Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland

One of the few regions in France that we had never visited was the Alpes. Early last week we took off to see the high mountains of the Haute Savoie. We stayed at a little auberge called Le Chalet des Troncs in the Grand Bornand set among the Aravis mountain range, about half way between the beautiful city of Anncey and Mont Blanc, the highest mountain peak in Europe. Our first stunning view of the Alpes was from the Grand Bornand. Our chalet was outside of town, very cozy and rustic. We visited Anncey, the capital of the Haute Savoie, with it's large lake and charming historic town. Our second goal was to visit Chamonix and to catch a view of the glaciers and Mont Blanc itself (15,781 ft). The drive was spectacular and we enjoyed watching several brave souls ski off the highest peaks, open parachutes and with skis still attached, float across the valley and land outside town. We arrived back home on Friday to find that our litle town, (elevation 740 ft), looked just like the Alpes!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Food! Glorious Food!

I can't resist French markets. Who could? The fresh and seasonal foods brought to market each morning by the producers and offered in beautiful, bountiful displays are simply irresistible! The place we stayed in Nantes happened to be just a few steps away from the Talensac Market, one of the largest and most spectacular ones we've seen in France. It is located in a very long glass building with an enormous number of stands offering some of the best produce and seafood available in France. The sandy soils in the area are known to grow superior vegetables and the seaside, just up the river a few kilometers, offers a gorgeous variety of seafood, particularly shell fish, which prefer the cooler Atlantic waters. There is nothing like fresh-made butter, which is not usually available at supermarkets. Dairy farmers sell their large golden-yellow mounds which taste so much more delicious than anything found at the "grand-surface". Baked goods are available in every shape, form and taste. When we shop at an unfamiliar market, we always choose the stands which have the longest lines. We had a five minute wait here, but it was well worth it! This is the season for coquille st jacques. Marché Talensac had mounds of them on offer, along with oysters. We bought a dozen. We had never seen tete de veau on offer before. With our American sensibilities, it's hard for us to imagine eating this popular dish! At the market the heads were decorated in sunglasses and sported pipes. The second time we passed this stand, one of the heads was gone...bound for someone's dinner table. Thanksgiving in France We celebrated Thanksgiving as always with our American friends and family. Emily and Alex (our cooking instructor at Maison Conti) are both vegetarians, so they concentrate on making the vegetable side dishes, and desserts. We cooked together all day long, and had a beautiful and abundant meal together as the sun was setting.