Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hôtel Relais de la Mothe, Yzeures-sur-Creuse

There's been a lot of cooking going on up in here over the weekend. Trotski & Ash's pumpkin scones, all sun-coloured and soft, made an appearance at breakfast on Saturday morning after I'd picked up a very tanned and bearded Ed (goddamn him and his week in Croatia) from the airport late on Friday night. Currently, he's having a heart attack over the football, I'm glad he's back. 

Cuisine Diplomatic's prune and pork pies are just about to hit the oven and there's a fresh bowl of stewed rhubarb cooling on the bench. I think you could call this a Good Use of Time, and I think you'd be right. But an even better use of time was at this little hotel, sitting in the courtyard with a glass of sparkling Vouvray rosé pretending that we actually owned the place and this languidness was just all part of a particularly glamorous Real Life that we'd somehow wandered into without anyone noticing or even giving a damn.

Yzeures-sur-Creuse isn't a place you're likely to come across on the usual route across France, unless you happened to be on your way to the town of La Roche-Posay of skin cosmetics fame that is, but if you do find yourself in this little slip of a town, which is swept and scrubbed so impressively clean that walking around seems a little unreal, the Hôtel Relais de la Mothe is the place to stop a while.

Little bedrooms are tucked under the eaves, the light that pours in through the attic-sized windows fades to a just-so twilight at around 10pm in high Summer, and the scent of lavender billows about as you draw back the sheets to get into bed. The afternoon we arrived, the umbrella-covered table in the yard was laid with thin slices of smoked salmon, basil and mozzarella terrine, rounds of soft, local goat's cheese, fruit toast and piles of salad leaves lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. Just the right lunch before diving into the river. Take me back, universe!

Hôtel Relais de la Mothe
1, Place du 11 Novembre
37290 Yzeures-sur-Creuse
+33 (0)2 47 91 49 00

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Riverside Picnic

You know when you have one of those moments when the full reality of how completely lucky you are hits you smack-bang over the head? This day was one of those. We'd spent the morning in a little town down the road shopping at the markets for ingredients for soufflés (caramelized fennel and Gorgonzola for us!) and it was baking hot. 

A picnic of spice-rubbed chicken, thick logs of saucisson, boiled eggs and homemade mayonnaise, a celeriac slaw and three different cheeses was packed, and bottles of ice-cold rosé infused with grapefruit were tucked in between towels and hats. There the river was cool and clean and there was no one around but us.

We lay on the picnic rugs biting into apricots, drinking our wine and singing and dancing to a 60s record on the way home, much to the horror of our chef's 16-year-old daughter, (we got her joining in by the end, don't you worry).

I know I'm getting all dreamy on you, but it was that good. Just when people may have given up on Paris, the countryside swoops in and rights all the wrongs. 

Vive la France, I say. And thanks to my mum for packing me in her suitcase.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Flying by Paris

There is nothing that disappoints me more than a city with no life. No locals in bars, no bustle, no atmosphere. It depends on the time of the year for most places, and it's true that summer tends to shove people outdoors and into the parks and squares of the city. But Paris, no matter the season, always manages to pull a crowd. 

We were having lunch at Rose Bakery (more on this later) in the Marais on the Saturday afternoon after hopping off our train from the Loire, and we got talking to a Canadian ex-pat couple who were eating eggs benedict and a slice of tea cake next to us. We asked their advice on where to eat for dinner, and they suggested, with a few moans and sighs, a couple of places in the area. They said that "it's frustrating, because on one hand, Paris hasn't changed for 100 years, which is charming. But on the other, Paris hasn't changed for 100 years! It's stuck in the past! Everywhere is doing the same thing, serving the same dishes. They're not innovating, experimenting, or doing anything that they haven't already been doing for the past century, and so the quality has just plateaued. There are thousands of so-so, average bistros in this city, and it's hard to find something that will really blow your mind." 

In some ways we agreed, but Paris is Paris, and it was mardi gras the night we were there. Strings of balloons floated through the streets, and there was gold glitter all over the roads, we knew better than to spend the whole time complaining about the city-wide wash of average steak frites and crème brûlée. We ate terrine de canard with a little pot of cornichons, steak tartare and little cauliflower fritters with a carafe of house wine, and it was just what we wanted.

I just picked up my film from the developers! So happy with them this time around. I'm pretty glad that I carted three cameras around for two weeks. Worth it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hot House

I think Rohan from Whole Larder Love (click over there, he runs one of my favourite sites) would appreciate this, the greenhouse/garden shed at the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire. Tucked into a corner of the kitchen garden, with its rows of basil in every colour, eggplants, Jamaican pimento peppers, pumpkins and these beautiful, tiny ornamental apple trees that lined the rows beside the lavender. A snaking yellow hose, and a far, rambling wall, rows of pots and a watering can. Green with envy, that's me.
Whenever I visit these kind of places (all of twice), the kitchen garden is always my favourite spot to wander. That and the vine-covered walls. I'm an ivy addict. 

Aaaaand the money shot. Need a file full of these? I got 'em. Plenty. Hundreds. Stay with me, I'm working through this. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back in Town

Well that went fast. Two weeks in Europe is just enough time to make the plane trip worthwhile. I'll tell ya, it's a killer. I'm sorry for not really making it clear that I wouldn't be posting for a couple of weeks before I left, I totally left you hanging didn't I. I hope you weren't too upset with me. But don't worry, I missed you, and I've come back from France and Berlin with a whole lot of tasty things for show and tell. 

When I arrived my mum and I caught the train from Paris down to a little town in the Loire Valley called Yzeures-sur-Creuse, outside the city of Tours, to
a cooking school with a bunch of friends. And boy, the eating! It never stopped. It was like a dream.

So keep your eyes peeled, friends, as I wade through the pictures.