French website here people rent their own properties.
We stayed in one of them in Maussane in July 2009 and you may have read about it here on our "Travel"page, where you will find our own account and photos of the great time we had there. Up until recently, it was a bit convoluted to recommend the place, but now it is easy, just a few clicks away.
Obviously, this site is also full of other great places around France and even some in Italy.
The site is in French, English, Dutch and German, so, no excuses...
Danielle Mazet-Delpeuch returns to Sydney after a 23 years absence to promote the film based on her time in the private kitchen of the Elysee Palace, cooking for Francois Mitterand - Haute Cuisine - Les Saveurs du Palais.
We had a chance to meet her after the screening of the film and then again in a more intimate setting at the Alliance Francaise of Sydney yesterday afternoon. Today she was interviewed by Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM and you can listen the podcast by clicking the button below.
Danielle is a vibrant 71 year old, full of life and humour, with plenty adventures over these many decades, and my guess is she is not done yet!
A few things emerged from these three contacts I had with her:
As she says herself, she is not a chef, but just a cook, but obviously not any cook, having learned the tricks of the trade from her grandmother, then mother and many other relatives and people around her over the years.
So really the English title for the film - Haute Cuisine - is misleading and the French title suits better the task at hand and the skills required. Mitterand said to her: Cook like my grandmother and I will be happy:
"Vaste programme" like this other French President, Charles de Gaulle famously answered to his Chief of Staff after he said in a moment of frustration: "Morts aux cons!". (and yes it is quite less rude in French than the English translation will suggest...Actually, I can't print it here, not to offend anyone!)
One person in the audience at The Chauvel asked her what was the most interesting to her: politics, sex or food?
She very politically answered that she was not interested in politics, letting the other two up in the air!
Well, let me tell you, Danielle is a very skilled political animal, as she has maneuvered herself across continents, social layers and various kitchens around the World with aplomb and a sense that anything is possible if you put your mind to it! Her life is certainly a testament to that...
Another interesting comment she made - and I certainly relate to it - was that to be a good cook, you need a good audience, you need "gourmands", and in this regard, Mitterand was definitely famous for his love of good food and good company, with a penchant for the feminine one...
From the moment she started her cooking classes at La Borderie - the famous week-ends foie gras - she actually attracted the right crowd, people that have been exposed to the "Cuisine Bourgeoise" either in their childhood or later in life as they became more affluent and could afford to travel in search of this authenticity attached to it.
This in turn triggers the search for the local and seasonal ingredients and the art of designing a menu with what you have in the pantry or you can source from the farm or the local market(s).
Promoting these ideas at the time she started was completely revolutionary, although today this is becoming mainstream again, and sometime to the extreme, as Chefs around the World go foraging themselves for special herbs and vegetables. Not very different from digging truffes from your own backyard or gently force feeding geese and ducks to produce delicious meat, silky foies gras and fat to cook with. Nothing was dicarded from the animal apart from the head!
A bit of trivia gleaned here and there over her visit:
It took three people to recreate her recipes for the film:
Gerard Besson, ex owner of Le Coq Heron in Paris, now owned by and renamed Kei, a promising young Japanese Chef
Guy Legay, ex Chef de Cuisine at the Ritz, and like Gerard Besson, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the highest distinction one can achieve in this trade
And finally, Elisabeth Scotto, a very famous stylist who write for Elle
The Antarticas scenes were in fact shot in Iceland - a tad simpler, closer and cheaper than going all the way to the Antipodes...
The book mentioned in the film "Eloges deal Cuisine Francaise" by Gerard Nignon is out of print, and is available as an antique for 700euros - that's almost 1000A$. I will be waiting for a generous benefactor!!!
Danielle said also that she dreamt of travelling at a very young age, and she certainly did catch the travel bug, having spent time in the USA, Australia, New Zealand (where she owns a plot of land destined to be transformed into a "truffiere" one day...), all over Asia and Europe.
Maybe the next adventure will be to cook for Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson...Stay tuned!
Danielle, thanks for your time in Australia and thanks for having shared with us some of your experience, adventures and wisdom.
Choco Cannelle, a nice play on words and a tribute to iconic French seamstress Coco Chanel, is a French Patisserie tucked away in the back of beyond North Ryde, a popular suburb of Sydney West. Forget the impossible to find location though, and with the help of your recently acquired tablet, you will be lead to one of the best "cake shop" in Sydney. Jean Francois Perron was first introduced to me a few years back, as he was delivering his gorgeous creations to Maitre Karl. His father taught him the trade at a young age and he started this current business in 1996, after a long carreer at various famous restaurants around the World.
No bread here, unlike at Victoire and Labancz, just cakes!
The croissants are a very close second to Michel's at C'est Bon, as crusty, but a wee bit less buttery, but definitely in the same league.
The "palmiers", one of my favourite accompagnement with afternoon tea are extremely well executed, so good that they were gone before the photographer in me woke up to the task, so no photo just yet, I am afraid...
It has been a long time coming...
Long week-ends are a good occasion to go and visit the blue Mountains, a spectacular, rugged and sophisticated place two hours west of Sydney. Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath are not only villages that are the gateways to the natural wonders of the region, but also home of some very good restaurants and shops.
The downside is that the whole of Sydney seems to congregrate there for these long week-ends and swarm on these local gastronomic wonders like bees. If you don't have a booking, you will certainly be relegated to a myriad of ordinary cafes and tea rooms, short staffed and although usually friendly and serving a good enough fare, you might as well call lunch afternoon tea. The huge traffic jams to get to and from there do not make the experience any better...
But this time we were determined and organised, and on the recommendation of the owner of silk's Brasserie, Stewart Robinson, we took the train, a comfortable 90mn ride from nearby home, avoiding the zealous police radars and mobile RBTs and their consequent double demerit points off your driving license...
Silk's Brasserie sits nicely across the road from the Leura station, a two minute walk that you will be able to master on the way back, even after a well lubricated three course lunch!
And what a lunch it was!
The combinaison of Stewart's hospitality and his crew, and the Chef's David culinary skills - he has been the staple of the place for 15 years - made for a memorable experience, and certainly one of the best we have had in Australia.
It is French cuisine with a sophisticated Australian twist, respecting the flavours and the quality of the ingredients, as well as surprinsingly innovative, but without the "I want you to know that I am a modern Chef " Sydney syndrome, usually resulting in dissonant or ordinary combinations of saveurs.
To start, we had the following:
Saffron mussel cream chowder with smoked trout + horseradish, served with 3 premium oysters on the side + a cheese straw
I particular liked the idea of the oysters as a palate cleanser after the saffron chowder.
Seared scallops with avocado, diced marinated salmon, salmon roe, tatsoi salad + light wasabi dressing
We followed with
Tenderloin of pork in five-spice on roast sweet potato, beetroot, with rocket, cress, and minted jus
Very creative take on a French classic, with an nice Asian twist, adding interest, but still perfectly executed
And pour Madame
Tenderloin of grain-fed beef on creamy mash with English spinach, mushroom ragoût, mustard-seed butter & Madeira jus
Again here the jus is rich and perfectly matching all the other ingredients, the mushrooms having been sliced very thinly and roasted to perfection before being "hidden" between the mash and the spinash.The meat was cooked exactly medium rare as ordered...a rare thing!
The lubrication came courtesy of Henschke, my favourite South Australian winery, with a local version of what we call here a GSM (nothing to do with mobile phones...) an abbreviation for Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre, the traditional Cotes-du-Rhone blend, here with the addition of Voignier, a 2009 Henry’s Seven Shiraz Grenache Viognier, the lot reaching 14.5% alcohol, hence the recommendation for the train ride!
Beautiful wine, certainly more potent that a French equivalent, but still quite structured and well balanced, a perfect match for all these jus, and certainly not out of place with the flavousome starters!
I dared having a dessert, which was a bit of a let down, probably by lack of appetite (I resisted the chocolate fondant though...)Light citrus cheesecake of fresh Jannei curd on a base of hazelnut praline, served with toasted fig
A bit bland, it didn't warrant a photo,,,
The coffee was perfect, and it is my final measure of a good meal.
All in all, it was a very good lunch, great service, gorgeous food, and perfectly suited to the very chilly weather - we are now officially in winter.
So book yourself a table and buy a train ticket and enjoy the sophisticated, yet simple and comfortable decor!
Easter Sunday - itching for fish...
Went to the Fish Market and found a beautiful "arrivage" of turbot, one of my favourite fish and quite rare to find in Sydney, as it is a cold water fish and is usually imported from New Zealand.
The young Indonesian lady who served me pointed me first towards the Yellowbelly flounder, but I had no intention to settle for this cheap cousin of the Dover sole and even more so with a load of beautiful turbots next to them.
But this young lady was not your ordinary sales attendant, just there to earn a wage and improve her cash position while attending Uni.
She actually asked me why it was better and how you should cook it.
So while some of her colleagues back of house was filleting my turbot, we engaged in a short and concise cooking lesson. So this post is for her.
Although I didn't prepared a "beurre blanc" (literally "white butter") today - I just poached the fish and added a drop of Lebanese virgin olive oil after removing the skin - I thought I would show you some of the steps I took to cook this beautiful fish and my usual side of braised fennel.
And I will add two videos found on YouTube, one in French, one in American, illustrating two different methods to prepare a "beurre blanc".
First thing first, you need to prepare a "court-bouillon' - literally a "short boil":
Take an oven dish, fill it halfway with hot water, add bay leaves (laurel), pepper corns, cloves, and some sea salt
and put it on the stove and bring to the boil.
In the meantime, start preparing your vegetables: slice some oignons, red peppers and a couple of fennel bulbs.
Throw some of the leaves in the cout-bouillon and keep some in the pan with the vegetables.
Get a saucepan with a thick bottom, pour a little extra virgin olive oil, bring to sizzle, add the onions and peppers first and cook for five minutes. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and cover
Then, if you were to prepare a "beurre blanc', you would do that now, during the 15-20mns it takes for the fennel to cook - more on that later.
So here is the French video on how to prepare a "beurre blanc"
Note the simplicity of the ingredients: shallots, vinegar, white wine, salt, pepper and...butter
I would use some from "Echire" (available in Sydney at Harris Farm, midly salted, so don't add any more salt...)
or you can use the unsalted Lurpak from Denmark, available both at Coles and Harris Farm.
You need some rich butter to get the "fluffiness" right. The butter needs to be at room temperature.
Now. let's have a look at the American version. I let you watch and then, I will make some comments...
Altough the French recipe is labelled "easy" (facile", it is actually the American version which is not as challenging, because the butter doesn't need to be at room temperature - the recipe is done on the stove - and as a result, you need to add cream, so the butter doesn't risk to "split" due to the heat.
Besides, adding cream changes the taste and makes it less refined, espacially if you have access to real butter!
The advantage is that your sauce will be still warm enough when you serve.
The french version needs to be rehated on a "bain-marie" until you are ready to serve.
Now, let's see what we do next with the turbot:
Remove the heat from the cout-bouillon, wait for the boil to stop and then immerse the turbot fillets gently in the court-bouillon. depending on the thickness of the fillets you may need up to 10mns to cook them through.
By now, our fennels should be almost ready: add a little water, put the heat up with no cover, so all the juices from the olive oil and the vegetables get to caramelise a little - don't burn it!
It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so now it is time to share some oysters and a glass of wine with your guest! Turn the heat off, cover up and enjoy yourself.
It is finally time to assemble your main course: gently remove a fillet of turbot from the court-bouillon, add some fennel on the side and serve immediately. Serve the beurre blanc separately for each guest to use to their own preference. Add a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil on the table for people who would prefer. Enjoy!!!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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