France and Italy’s relationship through time, wine & food
PROGRAM FOR 4-DAY MASTERCLASS TASTING WEEKEND IN CHARTRES
with Jonell Galloway and James Flewellen
4th to 7th October 2018
——- Course Overview
FRANCE AND ITALY ARE TITANS OF EUROPEAN culinary culture. The nations of today are inheritors of rich culinary traditions that are the result of millennia of interweaving relationships between the peoples who inhabit these lands. This is a process that predates even the Romans and continues very much into the 21st century.
Over this four-day weekend, we explore the culinary and vinous relationships between France and Italy from Roman times through to today. We will look at what each nation has gifted the other through various lenses, including food, drink and culinary culture.
The masterclass involves sumptuous feasting, tutored wine tastings, and intellectual discussion. Bring your taste buds, something to say and a willingness to learn!
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
The rain stopped in its tracks and the summer came down in a billow and I got out my summer dresses. The dogs lay down in the grass high from rain, rolling and frolicking with their limber legs toward heaven as the blue sky pushed its way through the month-long gray clouds. Teenage girls walked bare-armed, not yet tattooed, and young women strolled bare-legged in vintage print dresses resembling those in the Liberation photos but with tattoos blending into the flowers of their dresses. In 1944, it was D-Day on the shores of Normandy, but Chartres was occupied until mid-August, with the first American soldiers arriving in Proust’s beloved Illiers-Combray at 1 p.m. on August 15 and in Chartres at 10:30 a.m. on August 16th, my birthday. The people here love Americans; even young people repeat the stories their grandparents recounted of the American tanks driving up our street of St. Pierre a few days later and the 85-year-old butcher hugs me every time he sees me, as if I had been there and helped. The first time I came here, it was as if I’d found my home so far away from home, where I could wear pink and blue floral dresses like my grandmothers’ and wear white socks and sandals and dance in the same streets Jean Moulin had walked and feel free.
“A bare-chested sun-tanned peasant threshes the wheat, section of August from the Zodiac and the labors of the months stained glass window, 1217, in the ambulatory of Chartres Cathedral, Eure-et-Loir, France. This calendar window contains scenes showing the zodiacal symbol with its corresponding monthly activity. Chartres cathedral was built 1194-1250 and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. Most of its windows date from 1205-40 although a few earlier 12th-century examples are also intact. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.”–Art Archive
My adopted hometown of Chartres is in the Beauce region, the breadbasket of France. Large, flat wheat fields surround the single hill of Chartres, topped with the most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the world. You can see the cathedral for miles when driving across the fields, and a quite magical view it is, its spires dominating the flat farmlands. No wonder people have been making pilgrimages here for at least 5,000 years.
Chartrains, as we call the people from here, come from the land. Everyone in the region has a farm or has family who owns one, and because of the abundance of grains of every kind — wheat, barley, corn, rye and many more — grains are an integral part of the local diet.
This traditional recipe is referred to as “bread from the mill,” but no one knows the exact origin of that name. In the past, the Beaucerons (the inhabitants of the Beauce region), of Celtic and Druidic origins, ate this on the Jour des Morts, the day of the dead, which fell on November 2 after All Saint’s Day, when the living were said to communicate with the dead, when tombs and graves were said to open so that the world of the visible and invisible could intermingle for a short period.
Early in the morning of November 2, local bakers made pain aux morts, or “bread to the dead” (this could even be translated in a more ghoulish manner, “bread (made from) the dead”), out of flour and milk, for a traditional 10 a.m. breakfast before going to the cemetery.
In the nineteenth century, the church decided that All Saints Day sufficed and such pagan customs were more or less done away with. Beaucerons continue to eat this bread during the All Saints celebrations, however, calling it “bread from the mill” instead of “bread to the dead.”
I often serve this recipe with apéritif, but it can also make a vegetarian dinner, and can, of course, be eaten year round.
6 pains au lait or 3-4″-long milk breads
6 cups milk
1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese or similar, grated
Cut the bread in half lengthwise.
Use a spoon to scrape the crumbs out of the crust, taking care to leave the crust intact, and put the crumbs in a bowl.
Pour milk over crumbs and mix.
Add the eggs and the grated cheese and mix well.
Fill the crusts with the bread crumb mixture.
Use kitchen string to tie the bread halves together.
Heat cooking oil in a deep pan or fryer. When the oil starts to bubble, drop in the bread and cheese preparations.
Cook until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve immediately while hot.
Kentucky is far from Chartres, but not so far as one might think. Biscuits and cornbread were the bond that held us together in Kentucky; wheatfields and bread do the same in Chartres. We like white gravy; the Chartrains, as they’re called, like sauce. Isn’t white gravy a sauce, after all?
Growing up in Kentucky, I embraced the Slow Food concepts without ever knowing it. Wendell Berry was my breakfast, lunch and supper, after all. The French have never fully embraced the official Slow Food concept of Good, Clean and Fair, since they consider that French cuisine and agriculture already embrace these values and do not need an organization – especially an Italian association with an English name – to teach them about their own time-honored traditions. One might say that the French are arrogant and chauvinist, which I would never totally deny, but it is this very pride that has maintained a high level of quality in the world of artisanal food and agriculture.
I have lived in the Beauce region, the bread basket of France, for over 15 years. The hill of Chartres is surrounded by wheat and grain fields and when you go to the bakers, they actually mark the name of the millers who provided the grain for particular breads. It’s all rather magical for those who have a holistic view of the world. The Beauce is all about farming, in particular, wheat, grain and sugar beets, but also goat cheese, pork products, rabbits, beer, apples and apple cider products, pears, chickens, rapeseed, etc. My goal has been to find all the best producers and growers and support them in every way possible.
Despite the Russian name, Mentchikoffs are a specialty of Chartres. There are only four or five chocolatiers who still make them because the process is time-consuming. You won’t find them in restaurants, only in chocolate shops.
Mentchikoffs have a praline and chocolate center and a crunchy dried Swiss-style meringue coating. They are almond-shaped and usually weigh from 10 to 12 grams.
This candy is said to have been invented by a famous confectioner named Dausmenil in 1893 in the rue de la Pie in Chartres. This was a period when everything Russian was the rage, from Russian salad to Russian jewels, after the signing of the Franco-Russian military alliance of 1894. Mentchikov, the son of a pastry chef and an apprentice bread baker, had been the aide-de-camp of Czar Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century. Dausmenil almost certainly named his chocolates in honor of the Russian of the same name.
In 1900, Dausmenil sold his shop, along with the recipe, to a confectioner called Genet. There are records mentioning his mentchikoffs in 1930, along with the mintchikoffs of Mme Nessler in the rue Marceau.
It takes several days to make a mentchikoff — anywhere from 3 to 7 — because each step is followed by a period of drying. The almonds and hazelnuts are crushed and oven-dried. The water and sugar is then heated to 121°C. Off the burner, the nuts are added to the sugar mixture and then put back on the burner to caramelize. This mixture is then crushed into a fine powder to make the praline.
The praline is then mixed with melted butter and the chocolate added. This mixture is left to dry in a special drying frame and later cut into 7- to 8-gram candies which are shaped by hand.
One side of the chocolates is then soaked in the meringue, then removed and dried. This procedure is repeated for the other side. The finished mentchikoffs are then dried one last time and packaged in cardboard boxes.
Mentchikoffs are eaten after a meal with coffee.
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Meet Jonell Galloway, a freelance writer and editor specialized in French cuisine.