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France Revisited

By Thursday, June 15, 2017 Permalink 0

From Venice to Chartres 

by Jonell Galloway

Venice is a memory. She is a magnet, pulling me forever into her depths, a cozy, labyrinthine nest I roost in, venturing into her damp, dark streets to come home to perch every evening. Venetian food is good, but not good enough to keep me there forever. Still, it was hard to leave her. She had become my best friend, the one I wanted to cuddle up with for the rest of my life.

Every time I set foot in Venice, I forget the rest of the world. I’d forgotten about crispy baguettes and sea-salt butter and unctuous raw-milk cream from Normandy that one can eat like yogurt. I’d forgotten that the history of “my” Chartres is as old or older than that of Venice, going back as far, we know, as the Druids and Romans.

field colza rapeseed beauce chartres france

Driving from the airport through the verdant, rolling hills of the Essonne and into the flat Beauce, the wheat fields of France, the motorway lined with sweeping yellow fields of rapeseed, the red of poppies nestling up to them like children to mothers’ breasts, I wondered how I’d forgotten the sensation of open space and green, how I’d forgotten the beauty I’d discovered so long ago in the landscapes of Monet and Corot and Lorraine, long before setting foot in this Gallic land. Venice puts a stone-and-brick spell on us and it takes a while for it to wear off, but this drive did it.

Chartres Cathedral fields of colza rapeseed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes wide open, I now remember why I love France. It’s about turning every corner in this city of Chartres only to find a yet-unknown remnant of the medieval ramparts, or learning that there is a Roman temple hidden under the church up the street. It’s about coming home to a spring that looks like a lovely Pissarro or Monet flower garden and remembering why I fell in love with Impressionism as a bright-eyed teenager from Kentucky. It’s about smelling the roses and mourning their going away when the first petals fall to the ground. It’s like passing an old lover in the street and remembering how I fell deeply in love with his dark, intense eyes all those years ago, and into the buttery nostalgia of my own past. It’s about Sunday morning croissants and the farmer’s wife’s jams and café au lait for breakfast and ripe and runny Camembert and the first cherries for clafoutis. It about golden fields of rapeseed and about those red poppies.

Poppy Field_in Argenteuil by Claude Monet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wisteria was withered and long gone when we left Venice, but still flowering in Chartres, this land of the cool, damp north. It was like having two springtimes, going from Italian peas and asparagus to French ones.

We visit the weeping willows along what the Romans called the Autura River, known now as the Eure, and into the surrounding marshland that has been largely filled in and is now a nature reserve with miles of green footpaths and wild ducks. Marshes and canals, not unlike Venice, except for that big ship of a Gothic cathedral on top of the hill. There are no cruise ships towering above the buildings like in Venice.

travel home van bus suitcases

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home is, quite probably, where I lay my suitcases and that changes all too often, but home is also about knowing how to fall in love with something or someone wherever and whenever I put down my bags.

chapel beach chapelle plage bretagne brittany france

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sometimes think it is as simple as a plateau de fruits de mer royal — a seafood platter with everything on it — as they call it in this northerly part of France.

seafood platter normandy plateau de fruits de mer france

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice is but a memory half in fog.

Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_Venice,_The_Mouth_of_the_Grand_Canal_-_Google_Art_Project Venezia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are moving toward the days of purple and pink hydrangea and long walks on the briny Breton coast, fresh oysters for lunch every day. I have returned to the land I fell in love with through art history surveys and then fell more in love with on first sight. Amazingly for a Kentucky girl, like Venice, France, feels like home in all its seasons, wet and dry and cold and hot, in sun and in fog.

Chartres Cathedral in fog from Lower Town, cathédrale de Chartres, brouillard, de la Basse-Ville

 

 

 

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Food and Wine Tasting Masterclass in Chartres

By Thursday, June 15, 2017 Permalink 0

Exploring the Food and Wine of the Beauce and the Loire Valley

Award-winning wine writer, James Flewellen, and Cordon Bleu-educated cook and food journalist, Jonell Galloway, present wine and food tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Comprising dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, “sense-awakening” taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavors and textures present in food and wine.

  • Courses conducted in English
  • All lunches, dinners, and wine included
  • We use only the highest quality, locally-sourced produce and ingredients
  • Over 10 hours of professional food and wine tasting instruction
  • Taste over 20 (4-day course) different wines from the Loire Valley
  • Learn the art of food and wine pairing
  • Dine and learn in a 1,000-year-old converted chapel
  • Socialize with like-minded wine- and food-lovers
  • Experience the atmosphere of the Chartres Festival of Lights in a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Guided city tour & collection from the station included

Click here for more details.

Dates for our 2017 masterclass are now confirmed:

  • Our signature 4-day Taste Unlocked masterclass costs €695pp and runs from 14–17 September, coinciding with the world-famous Chartres Fête de la Lumière.

James and Jonell are also available for bespoke tasting courses and events throughout the year for groups of 4 or more. Please contact us for more information.

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Bordeaux wine museum complex has more than 425,000 visitors in first year of operation

By Thursday, June 15, 2017 Permalink 0

One year after opening to the public, the Bordeaux wine museum complex has welcomed 425,000 visitors from 150 countries.

Pari tenu pour la Cité du Vin à Bordeaux: un an après son ouverture au public, elle a accueilli 425.000 visiteurs de 150 pays et atteint

Source: La Cité du Vin a accueilli plus de 425.000 visiteurs en un an – Le Figaro Vin

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Venetian Hours: Looking for a Home

By Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

I’ve come home. No, I should state that differently. I’ve had to redefine home.

Bacino Grand Canal San Giorgio Maggiore Venice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have decided to spend winters in Venice and summers in France and Switzerland. I have been absent from The Rambling Epicure over the last year and a half only in body, not in spirit. I continue living like a nomad, often not taking time to unpack my suitcase, hopping from Venice to Chartres and occasionally landing in Switzerland, which is still officially my home.

I am alive and I even kick from time to time just to make sure I still can. During this long absence, I fought an unnamed virus. Italian, French and Swiss doctors agreed that it would pass and it finally has. It was, in principle, an entirely physical ailment, yet became trying to the spirit.

Continue Reading…

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Venetian Hours: Sant’Erasmo

By Sunday, April 2, 2017 Permalink 0

Venetian Hours: Sant’Erasmo, the Vegetable Garden of Venice

Chair in Venetian Lagoon Sant'Erasmo

Marsh in Venetian Lagoon Sant'Erasmo, the farm of Venice, Italy. Venezia, Italia.

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Venetian Hours: Torcello

By Friday, March 24, 2017 Permalink 0

Venetian Hours

by Jonell Galloway

A sunny day in Torcello, the birthplace of Venice, the island to which the Veneti fled from the barbarians.

 

Torcello, Venice, Italy Torcello Cathedral, Venice, Italy

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Venice Carnival 2017 – Riding the Lions of San Marco

By Wednesday, March 1, 2017 Permalink 0

Riding the Lion of San Marco Venice

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Quintessential France: Summer in Chartres

By Monday, August 22, 2016 Permalink 0

In summertime, the living is easy. Grandparents walk hand in hand, bare-armed, as little ones skip down the street in bright plaid shorts and thongs and sing out of tune. Three generations of strong women sit on café terraces, and passersby don’t have to ask if they are related. Lovers love each other more than ever, their blood heated by the sun. Even the flowers overflow onto the sidewalk, expressing their joy to be alive.

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Quintessential France: A Beach in Normandy

By Friday, July 22, 2016 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

I wish I were on this beach in Normandy today, walking on the Trouville promenade, the French flag flying high and proud, the sea breeze in my locks. I might fling off that long, thick dress with its petticoat, however, and walk shoeless into the sea and stick my toes in the chilly water, before going up for coffee and a Madeleine in that little tower in the half-timber house looking out to sea. That’s me in the blue dress, of course; I always wear a color that matches the sky.

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This painting is from the current exhibit at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. By Claude Monet, The Boardwalk on the Beach at Trouville, 1870.

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Book Review: Ingredienti, by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan

By Thursday, July 14, 2016 Permalink 0

Book Review: Ingredienti, by Marcella Hazan and Victor Hazan

by Jonell Galloway

This guide is the testament of a woman who based her cooking life on the truth of every dish she cooked and taught, the vigorous truth of clear, uncluttered taste, taste that arises neither from obeisance to dogma, nor from a craving for attention, but evolves inspired by, and respectful of, the ingredients that nourish it.–Victor Hazan in the introduction to Ingredienti

Marcella Hazan, the “godmother of Italian cooking” and the woman many credit with bringing Italian cuisine to the U.S., died in 2013, leaving behind two years’ worth of handwritten notes in Italian in preparation for Ingredienti. Her lifetime collaborator, Victor Hazan, translated and edited these notes, resulting in what is undoubtedly a classic before its time.

With Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks in my suitcase, I was already “tasting Italy” on my way back from London to my home in France. I had a plan: to use her books to learn how to cook Italian food.

That was nearly twenty years ago. It didn’t take me long to realize that the precious ingredients required were simply not available in provincial France. French supermarkets sold pasta made in France with French flour, not Italian pasta made from grano duro. French tomatoes were watery-tasting, even the canned ones. Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano were rarities found only in a few exclusive shops in Paris. The French were just starting to get interested in olive oil, although in the Southeast it had long been the fat of choice thanks to its Greek and Roman history.

Disappointment quickly set in. Marcella’s Italian recipes weren’t going to taste of Italy using French ingredients. It is no wonder that she wanted to write Ingredienti. She knew this was a problem when living outside Italy and felt the need to enlighten her readers about how to choose and treat ingredients.

It was only later when I moved to Switzerland, where good-quality Italian ingredients of all kinds — tomatoes, pasta, cheese, fruit — were readily available that I returned to Marcella. From Geneva, it was also easy to travel to Turin to the Slow Food gatherings. During the Terra Madre conference, I’d arrive every morning with a roller suitcase and, over the course of the day, fill it with food to take back to Switzerland.

Later, in my Italian food journey — even when living in Italy — Marcella, and later Victor, became for me household words, their books like a treatise, a bible, that I refer to in times of doubt, for example, when I make “red” spaghettini alle vongole, which I must have made a hundred times using Marcella’s recipe.

As important as this book is, Marcella Hazan’s recipes are not only about ingredients. The true secret to her success is the lucid precision of the explanations. A scientist by training with two doctorates, her instructions are methodical, almost mathematical. She counts in minutes and half minutes, and you can count on what she says. Though her cookbooks were not written as culinary classes per se, once you’ve followed her risotto instructions a couple of times, you are struck by the rigorousness of the recipe, of how each step is in its proper place, and each time given is exact, and it becomes like a work of art or a perfect mathematical equation, with no excess and no frill.

Ingredienti is indeed a testament to Marcella Hazan’s undying commitment not only to Italian cooking, but also to the importance of choosing products and the actual process of shopping, on which we put too little emphasis. Marcella had an intimate relationship with products, knowing them inside and out as if they were the baby she’d raised. “Choose a pepper by its size, shape, and heft. It should be large, heavy, shiny, firm, and cubical in form. The long tapered ones are not as solidly meaty.” Now you have a clear image in your mind of what to look for next time you buy a pepper. The entire book is like this, leaving you with the impression that you’d been going to a market class with Marcella for a week and held the artichokes or peppers or onions in your hands.

Speaking of extra-virgin olive oil, she says, “if olive oil were a drug, it would have a place of honour among miracle drugs,” saying that “it well might be the most significant contribution to my survival.” Although she embraces the use of lard and butter, used in her native Emilia-Romagna, olive oil was the superstar in her kitchen.

On the important subject of pasta: one can’t say fresh pasta is always better than dried pasta. Fresh pasta, made with eggs and flour, longs for butter and cream, which seep into the crevices of its rough surface; dried pasta, made with water and flour, is a perfect marriage for olive-oil and tomato-based sauces, which slide gracefully around it. You’ll never look at pasta the same way once you’ve “consumed” this chapter; in fact, you’ll want to read it over and over, making sure not to miss a single point.

She tells you everything you need to know about Parmigiano-Reggiano, not to be confused with generic parmesan cheese. Its goodness depends on the origin of the milk, the breed of cow, the age, the season, and, of course, the method used to make it. Though this is not a recipe book, Marcella throws in the prize of Victor’s grandmother’s recipe for Parmigiano crostini, not to be missed.

The book is broken down by category of ingredient, including “Produce,” “The Essential Pantry,” and “Salumi,” with individual chapters devoted to classic Italian ingredients such as artichoke, eggplant, and tomatoes; pasta, risotto rice, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and red wine vinegar; prosciutto, pancetta, and lardo, and a whole host of other products.

For those who live in locations in the U.S. where Italian ingredients are not available in the same way, just as I did in France, the book includes a fairly exhaustive list of online suppliers of good-quality ingredients with precise indications of what to order from whom.

Count on reading the book from front to cover in one or two sittings, and then keeping it on your kitchen shelf for easy, repeated reference, as you might do with a prayer book. As with all of Marcella and Victor Hazan’s collaborations, there is never an extraneous word, sentence, or idea, so you’ll want to read the important passages numerous times.

Like a yogi, Marcella repeated the same “postures” over and over, meditating upon the ingredients, seeking the truth in them with a focused faith and methodical effort. As a result, Ingredienti reads much like a text written by a spiritual master in old age. It is concrete proof of her dedication; it is the wisdom of years lived in perfect harmony with food, based on her immeasurable knowledge and intimate relationship with ingredients, but also on an almost spiritual reverence for their integrity. It is, indeed, a testament of Marcella and the truth she sought by going to the essence of every foodstuff she touched, and of the truth she attained in her reasoned, scientific manner.

 

 

 

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