Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 16: Busy Days, Tasty Nights

If it's the end of the season, we haven't heard the news yet. We have been remarkably busy with people coming and going, enjoying sunny September days in our part of France. We have had guests almost every day and made dinners most evenings as well.

Julian and Penny peddled up to the gates on Monday. They are riding bikes from England to the Pyrenees, an ambitious 10 day jaunt that includes some rather brutal climbs and conversely some wonderful down-hill costings.

Some of our other British clients told us that September, after all the children are back in school, is their preferred time to travel. I have to agree. The weather is generally lovely, the sites are less crowded and roads clear.

The quality of fall light is sparkling and magical. The sun, softened as the earth begins to tilt away, is sweet upon my face. I take my afternoon coffee on the terrace.


The one day free this week allowed us a quick visit to Paris to see Emily, Jos and Quinn for the first time since the end of their vacation. We celebrated Jos' birthday together, even if the actual day was a month past. Emily, Rick and I made a marvelous feast that we all thoroughly enjoyed.


Limoncello Champagne Cocktails With Mint
Insalata Estiva Di Patate
Grilled Salmon With Black Beans and Piment d'Espelette Mayonnaise
Quinoa Pilaf
Orange Polenta Cake With Vanilla-Scented Plums And Buttermilk Ice Cream

Italian potato salad with garden tomatoes, carrots and black olives


The good eating didn't end there! Wolfgang and Sabina, our German clients who brought us two bottles of excellent German wine on their way to their three-week holiday in Brittany, stopped again on the way home, this time with armloads of fresh fish.

These are clients who are seriously veering into the category of friends! Wolfgang and Sabina are both doctors and live in Mannheim, home of Mannheim Steamroller, a group I've staunchly enjoyed despite the rest of my family finding their music completely cheesy (which of course it is). 

Remarkably, in the category of it's a small world after all, Wolfgang met an American in Germany who happened, at the time, to be living in France and he mentioned Maison Conti to her. She knows my brother Gary and had heard of us. Her name is Abra and she writes a very nice blog, often about cooking called French Letters.

I set two tables on the terrace to accommodate all of us. The other clients were either at a wedding or visiting friends, so it was just the four of us enjoying a bottle of champagne and four dozen oysters! Victoria and Roderick had 7-Up and Cheetos instead.

That was just the warm up. The other fish, pulled straight from the Atlantic and rushed, on ice, to Maison Conti, was some lotte (monkfish in English), often called the chicken of the sea. It's kid friendly, as Wolfgang put it. It's a fish with a very ugly face, so it isn't sold with the head on usually, but the taste is meaty and delicious, there is no fishy smell, and no bones whatsoever.

We threw it on the barbecue, along with a few garden vegetables and Rick used his souffleur to get the charcoals burning. One of the few things we don't like about France are the briquettes. They never seem to stay lit.

I made a couple of salads and some blue cheese dressing. We sat outside as night descended around us. The children were particularly happy with dessert: double chocolate pudding parfaits.


  1. La lotte est un merveilleux poisson que l'on peut cuisiner de mille façons. J'ai une recette merveilleuse où elle est accommodée au curry et à l'orange. On peut aussi la rôtir. L'avantage sur d'autres poissons, c'est qu'elle n'a pas d'arêtes désagréables.
    I do think, you sd insist more in your site about the quality and diversity of what you propose as meals !It seems just wonderful. Without giving all your cooking secrets, may be you cd write some little notebook with some.

  2. No fair posting such a food ladened entry when I have not even had my coffee yet!!!!

    Janet xox

  3. YUM! Looks like you're having fun! There's not a ton of Monkfish around here, hoping there's more in the UK!

  4. Wolfgang probably saved my husband's life, although we've never actually met him in person. I love the Internet!


  5. The kids loved it.
    We loved it
    Came as clients and left as pals
    Thank you both so much for your outstanding hospitality.
    We look forward to our next meet!