You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘cheese’ tag.

The family has arrived. By that I mean my mother and sister. They, and the husband, pretty much constitute my intimate family. I have cousins, aunts, uncles, a grandmother, in-laws as we all do, but I’m bad about keeping in touch with them.

That’s neither here nor there I guess because France is a long way away from the US and I’m the only one who went back to the old continent.

It’s also vacation for me. At first, I was going to be nice and work and make my students happy. Then I realized that my family had spent thousands of dollars to come and visit me and the least I could was tell my students to take a hike for 10 days. This, to no one’s surprise, leaves all of us with more time to explore, eat, and cook.

On the menu for the week:

  • Sunday lunch at Table du Vigneron
  • Three days, two nights in Nice with a quick trip to Monaco
  • Plenty of restaurants in Nice
  • A visit to the Puyricard factory (see previous entry on Valentine’s day)
  • A dinner with the in-laws featuring Filet mignon de Pork – Wellington style, chocolate and lemon tart
  • Homemade pea pesto ravioli
  • and anything else I feel like cooking up

Yesterday had it’s own introductory meal. My sister and mom have both been to France before, several times each. Nevertheless, we had to do something classic for them. The husband and I went through a myriad of options including Cassoulet -too fattening and heavy, Raclette -we don’t have a raclette set, Lamb -we couldn’t decide what to do with lamb, Boar -not the right season. The husband wanted cheese. This is nothing new. He always wants cheese.

So we went with a mont d’or. Mild, creamy, brie-like cheese with white wine baked in the oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with potatoes, vegetables, ham, and fresh baked bread.

We had two Mont d’or because one is never enough. Everyone ate their fill and then some.

Today, we broke out the sugar and made fudge.

My mom is the Queen of Fudge. No joke. She makes the best fudge of so many different flavors, always perfect, smooth, soft, fondant. Last year she tried to send me some for the holidays, when she normally makes it but it arrived two months late and was hard and moldy – completely ruined. This time we had an action plan. She brought the ingredients and made the fudge here.

Lots of sugar – at least a kilo.

A jar of fluff.

I think the reason why my mom’s fudge is so good isn’t the ingredients, but the fact that – as she says “I like stirring.” And if you’ve ever made fudge, you’ll know how much stirring it takes.


And then came the butterscotch. Why make chocolate when you can have butterscotch with chocolate on top?

This was a group effort. One to stir, one to add the butterscotch chips and one to take photographs.

Pouring it into the pans and adding the chocolate was also a group effort.

As was licking out the pot in the end. We love our fudge.

This is just a taste of what the week is going to bring. We’re all loosening our belts and enjoying a vacation together.


My fruit bowl is over flowing.

I love fruit, but I don’t eat enough of it. Don’t we all have this problem? We buy fruit that looks so luscious with the best of intentions but it ends up sitting in the fruit bowl until it’s soggy and sad.

Pears, lemons, oranges, apples, bananas, half a mango in the fridge. There’s only one thing to do with all of this stuff.


They have lots of fruit, flavor, sweetness and for someone like me who is ALWAYS hungry, they fill you up.

One excellent thing about smoothies is the endless variety. Throw in a few spices, change your regular milk for rice or almond milk, use orange juice, and you have a whole new drink.

This one is orange, banana, and mango. It was dessert after lunch.

Lunch was garlic, buckwheat and multi-grain flat bread.

Fresh flat bread is fabulous.

Top it with goat cheese, butternut squash, roasted potato (or tomato) and peas.

Throw on some sage. Warm, healthy, filling, so sweet and savory – squash is so wonderful – and goes well with so many things. With the potato and creamy, mild goat cheese is was hearty and savory. With the tomato and sharp goat cheese it’s fresh and sweet. Delightful

Though this is a food blog – I’d like to change the topic a moment – to discuss the title of this lovely entry.

Say hello to Dumpling. She’s kind of a fan of fruit too, and she’s being fostered by the husband and me until she gains 5lbs and feels more secure about herself. If all goes well, and she’s not sick (and sadly there’s the possibility that something is very wrong) we might adopt her.

The husband and I went to the Refuge aux Chats et Chiens in Toulon yesterday to inquire – just inquire about fostering a cat in the hopes of adopting some day. The next thing we knew, they were paying us to take her home, because she was so depressed and stressed that she wasn’t eating – and as you can see – she needs food.

I’m not going to lie. It’s a little alarming to have a cat, so painfully thin, and now we’re starting to realize – probably sick – shoved on you like this – even if it is temporary, but we’re hoping her problems are not serious and that we can help her to feel better soon.

She’s already taken over the husband’s underwear drawer.

Here was Pistou’s shocked expression when he realized what we’d brought home:

As of now, about 30 hours after Dumpling’s arrival, we’ve had no fights. A little minor hissing, a mixing of the food bowls, some tail and nose sniffing, and a whole lot of staring competitions. So everyone welcome and hope for the best for little Dumpling – who was named after the Chinese delicacy, courtesy of the husband.

Guess what? You can now follow me on twitter @WriterHolly. I have no idea what I’m doing with it, so you’ll have to bear with me for a few weeks or months while I get the hang of it, but please join my internet voyage of 140 characters or less.

Today was a day of discovery. It all started last night when I purchased Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for my Kindle.  Now, I’m not a vegan, I’ll never be a vegan. I love ice cream and cheese far too much to go vegan. It’s just the way it is. But as I mentioned before, I’ll always love vegetables, beans, and legumes over meats and I’d been looking for a recipe book that would give me some new ideas. I was hesitant at first to buy this book, because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to adapt many of the recipes for vegetarian cooking (sorry Ms. Moskowitz – I can’t help it) but after reading through many of the recipes, I realized that most of them are very adaptable and the ones that aren’t seem tasty enough to try as is. And that’s what I did tonight.

But first, a discovery of a different kind.

For a while, the husband has wanted to try this:

Stevia, it’s a natural sweetener that has 0 calories. Unlike sugar and unlike Splenda. I think it’s from a flower. (Don’t quote me on that though) Apparently you can bake with it too. So today, I set out to try my cookies.

This was all the Stevia I needed according to the recipe on the Stevia website. See the butter? See the Stevia? Wow. I thought.

I ended up with the stiffest, blandest dough ever. So I added 2 tablespoons of milk and another teaspoon of Stevia. Now I had less stiff, but still bland dough. I considered that maybe the Stevia would sweeten up in the oven so I baked a test cookie without the chocolate I was planning to use.

Well, they were NOT cookies. I’ll need to work on that. What I did get, however, was the nicest and quickest milk biscuit I’ve ever seen.

So I added some cheese to rest of the dough and popped them into the oven.

The husband, though a bit surprised about the cookies, was also pleased by these. He told me not to forget the recipe so I could make them again. Quick, easy, and next time I’ll use more salt and leave out the Stevia.

  • 115 grams butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour

Combine. Cook at 180°C for 12 – 15 minutes.

Onto dinner.

For my Veganomicon trial run I chose one recipe to make as is and one to change around. The first was her Snobby Joes – basically sloppy joes made with lentils rather than beef.

I’m not going to post the recipe as I’m sure Ms. Moskowitz has it copyrighted – as well she should – and really, just buy the book. It’s worth it (and I’ve only made two recipes).

It started with all of these ingredients though.

And ended up like this.

Served on a corn bread roll.

While I think my chile powder must be way more spicy than hers (I had to scale it down ALOT), it was still an absolutely delightful, low fast and tasty dish. The husband and I both enjoyed it. I loved it, and even though I halved the recipe there was still plenty to freeze for another meal later in the week. An excellent consistency, good flavor, filling and hearty. And vegan!

The other recipe – the one I changed – was her Tomato Zucchini Fritters. I changed some of the spices – because I didn’t have mint or dill in the house – and used thyme and rosemary instead – more Mediterranean than Greek. Then instead of tofu, I used an egg and cheese.

But I mixed and baked them according to her recommendations (again scaling the recipe down to serve two).

And the result was a nice vegetable side dish (with cheese) to go along with our Snobby Joes. I should have used a different bread for my homemade breadcrumbs – buckwheat bread is a little strange as a breadcrumb – but they were lovely all the same. Very flavorful and a nice twist on the classic zucchini fritter that I’ve made in the past.

I’m thrilled by this book so far. There are some great recipes in there and most of them are not supermarket scary – even the ones she doesn’t have listed as supermarket friendly. Obviously, it’s easier for me as I won’t mind changing things around to be non-vegan, but it has amazing recipe ideas that I can’t wait to try.

2012 I’ve promised myself, is going to be a year of discovery. Discovering good food, French, a possible new career, and furthering my writing. But I’ll leave the writing aspect of this blog for a later date after I get the writing page up and fully functioning. Happy New Year!

…and it’s going to take a while to tell you about it.

In France, there are two meals traditionally served during the Christmas holiday. The first is dinner on Christmas Eve, the second it Christmas lunch. They are long meals starting with mis-en-bouche and foie gras and sweet wine, going on to appetizers, main courses, cheeses, desserts, coffee and then chocolate. If you really love your sweets and live in Provence, at the traditional Provençal table thirteen desserts are served representing Jesus Christ and his apostles. They’re actually not all terrifying creams and sugars. Many are simple fruits and nuts, light cookies, small slices of pain d’épice, but it’s still a daunting task to get through a four or five course meal twice in less than 24 hours.

And then at the end when you wake up on the 26th, you realized in horror that the whole thing is going to be repeated on the 31st December and 1st January.

This holiday week, I am not stuffing myself beyond capacity, thankfully. We, the husband and I, had one slow and indulgent holiday dinner on the 24th that was more than enough.

It started with cleaning the apartment. Like most Europeans, we have a small living space, the beauty of which is that it’s quick to clean. The ugly side is that it’s just a quick to make a mess of. No matter, once we cleaned, the husband decorated. Then we set down to the five hour task of preparing our dinner. Make yourself comfortable folks, because this is going to be a long, photo-filled meal.

Our menu was both traditional and non-traditional. Of course, there was foie gras. There are hundreds of various ways to serve foie gras, most of them involving some sort of sweet sauce or jelly. But we kept it simple with homemade bread and a glass of sweet and spicy hypocras.

I’ve mentioned hypocras before. It’s been around for longer than the medieval era, I believe, but it’s often branded as a medieval aperitif. As I’ve been in a medieval frame of mind lately, it was the perfect opener to dinner, and it’s complex flavors blend well with the foie gras au naturel.

Next up was the appetizer – very non-traditional. I wanted something, one course, where vegetable was the main ingredient. So I came up with roasted pumpkin, roasted shallots, roasted garlic, topped with dried cranberries and gorgonzola.

It was easy to do – only had to wait around for the roasting – and simple yet very tasty. A very nice autumn and slightly American touch to my French Christmas.

There was a pause while we waited for the main course to finish cooking and heating. Bread and butter cleaned our pallets.

Along with our wine selection for the night. St Emilion 2005 Grand Cru Chateau Faurie de Souchard.

A wine with a very round, acidic taste, with hints of berry. It’s strong, but not overwhelming like many of the older Bordeaux. We might have been able to let it mature for another few years, but it was good as is and went very well with our main course…

To many people, I’ve been talking about this main course all week. It was something the husband and I dreamed of since the autumn arrived and our butcher told us he’d have this particular game in stock. A dish I first tasted at Table du Vigneron, and despite always preferring vegetables to meat, I instantly fell in love.

Daube de sanglier – or boar stew.

For those of you not familiar with a daube, it’s very close to beef bourguignon. Marinated in red wine and herbs and vegetable for 24 hours then slow cooked over a low fire for at least five hours until the boar inside is close to melting.

Boar is an extremely dark meat that turns almost black after being cooked for so long in a strong red wine, but don’t let that stop you. The sheer wildness of the taste, the depth of the flavor, it has a nutty taste to it, a woodsy taste to it, that quite frankly is like nothing else I’ve ever tasted.

We served our daube de sanglier with potato gnocchi – not homemade. I was going to make fresh taglietelle but after all the baking, roasting, mixing and cleaning, I was wiped and the pre-prepared gnocchi was too tempting to pass on as a short cut.

Warm, comforting, perfect for the windy day that had descended on the Var. At the end of cooking your boar add a touch of flour to create the most perfect gravy to drizzle on top of the gnocchi. We wiped our plates clean with more bread, and then took a break, waddling over to the couch to digest a bit and relax in the evening.

Cheese followed. Langres on the left. A very strong, but soft cheese that is similar to Epoisse. Any strong cheese, as smelly as they may be is a lovely way to enjoy the last sips of a find red, and I can never resist on any occasion.

On the right is a blue cheese that I have no idea of the name of. However, when I went to the Fromagerie in Toulon and asked the man behind the counter what he had in a blue he dragged out the whole wheel of this cheese from the shelf behind him and started singing it’s praises. Made in Alsace, exclusively by women, it’s the only naturally blued cheese left in the world, according to the fromager. Most blue cheese are done naturally, but given a little bit of – help you could say – to encourage them to mold faster, therefore they are available for sale to the public faster. This cheese however, is apparently not, and you can actually see it in the color of the mold culture and the way it has grown on the slice. It’s a bit darker and in a clump rather than all over the place in long, wildly grown veins.  After listening to his monologue, I couldn’t resist and this was our second cheese for the end of the evening.

Finally, came dessert. Homemade apple sorbet with salted caramel and speculoos cookies.

This was the only semi-failure of the evening. I think I added too much water to the sorbet mixture and it tasted more like frozen apple sauce than sorbet. However along side the hardened caramel and cinnamon cookies, it was a refreshing way to finish the meal.

The next day was spent sleeping late (for me), a fabulous run where the sky was clear and the sea completely calm, the Mistral having blown itself out the night before, and of course writing. The novel has quite a ways to go yet, and I’m determined to get as much done as possible on my vacation next week.

But that’s not all. I woke up on Christmas day and my first thought was “I need to make cup cakes.”  That’s a story for another day.

Hope your holiday was as filled with warmth, good cooking and fine wine as was ours!

There has been a new addition to my household. No, I’m not pregnant and I didn’t get another cat.

After three pasta fails, I broke down or rather the husband and I broke down and bought a pasta roller.

Sure there are fancier ones out there where you can adjust thickness and can do all sorts of fancy things that mine can’t but I still welcomed my new addition with open and excited arms. This roller is simple stainless steel, held to the counter by a C clamp and makes spaghetti, tagliatelle, and lasagna sheets – perfect for ravioli. Tonight, I made tagliatelle.

While I’ve mastered the cookie, the biscotti, almost mastered the bread dough, I have yet to master the pasta dough. No butter or sugar? No yeast? No water? Just egg and a tiny bit of olive oil? WHAT?

Je ne comprends rien.

But I had 2 eggs and flour and olive oil, so there you go.

I used 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour. It’s not particularly how I like my pasta, but this flour had a fine grind to it that I’ve read can be important for pasta dough.

All rolled into a little ball.

And now all rolled out.

And the roller is christened by rolling out it’s first dough into nice strips of tagliatelle.

Lots of tagliatelle.

So, what does one make with all this pasta?

Veggies! Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, red onion.

Blue cheese of course.

In the pan and looking like once again, I’ve made WAY too much.

I like to put in the spinach last and let it wilt only slightly. This way the leafy greens retain some of their crunch but are still warmed by the pasta and the sautéed vegetables.

But it was fabulous. I guess there are worse things to gorge yourself on than fresh whole wheat pasta.

Next up: Ravioli. Lots and lots of ravioli. With squash and sausage. But not at the same time.

And now let’s all give my pasta roller a hearty welcome on the step to making me have to add another 5 kilometers to my morning run.

NaNoWriMo is over. I made it to 100,000 words, but the novel itself is no where near done. There’s about 1/3 left to write, which leaves me with about another 50,000 words so I’m plugging away at it every day in the hopes that it will be finished by the end of December.
This late autumn has been surprisingly pleasant. The weather is still hovering around 17°C, which is in the low 60’s for those of you not on the Celsius system. It’s still sunny and not too windy and the sky is blue and mostly clear. A very nice change from the freezing windy winters we’ve had the past two years I’ve been here. This is what I moved to Provence for. (Well, that and the husband.)
I get up every morning before the sunrise to go running. I don’t like going in the dark, but like most people, I have a day job I have to get to. While I’ll always prefer being in the mountains over the sea – I don’t know why people love the water so much – I can’t complain about the sunrise over the Mediterranean.
I’ll let the photos do the talking. This was on an 11K run last Monday morning. I was running and taking photos at the same time. I’m impressed I didn’t fall on my face.
What do you get for writing 100K but not finishing the novel? Well, on Sunday the husband and I are going to Table du Vigneron. But you also get cheese. Lots and lots of melted cheese.
This is a mont d’or. It’s truly amazing how many variations on one thing the French have. In this case fondue. Mont d’Or is a circle of cheese purchased in its thick rind and a bake-able wood box. You cut a hole in the top, pour in a dry white wine and bake in the oven until it’s hot and melted.
Serve with bread, potatoes, onion, ham, broccoli, what ever you like with your fondue right out of the rind. You can buy bigger ones than this. Much bigger. But as it was just the husband and the cat and me, this was enough. Apparently, my cat likes melted cheese. He’s French.
On Saturday, well, all weekend there was a salon in downtown la Seyne. L’Esprit du Vin et de la Gastronomie, has come for four days. Wine, cheese, foie gras, sausage producers from all over France have come to sell their wares in time for Christmas preparations.
Did you know they’re banning foie gras in California? Don’t get me started…
Anyway, it was a relatively small affair, compared with the Fête de Bacchus that comes to Toulon every April, but it was pleasant enough, and as it was smaller, there were less people and the rooms were hushed with festive red carpeting everywhere to block out footfall. Despite being under a simple white tent, it was warm and welcoming.
The husband and I are well known for going to these things and spending way too much money and getting more than a little tipsy. Entry was 5 Euro each and came with a complimentary glass and we had to taste as much as we could before we made any serious descisions.
We bought two whites from Alsace. A heavy, though young red from Bordeaux by a small producer in between the Margaux and Pomerol domains. A lighter red from Burgundy which will go well with a sharp cheese and last but not least a Chateauneuf. Not as good as Domain de Rampart, but Chateauneuf is Chateauneuf.
Then there was the cheese. A blue and St. Nectar from sheep’s milk. Soft and fresh, but definitely strong enough to hold their own. Handmade, carefully aged. I couldn’t resist. I love small cheese producers. There’s something definite in the taste of a homemade cheese that cannot be beat. Olivade – not to be confused with tapenade – of the last green olives of the season – which is why they dip is mostly black. And of course we can’t forget the husband’s impulse buy:
A three foot long sausage made of bull soaked in Gigondas.
It’s a lot of food. A lot of wine. But these producers are small, the types of fresh, handmade, hand cultivated, hand grown, products that you can’t get in the stores. And even if you do, they’ll cost you an arm and a leg.
Here is the producer of the Bordeaux. He was packing up our wine as if we were going to give it as a gift. Hahahaha. We’re planning on drinking it for Christmas. Hopefully with boar.
At the Burgundy table there was just too much choice. Every year had a different taste as does every part of the domain. That makes a lot of wine to try.
But for now, Pistou the cat has decided it’s time for dinner.  In fact, he’s being fairly insistent about it. There’s squash and chicken and onion. I hope I can make some sort of meal out of that.

It’s fall. That means pumpkin and apple recipes abound. Last night I tried my own pumpkin recipe – pumpkin gnocchi. It totally failed.

Ok so, it didn’t TOTALLY fail, but I didn’t measure right, had to use two different flours and there’s just something wrong with them that I can’t quite figure out. They’re edible, but they aren’t serve-able. If you know what I mean. And I don’t like to fail.

Nobody likes to fail. Failure is such a personal thing. There’s no one else to blame. It’s my fault. Rejection I can handle. There are two people involved. It’s an opinion. Someone else’s technique is better, someone else’s sound or story preferable. It happens. But I don’t tolerate failure in art.

Cooking is an art.

So today, I had to prove my dominance in the kitchen to make up for last night’s mistakes.

I decided on two types of breads. One savory, one sweet.

The first, the savory, the ficelle.

A ficelle is basically a small baguette stuffed with something savory: cheeses, sausages, and olives are the most common. I love buying them for lunch at my local boulangerie because they are a perfect compliment to a soup or a salad. So the husband recommended that if I was going to make bread, why not try a few ficelles for the week. Good idea, husband.

These are pretty easy and I found a recipe here: Ficelles aux lard

Sadly, for those of you who don’t speak French, it’s in French. Don’t be turned off by the lard – it’s just ham chunks, not chunks of fat.

Anyway this is what you need:

  • 500 grams of flour

  • 320 ml of warm water

  • Salt

  • Yeast 1 package

  • 1 pat of melted butter (optional)

  • FIXIN’S – whatever you like, we’ll get to my choices in a bit.

First prepare your yeast in a small bowl with about 4 tablespoons of warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile put your flour and salt in a mixer with the dough hook attachment. If you’re using butter, add now. Add your yeast and water and mix on a low speed until it stops sticking to the sides. Add a handful of flour and mix some more. The dough should be sticky but also satiny. I spent about 10 minutes mixing it on low speed.

Take it out, put it in a bowl and let it rise for 1 hour until it doubles in size. I went for an 8 mile run and let the husband clean up.

Next separate the dough into 8 small balls, flatten out into small rectangles and let it sit for 45 minutes to rise again.

Now it’s time to prepare your fixings. I used an organic smoked sausage – at the husband’s request, vegetarian mushroom paté for me, and Camembert cheese for both of us.

Fold one end of your dough, then add your filling. Roll the dough up into a – well a roll – and then starting with your hands in the center of the dough, roll it out into a long strip. Place on a baking sheet and do it with the rest of the seven rectangles.

Let rise for another 30 minutes. Then bake at 230°C for 20 minutes.

They are lovely and puffed up quite bigger than I expected. The husband has already eaten half of one, even after the huge cabbage stew we had for lunch. I used white wheat flour because it’s traditional for the ficelle but you could easily use any flour you wanted. Also, if you want a nice gold color, brush the dough with oil or melted butter before baking.

And now the sweet, the chocolaty, the sugar, the sacristain. These are SUPER easy if you buy pre-made dough. Why did I use pre-made dough?

For this treat you need pâte feuilletée which when baked is a leafy, flakey dough. It’s kind of difficult to make and takes a while because it requires a lot of folding, rolling out, folding, rolling out and quite frankly, I didn’t feel like doing that. So I bought some organic dough instead.

Taken from this recipe Sacristain, also in French. So you need:

  • pâte feuilletée
  • 1 egg
  • powdered sugar
  • fixings – I used cinnamon, sugar and this:

organic dark chocolate nutella. Yeah. It’s fabulous.

Anyway, crack open and mix your egg. Roll out your dough. Here I deviate from the recipe above. First, I didn’t want the massive sacristain you see in the bakeries. I wanted little treats to have after dinner or with coffee. So I cut my dough into four quarters.

Brush your dough with the egg.

Add your topping. Use a thin layer of chocolate or nutella, because if you don’t it will explode – as mine did.

Fold your dough and brush the top with egg again. If you’re using cinnamon or sugar, add some more on top here.

Then cut into 2 cm wide strips. Twist to make little curls, like my hair, if you’ve ever seen it.

Brush with egg again.

Add some more sugar or cinnamon.

Bake in the oven at 180°C. The cooking time depends on how brown you want your sacristain to be. The minimum is 15 minutes, but I think mine were in there for about 18.

Take out of the oven and add a little powdered sugar to the cinnamon and sugar ones. Voila! They are light and flaky and very fun and you can potentially add any type of sweet treat that can be baked in the oven.

Other finds at the organic market – AKA Botanic – was this:

Purple cauliflower.

Isn’t it gorgeous? When I do something with it I’ll let you know.

Tonight, I’m making baked falafel with pan-seared veggies for dinner. And thus, with this frantic day of cooking and baking, I will be able to reclaim my success in the kitchen.

In the northeast corner of the Var there’s a tiny little town hidden in the mountains called Trigance. At the top of a hill is a 12th century château with ten large bedrooms, a very big terrace that looks over the valley and village, and ends with a wonderful restaurant inside a 13th century armory.

The husband and I went to Château de Trigance last year and enjoyed the peace the quiet and the food so much we wanted to go back this year for our anniversary. Though, our anniversary was one month ago – I just happened to be in the United States at the time.

Pistou says that I always have an excuse…


We arrived Saturday at noon. But where in the world can you check into a hotel, even one in a château before 2pm? So we had to enter the village.

Take in the sights.

Then find a quiet place for lunch.

Prosecco in a field.

Prosecco and ravioli dauphinois (three cheese) with zucchini, chicken, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and parmesaen cheese. Yum.

It’s a rough life.

We went for a walk in the mountains and found wild raspberries.

And sheep.


Before you go to dinner you have to try the hypocras. It’s a sweet white wine, thick and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and other such happy things that pique the taste buds into mouthwatering happiness. But drink it slow because it’s about 15% proof and is easy to drink.

We had our drinks in the salon. They brought us olives and little toasts of salmon, anchovies, and chorizo.

Chateau de Trigance has a lovely wine list. We chose our favorite Chateauneuf du Pape, a 2007, which was a pretty good year and has a nice fruity taste but in order to get the full flavor, it definitely needs to be decanted for a good 30 minutes before drinking.


My entrée was a wild mushroom soup served with dried magret de canard, which was a little like duck ham. It was delightful. The duck very tasty and the soup thick and hearty.


For the main plate I had pigeon. No seriously. It’s not the bird you see walking the city sidewalks, flying kamikaze like into your face when they’re startled. But it’s a cousin. It’s a difficult taste to describe and one that is acquired. I like to say that it has a dirty, wild taste but that again seems to bring to mind the disease ridden feathered-rat outside my window. But nonetheless it’s a deeper, darker taste than chicken and similar to duck. Anyway it was served with a scallion tart and soaked in a caramelized red-wine sauce.


Greg had deer, which I tried a piece of. An interesting meat, people once told me deer tasted sweet, but this wasn’t sweet. It had a very wild taste, but not my thing.


Ok, so last year the whole reason for us going to Château de Trigance was because it’s one of the few restaurants we’ve found that still serves a cheese cart.


It’s quite a cheese cart. Serving classics like Camembert, brie de meaux, époisse, tomme de montagne but also has local cheese made from goat and sheep. Pick any thing you like. They cut you off a nice slice and let you enjoy with the last of your red. I tactfully avoided the waitress in my photo.


Cheese should finish a meal. It can finish a meal. But it didn’t finish this meal.

 Dessert was chestnut cream blended with Bailey’s and vanilla ice cream with chantilly on top. Simple and very tasty.


And then we needed tea, because we couldn’t get up yet to waddle back to our room.


Breakfast in bed, the next day:


A lovely view as we took our last look on the castle.


But don’t stop there! On your windy way back down the mountain, stop off here and buy some fresh cheese and then say hi to the goats, sheep and cows that gave the milk to make it.

After a weekend full of food, there’s only one thing, Holly-cum-food-critic can do: go home and go to sleep.

I have too many projects. I do that to myself. Besides the everyday work, the everyday study of the French language, there is life, there is food, there is writing, there is cooking. Sometimes all of the writing projects I have on my table in front of me get a little out of control. When things get stressful and I can’t stare at my kitchen or my desk anymore, it’s time for a road trip and ice cream.

The tourists are mostly gone. The roads are now calm and almost quiet and the towns are easy to maneuver through on foot. In celebration the husband and I went to Castellet, one of my favorite places in the Var. It’s set between Bandol and Cassis, high up on a hill that offers an amazing view going all the way out to the sea.

Besides cute shops and two very good restaurants there is L’Art Gourmand which makes amazing ice cream. The husband got cactus-lime and peach and I had strawberry and gingerbread. They also do rose, violet and lavender ice cream that are out of this world.

Inside the shop, you can also buy chocolates and dainty candies and cookies that are native to Provence. Like every space in Castellet, the building is renovated, Medieval stone. It’s luminous, the walls are pale, but there’s something about the shape – slightly uneven – that tells you it’s been there for hundreds of years.

And after you leave the shop, walk up a little hill, through little streets and eat your ice cream while looking out onto this view. Quiet and mountainous and full of vineyards.


It’s almost fall. While I’m holding onto the last remnants of summer fruits and vegetables with both hands, I couldn’t help but buy a slice of pumpkin at the market. But I had no idea what I’m going to do with it. So I tried Lasagna.

Pumpkin Vegetable Lasagna

  • pumpkin
  • eggplant
  • pesto (preferably homemade)
  • lasagna sheets
  • ricotta
  • tomato sauce
  • tomato paste or fresh tomatos
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

Begin by roasting the pumpkin in the oven at 175°C for about 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and soft. In the last 15 minutes of roasting, add eggplant, sliced to about 1/8 inch thickness.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, cut away the skin and in a bowl mash the pumpkin up like you would potatoes.

In a baking tin of your choice (I used my bread tin since it was a good size for two people), put a thin layer of tomato sauce mixed with olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Place your lasagna sheets on top and then add a thin layer of mashed pumpkin, eggplant, ricotta, and on top spread half a teaspoon of pesto.

Add another layer of lasagna sheets and this time add tomato sauce and either your paste or fresh tomatos before continuing on with the rest of your layers. I have three layers of each ingredient, but I was over zealous and wanted to use all of the pumpkin.

When you’re done add the final layer of lasagna sheets, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and tomato sauce. Top with shredded cheese of choice: comté, gruyère, parmesan, mozzarella etc.

Cover with tinfoil. Bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes.

The beauty of vegetable lasagna is that you can prepare it before hand and stick it in the fridge for cooking later in the day. I would have taken a photograph of the finished product, but the husband and I were too hungry.

It’s an odd combination, I know. But the sweetness of the pumpkin offsets the tang of the ricotta and tomato and mixes nicely with the nut of the eggplant. Everything comes together with an easy, soft texture and flavors that are each subtle, but noticeable  that blend and don’t overpower.

Now this project is over for today and I have to move on to others. One story revision and guacamole await.

The women of my family have this disease. Actually I’m not sure if it’s a disease. Experts say addiction is a disease, but is it really? Who knows. Anyway, I’m talking about ice cream. We are all addicted to ice cream. This dates back at least to my grandmother who, I’m told, can polish off a half gallon of ice cream in under an hour.

I, personally am addicted to the sundae. Whipped cream, toppings, peanut butter mixed with something minty and a cherry. Heaven.

So there was one place I had to go when I was in Plymouth and if you go to the south shore of Massachusetts you have to go there too.

Peaceful Meadows.

They make homemade ice cream. If you go to their location in Whitman you can meet the cows that give the cream while enjoying a cone of your favorite flavor. No joke. This place has been around for years and I have fond memories of poking cows with one hand and holding an ice cream cone with another.

My favorite flavor, and indeed the only one I ever get there now is peppermint patty. Isn’t it beautiful?

That was the mom’s cup of ice cream. I got mine covered in peanut butter sauce.

Don’t laugh or make a face. It’s the most amazing thing ever. Peppermint and peanut butter. Yum.

That was the evening.

In the morning we had breakfast at a place with a giant metal chicken out front.


Percy’s Place is another small chain on the south shore that boasts the biggest breakfast menu in New England. Maybe the world. It’s pretty much all they serve. I think they even have grits if you want grits.

True to quaint New England restaurants it’s filled with kitsch paraphernalia and Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses-esque paintings on the walls.

The breakfasts are gigantic, you won’t need to eat lunch or even dinner, and are fantastic.

I had the farmers breakfast. Two scrambled eggs with chives on a bed of cottage cheese. Corn bread, Boston baked beans, and a turkey sausage. Served with coffee in a Percy’s coffee mug. I brought home a mug for the husband who also has happy, big bellied memories of eating at Percy’s. He was pleased and has been drinking his coffee out of it every morning so far.

Everything is slightly greasy at Percy’s. Not in a bad way. In a home cooked, fill you up and ship you out so you can spend the rest of your morning and most of your afternoon running around on the farm. Corn bread is sweet, moist, crumbly. The baked beans are savory and hearty, the eggs are never runny. The coffee is a little weak, but refills are free. And they serve it in the glass pots with orange and green lids that you see at diners and truck stops all over the country.

If you like eggs benedict, by the way, they do that and about 9 variations of it. All fabulous.

Obviously my vacation centered around more than just food. I went shopping. I saw my friends. I didn’t answer any frantic emails from work. I met a psychic who told my future. And of course I spent time with my wonderful sister and mother.

And ice cream. I ate a lot of ice cream.

Ice Cream is Amazing

Even if you're not part of WordPress you can still read what I have to say!