Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Early Christmas

Frederic promised a special evening and he did not disappoint.  We began the last wine club dinner of the year tasting not wine,  but olive oil and ham from Spain.  Taking us through the appearance, aromatics and taste of three oils from Andalusia, Frederic helped us appreciate the differences in the mild, medium-bodied, and most powerful of the three.  Accompanied by the first of our wines from St. Julien (Bordeaux), a delicious 2000 Chateau Lalande Borie, our palates were well primed for the pleasures to come.


Nestled between the Pauillac region to the north and Margaux to the south, the 11 cru classe wines of St. Julien comprise the smallest but one of the most consistent Bordeaux appellations in terms of quality.  While not as powerful as Pauillac wines, they are still full-bodied, elegant and aromatic wines.  It appears to be a wine favored by members of the club since they brought so many different bottles form their cellars.  The task was to coordinate the tasting of 9 different with Freddie Bacou's "early Christmas menu" of duck pot pie, roasted chapon/capon, cheese, and chestnut torte.

The first three wines were the youngest but all were fine expressions of St. Julien elegance.  The 2002 Beycheville was ready to enjoy while the 2005 Clos de Marquis and 2008 Lagrange started slowly but then began to open up as the wine aerated.

These wines paired beautifully with the rich duck pie and its sweet chasselas sauce on the side.

The next three wines were a bit older, and as expected the 2000 Chateau Gloria and the 2001 Leoville Barton were already smooth and elegant.  1997 was a somewhat mediocre vintage in Bordeaux and this 1997 Leoville Barton did not arise above that assessment.  Fortunately, we had a succulent roast "chapon" that enhanced all the wines we tasted.


As we moved on to the cheese course, we were presented with a trio of wines that generated both anticipation and worry.  A 1960 Chateau Leoville Poyferre was from a terrible vintage year and we expected the worst; in fact, it was drinkable in an odd sort of way, tasting of coffee and caramel.  The 1990 Leoville Barton was a fine wine for its age, but the 1986 Leoville Las Cases was a revelation, still full-bodied with generous fruit and smooth tannins.

To accompany our dessert, a rich chestnut Christmas cake, we were offered three wonderful sweet wines: a 1995 Tokay Aszu from Disnoko, a 2003 Chateau Sigalas Raboud sauterne, and a muscat.  The consensus was that the Tokay's sweetness paired best with the cake.


All in all, a wonderful evening thanks to the generosity of the members with wines from their cellars, the exceptional cooking by Freddie Bacou, and the superb organization of  Frederic Berthaux.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Soup's On!

For years Marjon Mudde, a local Dutch artist, has wanted to involve me in one of her art projects.  After flirting with the idea of a recipe book using local produce, she decided to create a special pop-book featuring just one,  my recipe for curried pumpkin soup.  Marjon worked tirelessly on the design while I refined the recipe, and the result was presented at Marjon's studio Sunday morning.

The book is a triumph: cleverly constructed, humorous (Bosco even appears!) multi-colored, and still informative.  It is a joy to hold and use.

Those lucky enough to attend the demonstration were dazzled by Marjon's technique and attention to detail.  Suddenly 45 euros did not seem like a lot to pay for such a work of art.

Following the presentation, everyone got a chance to taste the curried pumpkin soup at a lunch prepared by Martine at the the Puits de Jour cafe.  Like the book itself, the soup was also a success.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

90 Years, 90+ Memories

My sister Beverly wanted to do something special for my Mom's 90th birthday, a remarkable remarkable milestone.  Her initial thought was to create an album of photos that would essentially chronicle her life.

However, when a friend mentioned that her family created a box of envelopes, each containing a memory from her mother's life, Beverly was sold.  Over nearly two months, she came up with specific memories and corresponding envelopes that she filled with a narrative, photos, letters, and various memorabilia.  Some of the memories include trips (Benin, Kenya, Hungary, Russia), likes (chocolate, scary movies), dislikes (beards, too long trousers), incidents (wrestling with gypsies, wild squirrels), people (grandchildren, her loving husband), etc.

Needless to say, the gift box was a great hit.  We laughed and cried, relived, corrected some of the details, and most importantly added more memories.   And isn't that what birthdays should be about.
Happy 90th, Mom.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Off season

I decided to return to France via the Italian coast and considered where I might stay for a night along the way.  I have been to Nice a couple of times but I have always thought about someday staying in nearby Cannes, home of the most glamorous of all film festivals.  Images of movie stars on the beach or in trendy cafes or restaurants abound, usually with the iconic Hotel Carlton in the background.  Just out of curiosity I decided to look and see what a night at the Carlton might cost.  I was in luck!  Not only was November 1st considered the off season but the hotel's 100th anniversary promotion also offered me a classic room and breakfast at a bargain price.

My luck continued.  I arrived to find beautiful sunny weather in Cannes, just missing several wet and windy days.  And as I checked in to the hotel,  I was upgraded to a fabulous seaview room.  The view was so spectacular, I didn't want to leave the room.

But I did leave and explored the hotel,

and had a beachside lunch of calamari, and took a walk along the promenade.

And then it was back to our hotel room for sunset....

and then a good night.

After a bountiful breakfast and last walk on the beach, it was time to depart this magical place.