Orange like a tomatoe

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I had to go to uruguay to enjoy a great Caprese !

Those days ( I should say indeed years )  you will admit it became a real challenge to enjoy a good Caprese salad. Even in Italy, in most cases the tomatoes have no taste and the mozarella is not fresh and served in little balls….I had to go to uruguay to finally experience the simpliest dish on earth. Local tomatoes from mercado Belcampo ( previous post ) and fresh moza from a closeby farmer. But I’ll stop here as words are pointless sometimes. Enjoy the pic !

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Mercado BELCAMPO – José Ignacio

This is a new comer in the Village, recently opened in December 2011. Mercado BELCAMPO is producing organic fruits and vegetables in their Estancia located 30mn in land, which they are selling and serving at their restaurant situated at the very entrance of José Ignacio. They also organize upon request traditional uruguayan “Asados” at the Estancia. Understand the best BBQ you’ll ever experience. Asking the restaurant, you can also be offered to visit the farm.

We have been cooking the past 2 days using their production. Tomatoes, beetroots, carrots, eggplant, eggs, herbs, onions, basilico, lettuces…. What can I say ? You immediately feel this is being done with passion and deep knowledge. So a first set of congratulations to the team behind this organic and sustainable initiative.

Tired of cooking, we decided yesterday to have our lunch at their place. Possibly one of the best simple food we’ve had for a long period of time. My wife had  “Empanadas de Carne y cebolla ” as a starter followed by “Ensalada de remolachas asadas, huevos duro y ricotta” being the main course. I respectively had “bruschetta de tomates secos, mozarella y albahaca” followed by “Sandwich de carne, pepinos y cebolla”. As you read, this is no sophisticated food at all and something we can all do at home. All this was simply wonderful. We should have stopped there…but kept being tempted by the desserts. And ended up ordering “una tarta de chocolate con dulce de leche” and “Panqueque con dulce de leche y azucar”.

We want to say a big thank you to the staff for this authentic moment and encourage them to keep simplicity and freshness at the center of their approach for the years to come. Do not leave your values aside with success !

Best and see you soon.


En cuisine avec Alain Passard

For once let me make use of my native language, French ! As the book I am referring to below is for now only available in French.

Pour tous les amoureux de la gastronomie et passionnés de BD, ce qui est mon cas, je ne peux que vous conseiller la lecture du dernier chef d’oeuvre de Christophe Blain . Après “Quai d’Orsay“, une hilarante satyre sur la diplomatie et la vie politique, il nous emmène découvrir la cuisine d’Alain passard, chef triplement étoilé de l’Arpège à Paris.

C’est frais, subtil, drôle, passionnant, et surtout plein de bonnes recettes que nous avons pris un grand plaisir à découvrir sous forme de BD. Cela change un peu des livres de cuisine magistraux et recettes impossibles à exécuter que nous livrent la plupart des grands chefs.

Alors, un grand bravo Monsieur Blain ! Et s’il vous plaît, continuez pour notre plus grand plaisir :-)

Thyme at Southrop Manor, a cotswolds dream

We are just back from two days spent in the Cotswolds, 90 miles away from busy London. Count 1h30 mn at best to get there. More likely to be 2h as getting out of London can be quite challenging. But the reward is worth it. Many small immaculate villages, beautiful landscapes, a handful of bed and breakfast’s and hotels to choose from and some very interesting gastro pubs and restaurants flourishing here and there. No really, this is an easy journey for any Londoner and one you can’t escape from if you need a bit of fresh air !

We did stay at the Thyme southrop manor estate which is an old barn entirely restored and turned into a cooking school, some luxury suites and cottages, some facilities where corporations can run offsite meetings or seminars (  needless to say this latter was not really our first driver ! ) and a gastro pub next door called The Swan where we had all our lunches and dinners. A simple but anthentic cuisine, ran by a very welcoming family. Within seconds, you will feel at home. The place is very cosy and we have been lucky enough to enjoy our latest treat next to the centuries old fireplace. Not a luxury after a walk in the freezing countryside with our 4 months old baby.

Unfortunately we could not attend any cooking class as the resident chef ( like DJ’s but for gastronomy ) was off. But for the food freaks please find the next months classes program here for download. In between others, a very interesting session planned for March the 17th of 2012 with guest chef José Pizzaro who just opened his own restaurant in East London.

With our very young baby, we have not been able to do much more then feeding him. And feeding us during those two days break. But I am sure there is much more to be seen and discovered in the wonderful Cotswolds. So please share with us your secret spots and hidden gems ! And make sure to take a deep breath of fresh air before to head back to the city which never stops !

Benoît for Art de vivre !

Olivier roellinger 1st spices boutique in Paris

You might never have heard about the amazing chef Olivier Roellinger. On the contrary to many other French 3 michelin stars chefs, he never ever sold his soul to the gastronomy devils. Meaning he always preferred staying small and maintaining very high quality. While most of his talented peers were opening franchised restaurants all over the world, he remained focused on doing very few things and respecting incredibly high standards.

2 years ago he decided to give back his 3 michelin stars and closed his main restaurant to focus on traveling the world and discovering some new authentic flavors, ingredients and other cuisines. Through his many trips in Asia, India, Africa and South America he built friendship and partnerships with producers of some of the best spices in the world. And naturally opened up his Maison des épices. First in Cancale where he was born, then a second outlet in Saint Malo. And a latest one opened late November 2010 in Paris. You can also shop online ( French only supported ) but the boutiques are really worth paying a visit.

Enjoy the smelling trip !

Epices RoellingerParis 51, rue Sainte Anne 75002 PARIS – tel : 01 42 60 46 88

A taste of Luberon at "Le Pavillon de Galon" B&B

We’ve been silent the past weeks as we are working hard on our next professional adventure. But do not panic ! ;-) We still do have time for long week-ends and will continue to post our “Art de vivre” findings on a regular basis.
Just back from a short stay in “Le Pavillon de Galon” B&B, i just could not resist sharing this experience with you. The “pavillon” is located in the little village of Cucuron, South Luberon, Provence. We decided to take the TGV train from Paris to Avignon (2h40mn). We then rented a car ( i do recommend Sixt which i booked through their iphone app ) and thanks to my great tomtom app we reached Cucuron after an hour of relaxed driving.

The 18th century mansion – Roman Pool

The little village of Cucuron is nice and is a central spot to discover Luberon. “Le pavillon de galon” is located at the exit of the village along a small road. A “remarkable” garden will welcome you entering this multi acres domain, bought 12 years ago by Bibi and Guy, a parisian couple. 

Apart from an amazing restoration of the 18th century main house, they planted more then 10.000 fruit trees along the years. They also have a decent number of olive and truffle trees, as well as a small kitchen garden. All they will serve you for breakfast is home made except the fresh goat cheese coming from a neighbor. Be ready to re-discover the forgotten and genuine taste of apricot and fig. They even produce their wine called “Hocus Pocus”.

10.000 fruit trees we did say !
Fresh goat cheese from the neighbor at breakfast

You got the point ! This place is designed by and for “Epicureans”. The owners even propose cooking and wine tasting classes mainly during the summer. In their own wonderful kitchen, the largest room of the house !

There is also a very nice minimalistic pool to refresh, as well as a couple of fountains and basins dating from the roman empire. So relax and feel the history, you’re in good hands at Pavillon de Galon.

For eating, wether at lunch or dinner time, we do recommend “La Closerie” in the very charming village of Ansouis, ran by Delphine and Olivier Alemany. Book long in advance for dinner at +33(0)490099054. We went for lunch and opted for the 23€ menu which was simply exceptional. In particular the starter “Cauliflower soup with local black truffle”. “Un sans faute” as we like to say in French. They also strongly recommend “La bartavelle” restaurant in Goult, 40 mn away from Cucuron. Should you try that one, let us have your feedback at bsimeray@gmail.com

La Closerie – Ansouis – Luberon

Cauliflower Cream – thin chips – black truffle

In Cucuron you will also find a one star michelin called “La petite maison“, ran by chef Eric Sapet. We had diner there which i would qualify just average. Completely overrated and overpriced. Unless they had a bad day that night ! Which can always happen.

All in all another long week end we will keep for long in our memories. We wish you to discover this wonderful region and experience the flavours of Luberon.

Hasta pronto !
Benoît

"Bedandbruges" lovely B&B in the charming Bruges

We’re just back from a long weekend in Bruges, Belgium. The best way to reach this UNESCO protected town is with no doubt by train. From Paris it took us around 2H30 mn and you can easily book your tickets on SNCB network. I will not here detail how beautiful and charming bruges is. You will find that on so many other blogs or websites. But it is indeed very true and a stop there when visiting Europe is a must.
You will find dozens of boutique hotels, luxury ones or bead & breakfast. We did stay at Bedandbruges , a lovely B&B ran by Louise and Francis Hardy. Should you go there, stay in “La tour” which is a medieval tower completely restored in 2009. You will enjoy the entire place for you ( 2 people ) at a bargain of 95 € per night breakfast included. The owners do also offer to swap their personal home and that could be an option for large families and a week stay.
“La tour” at Bedandbruges
Peaceful Bruges
This B&B is situated slightly off the touristic heart of the city and you will need a 10mn walk to join the most visited monuments. Which for us was a plus as we could stay out of the crowd. Another possibility is to rent a bike at around 10€/day as this is the perfect way to discover the city and its surroundings. We would even suggest you to bike along the canal from Bruges to Damme ( 7km away, a lovely medieval village ) and then to Sluis ( Holland, 18km from bruges ). You will need around 3H back and forth. We’d suggest to stop for lunch at Damme which offer various excellent options. We personally ate at “Restaurant ZuidKant” whom the chef has been working quite some time with the famous Thierry Marx chef in Cordeillan-bages.
“ZuidKant” restaurant terrace
Langoustines marinées, crème d’avocat et fines herbes
Cappuccino et ravioli de Homard, parmesan et huile de basilic
One of the best and most creative cuisine we’ve experienced lately. By far above most of the 1 or 2 star michelin restaurants we were lucky to taste in France those past years. Count on 50€/person with 1 glass of wine. Another option when in Damme is to eat at “De Bonheur” which has been indicated to us by several locals. The next day we went to have lunch at the Refter which is ran by the son of the nextdoor 3 star michelin “De Karmeliet”. Should you have the choice, eat in the patio. We ate twice there for around 40€/person. Excellent products in general, succulent fish. I personally recommend the fish soup which beats easily many of the ones i could taste in sunny southern France.
La carte, Refter Bistro
Soupe de poisson et sa rouille
Velouté d’asperges, crème de brocolis
The kitchen , Refter Bistro
We also had excellent dinner at Rock Fort ( likely to be rated soon 1 star michelin ). Really amazing quality and very good and affordable wine list. But quite disappointed by the atmosphere ( we were at the bar, not in the main dining area ) and more problematic by the time we had to wait between each plate ( around 30mn ).
All in all we spent a wonderful time and discovered new flavors and tastes, met passionate and friendly people. Without a doubt, the belgian gastronomy is about to play a major role and taking over its French neighbour ( if not already the case ).
Some other places where to SLEEP : B&B Côté canal and B&B number 11
Enjoy bruges !

Kitchen Galerie Bis – Haute cuisine in Saint Germain des près

On the contrary to what still many French people tend or like to believe, our “cuisine” does not lead the way anymore. Worse, it became quite complex to eat well, especially in Paris and Côte d’azur ( aka “French Riviera”). That becomes even more true when you’re lucky enough to travel and experience other tastes, culinary and service oriented cultures. 
Italy is my number ONE. Still. You will eat well in 90% of the restaurants there. And quite cheap still. Spain has been catching up the past 10 years, mainly driven by Ferran adria and a young talented chef’s generation. But they still have to improve the average quality and diversity of the offer.

By combining creativity and simplicity, remarkable sea food products, and a great respect of the customers, the North of Europe has been shaking us up the past few years. You can now eat extremely well and for a very reasonable price in Belgium, Holland, Denmark and sweden. To a lesser extent in Norway and Finland.

Rascasse grillée, Vinaigrette Sésame – Balsamique Blanc

Hopefully a couple of people or restaurants in France did understand the need to react. And decided to put back the product and the client at the center of their approach. While avoiding astronomical prices.

Sister restaurant of the 2 michelin stars “Ze Kitchen Galerie”, Kitchen Galerie Bis does offer a “bistro” approach of haute cuisine. And a flavour of what is being served at the michelinized restaurant next door. As a starter i would recommend you to share the 6 tapas plate they offer. Then opt for fish for the main course as this is really their speciality and trademark.

Grilled John Dory, “Sauce Vierge” & Orange

You will notice a lot of flavours from Asia as the chef is passionate about it. Count on a budget of 60€ per head with the wine. Which is quite affordable for a taste of haute cuisine.

Enjoy the trip !

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