Monday, April 14, 2014
Food & Wine Tasting Masterclass in Chartres, France
18 – 21 September 2014
Exploring the food and wine of the Beauce and the Loire Valley
with James Flewellen and Jonell Galloway
Through a series of tutored workshops, this 4-day weekend workshop will help unlock your tastebuds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavors and textures present in food and wine. Our exploration is enabled through local food from the Beauce and wine from the Loire Valley and coincides with the Chartres Festival of Lights and the Autumnal Equinox.
Contact: [email protected]
Our Tasting Masterclasses will concentrate on food and wine from the surrounding region. Chartres is located in the Beauce, the bread basket of France – and one might say, Europe – so bakeries use local flour and compete for not only the best baguette, but the best bread in general, giving rise to a plethora of types of bread you’ll find no where else in France nor in the world. Other crops grown in these vast, flat fields include sugar beets and all sorts of root vegetables, many not found elsewhere. The flat wheat fields are not propitious to dairy cows, so cheeses are limited, but we have access to cheese from the best local artisanal cheesemakers. Pigs live in perfect harmony alongside the wheat fields, as do wild and domesticated fowl, so many of the meat dishes are based on them.
In today’s Chartres, Loire Valley wine is considered local, since the Loire region starts about 45 minutes down the road and no wine is grown in Chartres due to the climate. As a result, the local sommeliers and wine merchants specialize in Loire Valley wine. Our tasting will focus on the “art of tasting” in general, starting with our perceptions of taste in food, and working up to our perceptions of tasting wine. The two are inseparable, since wine can only be appreciated to the maximum when paired with food.
Some of the food tasting masterclass will be based on scientific research, but most on an intuitive approach, where you will become aware of why you like and dislike certain foods, textures, smells, etc. in food, with hands-on workshops to help you understand the complexity and individuality of taste in general.
For us, food should be a pleasure, and Western culture has neglected to train our taste buds by feeding us too much processed food. This workshop will help you reawaken your taste buds and sensory perception of food so that you will go away with a different perception of what real food is. Tasting will become a conscious process that not only serves the purpose of filling your belly, but brings you pleasure and enjoyment that industrial food will no longer satisfy.
Through a series of tutored wine tastings you will learn how professionals taste wine, what makes a ‘good’ wine, and about the aromatic, flavour and structural components of wine and how they interact with food. We will also focus on local wines through an in-depth Masterclass on wines of the Loire, as well as pairing these wines with cheeses, main courses and desserts throughout the weekend. Please note that all lunches and dinners, as well as wines, are included in the price.
The course coincides with the Autumnal Equinox – traditionally a time of celebration of the harvest and an ideal occasion to taste the best of the region.
Click here to book.
James Flewellen, Master Wine Taster
Dr James Flewellen is a biophysicist at the University of Oxford. James learned his trade in taste through the Oxford Blind Wine Tasting Society, of which he was the President from 2010-2012. During his term, he represented Oxford at many international blind tasting competitions – twice winning the prestigious ‘Top Taster’ Award in the annual Varsity blind tasting match against Cambridge University and captaining winning teams in competitions throughout Europe. Reporting on the 58th Varsity match in the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson MW described him as ‘the most impressive taster of the lot’.
One of James’s goals is to clarify the complex and hard-to-navigate world of wine for both novice and experienced tasters. He applies his scientific training to wine education, illuminating concepts of taste, tannin and terroir in an approachable, entertaining manner. James runs wine education courses in Oxford through the and is completing the WSET Professional Diploma in Wine and Spirits. He is the regular wine writer for The Rambling Epicure and is the founder of The Oxford Wine Blog. He is also the co-author of The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting – a book surveying the wine regions of the world and how to blind taste.
Jonell Galloway, Master Food Taster
Jonell Galloway studied classic French cooking at the L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, and wine tasting at Steven Spurrier’s Academie du Vin in Paris, doing numerous wine internships all over France, and at CAVE S.A. in Geneva and Gland in Switzerland. In France, she worked for some years as a contributing editor for the English edition of the GaultMillau restaurant and hotel guide and as a food translator, while running a small cooking school called “Spontaneous Cuisine” in a château near Paris, and now, at a 1,000-year-old chapel converted into her home in Chartres.
She divides her time between Chartres and Geneva, where she is ambassadress for Les Artisanes de la Vigne et du Vin, the Swiss women’s wine producers association, and is active in Slow Food. She publishes the real food and wine site The Rambling Epicure, an e-zine for cultured gastronomes. She is also an active member of IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and works as a freelance writer for numerous food and travel publications.
Her recent publications include Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne in collaboration with Christophe Certain and Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads published by Orphie, in collaboration with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac. She also collaborated on a review of the life work of Swiss sculptor André Raboud, published by Edipresse.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Food Writing Prompts
by Simon de Swaan
“A” is for dining Alone… and so am I, if a choice must be made between most I know and myself. This misanthropic attitude is one I am not proud of, but it is firmly there, based on my increasing conviction that sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.–M.F.K. Fisher, An Alphabet for Gourmets
M.F.K. Fisher, born in 1908, is perhaps America’s best-known food essayist. She redefined the way Americans write and talk about food, and is therefore a true reference in American food writing. Gourmet wrote a lovely homage to her in 2008, the 100th anniversary of her birth.
Alphabet for Gourmets was originally published in Gourmet magazine in 1948.
Read more about her classic The Art of Eating.
Photo courtesy of Cliff 1066
Thursday, April 10, 2014
I was recently interviewed for a Swiss Info documentary called “Finding the Right Food Formula.” In the context of recent childhood obesity figures in Switzerland, Veronica De Vore is exploring the Swiss relationship to food and how that might have changed, how it might be related to the rise in childhood obesity.
Click here to listen to the show. I cooked a Kentucky Fried Chicken feast for Veronica, while discussing the more serious matter of relationships to food in the context of my work in mindful eating. (The article also includes an abridged recipe for my grandmothers’ traditional Kentucky Fried Chicken.)
I am of the firm belief that the traditional Kentucky fried chicken meal like my grandmother made, using 8 to 10 fresh vegetables, fruits and salads, was not at all unhealthy. I talked about how this move away from traditional diets was a major explanation of obesity today that we don’t talk about quite enough. Fried chicken is fatty, but when you’re eating that much fiber along with it, you don’t actually eat much chicken, and it is almost certain that it takes longer to metabolize the fat. Growing up in Kentucky, everyone ate like this, and there was little obesity.
Fast food and chain restaurants started proliferating in Kentucky over 30 years ago. From 1990 to 2012, obesity increased by thirty percent. This affects the adult population more than children. One third of the adult population is obese. That number is expected to rise to 60% by 2030.
On the other hand, the Swiss are alarmed with new government statistics stating that 41% of Swiss people are now obese, according to the Swiss federal office of statistics (OFS). The rate of obesity has doubled in the last 20 years, despite efforts to change eating habits and increase physical activity. At the same time, the Swiss and French come second in terms of the “most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, with the Netherlands coming in first.
The latest WHO study recommends the following to fight obesity:
The new study echoes a growing body of literature providing evidence for measures that governments could take to reverse the obesity epidemic by hindering the spread of ultra-processed foodstuffs. Such measures include:
- economic incentives for growers to sell healthy foods and fresh food items rather than ultra-processed foods and subsidies to grow fruit and vegetables;
- economic disincentives for industries to sell fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks such as an ultra-processed food tax and/or the reduction or elimination of subsidies to growers/companies using corn for rapid tissue growth, excessive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics;
- zoning policies to control the number and type of food outlets;
- tighter regulation of the advertising of fast food and soft drinks, especially to children;
- trade regulations discouraging the importation and consumption of fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks; and
- more effective labelling systems especially for ultra-processed foods, including fast food and soft drinks.
What’s the answer?
The goal of my work is to go back to a more traditional way of eating and living, adapting traditional recipes to make them even healthier and more digestible, adding fiber and healthy oils along the way, and creating new ones suitable for more modern tastes. This is with health and weight in mind, but also pleasure. The pleasure must never be taken away from what we eat. The Kentucky Fried Chicken feast I prepared for Veronica had both in mind.
The concept of mindful eating also means being aware of food throughout its journey through the food chain, from seed and soil to plate, so to speak. It means choosing our ingredients mindfully and with informed awareness. It means cooking these ingredients with love and with the idea that we are nurturing our bodies. In this way, food is no longer wolfed down and seen as just a way to fill our bellies. It takes on a new and deeper dimension that goes far beyond the physical. Processed and junk food can’t do this for us. It leaves our taste buds yearning for more and our bodies lacking in nutrients.
I don’t have the answer to tackling obesity, but I hope to contribute to making it better by developing recipes that are ever more nutritious and encouraging a more mindful way of eating. As Michael Pollan said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Be the poem. Write the poem of your life every day through your kind words and good deeds. When your nights are dark, rise up. Take the rays of the morning sun into your heart and warm it again. Keep writing your poem.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Jonell’s Proustian Rambling
Peter and I are eating dinner. Chopin’s Etudes play in the background; we sit in the midst of our eclectic collection of objets d’art from France and Italy and more exotic ones from Tibet, Persia, India. I am in my element. I am surrounded by music, poetry and art. How have I come to this? My mother. For her, life has been poetry, art, and music, syncopated with dramatic andantes and crescendos, tearing at her guts and ripping them wide open. She took it all in; she swathed herself in its drapery of blood-wrenched red and chilly blue pain. She has not gone gently into that good night; she is a fearless survivor. She has lived through earthquakes and hurricanes and always landed on her feet. I continue to write the poem of my life, blunder through the Gymnopèdes. Mother is playing Scarbo, flitting in and out of the darkness, disappearing and suddenly reappearing. I touch her hand. She hands me a pen.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
A Swiss Reader’s Tale of Knepfle
by Dee Rintoul
I grew up with “cheater” knepfle. I learned from my Oma, who had a Southern German background, but was Romanian-born. She made all kinds of noodles and pasta dishes — spatzle, real egg noodles that were dried and stored, but for everyday use. Knepfle were child’s play. In our own home, we made them for lunch and threw them into Lipton chicken noodle soup (which was not something we’d ever find in Oma’s kitchen!). God. That woman could cook…
Anyway. The way we did it was to beat an egg or two (depending on how greedy we felt at the time), add a pinch of salt and some dried parsley if we thought of it or wanted to impress schoolmates, then beat in all-purpose flour until it was so stiff it wouldn’t take any more and/or became too difficult to stir. Then we’d drop pieces in a pot of boiling water with a fork and a teaspoon, dipping both implements into the simmering soup in between to help the stiff dough drop. Once they were all in, we put the lid on, turned down the heat, and kept it covered for a few minutes.
When we finally lifted the lid, we found gorgeous, fluffy-looking, but very chewy little dumplings, all floating together on top of the soup. We loved these so much that as kids we used to scorn dumplings as being “too soft”. To our minds, dumplings, or anything that remotely resembled knepfle, ought to be quite al dente.
I still make these for chicken soup (and I try not to rely on Lipton but make my own as often as possible!).
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
In Paris to the Pyrenees, David Downie takes us right along with him on the Way of St. James, without our ever leaving our armchairs. As stated in the subtitle, “A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Ways of St James,” we’re not talking about a conventional pilgrim, so we don’t expect his transformations to be like those of traditional Christians. But then, the Way of St. James, like so many pilgrim routes in the world, becomes a spiritual journey spreading well beyond the confines of Christianity.
Downie makes it a personal journey, full of the classical culture and history he knows so well, and we have the pleasure of experiencing it along with him. His journey through classicism and French history becomes ours, as we learn about the Druids, the Galls, the Romans, former French President François Mitterand, and much more; as he carries around a stone he was convinced had magical power because it looked like a scallop shell, until it become too heavy to carry; as we wolf down hearty French meals and sup coarse local wine after a long day of walking, before we fall like a stone into bed.
And though we might not receive penance, we end the journey all the richer in knowledge, having read a good tale, too. The book is a latter-day Canterbury Tales, with a varied lot of pilgrims, locals, and farmers all along the way. Alison Harris’ photos are in perfect harmony with Downie’s narrative. You’ll want to wear a scallop shell around your neck after reading this book.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Swiss Food: Fribourg-style Tarte à la Raisinée – Apple and Pear Syrup Pie
Inspired by Frédy Girardet’s recipe in La Cuisine Spontanée, published by Robert Laffont
What is Swiss Raisinée?
The Vaudois word raisinée refers to a syrup made of the must of apples and pears. It was originally cooked in grape juice, thus the name — raisin means grape in French. Often called vin cuit, or “cooked wine”, it is in the form of a dark brown, viscous liquid. In still other parts of Switzerland, another concoction similar in consistency to jam and using the same ingredients is called cougnarde and probably dates back to at least the Middle Ages. Raisinée was used as a sweetener in many regions in Europe, and the tradition has lingered in Switzerland, especially in the cantons of Vaud, Fribourg and Neuchâtel. Today, it is mainly used for cakes and pies, and is not fermented, so it not technically a wine.
Click here for my recipe for raisinée.
Recipe for Raisinée Tart
Serves 6250 g / 1/2 lb. sweet pie crust 3 whole eggs 1 egg yolk 1.5 dl / 3/4 cup double cream 1 dl / 1/2 cup raisinée or “vin cuit”
- Make sweet pie crust. Set aside.
- Grease 20 cm / 8-inch pie pan.
- Preheat oven to 250° C / 475° F.
- Roll out dough so that it is 3-4 mm / 1/8th in. (or a little more) and a diameter that fits your pan.
- Bake crust empty for about 25 minutes.
- Leave to cool.
- Heat oven to 180° C / 350° F.
- Mix the 3 eggs, egg yolk, cream, and raisinée with a mixer or wire whip. It should make about 1.2 dl or 2/3 cup, depending on how thick the raisinée is.
- Pour 3/4 of filling into pie crust. Put pie in oven, then use a spoon to carefully pour in the rest, until the crust is entirely full.
- Leave oven slightly open and bake until set. Check setting by slightly shaking the pie while still in the oven. It should take about half an hour.