December 11, 2010

Country Ham ...Past and Present

The roots of this sandwich go back to my childhood in Kentucky.  My father would purchase raw hams from a local farmer and come back to my grandmother's where the curing process would begin in the smokehouse that stood between her house and her beautiful garden.  These hams hung for at least a year but the prize hams hung at least 2 years.  No fast cure here! 

Anyway, the hams would eventually find their way into my mother's kitchen where she would get out the big electric roaster and boil them for hours before removing and topping with brown sugar, cornmeal, vinegar crust and baking in the oven to finish.  Now these Baked Country Hams were special, very special ....oh, how I would love to have one of Daddy's hams right now....nothing like it.  We ate it thinly sliced as a side or on sandwiches of rye bread with swiss cheese and Durkee's Famous Sauce.....which brings me to the reason for this post.

I still enjoy the old version but have tweeked it a bit.  I now like to buy the mini rye bread squares and grill the sandwich.  They freeze beautifully (even after grilling) and are perfect to have on hand.  I use  them with soups and salads all winter long....great quick lunch or dinner.  But best of all,  I like to cut them on the diagonal,  nothing fancy here,  and use them as an hors d'oeuvre for cocktail parties.  Note that I now use Comté cheese (least expensive place to buy is Costco...actually same brand I buy in France)  but you can substitute Swiss or Emmenthaler...just not as much flavor.  However, there is no substitute for the Durkee's......it is just the best.....one jar will do 2 loaves of the mini rye...so you see we don't spread too much.   And since we don't have my Daddy's ham, you can find an Edward's Petite Ham, fully cooked and boned, at Fresh Markets (they will slice) as well as online



If you have frozen your sandwiches, reheat until crispy again....I do that in my oven using convection but it also works on regular bake.  I love popping a couple in my new Breville toaster oven ...love that oven....but that's another post.

December 1, 2010

AIX-en-PROVENCE and TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY


You know I love to start with food.....this was my lunch at Les Deux Garcons in Aix....Do you know what they are?  Answer is at the end .

So now with what this post is really about.....

I think most of you know that I love  technology so when I saw this new app for the IPhone (also the IPad and ITouch), I was intrigued.  GPSmycity.com is a great travel aid and so easy to take along with you...no lugging those heavy books along. These self-guided  city walking tour apps feature over 2,000 cities worldwide.  You can grab these apps on ITunes, or the Apple store for as little as $2.99.  But, read on to see how you could have 3 of them for FREE..

Right now, GPSmyCity.com is sponsoring a contest featuring Aix en Provence.  Answer the 10 multiple choice questions below correctly and you will be awarded 3 city walk iPhone applications of your choice.  Send answers to quiz@gpsmycity.com. No purchase necessary. 

 Aix Quiz

1. Originally, Aix-en-Provence was perceived  to be  a popular:
A. Lovers' Nest
B. Spa City
C. Delicatessen Destination

2. Home to the famous Cathedral of Saint-Sauver, Aix is also called:
A. The city of 1000 fountains
B. The city of the lit candles
C. The city of the Three Musketeers

3. The biggest annual event in Aix-en-Provence which takes place for more than fifty years each july is:
A. Festival International d’Art Lyrique
B. Fête de l'Artisanat d'été
C. Carnival des Enfants

4. Aix is known for its fabulous architecture, featuring as key elements:
A. Romanesque basilicas
B. Colorful murals
C. Intricated doors

5. Paul Cezanne was born in Aix on 19 january 1839, in the family of a :
A. Hat shop owner
B. Violonist
C. Doctor

6. It was the Greeks who planted the first olive trees in the region and now olives and olive oil have become some of the main ingredients of Provençal cuisine. The first traditional pressing of the year's olives takes place in:
A. December
B. April
C. September

7. June 21st is a declared national holiday which transforms Aix into:
A. A funny Costumes' Parade
B. An immense Concert Venue
C. An open-air cooking competition

8. Current archeological excavations in the Ville des Tours, a medieval suburb  of Aix, have unearthed the remains of :
A. An old roman amphitheatre
B. An ancient war cemetery
C. The foundations of a lost city

9. Aix-en-Provence is officially twinned among others, with one of the following cities:
A. Sibiu
B. Cologne
C. Perugia

10. Built in 1792 and have been frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway - Deux Garçons is Aix's most famous:
A. Bookstore
B. Brasserie
C. Perfume store

Reminder....send your answers to quiz@gpsmycity.com.  Good Luck! 

And, oh yes,.... supions were my lunch at this historical brasserie...... in the family with calamari, octopus etc...They were yummy!

November 8, 2010

BOXWOOD BEAD CURTAINS



What beautiful craftsmanship! One sees these 'rideaux' (curtains) in doorways all over Provence. The true boxwood curtain is made from 'box', a very dense wood with beautiful grain patterns. From forest to bead is a long process. It takes almost 30 years for a box to have the 8-10 cm trunk necessary for harvest. Then it has to be stored for 2 years to dry before being transformed into a bead.




It is at this point that Manou Dia-Noguera, one of the few artisans left in France still producing these curtains, begins to work her magic. We see her at the Tuesday market in Lorgues and I can't help but marvel every time I see her handy work.




These curtains are multi-purposed as they not only allow air to circulate, but the boxwood also repels flies and insects. Most curtains are predominately the natural boxwood color, but as you can see, beads can be colored and patterns worked into the curtains. I have also seen them used as window coverings and room dividers. Visit Manou's website.  International shipping is available.
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August 23, 2010

L'Estagnol et Domaines Ott



Beautiful June day on the coast....the weather, the restaurant, the winery.....click on the slideshow above to see the story. I drool over the langoustes.....

July 7, 2010

Summer Truffles




The truffles speak for themselves....outstanding.... such great specimens. We will pack some in oil and freeze them but, of course, we are also enjoying many of them fresh.

But you need to know about lunch at Chez Xavier. It began with a Cavaillon Melon soup. He took 2 melons and scooped them with a melon baller. The melon left behind was trimmed out and then pureed in the blender with a bit of Chartrueuse, fresh basil, lime juice, salt and pepper....the puree was then poured over the melon and served very cold. It was so good on this very hot day that I slurped mine down before ever thinking of taking a photo.


Then came the omelet full of truffles accompanied by the sauteed eggplant. And the eggplant deserves some explanation because his method works so much better than the way I have sauteed eggplant for years. First, he sliced it thick (1/2-3/4-inch) and placed it in the steamer....you know my favorite one that you can get at Target. He steamed it for 20 minutes of so.....not completely done but almost. He then removed it from the steamer and dipped it in seasoned flour, the beaten egg, then polenta. The reason I think this is so worth noting is because when the eggplant has been steamed, it does not suck up the fat when you are pan frying it. It was sooooo crispy and good. We had a few cheeses to follow. And, finally finished with an apricot rhubarb tart!

I guess you can figure that my afternoon was shot.....I was good just for lounging in the pool

June 16, 2010

Flood June 15, 2010


The rain began during the early morning hours of June 15....didn't think much of it until we heard we were under an orange alert..... The French issue these weather warnings and I have certainly learned to take them seriously. Remembering the flood of 2002 in Chateauneuf de Pape when we were stranded for hours, I thought the worst that could happen would be to be stranded here at the house. ...how bad could that be.....we are at the top of the hill....have lots of food....lots of wine.....pas de problem....Oui? Mais Non....

The rain continued to fall...in fact it was raining sideways. Never have I seen so much come down for such a long period. Xavier and I struggled through our morning errands.....boulangerie, Hyper U, winery etc. Had a great lunch and were headed for a sieste when the water started to roll out of the fireplace...black sooty water. The sideways rain was now flowing down the chimney. Beaucoup torchons and a bucket and we were in control....for the moment. Whoops, the pool is overflowing....X tends to that. Oh my...now no power. Not to worry, we have a generator.... crank it up....How much diesel do we have????

I step out on the porch and there is a roar that I have never heard before....It does not stop....What is it? "Xavier, come listen" and then OMG, we realized that it was the river that most people do not even realize is there. THE RIVER IS BACK! I grabbed my camera and we headed down the driveway. And there at the road (or where there was supposed to be a road) was a raging river. It had traveled through neighbors yards, broken their walls, washed out the driveways......And we both now realized that we had no way out! Oh my, the rain is still pouring from the sky....when will it end.

Back up the driveway, thank God for our high ground. Fall asleep on the sofa ....and finally fall in bed at 2AM....still raining but maybe a bit less.

video
Up early at 6AM....walk back down the driveway to see if waters have receded.....notice that many neighbors did not make it home ......Water has receded but still flowing.....lots of damage.....In direction Les Arcs, the road is gone and we find out that the bridge at Clairette is out (by the vineyards on the way into town). But the good news is that there is a way out through Taradeau. Sadly, we learn of 10 dead and 18 missing persons. Centre ville Les Arcs is a disaster. Cars piled on top of each other in front of the Casino grocery ....In front of the gazebo, a giant hole opened and the river flowed through the center of the parking lot into the area behind the tourist office.. ...2 houses destroyed.......unbelievable. And at the other end of the street through town....cars are piled up in the pharmacy. Centre Ville is closed so I was not able to get photos.....but saw some that a guy here in the neighborhood had taken.

We learn that there were 200 people who spent the night at Hyper U last night. ..our neighbor being one of them.....another could not get any closer than Flayosc......and we have yet to hear from some. Draguignan is also a disaster ....many people had to be airlifted.....and lots of damage.

As the day goes on, we have neighbors showing up....using power here for charging cell phones etc. One, in particular, has yet to connect with her husband. The telephone is ringing ringing since TF1 (French TV) ran a story on Les Arcs.....I will post this video once it is up on their site as it is unbelievable. Shows what a disaster downtown is. Also hearing from American friends and family that it made the Today show & CNN.

June 21...
We are now in the Vaucluse for a couple of weeks......hard to leave Les Arcs with so much going on  ...but have guests arriving so must go and, frankly, are very greatful that we could get out.  There was a time when we thought that it would not be possible.

Everyday we saw new damage and more devastation.  The most incredible was the gorge that was created.  Many of you who have been with us know the road we take to go home...the one that runs by the cemetery.  Well, the river created a HUGE gorge with multiple waterfalls and it is ultimately what destroyed downtown Les Arcs.  After my initial shock and reaction, I turned to Xavier and said, 'you know, it could be beautiful" .  There are no words to describe it and my photos don't show the massiveness of it because I could not get close enough.  When we go back I will work on getting photos to post.

We thank all of you who have written, called and checked on us.  Say a prayer for lives lost and for those affected by this tragedy.