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Archive for July, 2010

relais d’antan, Lavardin

Lavardin is the prettiest place.

What’s amazing is that it’s real.

I suppose that sounds silly. What I mean to say is:

the bright flowers in windowsills, against the muted color of a house + white lace curtains

window shutters


flower pots, flower pots

are the everyday, beautiful details of people’s lives in this town, and in the other small towns/villages we visited. Such tiny places, with such capacity to charm.

Lavardin is famous for the Chateau de Lavardin, though when we went there, we didn’t know that.

A mosaic map of the town.

In this tiny town, about thirty minutes from Chateau de la Barre, we ate an exquisite meal at Relais d’Antan.

Olives and onions, flecked with thyme, and bread sticks that were more like puff pastries, or khari biscuits.

The tomato and goat cheese tart was piping hot- Hrishikesh burned his mouth- and utterly delicious. Vivid bursts of tomato dribbling into creamy, pungent cheese- this is one of the most wonderful foods I’ve eaten. One day, I will replicate it.

An elegant take on mushroom risotto: cream risotto resting in a luscious mushroom broth, topped with stewed mushrooms. Hrishikesh loved it but my heart belonged to the tart.

Of course we had wine. We shared a bottle of a white, and then I felt all giddy, and there was a cheese platter coming, which was quite the occasion, so I had a bit of a red wine, too. Hrishikesh had to drive.

This is why I felt like celebrating. Look at it. I should have taken a picture of the cheese cart. Our waitress pushed it out with both hands, and when she came to our table, she ceremoniously lifted the lid off of the platter of cheeses. The effect was dazzling. We asked for every cheese.

Then, there was dessert. For the record, we usually don’t eat so much of such rich foods. I would have been fine with half this amount. But prix-fixe was the only option, so we enjoyed it.

For dessert, I got a passion fruit charlotte, and Hrishikesh got some chocolate thing with mint chocolate ice cream. Mine was airier, and better.

Then we drove back home

as if in a dream.

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countryside

The French countryside sure is lovely.

We spent two days in Conflans sur Anille, near the Loire Valley and stayed at Chateau de la Barre. When we arrived, the owners, Guy and Marnie, served us homemade cider. Guy grew up in Chateau de la Barre; it has been in his family since the 14th century.

We walked through their flower garden.

That evening, we visited the farm next door- a cheese making farm! We watched the owner milk her goats.

This is the temperature controlled room where she sets a variety of goat and cow cheeses.

Some are one day old. Some are eight weeks old. She puts vegetable ash on top, for flavor.

For dinner our first night, we stayed at the chateau and ate artichokes from the garden. Marnie made a superb cheese, herb and oil dipping sauce, which H. then spread onto everything else.

We also had salad, vegetable ravioli, and delicious zucchini (also from the garden).

Then, there was the cheese course.

From left to right (and finally center): a day old goat’s cheese, that tasted like yogurt; a deliciously nutty cow cheese; an extremely creamy roquefort; a cow cheese similar to cheddar but made with unpasteurized milk – I loved it; a semi-aged cow-goat mix, and, finally, a strange cheese covered with paprika that we didn’t like at all.

There was dessert, too- blueberries and chocolate and cream, I think, but I have no photos of it.

More tales from France to come.

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radishes, butter, salt

I went to America expecting to eat peaches, but that shows how little I know about peach season. Instead, I ate tender, so new they were almost sweet- radishes.

I ate them whole, like baby carrots. (By the way, I detest baby carrots. And baby corn. Anyone else?)

I ate transparent lengths of them in salads.

But after various methods, I decided to try Julia Child’s, who said the best way to eat a radish is to butter it.

So we did that, buying some excellent butter, and since we were serving these at a party with booze, and slippery, buttery fingers were a concern, we bought a couple of baguettes as vehicles. What an snack, and a simple party appetizer- butter, bread, the slight crunch and sharp spice of a thin radish round…and a sprinkling of sea salt, which elevates almost anything.

So: buy a baguette and some excellent butter. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise, slather your good butter over it, and then cut it into three-inch pieces. Press radishes into the buttered bread, and if you feel indulgent, sprinkle it with sea salt. Enjoy.

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vacation, over

We went on vacation.

What I loved:

The Hubbard Park sandwich at Darwins

The Baked Alaska at Oleana

Ricotta drizzled with truffled honey and burnt orange toasts at Locanda Verde

Everything (broccoli raab, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant Parmesan) at Torrisi Italian Specialties. Especially the mozzarella and rainbow cookies.

My parents’ barbeque and Mexican

Raspberries and raw milk goat cheese in the Loire Valley

After being away from Bombay for five whole weeks, I was actually happy to be back…home. We inhaled the city’s signature stench as we got off the plane, and when we stepped out of the airport, the air mysteriously smelled like sizzling butter. Hrishikesh and I turned to each other, smiling, thinking, what is that? Yesterday the sky was wet and gray. Today it’s been even bleaker. The monsoon is here and I love it. I need to make those rainbow cookies.

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