Monthly Archives: November 2011

Fromage: Part of a balanced meal

Small wonder the French are fans of New York Style Cheesecake. This Thanksgiving weekend, while my parents were eating turkey and pumpkin pie across the Atlantic, I was eating cheesecake at the special request of my French family.

I should mention that before coming to France I never ate cheesecake. Mom made delicious chocolate and Angel Food cakes, but I’m quite sure a cheesecake never emerged from our Kentucky oven. That’s why, on the only two occasions I’ve ever been called to make one such dessert, my stomach lurched at the possibility of disaster. I’d heard about cracked cakes and stiff cakes, overly beaten or overly cooked cakes.

“It’s not in my blood,” I wanted to say. “I don’t know how to make a cheesecake!”

But then, defeat is not in my blood either.

My first cheesecake, you’ll remember, was a success. I had my doubts about the second one. At Nicolas’ sister’s house for the weekend, I was on foreign soil in more ways than one. Unknown oven. Unfamiliar baking dish. Thermomix. Let the challenge begin. Continue reading

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Filed under Culture, Food, Just for laughs, Recipes/Cooking

Lessons from a toddler: Where there’s a will there’s a way

Mais si,” Jules says, furrowing his brow and pursing his lips with determination. It’s his choice phrase at this point in his young life, when according to him, every “no” can be remedied by the confident retort, “but yes!”

“No more chocolate, Jules.”

Mais si!”

“That’s not very nice, Jules.”

Mais si!”

“It won’t kill you to eat your soup, Jules.”

Mais si!”

(We should have seen that last one coming.)

This weekend, with a house full of guests, the little brown haired, brown eyed cherub took full advantage on more than one occasion. He batted his eyelashes. He scrunched his brows. He steadfastly insisted against all statements to the contrary, “but yes, but yes!”

And so I should have guessed that when I walked into the bathroom and locked the door, knowing that Jules was hot on my heels, he would not take this barrier lightly. He knocked once. I responded, “Je suis là!” He knocked again. “Still here,” I said. When he pounded with his fists, I chuckled.

“Jules!” I said sternly, “I am using the bathroom. You may not come in!”

That settled it. He didn’t pound, or even knock, again. Still, I kept an eye on the door.

Not thirty seconds later, the wall opposite the door began to slide open and a little brown head popped through.

Mais si!” he asserted with a big grin.

Embarrassed, I squealed, trying to protect my modesty before the miniature magician. He had jumped through the wall (a sliding door leading to a closet) and into the bathroom, completely unabashed.

Lesson learned. When one door is closed, another door will open.

And maybe it’s a hidden door, reserved for those whose answer to “no” is a sure and confident, “but yes!”

For the translation, Continue reading

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Filed under Just for laughs, Language, Unconventional Wisdom

Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru: a birthday wine

“Everyone always asks how I got into wine…”

It’s a popular way to start the “About Me” section of wine blogs, wine books, winery sites, and as I am reading this one in particular, it occurs to me that most of the time I could guess the answer to the question without reading further. The only thing left to be determined is the year.

What I mean, of course, is that everyone seems to remember the bottle that got them into the wine industry. Not the winemaker or wine writer per se, but the bottle of wine, the taste on their lips that produced an “aha moment” of complete certainty and conviction.

I wonder if ten, twenty years from now I’ll be remembering the bottle of 2001 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Vaucrains Premier Cru that Nico and I shared for my birthday.

Having decided on the main courses at our favorite Sabot de Vénus, we scrutinized the wine list, applying our basic knowledge in a game of chance. “No Gevrey-Chambertin,” I said, pointing to the top of the list. “Probably too fruity to go with our sauces.”

(I had ordered a chicken dish with a strong Epoisses cheese sauce and he a filet mignon de porc à la réglisse.)

“You’re right,” he said. “I was thinking Nuits-Saint-Georges.” I followed his finger down the list.

“2001,” I said, raising my eyebrows.

It was my birthday. We ordered it.

Delicious at first taste, its spiciness eased with a little air as we enjoyed our first sips with the appetizer. My face warmed as it traveled across my palate. I searched for the word to express its earthiness.

Then came the main courses. A little more air, a little more time, and the wine had transformed again. Faced with the Epoisses, it rose to the occasion with an explosion of macerated plum and floral accents.

“Taste this,” Nicolas said, offering me a bite of his filet mignon, eyes wide.

And that, my friends, is when this wine went from delicious to exceptional. Off the charts. Dare I say life changing? The licorice of Nico’s sauce still on my palate, I took a sip of the wine and, boom! Another taste altogether. The plum and rose from a moment before gave way to a sweet, rooty complement to the licorice, as if mirroring, or trying to one-up the réglisse in Nicolas’ meal. Imagine a wine that starts of spicy and a bit tannic and twenty minutes later could be considered candy! My eyes closed; I relished the long finish. Nicolas chuckled.

With a sip of water and another bite of chicken, my glass of wine complied. Once again full bodied and vigorous, there could not have been a better companion to my plate.

Or to Nicolas’.

This wine was magic.

Seduced by its power, we later did a Google search with hopes of buying several more bottles. Not possible, at least for the 2001 vintage. “It’s the quality of the domaine that counts. I’m sure the 2004 would be similar,” encouraged Nicolas, having found some bottles for sale.

Half disappointed, half intrigued, I willed the taste of the wine to come back to me by way of memory. A hint of it did. And from now on, that hint is all that I will ever have of that magical bottle.

But there are so many other wines to discover.

How did I get into wine? I owe it to a 2001 Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru from Domaine Dupasquier & Fils.

For Mélie’s translation: Continue reading

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Filed under Chatillon-sur-Seine, Culture, Food, Inspiration, Wine

Excuses are like dirty toes…

“Excuses are like dirty toes: everybody has ’em and they all stink!” –My Dad

Given my upbringing, I suppose you’ll understand why I’m offering no explanation for my virtual absence. Thanks for sticking it out.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a wine recommendation!

TRADUCTION A LA MELIE:

Les excuses sont comme les pieds sales …

« Les excuses sont comme les pieds sales : tout le monde en a et ça pue chez tout le monde ! » Papa

Etant donné cet enseignement, je suppose que vous comprendrez que je n’ai aucune explication à mon absence virtuelle. Merci d’en prendre note.

Je serai de retour demain, avec des conseils en vin !

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Filed under Laugh it off, No Excuses, Photography, Unconventional Wisdom