Category Archives: Christmas

A little Serge, a little Edith. Some Quiche Lorraine and good French wine: It’s a party!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s my parents hosted a fabulous party for Nicolas and me, which turned out to be quite the celebration. We had decided a French theme would be appropriate, so before leaving France, Nicolas made mix CD’s of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg and found room in his suitcase for such delicacies as authentic French spice bread and chocolates (all of which made it across the Atlantic unscathed). The day of the party we made Quiche Lorraine (which I am cutting in the “action shot” above), and scattered cards identifying all the French foods on the decorated table.

But nevermind the food. What about the wine? Comical as it is, we received more compliments and inquiries about our wine selection than about our decorative array of Frenchie hors d’oeuvres. To be honest, I couldn’t be more delighted. Dad, Nicolas, and I had devoted quite a bit of time — and two trips to the wine store — to our reds and whites, and we wanted them to be special.

Of course they had to be French.

We had chosen two whites, a Vouvray and a Picpoul, and two reds, both Grenache blends from southern France. Dad encouraged me to write little identification cards for each wine as I had for the food.

And that’s how the wine stole the show from our mini macarons and baked brie.

As you can see, I had a lot of fun. How did I know “picpoul” meant “lip stinger?” I looked it up! I looked up all four of the wines and was just squirming with excitement to share what I learned. I had to take notes and narrow down the choices of what I wanted to share in order to fit a few short tidbits onto the cards. At the bottom of each, to bring it closer to home, I wrote the time it would take by car to travel from each vineyard to Dijon.

The cards not only helped people choose which wine to try, they also became conversation starters. (“Five hours and twenty-three minutes from Dijon? I love it!”) Some people told me they had never heard of Pigeoulet before, but they liked it. One friend said she felt compelled to taste all four. Most flattering was the elegant lady who was still talking about the wine days after the party. Calling to ask the name of the Vouvray, she gushed, “It’s the best wine I’ve had in my life.”

Wow! What a compliment!

I should note that the food was well appreciated too. After all, many more hours were spent creating Mom’s beautiful spread than on our well-researched wine selection. But sheesh, it seems with the wine as center of attention we might simply have served mixed nuts and gougères and everyone would have been just as happy.

A lesson for future celebrations?



Filed under Christmas, Culture, Food, Wine

Life in Images: Happy 2012!

Hoping these images will get you all caught up (if a picture’s worth a thousand words…). Happy New Year, readers! Special thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement in 2011. I relished each comment and delighted in hearing that you appreciate my writing. Honestly, you’ve inspired me in so many ways. Writing this blog and hearing from you has brought much clarity to me in terms of where I am going and what I do best. So, thanks for launching me into a brand new year with lots of hope!

{Had to include this USA Santa from a visit with Erin’s family}

{“Sisters” + Oliver}


{Christmas Dinner and Lucien Boillot wine}

{Boxing Day Hunt}


Filed under Christmas, Gratitude, Horses, Kentucky, Photography, Wine

A Burgundian dinner in honor of Chinon

The kitchen of the old stone farmhouse glows with activity as Nicolas and I drive in after sunset. Inside, we spot Françoise fluttering this way and that, visible to us through the window as she washes something in the sink, disappearing in the direction of the stove, then reappearing moments later.

The very first time we drove up this drive together was after dark, and I remember the dim light from the kitchen as the first welcome I received, even before entering and reading the sweet note from Françoise:

Warm some water and prepare a tea for Emily. We can’t wait to meet her!

On this night, like so many evenings I have become used to spending at Froidvent, the lady herself greets us as we climb the stairs from the salle de jeux–the ground floor “game room” that serves as familial entryway. The smell of squash and chestnuts envelopes us as we rush to Françoise’s side, receiving a quick kiss while she tends her soup.

Ca va, mes chéris?

With grandiose gestures I present my bottle of Chinon for Françoise’s approval. In like manner, her eyebrows rise and fall, as if this will be the tasting of the day!

“Hurry and put it in the decanter,” she instructs. “And the glasses will need to be rinsed.”

I scurry into the dining room in search of the glasses and find the table dressed for the occasion. A pressed linen tablecloth lies beneath festive gold rimmed plates, and crystal water glasses accompany exceptionally round Burgundian tasting glasses. Lifting two such receptacles from the center of the table, I head back toward the kitchen, shaking my head.

“You’ve trop préparé, Françoise!” I say, giving her shoulders a quick squeeze. She continues her preparations at the stove and humbly mentions that it isn’t every day one gets to taste such special wine. Imagine that! An American girl brings a bottle of wine to a Frenchwoman, who prepares an entire meal in its — or rather, her — honor. In my heart I know it’s not about the wine. The unspoken understanding is that I will be leaving for America in just a few days, and this may be the last grand meal we have together for some time.

The lady of the house has prepared chevreuil, or roe-buck, and chestnut purée to accompany my wine. But first we’ll have soup and of course after there will be cheese, and on the kitchen table the plates of partially prepared dessert lie hidden beneath overturned bowls. A four course meal. “Normal,” she might say with characteristic modesty. Extraordinary is more like it.

When we sit down, the ceremony begins. Nicolas conscientiously pours each of us a glass. We sniff. We swirl. We talk about first impressions. “Un bon nez”  is the general consensus. (This one has a promising nose: spicy and complex.) The purple color is astonishingly different from Burgundian pinot noir, especially noticeable when being poured.

To taste, the first thing we all agree upon is that it isn’t as powerful as we anticipated. (In hindsight, perhaps it should have been drunk a little sooner: Charles Joguet recommends 5-6 years max in bottle for the 2005 cuvée, having hypothesized that 2009 might have been its peak year.) But the fruit flavors are still explosive. Nicolas is convinced of raspberries, while Françoise and Bruno taste black currant. I am hooked on the hint of cherry. One thing is certain: its slight tartness and seasonally appropriate spice marry perfectly with our chevreuil and chestnut dinner.

“It has a fine finish,” Nicolas says, smacking his lips.

“But not like the Birthday Nuits-Saint-Georges,” I counter. Once uttered, the words ring reminiscently in my ears. Will I from this day forth compare wine to that remarkable bottle? Will I ever find a wine so  magical?

Nicolas agrees. His hand darts into the air, miming a bell-curve with an extremely wide peak. “This was the Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Vaucrains,” he specifies, before demonstrating another curve with a shorter, but more dramatic peak. “And this is the Chinon.”

A good, no, great wine, to be sure.

Dinner finished, cheese dispensed, there is still a little wine left in our glasses at dessert. Françoise presents a beautiful assortment of fruit and sorbet to cleanse the palate, topped by a bit of chantilly and glittering red currants. The last sips of wine do not compete with but complement the fruits’ gentle sweetness.

François Rabelais claimed he did not drink “more than a sponge.” Although I certainly cannot compete with that (nor would I want to) I like to think that at moments like these, a good bottle of wine can indeed make one more like a sponge: soaking up the flavors, not only of the wine, but of the atmosphere in general. The flavors of family and friends, of love and good cheer. The aroma of the holidays. The bouquet of what is and that wonderful perfume of what is to come.


Filed under Christmas, Culture, Food, Gratitude, Wine

Christmas: Stateside

I’m back home for Christmas! Baking spice bread, visiting friends, and waiting for my beau to join me and my family next week. More soon, promis!


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Wine and writing…This could be the start of something beautiful

Okay, this picture has nothing to do with wine. Or writing. But if you hop over to E-Romantic Hotels’ website, you will quickly find out why it works.

I’ve partnered with E-Romantic, a site dedicated to showcasing a collection of stringently judged and painstakingly chosen French bed and breakfasts, as their new wine-blogger. I don’t claim to be a professional, but I’m happy to call myself passionnée, an enthusiast. I’ll be writing monthly about my coups de coeur (the wines that blow me away) while I continue to learn.

Wine has become of increasing fascination to me, and I have my heart set on continuing my education in this domain (not to be confused with domaine). Since writing about my passions comes naturally, I can promise you’ll be seeing more wine posts on this site from now on. So fun!

I should probably also take this opportunity to ask for your help. If you know anyone in the wine industry — en France or in the States —  who could be a useful contact for me as I explore career opportunities and Masters programs, I would be so grateful for your suggestions. I’m in sponge mode: soaking it all up!

{Pictures taken this week at my favorite Dijon biscuiterie, La Rose de Vergy}



Filed under Christmas, Culture, Dijon, Photography, Wine

Life in Images: Christmastime in Paree

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Filed under Adventure, Christmas, Culture, Paris, Photography

Forget translation, it’s already lost in prə-ˌnən(t)-sē-ˈā-shən.

Bonne annee 2011! As my third New Year’s celebration en France ends — with my toes three feet from a crackling fire and the idea of returning to school tomorrow marinating with slightly forced positive thoughts (New Year! New Year!) — I am at a loss for words.

Really.  What can I say about the past two weeks that would even begin to characterize the mélange of action and pure, unadulterated gluttony typical of this time of year?

Tu travailles?” asks Francoise,  looking up from her library book and eying the computer on my lap. “You’re working?”

Non, j’ecris,” I respond.  “I’m writing.”

But then I feel the need to clarify.  “J’essaie d’ecrire…mais je n’ai rien dans la tete.” She laughs a little, and I realize that maybe I meant to say “je n’ai rien en tete,” that maybe the latter is closer to “I can’t think of anything” and the former — what I said — means “There’s nothing in my head,”  i.e. a brain.  In any case, I’m not really sure and I know she knows what I meant, which is why she didn’t correct me.  I let it slide.

That’s what you have to learn to do when you live in a foreign country anyway.  Let it slide.

Anyone who knows me even just a little would laugh to think of me “letting it slide.”  They know I’m more “crazy like a fool” than I am “Daddy Cool.”  But, among other things, la France has taught me that as long as I want to communicate on a semi-comprehensible level with others, I have to let my pride, and sometimes my dignity, slide a little.

Just this afternoon, Nicolas and I took a walk up the hill to say goodbye and bonne annee to Geoffroy’s family before they all went their separate ways (alas, la fin des vacances, even in France).  After ten minutes of harmless (for me) chatter, we turned to leave and Geoffroy saw us to the door.  “Salut Emily,” he said, extending his cheek for la bise. I pinched the arm of his red and white striped pullover, and sang, “Salut mon petit sucre d’orgue!” What I meant to say, and would have, if I would have pronounced it correctly, was “Bye, my little candy cane.”  It came out instead as, “goodbye my little sugar organ!”  Translate that as you will.

On that same walk, as we reapproached the house named for the valley’s typical “cold wind,” I was quick to forget my own pronunciation hurdles in favor of teasing Nicolas about his.  In English, he had pronounced a double ‘s’ as if it were a ‘th.’  Launching into my best lispy French, I taunted him with a question. “Tu as un cheveu sur la langue,” I wanted to say. (“You have a hair on your tongue?”)  But in my occupation with the lisp, I replaced the “cheveu” with “cheville” and said, “you have an ankle on your tongue?!”  Nicolas exploded in laughter.  “That would be kind of difficult!” he said.

Oh, well.  And so, another year arrives with the promise of continued progress and continued opportunities for laughter.  I tip my beret to you, 2011. Here’s to letting it slide.

Thanks to cover-artist Shelley Lane Kommers for the image

By the way, my work has been published, again!

To my Louisville friends and family, pick up a (free!) copy of the beautiful Underwired magazine at Whole Foods, Kroger, Heine Brothers, or a host of other indie stores in Louisville to read an essay I wrote in celebration of LAUNCHING into the new year.  And,un grand MERCI in advance to the wonderful person who sends me a copy at my Dijon address! I’d love to see it myself, after all. 😉


Filed under Chatillon-sur-Seine, Christmas, Just for laughs, Laugh it off, Unconventional Wisdom