Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring has arrived and the leaves and buds are popping out everywhere! Oh, it feels so good. Last Saturday at the market in Uzès, it was still cold and everyone had jackets and scarves on, but the vegetables were so colorful, and the flowers beautiful. You could tell that Spring was just around the corner. There was quite a crowd of people, but mostly local. The tourist season starts in earnest next month. I'm enjoying being able to navigate the lanes in between the stalls without all of the extra people.
I stopped into a shop that has really pretty linens, and the shopkeeper told me that by Wednesday, I would be warm and thoroughly enrobed in Spring. It came a day early. No problem. I walked into the shop speaking French, but he heard my accent and started speaking English. Before he and his wife opened their shop, he sailed for the French team in the America's Cup and they spent nine months in San Diego. With my accent and bad grammar, I sound like every parody you have ever heard. Inspector Clouseau in reverse?

Just a quick note about the olive merchants. The assortment of olives is quite simply "To die for!". I happen to adore olives, so this stand is always a temptation, in that I want to buy some of every kind. They also have an excellent selection of dried fruit, garlic and dried cod. Among other things, the dried cod is used to make the local delicacy called Brandade. This is a spread made with the cod, olive oil, crème fraîche, garlic and potatoes. You serve it on croutons as an appetizer or to accompany a salad for lunch. Really, really good!

Yesterday (Monday), I went to the grocery store and while I was there found a display of geraniums. They were too tempting, so I bought two little plants and now have our first flowers for Spring in the courtyard. Since Easter is not until April 4th, and as I have always been advised not to plant much before Easter, I am being cautious. This climate is new territory for me, but who can resist one or two little geraniums?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yesterday, we came home from running errands about 6pm. Since Dominique and Christophe are here visiting, Pierre decided he wanted to make brioche for Saturday morning breakfast. It always amazes me when he whips up something that complicated with such ease. He was inspired by a recipe he had seen in Chef Roland Messnier's cookbook. We had met Chef Messnier when he was the pastry chef at the White House in September 2000. (See Chocolate Diaries entry for November 28, 2000) This morning, the brioche dough was ready to bake. It smells so good, I don't know if we will be able to resist eating some before tomorrow's breakfast!

We woke to a bright blue sky today, with a strong wind. It is Pierre's birthday, so Dominique and I are taking him to Uzés for lunch, then we will go to visit a B&B there as a prospective place for people to stay while on one of their tours. Dominique and Christophe are working very hard on their tour business, and it is fun and exciting to watch them. You can check it out at www.atasteoffrancetours.com.

The sky looks so clear and the sun is shining so brightly that you can imagine that it is a warm outside, but don't be fooled! The wind they call the Mistral is blowing hard and it is glacial. This afternoon I took Truffles for a walk. Both of us hunkered down against the wind. Fortunately, I bought a down coat from Land's End before leaving and a good friend gave me some earmuffs that are wonderfully warm. Add to the ensemble a huge woolen scarf, gloves and fuzzy-lined Merrills and you have what looks like a pile of clothing walking down the road with a little black dog leading the way.

Tonight for Pierre's birthday dinner, Dominique and I are making shrimp and grits. We have been able to find raw shrimp finally. They're frozen, but taste pretty good, as they have the shells and heads on. I brought the grits from Tallahassee and will bring more when we visit in April. Shrimp and grits goes great with a 2007 Saint Joseph L'Amarybelle by Yves Cuilleron! Life is good.