Well, it’s official! The dates are set, the details are finalized and I couldn’t be more excited because today I get to share my big announcement with you! You know, the one I’ve been hinting at for the past month or so since we returned from our cooking class at La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s former Summer home in Provence?
So while I apologize for the delay, I promise it will be worth the wait.
First, in keeping with my previous La Peetch posts, I’d like to share the details of our magical last day with you. Days one, two and three of The Courageous Cooking School were so heavenly, a teeny gray cloud descended on my heart knowing we would be leaving this special place in the morning. However, this was also the day I knew I wanted to return and share this experience with you or others?.
The day began with a lesson on creating beautiful fruit and charcuterie platters. Chefs Sandrine and Dominie demonstrated tips for making them especially gorgeous including grouping similar colors together while also combining different heights and textures.
We also learned to supreme citrus, a technique I adore, which separates the juicy, citrus segments from the bitter, white pith. Sandrine also showed us how to make delicate strawberry roses out of gorgeous ripe, red French strawberries. To view her technique, check out the video below.
To pair with our bounty of fresh fruit, Dominie also showed us how to make a sabayon. Known as zabaglione in Italy, this heavenly mixture of egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine (traditionally Madeira) is served slightly warm to make the contrast between the warm sauce and chilled fruit truly delightful.
After our morning lesson we quickly changed and we were off to our celebratory last day lunch at Paloma, a Michelin two-star restaurant in the neighboring town of Mougins. The nattily dressed staff greeting us warmly and whisked us through the gorgeous Baroque-style dining room to our secluded table tucked in a lovely niche of the restaurant.
The beautiful dining room featured sumptuous decor in muted tones of black, grey and lavender accented by gorgeous, sparkling crystal chandeliers. Ensconced in our banquette replete with chic Mongolian sheep fur pillows, the charming Chef de Cuisine Nicolas Decherchi greeted us personally. Needless to say, an onslaught of culinary delights ensued!
Shortly after ordering, an amuse bouche of Savory Candy Floss with Foie Gras arrived served like miniature cotton candy on whimsical wooden sticks. It was served with a Food Lover’s Trio featuring a delightful demitasse of pea soup with duck leg confit, a miniature sandwich of olives, anchovies and tuna and a bright yellow pepper capsule served atop savory bread. We were encouraged to begin with the trio and finish with the savory floss since they would bring us wet napkins for our hands.
The soup and sandwich were a divine combination of flavors and textures, the velvety soup with silky duck confit paired nicely with the flavorful sandwich. The delightful savory floss deliciously dissolved on the tongue and rewarded with a creamy foie center – tres magnifique!
Next, was a Seasonal Amuse, a gelée of fresh mint topped with a creamy espuma of smoked bacon studded with bits of bacon and black salt. The creativity of the dishes thus far was truly stunning. Even the fresh bread was served with a trio of beautifully sculpted, incredibly flavored pyramids of butter leaving us all in suspense over the main courses.
Finally, a throng of waiters descended with our main courses. Our respective dishes were placed perfectly in front of us, each covered with a lovely silver cloche. Then, in perfect synchronicity, the servers removed the cloches in one dramatic grand gesture to reveal the deliciousness underneath (to watch, please click here).
My mouthwatering Lobster with Housemade Linguine was blanketed in a blissfully creamy sauce of lobster, orange and basil and topped with a heavenly foam. Steve opted for a Paloma classic, Yellow and Brown Morille Mushrooms with a delicate mushroom mousseline with roasted gnocchi, poultry broth and a licorice zabaglione. Since I had been on a morel mushroom bender since we arrived, I’m thankful he shared a few bites with me. Needless to say, oodles of delightful rosé washed down all the deliciousness!
As you might expect, dessert was equally astounding. I chose the Piña Colada Soufflé featuring a warm coconut soufflé with a creamy pineapple center accompanied by a refreshing coconut sorbet topped with rum foam (to watch the special prep, please click here). Steve opted for the divine Sainte Honoré with Praline which featured classic Sainte Honoré cake with delicious almond flavors topped with lemon foam served with praline ice cream.
In addition to the desserts we ordered, we were also able to indulge in perhaps my favorite part of the French fine dining experience: the cheese and dessert carts. In the event you are still hungry after your multi-course meal, you can select from a plethora of delectable cheeses and heavenly pastries.
While Steve indulged in some cheeses, I was thrilled to spot one of my absolute favorite Provencal desserts on the cart: a miniature Tarte Tropézienne. Made of decadent, vanilla custard-filled brioche cake and finished off with delicious nibs of pearl sugar, this dessert has quite a glamorous pedigree: it originated in Saint-Tropez in the 1950’s and was named by actress Brigitte Bardot!
A tour of the kitchen following our meal rounded out the exceptional dining experience. And that’s exactly what is was, truly exceptional. From the haute cuisine, to the gorgeous decor, to the impeccable service right down to the intricately adorned silverware, the unwavering attention to detail made it quite easy to see how Paloma earned it’s Michelin two star-rating.
That evening back at La Peetch, we enjoyed a delightfully relaxed dinner comprised of the last of the ingredients we had purchased at the Market in Antibes as well as the morning’s projects, our cheese and charcuterie boards.
Steve and I made a Frisée aux Lardons Salad complete with perfectly poached eggs (one of my favorite takeaway skills of the week) which was served alongside a gorgeous Salade Niçoise with fresh seared tuna, a colorful and crisp Fennel and Grapefruit Salad and delicious Tomato Balsamic Bruschetta. Fresh country bread and copious amounts of salted butter from the boulangerie rounded out our final meal.
We dined and drank wine into the wee hours of the morning with our new friends, reveling in our experiences over the week and all we had learned. We laughed until our cheeks hurt and it was truly the perfect end to a truly magical week and an experience we will cherish for years to come.
And it is for that reason and being so inspired by this special place…
The 2018 La Pitchoune Food & Wine Experience will take place Sunday, October 14 – Friday, 19th, 2018. I’ll be partnering with current owner and consummate hostess of La Pitchoune, Makenna Held, and we are looking forward to creating an incredibly special experience for you.
Attendees will stay on property at La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s former Summer home, and Bramafam, the home of Simone Beck (Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-author) which is located mere steps from La Peetch. Beck and her husband were actually the owners of the property who allowed their dear friends, Julia and Paul, to build their Summer home there.
During the experience, we’ll divide our time between learning French-inspired cooking techniques and developing wine tasting and pairing skills. In addition to the food and wine classes, we’ll also enjoy field trips to local purveyors, markets, restaurants and wineries who highlight the bounty of Provence and make this magical region so incredibly special.
The 2018 La Pitchoune Food & Wine Experience will be limited to 16 guests and the Sunday to Friday experience is $3,750 per person. In addition to lodging and daily classes, continental breakfasts, lunches and dinners are also included as well as excursions throughout the local area to food hot spots, (optional) daily yoga, beaucoup wine from the region and unlimited dips in the pristine, mosaic pool of La Peetch or the picturesque infinity pool of Bramafam. From the moment you arrive, you’ll have a glass of wine in hand and plenty of food in your belly.
If you are interested in signing up for our 2018 La Pitchoune Food & Wine Experience (Sunday, October 14 – Friday, 19th, 2018) or if you’d like to learn more about it, please e-mail me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope you can join us in Provence!
The post Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 4 & THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
After an evening of Champagne and deliciousness (for all the deets on Day 1 or Day 2 please click the links) somehow we all managed to make it to our morning cooking class on time. Of course it helped that the kitchen was right outside our bedroom doors. And we could wear our comfy PJs and/or yoga clothes!
Day 3 began with Chocolate Fondants. You know those decadent chocolatey little cakes with the melty chocolate centers that ooze out when you greedily dig into it with your fork? Yeah, that was how we started Day 3. Chef Dominie guided us through the proper steps of combining the melted dark chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, flour and cocoa and the subsequent dividing of the heavenly concoction between our generously greased and cocoa-ed baking tins.
Then we focused on some classic French sauces including hollandaise and aioli. Chef Sandrine demonstrated her tried and true recipe for hollandaise which was so incredibly creamy and luscious it caused a feeding frenzy among us. Ok, maybe it was mostly me who couldn’t control myself BUT it just so happened to be ready precisely when Steve and I pulled our Artichokes Confit out of the oven. Is it really MY fault if they taste so good slathered with hollandaise?
I had never even made artichokes before but I was so inspired by them at the Antibes market. And what better place to attempt uncharted culinary territory than The Courageous Cooking School? It turns out with a little guidance and some teamwork with the Hubs, it wasn’t so difficult after all.
We simply trimmed the bottoms, giving the artichokes a flat surface to rest on, popped them in a baking dish and seasoned them liberally between all of their triangular, serrated leaves with extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, sea salt and pepper. They emerged from the oven a burnished greenish-brown and the flesh inside each leaf was incredibly succulent and flavorful.
We were also tasked with using the ingredients on hand to come up with side dishes to serve with the evening’s meal, a very special Salt-Baked Fish prepared by Makenna. Steve and I decided on a variation of Potatoes Lyonnaise featuring thinly sliced potatoes and caramelized onions sauteed in butter and then garnished with chopped fresh herbs.
After all of our dishes were prepped, we headed out for another field trip to a very unique winery. We took the scenic route east through the undulating hills of the South of France, passing oodles of charming towns, each more inviting than the next.
Approximately 45 minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of Domaine des Hautes Collines located in Saint-Jeannet, one of the Perched Villages of the Cote d’Azur. Founded in the 12th and 13th centuries, these charming villages were founded when coastal inhabitants fled inwards to protect their families from marauders and pirates. While not so much an issue today, these hilltop villages provide dramatic views of the beautiful coastline.
Lining the driveway of the chateau were large glass vessels filled with white and red wines. Little did we know, these vessels are key to producing the winery’s unique offerings which include white, rosé, red and late harvest wines.
We were greeted by Proprietor Georges Rasse, an affable, mustachioed gentleman who, together with his brother Denis, took over the winery for their father in 1986. Rasse spoke very passionately about his wines and the region, informing us the area has been making wine since the days of the Romans.
Today, the 4 hectare estate grows a wide assortment of grapes including Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Semillon, Rolle, Braquet, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay.
What makes Rasse’s wines so unique, however, is how he incorporates one of wine’s supposed “enemies” in the winemaking process: namely the sun! Rasse fills the clear glass vessels with his wines and then exposes them to direct sunlight, sometimes for up to three months, before they are bottled or transferred to oak barrels. He claims this sunlight exposure helps to stabilize and purify the wines thereby reducing the need for sulfites or other preservatives.
We thoroughly enjoyed touring the winery and listening to Rasse’s interesting history making wine in this special region. We also tasted through a selection of his offerings including a white, two rosés, two red wines and a late harvest Semillon before it was time to head back to La Pitchoune (more on these wines later!).
The pièce de résistance of the evening’s meal was Makenna’s Salt-Baked Fish with Stuffed with Lemon and Herbs served with a dreamy, garlicky aioli. While it might sound (and look) quite glamorous, this is actually an ancient way of cooking and once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite easy.
Makenna chose a beautiful fresh dorade for the recipe although snapper, sea bass or bream would work just as well. She proceeded to make the salt crust mixture out of raw eggs, fennel or coriander seeds, lemon peel, water and of course kosher or grey salt. When fully combined, the mixture had the consistency and weight of wet sand.
The cleaned fish was then stuffed with fresh, citrusy lemon slices and an assortment of fresh herbs including rosemary, thyme and parsley. The stuffed fish was then laid upon a baking sheet already covered with the salt mixture and then enveloped in the briny, citrus studded crust.
The result was a succulent fish seasoned to perfection – it didn’t taste over salted at ALL! The garlicky aioli was the perfect accompaniment as was the array of side dishes we had all made including our Potatoes Lyonnaise, a delicious Quinoa Salad, delightful Rice Pilaf with Toasted Almonds and Roasted Asparagus with a spicy, flavorful Romesco Sauce.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but think we only had one full day left at La Pitchoune. Thankfully, between my contentedly full stomach and rosé wine haze I decided to worry about that tomorrow.
The post Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 3 of The Courageous Cooking School appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
As I swirled the hot pan, the generous knob of butter sizzled and skated across its surface. Just before it browned, I ladled in two beaten eggs which sizzled and spat as they hit the butter.
According to Julia, my timing was spot on.
“You should hear the eggs sizzle as they hit the pan,” her distinctive, melodious voice instructed in the vintage French Chef video. Seconds later, after vigorously shaking the pan to fold the mixture over, the omelette was done.
“Then flip the pan upside down and onto the plate.” As I turned my omelette out onto the green ceramic plate that looked suspiciously similar to those in her iconic TV series, a sense of wonderment washed over me.
Here I was in the South of France, in Julia Child’s former kitchen learning her favorite way to make an omelette. For a life long foodie, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Our culinary mecca had taken us across the pond to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the South of France where they spent many a blissful Summer sipping rosé and cooking “à la Provençale.”
They built the modest home, complete with stucco walls and a red tiled roof, in 1964 on the property of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-author and dear friend, Simone Beck. The handshake deal between the friends specified that once the Childs were done using it, the home would revert back to Beck’s husband’s family.
The Childs decided to call their home La Pitchoune, or “The Little Thing” (also affectionately called “La Peetch”) and it was a dream come true for both of them. Standing there in that hallowed kitchen, I certainly shared their sentiment.
While used for cooking classes over the years, La Pitchoune is currently under new ownership and home to The Courageous Cooking School where we were enrolled in its first official, week-long cooking retreat. The six of us students resided at La Peetch during that time (the house has three bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms) and all of our cooking classes took place in its wonderful kitchen, still adorned with outlined pegboards, an array of copper pots and pans and other reminders of its past.
Our fearless leader for the week was the property’s new owner and founder of The Courageous Cooking School, Makenna Held. A statuesque six feet tall, Held has a lot more in common with Child than just her height. Like Child, she is also an American-born Francophile and Smith alumna with a passion for the culinary arts and a dynamic drive.
Held did a remarkable job planning and executing our week long curriculum despite a few minor curve balls, including the unexpected, holiday weekend closure of the local épicerie and boulangerie which provides the ingredients for our cooking classes. Well accustomed to the nuances of life in rural France, Held made the experience feel more like an adventure than an inconvenience.
Held greeted us on a sunny, Sunday afternoon as we arrived at La Peetch. With a glass of Champagne in hand, we all toured the beautiful property and got acquainted with our classmates for the week, a fabulous group of Canadian gals.
When finished, we eagerly feasted on a mouthwatering meal including succulent, freshly shucked oysters; a trio of French cheeses; a divine charcuterie board featuring prosciutto, saucisson, French pepperoni, cornichons and tangy Dijon mustard; a duo of savory tapenades served with bright green, crunchy endive leaves; plump green and black olives marinated in olive oil and herbs; a delightful mixed green salad, and a loaf of crusty, country bread with oodles of heavenly French butter.
We washed the deliciousness down with a seemingly endless supply of Champagne and rosé. Needless to say, La Pitchoune had a certain je ne sais quoi that made The Miskews feel right at home!
Our cooking classes began bright and early each morning around 8:30am. In between our classes, we were treated to yoga classes, field trips to local purveyors and winemakers and, on our last full day, a fabulous, multi-course lunch at a local Michelin 2-star restaurant.
Day one began with the mastery of the aforementioned omelette which turned out deliciously well, although not the most perfect thing I’ve ever made.
But that’s what Julia was all about, after all – NO apologies, NO excuses!
And when finished with some additional butter and a generous sprinkle of chopped thyme, marjoram and parsley plucked straight from La Peetch’s garden, it was so delicious it didn’t matter that it didn’t look perfect.
Our omelette lesson was followed by a lesson on knife skills taught by our two resident Chefs for the week, Dominie and Sandrine. We each took turns thinly slicing potatoes and layering them in a deep baking dish, seasoning generously between each layer with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The layered potatoes were then drenched in a fragrant, garlic-infused cream before being baked in the oven until golden brown and bubbly. The end result? Heavenly Potatoes Dauphinoise!
Next, we tackled a duo of tartares: salmon and steak to be exact. We continued to hone our knife skills by chopping each protein into small, lustrous cubes, although, that’s essentially where the instruction ended.
You see, The Courageous Cooking School doesn’t focus on individual recipes per se. Rather, it promotes the mastery of techniques which can have many useful applications, as well as learning to trust your own taste.
The ingredients for both the salmon and steak tartares were set out for us to experiment with and guidance was readily available from our resident Chefs. In addition to knife skills, this exercise focused on layering flavors and textures and learning how they synergize with one another.
In the end, we each had a slightly different, yet delicious incarnation of these classic dishes which represented our own unique, individual styles. As someone who didn’t like salmon prior to the trip, I was pretty much hooked after this class! I’ve already made our version of Salmon Tartare twice since we’ve been home (please see recipe below!).
A mid-afternoon yoga session was the perfect remedy for our weary, jet-lagged bodies after a long morning in the kitchen. Held, who’s also a certified yoga instructor, led us on a 30 minute, non-intimidating session focused on relaxation, stretching and breathing. With my pre-existing orthopedic conditions, I was reluctant to participate but ultimately, VERY glad I did. It left me relaxed and back spasm free for the rest of the day!
And what better way to end one’s day than with a trip to the local confiserie (aka candy shop)? The beautiful drive through the back country of Grasse to the small town of Gorges du Loup where the confiserie was located was a welcomed chance to bask in the sheer beauty of the day. The brilliant sun, verdant scenery and heavenly temperatures were true sensory ambrosia.
Located at the foot of a towering viaduct along the banks of a roaring river, Confiserie Florian was nothing short of enchanting. Founded in 1949, the confectionery welcomed us with charming, creamsicle colored walls and intricate wrought iron gates. The interior was also elegantly decorated with 17th and 18th century French antiques and beautifully patina-ed candy making equipment.
As the perfume capital of the world, Grasse is home to many fabulous fruits and flowers such as violets, roses, lemon verbena and clementines. Confiserie Florian transforms this bucolic bounty into its signature candied clementines, floral and fruit jams, as well as crystallized verbena leaves, violets and rose petals.
Our guided tour led us through the traditional, time intensive processes used to make many of these specialties. Our wonderful tour guide also allowed us to sample some of their offerings including the citrusy, minty crystallized verbena leaves; sweet, perfumey candied violets; and lightly sugared, fruit flavored bon bons.
That night back at La Pitchoune we happily enjoyed the fruits of the day’s cooking classes as our dinner before falling into bed with visions of candied clementines dancing in our heads.
Stay tuned for Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 2!
The post Postcards from La Pitchoune: Day 1 of The Courageous Cooking School appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.