Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blood Sausage

I went to the market on Saturday morning to buy some blood sausage, boudin noir in French. I think the English call it black pudding. But it wasn't ordinary boudin noir that I was looking for, it was boudin antillais, or spicy blood sausage in the Caribbean style.

On the left are the soubressades, on the right are the boudins antillais, before going into the oven.

Our favorite charcutier, Doudouille, usually has some. And Mme. D. didn't disappoint yesterday. I also wanted some grilling chorizo, but she didn't have those. Instead I got a few soubressades, a spicy pork sausage that is Italian in origin, I think.

I also picked up a couple of heads of lettuce, some onions, mushrooms, and some tiny white potatoes. Don't know yet what we'll do with them, but they looked so good I couldn't resist.

Une assiette de frites.

We cooked both sausages in the oven (although the soubressades are already cooked and usually eaten cold, we heated them up anyway) and served them with mustard and frites, followed by a green salad.

Another delicious lunch.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Adventures In Vine Land

Walking Callie in the vineyard is always an adventure. More or less. This morning is the first clear morning we've had in a few days. That means the waning moon is quite visible in the western sky as it sets.

One of the last of the summer bees rests on a grape leaf.

When Callie sees the moon, she starts to bark and tries to chase it. She was a good half-mile out in front of me today. I could hear the barking in the distance. Since there were no harvesters out there this morning, I wasn't too worried. I whistled once and she came bounding back, only to turn to chase the moon away again.

The chestnuts are falling from the trees now.

The morning flights south were in full swing, as evidenced by the jets and their condensation trails. The contrails were short today, and I counted nine jets across the sky at one time, all but one making their way south. To Lyon ? To Marseille ? Rome, Algiers, Khartoum or Kinshasha ? Who knows. It's funny to think that, way up there in one of those jets, a flight attendant is pushing a cart up the aisle...

This tiny mushroom is about an inch tall.

Then Callie spotted a pheasant. These birds prefer to maneuver on the ground, taking flight only when necessary, it seems to me. After running this way and that for a bit trying to escape the dog's less than honed herding instincts, the male bird took off into the trees squawking as pheasants do. It wasn't long before Callie found another one. Same scenario.

The grape tendrils have stopped growing and are drying up.

We made it home safely. The house looked very nice in the morning light, with wisps of smoke rising up from the chimney. We turned the furnace on this morning to take the chill off, just enough to heat the radiators up, then turned it off again. We hope the sun will take care of the rest until this evening, when a fire in the wood stove might be necessary.

Pine trees on the edge of the vineyard.

They say that we're in for a warming trend, so we may not need a fire after all. We'll see.

Callie waits for me to let her into the yard through the back gate after a recent walk. You can tell I've started trimming the hedges.

And today is market day. I'm going off in search of boudin antillais, a spicy blood sausage that we'll eat with french fries. Ken's still recovering from his cold, so he's in for the day.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Another one of those compromising shots. I call it, "Slut Puppy."

If you look closely you can see Callie's scar. The stitches are gone and her hair is growing back, so she's starting to look normal again.

She was asleep in this position when I got the camera. She heard me turn it on and opened her eyes to see, but I was able to get the shot before she turned over and jumped off the couch.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tu, Vous, And The Bread Lady

Last weekend I mentioned the Bread Lady and our adventure with half baguettes. I didn't tell you everything. The next morning she came by and while we were exchanging bread and coins she asked me a question.

Me and the Bread Lady. Her name is Roseline, but it's more fun to call her the Bread Lady.

I was embarrassed because she talks so fast that I often don't know what she says and this was one of those times. It's a nice compliment that the people we interact with here make no accommodation for our being foreign. They just talk to us they way they talk to everyone else. Simply smiling and nodding only works when I hear most of what she says and miss a word here and there. But I can't pull that off if I understood nothing. That would be so wrong.

So I had to ask her to repeat her question. It sounded like "daddy poh tow ?" Both times.

I said I was sorry, but I just didn't understand. She repeated once again, v-e-r-y slowly. "Tu t'ennuies pas trop ?" I felt like a fool. A very simple question. You're not too bored, are you ? She knew that I was home alone with the dog while Ken was in Paris.

Oh no, I said, there's plenty to do. Then it hit me. She used the familiar tu instead of the formal vous. She's done this before, and says mostly tu to Ken, but I've always stuck with vous since she's around my age and I'm the foreigner. But the ambiguity is kind of weird. Going back and forth between tu and vous is a strange thing to do and some people can be offended if you say tu to them and then revert back to the formal vous.

So I just blurted it out. "Est-ce qu'on se dit tu ou est-ce qu'on se dit vous ?" Do we say tu or vous to each other ?

She looked me right in the eye and replied, "Je. M'en. Fous." I added the periods because she pronounced each word as if it were its own sentence. I. Don't. Care. Then she smiled.

Then I don't either, I said, and we both laughed.

"You know," she said, "that I know some people who get very upset if I don't say vous to them. Mostly older people. Then there are the Portuguese people I know, real from Portugal Portuguese, whose children say vous to each other."

I asked if they did that in Portuguese or in French. It was in French. Children usually only use vous for adults who are not immediate family.

So now I'm officially on familiar terms with the Bread Lady. Glad we cleared that up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Word Of The Week

engin

With the grape harvest in full swing, I wake up nearly every morning to the sound of the tractors and harvesters rolling down the roads to the vineyards and the hum of the harvesters plying the rows of vines.

As I lay there in the few minutes before I get up and walk Callie, I think we need to get out there and back so we don't run into one of those engins that scare the dog. But am I using the word correctly ?

A tractor pulls a trailer full of white grapes past our kitchen window on the way from the vineyard to the winery.

According to the Petit Robert, the original meaning of engin, from the Latin ingenium, is instrument or tool, something designed for a precise function.

In the middle ages, engin was used to refer to war machines, such as they were, that launched projectiles, like a catapult. The word is still used this way to refer to modern mortars, other artillary, tanks, and even missiles.

Les engins can also be construction vehicles like backhoes, bulldozers and the like. Often I see signs saying "Attention, sortie d'engins" around a construction site, warning you to watch for exiting trucks .

The most recent use of the word is to describe space vehicles and satellites or anything man-made in space.

Based on all of that, I've come to the conclusion that it's ok to refer to the harvesters and tractors as engins.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kitchen Collection [41]

Nice rack ! Cooling rack, that is. If you bake, you probably have several of these around the house. They're indispensable for keeping hot pies off the counter surface so they can cool.

Most of mine are rectangular, but I found this round one at some point and it is the most sturdy rack I have. So rack 'em up and bake a pie. 'Tis the season.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where's David Attenborough...

...when you need him ?

I don't know what kind of spider this is, but she/he built a web outside the kitchen window. It didn't last more than a day. I kept looking out the window seeing this dark thing hanging there and when I got up close to see what it was, this is what I saw.

This colorful arachnid took up residence outside the kitchen window over the weekend.

Can you see the little bug freshly trapped on the lower left ? It hit the web just as I was looking. The spider moved a little, but stayed in the middle of the web. Maybe the little fly was too small to be bothered with.

Hunting season opened in our area on Sunday. The regular guys with their guns and dogs showed up promptly at nine a.m. to prowl around in the vineyard shooting at things. This will go on every Sunday until the end of February. They always take a break at noon for lunch, then come back around two. Who knows how many glasses of wine they've had when they get back... we've heard stories.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Help Me, Mister Lizard !

"Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome, time for this one to come home !"

Mr. Lizard stops to sip the water in between the deck tiles.

Anybody remember that ? Every time I see a lizard scoot across the wall, I remember Tooter Turtle calling for Mr. Wizard (who actually was a lizard, I think) to use his magic to get him out of whatever fix he was in.

This particular lizard was on the deck the other day, obviously looking for a drink.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Of Jets And Baguettes

While Callie was down for a nap on Friday, I had time to do up a quick post for this morning. As you may know, I'm home alone for a couple days while Ken takes his sister and her friend back to Paris for their flight home. They went by way of the Mont-Saint-Michel. Ken will be home later today.

A shot I took from the deck the other day as a plane went over. It's zoomed to the max. These planes are high up at cruising altitude when they fly over our house.

Callie has been keeping me busy, and I've been doing a little cleaning here and there. There's really no cooking to do because we have a ton of leftovers from this past week in the fridge.

I asked our bread lady a few days ago about getting a ficelle instead of a baguette while Ken is gone. A ficelle is a small loaf that is half the weight of a baguette. It's better to get that than to have to freeze excess bread. She said sure, but that a half baguette costs less and it's à l'ancienne whereas the ficelles are moulées. I like the bread to be cooked on the oven stone (à l'ancienne) rather than in a metal tray (moulé), so I said I'd take a half baguette on Friday and Saturday and that we'd go back to whole baguettes on Monday (no delivery on Sunday).

If you don't already know, our local bakery delivers bread to our house five days a week. If we want something other than a standard baguette or pain, we just tell the bread lady a day or so in advance so she can have it on the truck when she comes by. At any rate, on Friday morning she came and said, "You want a half today, right ?"

I said yes, so she grabbed a baguette from the back of the truck and a knife from the seat next to her and cut the loaf in half. The crumbs went all over the steering wheel, but she just brushed them off. "Voilà," she said, "A demain !"

Elle n'est pas belle, la vie ? (life is good) :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Callie was a spoiled little pup this past week when her Aunt Joanna and Aunt Janice came to visit. They brought a whole pile of treats and toys including Callie's new favorite rope from Granny in North Carolina.

Aunt Joanna spent a lot of quality time playing tug and chase and otherwise holding and petting Callie. We know this dog is going to really miss her Aunts now that they're on their way back home.

Do you think this makes me look fat ?

Here she is modeling her stylish new polo shirt sent by Cousin Ginger. Callie wasn't sure she wanted to put it on, much less get her picture taken in it. But hey, new fashions always take a little while to get used to, n'est ce pas ?

Thanks to everyone for thinking of Callie.
She loves all her new stuff !

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fall Approaches

I know the equinox is still a few days away. Still, it's feeling a lot like fall around here right now. The harvesters are out back and the grapes are being hauled to the winery. The leaves on certain trees are turning orange and yellow, and the red maples in the front yard are dropping crunchy leaves like crazy. The mornings are clear and crisp.

The leaves on our pear tree are turning red now.

Ken is leaving today to drive Joanna and Janice up to the Mont-Saint-Michel, then on to Paris for a day before they fly out on Saturday morning. The temperatures are warming up a bit, but it's that fall kind of warm. Not hot, not cold, just plain pleasant.

The leaves need to be raked - but I like to wait until they're mostly off the tree. Just lazy.

It's been fun having guests for a few days. I haven't been doing much touring around with them because I stay home with the puppy, but we do share mealtimes ! On Tuesday I ground up some beef and we made hamburgers and french fries. Otherwise, we've been eating quiche, lasagna, cabbage, sausages, beans, and apple tarte. There are plenty of leftovers for me to finish after everyone leaves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Word Of The Week

frisquet

Today we woke up to a whopping six degrees - that's just under 43F. I walked Callie and not only could I see my breath, but my fingers got pretty cold. I had one hand in my jeans pocket while the other held the leash (Callie's not attached, but I carry it in case I need it) until it got too cold. Then I switched hands to warm the cold one.

I saw a blanket of fog in the river valley, but up here in the vineyards the air was crystal clear. I could see the huge tower of steam rising up from the power plant on the Loire about 50 miles away. The sun was just coming up.

The whole time I kept thinking, il fait frisquet ce matin, it's chilly this morning. The more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking, is that a real word ? So I looked it up and it is. I must have picked it up somewhere along the way.

From the Flemish frisch meaning cool, frisquet is both a noun and an adjective meaning chill or chilly.

Image from : http://www.msnbc.msn.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kitchen Collection [40]

Can you believe it ? It's the fortieth edition of Kitchen Collection. Ho hum.

At any rate, there are still many things in our kitchen to photograph. The latest are these : kitchen scissors. We have several pairs. Some are made for poultry, and others are just scissors that we keep in the kitchen to cut herbs or to trim strings or to open plastic packaging or for whatever job needs to be done.

Every now and then a pair falls apart so we have to find some new ones - it seems we need at least two pair handy at all times. The pair pictured here we've had for a long time, so its day may be approaching.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Le Maraîcher

The past couple of Fridays I've gone to the market in nearby Montrichard. Our local market in Saint Aignan is on Saturday mornings. But two weeks ago we had some business at our bank in Montrichard so we took the opportunity to stroll through the market.

One side of the bag they put my beans in. The other side is below.

I wanted to buy michelets, fresh shelling beans, since this is the season for them and I've never had them before. Sometimes they're called cocos, or cocos de Paimpol. Here in the Touraine region they're called michelets.

Eat vegetables ; it's good for your health! Integrated organic pest control ; steam disinfection. From our garden to your table. Tarnier Company. Green grocers. Seasonal vegetables harvested at Beaulieu-les-loches.

Among the green grocers at the market in Montrichard are these folks, from whom I bought the beans. These vendors don't sell at our market and they had really nice looking michelets. They were so good that I went back last Friday for more !

In French, le maraîcher is one who grows vegetables for the purpose of selling them.

After shelling the beans (about a kilo of shelled beans), I simmered them for about an hour and a quarter in a broth made by sautéing lardons along with diced carrots, celery, and onions, adding three liters of water, fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves) from our garden, whole black peppercorns and a few allspice berries. The broth simmered for about 25 minutes before the beans went in.

The pot of beans garnished with saucisses de Toulouse and Montbéliard.

To me, the difference between fresh beans and dried beans is like the difference between fresh pasta and dried pasta. It's hard to explain, but it has as much to do with texture as with taste.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Evening Light

The nice clear days we've been having are great for evening light. The shadows are long, the light is jaunâtre (yellow-ish), and it all makes for a very pretty sunset.

The view of our neighbors' place from our deck in the evening as the sun goes down.

And the sun is setting earlier now. It's dark before 9 pm. I also just realized that the equinox is this coming week, which means fall's official arrival. Oh well, we're having the best week of the entire summer right now, so I can't really complain.

I couldn't resist a close-up of the fire hydrant. I don't think the camera caught the really intense orange-red glow it had for just a fleeting moment as the sun hit it, but this is close.

Bon dimanche ! (Happy Sunday !)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Apple A Day

Well, even that wouldn't be enough to keep up with the fruit that falls from our five apple trees. Starting in mid-summer we see a few apples fall from the trees daily, until late summer when it seems like a deluge.

I try to rake up the apples on the path into neat piles that are easier to pick up.

Once the apples are big, they have to be picked up from the ground before I can run the lawnmower. When they're green, they're not ripe enough for the mower to just make applesauce of them, so we trot out the wheelbarrows and pick 'em up by hand. I don't know what varieties we have, but one of our neighbors also has five trees and each is a different variety from any of ours.

One bin of apples headed for the compost heap.

Most of them end up in the compost bin - they decompose rather quickly and keep the compost going. Some of them go outside the gate into a huge pile that's used by our end of the neighborhood to discard yard waste. And a precious few go into pies and applesauce for us. Most of the apples are partially consumed by insects, and most people in town have access to their own or to their neighbors' apple trees so you can't even give surplus apples away.

Callie's coveting of the compost pile prompted me to put up this little fence barrier.

I've been trying, with no success, to train Callie to pick up an apple and drop it into the wheel barrow. She just looks at me quizzically as if to say, huh ? Are you nuts ? But then when nobody's looking she'll pick up an apple and cart it around the yard, into the house, wherever, so she can chew on it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

This week Callie has been recovering from being spayed. Actually, it only took about twenty-four hours for her to recover. The rest of the time we've been trying to keep her quiet so she'll heal up properly.

She's pretty much healed now. She'll get her stitches out on Monday, then we just wait for the hair to grow back. Here she is popping her head up from her favorite napping place, the living room couch. No, those are not her remotes...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Harvest Time

Ken has described the grape situation pretty well here and here and I don't want to repeat much. But the growers that own the grapes outside our back gate have begun the harvesting and it's hard not to be excited about it. They're only picking white grapes right now, I assume sauvignon and/or chenin.

A grape harvesting machine makes its way to a specific vineyard to pick.

Still, the sight and sounds of the harvest are everywhere. When we wake up in the morning we can hear the low hum of the harvesters moving along the roads to the vineyards all around. This morning at sunrise Callie and I managed to avoid one harvester heading out back by scooting down a row of red grapes to the other side of the vineyard as it passed.

This trailer is about half-full with white grapes.

We also have to watch out for the tractor-trailers that collect the picked grapes from the harvesting machines to take them back to the winery. The weather is pretty good right now and I'm sure the growers and wine makers are happy about that. Warm sunny days followed by cool clear nights with no sign of rain. Fall is certainly in the air !

I'm guessing that these are chenin blanc grapes because they have a golden tint. Sauvignon are greener, according to one book I have. I think this is what they're picking right now.

Today we're planning to pick the few aubergines (eggplant) that grew in this year's garden and make a parmesan for lunch. Oh, and the wood is all cut, except for a few logs that I have to trim up. Then the wood shed needs to be cleaned up and the small branches and sticks I use for kindling have to be moved back into place so they're handy when the time comes. And we're picking apples up off the ground so that the grass can get cut this week. Busy, busy, busy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Word Of The Week

plaquage

The Rugby World Cup is under way. France is hosting most of the matches, including the final, although some are being played in Scotland and Wales.

Now is also the time that the American football season begins. Some of those games are available on French tv, depending on the type of cable or satellite package you have.

So why do I mention these two sports ? They both have their roots in the same game. They both play with a similar oval ball. Goals are made by moving the ball across the goal line. It's interesting that in rugby, this is called a "try" and the ball must be grounded or downed, but in American football, the ball just needs to cross the goal line for a "touchdown." In both games, field goals are kicked through the upright section of the goal posts.

And both games include today's word : le plaquage or, as we say in English, the tackle. It's the primary way that the opposing team stops the team with possession of the ball from moving forward.

The word is the noun form of the verb plaquer, which comes to French from the Middle Dutch placken, which means "to patch." The first meaning of plaquer is to apply one thing to the surface of another, to veneer as in wood, to plate as in metal (gold-plated).

The second meaning of plaquer is to flatten, which I presume is how it came to mean "to tackle" in rugby.

And although the French rugby team lost its opener over the weekend, I'll still say, "Allez les bleus !"

Image from : http://fr.encarta.msn.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kitchen Collection [39]

I make a lot of pie crusts for French-style tartes aux fruits and quiches, which are one-crust pies. Pies with two crusts are usually called tourtes. For the one-crust pies, my pâte brisée is always better when I've blind-baked it before filling it.

To do this, I put the crust in its buttered pan, poke some holes it in with the tines of a fork, then line the crust with a piece of kitchen parchment, or papier sulfurisé as it's called here. Then the pie weights go in.

I've heard that you can use beans or rice, but I got these ceramic weights from a kitchen store back in San Francisco many years ago and they work great. The weights keep the pie crust from rising up out of the pan while it pre-bakes without a filling.

After about fifteen minutes in a hot oven, the crust is ready to cool a bit and be filled with good stuff, then it goes back into the oven for the final baking. The crust is always done and never soggy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Glanum

As a former student of architecture and city planning, I'm a sucker for Roman ruins. So when we were traveling around in Provence I was a happy camper.

The site of Glanum is just south of St.-Rémy-de-Provence on the northern flank of les Alpilles. Even though there was a small fee to pay, we parked and paid and wandered around among the stones. From what I read, a spring issued from the ground in the foothills at this location and the Celto-Ligurian people associated it with healing. The Greeks then came and took over, building their town on the site in the third and second centuries before our era.

Ruins along the main street of Glanum.

The Romans invaded in the second century and occupied the town. Later, under Augustus in the first century of our era, the Romans razed practically everything and rebuilt the town in the classic Roman style.

A partially reconstructed temple near the forum - I think that the white stone is meant to differentiate the reconstruction from the original state of the site.

Around the third century of our era, Germanic invasions forced the city's residents to flee and it was abandoned. The canals built to supply the town silted up and sediment washed down from the neighboring mountains slowly covered up the ruins.

Archaeologists have been working to uncover the ruined city since the early 1920's.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Déjà Vu

So I'm perusing this week's tv guide to scope out what to watch and what to record. The US Open finals are going on, as are the first matches of the Rugby World Cup, and the American football season has started. Not to mention movies and things.

I saw the entry for Sunday night's episodes of Star Trek Voyager and something about one of the episode descriptions caught my eye.

It says, "The crew of the USS Voyager encounter a strange creature."

I think I've seen that one before...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Backyard Flora And Fauna

Les capucines (nasturtiums) have been loving the cool wet weather.

I've been taking a lot of photos out in the vineyard lately, but there's plenty to see in our own back yard. This week we've had a few nice days with sun, so I ventured out back to see what I could find.

Even the slugs like mushrooms, and it's been wet and cool enough for both to thrive in our yard all summer long. I don't know if this mushroom is good for human consumption, but some of the ones that grow in our yard are. We're not courageous enough to try them, though.

I think that this snail was napping on the leaf of a mille-pertuis plant. He didn't seem to be moving at all. Maybe they're nocturnal.

The dahlias are still blooming. We've moved many of them around, so they should be in better shape next year provided they make it through the winter. We will be sure to mulch them this fall to protect them from the cold.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Puppy Pic Of The Week

Another puppy flic. There's music, so be careful if you're at work.

video

Callie's at the vet's office today getting spayed. Ouch. She'll be home in the afternoon recovering. Another day, another scar. Still beautiful, though.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sunshine On My Shoulders

No idea what this is called, but there it is.

Well, you take it where you can get it. The sun has been out the past few days and it's been glorious. Except that it's not really warm. Oh, that. Check out the "Newsiness" item in the sidebar for our recent lows. The weather seriously feels like fall, and it's still technically summer. But I'll take the sun anyway.

Chain, chain, chain...

Ken took off to Paris yesterday to see our friend CHM. I'm hanging out at home with Callie. She's not a travelin' gal just yet. I made an apple tart to pass the time and have something yummy to eat. There were a few apples just sitting on the counter that we had picked off the tree on Monday. They would have gone bad, so I threw together a crust and voilà.

Miss Daisy.

So here are more photos from our walks out in the vineyard. The grape harvest hasn't started yet, but I'm sure it won't be long before the harvesters are out there. And next week, Ken's sister gets here. Oh, and then hunting season will start toward the end of the month.

I thought this was nice.

This morning an old woman parked behind our garden gate just as Callie and I were leaving for our walk (around 07h15). She grabbed three baskets out of her car and headed back behind our property. We exchanged hellos, she met Callie, then we were off. I don't know what she was going to pick. Apples ? Blackberries ? Mushrooms ? I didn't think to ask and it would have been indiscret anyway. She was gone when we got home.

This almost looks like something edible. I wonder.

The seasons, they are a-changin'. :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Word Of The Week

revers

This is another tennis term. Many of the French words for different shots are recognizable to an anglophone. Le lob, for example, or le service, or la volée and la demi-volée are pretty easy to understand. The French use some English terms, too, like le passing shot, un ace, or un smash (prounounced "smatch"). By the way, that's Nathalie Dechy serving at the French Open in the photo on the left.

Un coup lifté is the term for a ball with topspin, and slicé means that the ball is spun in a way that makes it curve to the right or left as it moves through the air. We talked about l'amorti, the drop shot, last week.

The forehand is un coup droit, and the backhand is today's word : le revers.

You also have to watch out a little for the scoring in French. There is no love, just zéro. And deuce doesn't exist in France, just égalité, but not until after the first quarante à (40-all). Jeu, set, et match are pretty obvious, but a set is also frequently called une manche.

So there you have it. You're now prepared to watch tennis in France !

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kitchen Collection [38]

Last April, our friends Chris and Tony from the Bay Area asked if they could bring us anything on their trip to Paris. Ken mentioned that we were attempting to make our own tortillas, but didn't have a press, and voilà, they lugged a tortilla press across the pond !

It works great and we've enjoyed our own home-made corn tortillas on more than one occasion. Our only problem now is that we're running out of masa harina, the corn flour we use to make them.

But all is not lost. Ken is heading back to the states in October, and masa harina is on the shopping list !

Monday, September 03, 2007

Domaine De La Vallongue

While living in California, Ken and I had become aware of vin biologique, or organic wine. Always on the lookout for French wine bargains, we found one of our local wine shops carried an organic wine from Provence, from the Domaine de la Vallongue. It wasn't expensive, or at least we didn't think so at the time, and it was pretty good. So it was with great excitement that we searched out the winery and visited it during our 1993 trip.

The entrance to the Domaine de la Vallongue.

The place is set on the southern flank of les Alpilles, not far from les-Baux-de-Provence. We drove in and checked it out. There were no winery tours or anything like that, but the tasting and sales room was of a good size and I remember it being somewhat busy. We felt a little out of place - these were not tourists in the sales room but ordinary people buying their wine.

The winery is set at the base of les Alpilles in sunny Provence.

We also noticed something that we now take for granted in the Loire Valley : the wine was available en vrac, or in bulk. You bring in your container and they fill it up for you from the barrel. Since the winery saves the cost of bottling, corking, and labeling, they sell the wine for much less this way. We couldn't resist, and bought a 5-liter container and had it filled with one of their reds. It served us well for a few days.

Tapping our five-liter jug of red for the first time on one of our picnic lunches.

The reds and rosés are made from cinsault, counoise, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and grenache grape varietals. They also make whites from rolle, sémillon, grenache blanc, and clairette grapes.