Thursday, December 29, 2011

Le fromage

When I think of cheese the word just does jive or come close to what it means here (in France). It not only is part of the food culture but a huge part of a way of life and for those who are true "connaisseurs" it is almost a cult when it comes to eat it, pairing it with which wine or just taking sides for one's preferred fromage  or being a self declared expert on it.In order to do it justice in this short post I will address it as "fromage" as it is called here. We've all heard about strong fromage, stinky fromage and worse when we mention one of my favorite foods of all time: fromage ! I have been here for a few weeks and had a great fromage based time (don't go there, this is a G rated post !) with my sister buying her own fromage and me buying what I really like and miss when I'm in Texas. I ate fromage every day for every meal for almost four weeks. It might be time to go next week but no regrets even for my waist line. I did mention earlier that my sister leaves her fromage at room temperature and rightfully so. The French people who have visited me in Texas over the years have all been horrified of the way we handle the fromage over here. For the fromages eaten in France full flavored does not even qualify it. We are talking about soft and semi soft fromages. The flavor is just a medley of sensory things: piquant, creamy, aged, unique character, strong flavor, tingly, nutty,just to name a few. I do not eat butter with fromage but the bread here is the perfect partner and that is enough, no apples nuts or other things needed. Do not even think of mentioning baked brie !We've all heard it before, bread, cheese and wine is a great combination but I don't know if most everyone can appreciate the greatness of that combination until they have traveled to Western Europe. France offers hundreds of different kinds of fromages and for those of you who do not eat cheese, wait until you visit there and you just might change your mind I know you probably will.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time to refill,

That would be wine refill. My sister lives in a small town who has a  wine cooperative producing the regional wines that I have become fond of. The small producers of grapes sell their fruit there and the cooperative makes the wines which are distributed all over (at least what is left over after we the locals got our cellars filled for the year) . For red wines they use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Tannat ( the one that has the most beneficial antioxidants, resveratrol anyone ?) and for white wines it is mostly sweet wines of the late harvest variety made with Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Arrufiac or Petit Corbu. The local producers have the latitude to blend different amount of each variety as long each variety is present in the wine. This is just great as it gives us the opportunity to discover wines which match our personal tastes closely and stick with any producer we like, it is all about supporting the little guy.
Right before lunch we stopped by to refill on the local Rosé which we like and drink everyday. I got to taste different wines and this set up reminded me of the way we do business in Texas, friendly and willing to help. No Chateau Lafitte here which by the way is very expensive, even here. Fortunately there are many many very affordable wines of great quality to please everyone. Looks like my cellar in a couple of years will be looking just fine and I can't wait ! Only a Frenchman would have his cellar ready before the house is ready to move in . Yep, that would be me !

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chef's lunch for Chefs

Ok some of you will probably gag but we French eat most everything and today I got to eat one of my favorites .  I visited an old friend ( from the 70') and being a Chef too he prepared a lunch that few people (mostly Chefs) would like. My friend Arnaud is a retired Chef and simply living the right way when it comes to food. He only uses fresh ingredients and cooks the local way with traditional methods and techniques. I really like that and would like to go back to it when I do return to live here the majority of the time.
For the aperitif we drank a glass of chilled Jurançon which is the local sweet wine and no fancy hors d'oeuvres here, just a few peanuts, after all we would not fill up on snack food now would we ? This was the best wine in its category "Passerillé en Novembre" meaning the late harvest with the December harvest being the best but also the most expensive since there is much less of it.

We started with the traditional pate made of pork liver and pork jowl with time tested seasonings, crusty bread (yeah we are in France and when we say crusty, it is just that) and cornichons. Then it was time for the local version of cured ham "jambon Bearnais" with good butter, yummmmmmmmmmm ! this is just  a great combo of flavor, tradition and culture all in one. Then for another much different bit came the "bulots"which are some version of sea snails, very fresh and cooked in the shell served with scratch mayonnaise.
 I am not too fond of anything slithering but being a good guest, I did try it. A bit chewy but flavorful and very fresh. So far it would have been enough for me but we do not want to upset the host now do we ?

Next came the "gras doubles" which in America are called tripes, yes you read it right, that would be the insides of a cow or veal. These are slowly braised for about 12 hours with tomatoes,onions,carrots,white wine and basic aromatics . Just served with boiled potatoes and that crusty bread,it is what I would call French comfort food for a dreary and cold day.I love it,I love I love it. Then came the local cheese made with sheep's milk and the "greuil" which is the local version of fresh cheese made after the first batch of curd has been removed. For wine, a bottle of good Beaujolais nouveau which matched everything then back to the Jurançon with the traditional King's Cake for dessert.

It was all about our own corner of the world. We really did not care what was happening anywhere else. The French have a way to elevate the simplest thing in everyday's life to precious moments and forever memories. I know, I know what you all are thinking but once you are here you'll change your mind.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cooking for joy,eating for pleasure

I did some cooking tonight for some of my sister's friends and my new friends since they are just great and we all get along just fine. Wait, are we talking about French people here ? yes we are, in case you do not know times have have changed and new generations  are showing signs of maturity and applied knowledge. Wait again, I am French and I do notice the difference, what happened ? Well the world has changed and we all have our own challenges wherever we live. Duuuuuuuuuuuuh. I just had a great evening and I did all the cooking, now it is not a big deal since I have been doing it all my life but it is a big deal for the people around me as they think it takes as much or more time that it would take them ! No pictures taken, so I will just give you the menu: Terrine of foie gras with Artisan bread (and I mean cooked that afternoon too) a rack of really fresh pork stuffed with dry plums, Porcini mushrooms as a veg and tiny potatoes cooked in foie gras fat. Forget about this salad stuff this was for pleasure and no guilt feelings. Then, some French cheeses and I do mean the traditional stuff , Camembert, Pont L'Eveque and Munster. My sister does not believe in putting her cheese in the fridge and I agree, since they eat cheese every day it is not a problem but for you guys it might not ring right, trust me the flavors are incredible and sooooooooooooooooo genuine. Dessert was a simple (for me anyway) chocolate mousse with a dab of fresh caramel sauce and raspberries. For the wine I had some Petit Manseng with the foie gras which I got from a small farm right out of the barrel and it was the perfect marriage for the foie gras. The rest of the meal was enjoyed with a middle of the road Bordeaux ( now I know I am home, really). The conversation was great and the end was just before midnight. No mess, no fuss, is there any other way ? If this is any indication of what life in Coarraze will be when I move back (I know some of you are not buying it) I am already excited and believe more and more that it will be the right move for me. Stay tuned, I'll be back .

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting it while the going is good,

Absolutely gorgeous weather today, blue sky, warm with a light breeze. Wait it is december ! I'll take it so do not beam me up. I love the size of the French supermarkets : huge with most everything you might need. My ultimate one stop shopping. I am cooking dinner tomorrow and this is just perfect. I walk around the aisles of this cavernous place lamenting about the markets in the US. Just no comparison and all the food is fresh and of great quality. After the shopping we go to the store cafeteria for lunch and this is not Luby's or Highland Park Cafeteria, everyday French food well prepared and presented. I see this young woman sitting at the next table with a hamburger and could not help but starring at her: she was eating the burger with a fork and knife from beginning to end. I am thinking that it is time for her to visit the good old US . I inquired later and was told that the French do not like to get their hands messy at the table. I already told you , I have to come back here to show them how it is done.( I am working on it, the coming back part). This afternoon, more family visit and this time is spent with my cousins Pierrette and Roger. They are retired just great and always glad to see me. Pierrette disappears for a while and comes back with a platter of freshly made delicious crepes. Now when was the last time you had a crepe and loved it ? Can't remember, means it has been too long. The best part was that she made them from scratch, not a big deal in this house as Pierrette is a great cook, as for Roger he is the wine guy and pops a bottle of Monbazillac,( it five o'clock somewhere) now I know I am back home and almost feels that I never left. I love these moments  of simple pleasures and short trips on memory lane.
Time is flying by and I have been here almost a week. I am looking forward to visiting a "marche du gras" in Pau on Saturday and check the foie gras and fat ducks business. No museum for me on this trip ! More later.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wine stop,

Today was a great day in many ways. I got wheels (rented) and headed out.The weather was just gorgeous for November and it just felt like spring. We are not talking about Dallas like weather, this is the southwest of France at the footsteps of the Pyrenees and November usually means chilly, dreary, damp and cold weather. I headed out to Coarraze on my way to visit family or at least let them know I was back in town (phone calls are not quite the same). On the way I truly enjoyed the sheer beauty of the snow capped mountains which I have known and learned to appreciate all my life. This is the very rural part of France that you do not get to see on the Travel Channel in the US. That took a few hours and then back to my sister. Her husband was just back from work and took me to a friend who has a farm and makes wine. Totally my kind of side trip just before dinner. Five miles out of town on little country roads and here we are, a little farm in the middle of nowhere. Small, small, small, works for me ! The guy grows grapes for Rose, red and the local sweet wine. We tasted them all and bought some of the Rose. For those of you who call themselves wine connoisseurs we are talking about Tannat, Petit Manseng and Grand Manseng grapes. The Tannat grapes are used for red and Rose wines and the Mansengs for the local sweet wine called Jurancon which we drink here with foie gras or desserts. We bought 10 liters of the Rose and the guy did not remember the price he charged last, which was 1 euro per liter or 1 dollar per 75ml. New price ? 1.50 euro .Cheap ? yes, great? maybe not, drinkable ? absolutely ! He took us to the small cellar completed with spider webs, old dust and musky smell, just the way a real cellar should look and smell. We sampled four wines and had great conversation about everything.He also gave us two liters of the Petit Manseng for free which will go great with the foie gras friday night as friends are coming for dinner, you guessed it, I am cooking. These times are precious, not staged and just cannot be bought. We made it home in one piece in time for dinner and feeling just great. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh !
Stay tuned, I just got here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A special Thanksgiving ? that's for sure !

Another Thanksgiving comes by and here we are………again looking forward to turkey and the seasonal trimmings. My turkey daymorning was truly special since I got to spend it with real special people . You guessed it right, that would the men and women in uniform who do so much for us and just do not get enough thank you(s).
I am a member of the Epicurian World Master Chefs Society (EWMCS) and as a group we teamed up with USO to set up and serve a great Thanksgiving dinner buffet at one of DFW airport terminals from which they leave to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh what a feeling it was ! There was a lot of volunteers to back us up and thanks to them for their time .

And you thought saying good bye was hard, try this !
Our Chef Organization is comprised of many Chefs in the various sectors of the food service industry; hotels, city clubs, country clubs and various food distributing companies along with some in R and D as well. This was set up by Patrick Mitchell from the Ben E Keith food service Company and from the logistics to the coordination to picking up the foods all over the city of Dallas it a pretty big assignment. Patrick did a super job and had everyone responding and pitching in. Salvatore Gisellu of Urban Crust and Sharon VanMeter of Milestone Culinary Arts Center were the other Chefs who were able to  participate. My duty for that morning was to cut up and set up all the delicious pies and cakes graciously provided by Shari Carlson of Dessert Dreams. That table was a hit and we did not run out of anything. Youhooooo ! The serving line was tended by some of the Chefs family members and other volunteers. Our men and woman in uniform truly enjoyed the feast on their way out of the country and hopefully did take with them a little piece of home.

 I got there a bit early and felt privileged to have been able to listen to some incredible stories. I ran into Jim, a gentleman whose son had been serving four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now four tours is really huge (to me anyway) but there is more. During all his time being deployed Jim's son while on various patrols had his Humvee hit six times by an exploding IED (improvised exploding device) and each time he did survive the ordeal to tell about it. Once would be traumatic enough, but six times ? Here is a young man whom I believe God has a plan for .Do you think ? I am listening to this with the details freely offered and thinking, now how many people would actually believe this ? Jim's sincerity came through the tone of his voice which was soft and incredibly riveting, I was just listening hoping that nobody around would interrupt him. He was not looking for any kind of notoriety just the opportunity to tell the story for all to really know what our blood and treasure do endure when wearing the uniform .The stories are heart warming as well as heart breaking but they all have that professionalism and sense of duty for which they serve admirably.

No comments needed !
 I took a few pictures and at time felt that I was intruding on their privacy but none of them minded at all. Watching them spending these precious moments with their families before their flight was very moving. We call them heroes and they are but for me it is just not enough as they do so much and spend most of their time in arm's way to protect what we hold so dear in this country, our freedom.
These pictures tell the story, from all of them standing with their head bowed during the Chaplain prayer to the young man holding his new baby and looking at him/her with so much love and pride to the young wife whose eyes are getting redder as the time to checking in approaches and so on. These men and women are not asking very much from us they just want our support and best wishes, most of all they do not want to be forgotten. Fat chance of that from my side, how about yours ? I got to talk to a few of them and joked "please do not worry too much about the Washington idiots"and their answer was uniform all around "we really have bigger fishes to fry or catch as the case may be".

The pie brigade in action.
Meeting them and spending a few minutes listening is what I call the ultimate dose of reality. This morning things do not seem to matter but these young lives do. So keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We did the same thing last year and had about three hundred + but this year we had a few less of them to feed. We did ask and were told that as the war in Iraq in winding down, fewer of them are deployed. Still we would like all of them to be home with their families and back to their normal lives if there is such a thing after serving their country with great honor.
Emotionally I did good the past two years but this year, not so good. One of the soldiers came over to me to say thank you and make sure that we really understood what holiday feast meant to them. I am thinking"young man, you do not have to say thank you to me" I am the one that should say thank you to YOU for all you do for us. My eyes welled up and I felt so proud of them but had to step away to get myself together. Mushy stuff ? Not really, in case you forgot real men DO cry too !I hope your Thanksgiving day was as blessed as mine was.This was a great day for me and these men and women really made it special. If I do not get to do this next year it will mean that most of them are getting home slowly. As the USO says: Until the last one comes home ! 

                                                        YOU GUYS ROCK  !

Monday, November 14, 2011

An ounce of sauce.....well you know the rest !

Sunday is class day for me and yesterday brought a different class: sauces,reductions and emulsions. Everybody loves sauces so how come so few people can really make them at home or even in the restaurant/food service business ? Now I might get in trouble for being critical of some of my peers but it is true, not all Chefs and cooks out there can make good sauces. Have you looked at most menus today ? It is a gastrique, demi glace and reductions everywhere and we have not even addressed the interpretation of each of these culinary terms ! Talk about a wild wild adventure in the professional kitchens of our country. What happen to integral sauces ? Ok,some of you who are not in my type of business might not know what that is. It actually is very simple,an integral sauce is a sauce made from the caramelisation of the juices left in the pan from the cooking of meats,poultry etc. What we are talking about is the true flavor of the chosen protein in the accompanying sauce. This process in sauce making actually produces the freshest and most acurate flavor derived from the cooking of that protein.
It's all in the sauce !
I get labeled "old school" quite often for using basic cooking principles that have served our culinary world very well for generations. More often than not you can find me babysitting a rich chicken stock for which I went to an out of the way store to get the right ingredients. What we are talking about is ( in this case) the feets,gizzards,necks which are rich in collagen. What's that ? Collagen is a protein in most animal carcasses which make a stock richer as it is very gelatineous. What do we need that in a stock ? Deep flavor, ease of reduction and texture in the sauce. Sounds complicated ? Not really,you can tell the difference when you taste it as it lingers (or not) in your mouth when you eat. The better the sauce, the greater your eating pleasure. Again, here is a case of less is more,meaning less quantity
should deliver more quality of flavor.
Forget about that stuff in the jar,real mayonnaise is IT !
Now you really know how I feel about sauces, back to the class yesterday.
Hot sauces,cold sauces,reductions,emulsions you name it,it was covered. Duck with cherry gastrique (I know,I know but it is the perfect sauce for it ) and the skin was real crispy too, real mayonnaise with tarragon roasted chicken,giant prawns Americaine style ( go ahead say it: more old school ?)
That would be just the right portion for me . No extra fingers needed !
I love shellfish cooked it the shell,that would be the perfect finger food for me,just get me that bibb and I won't care about looks (in this case mine).
The duck was just delish, not much choice for fruit this time of year but Bosc pears and frozen cherries were just fine with a touch of real pear brandy to finish it.
I love duck as you know,so just bring it !
Of course I had to have a wine reduced sauce to demo the "monter au beurre"technique and I did a good Bordelaise finished with fresh whole butter. More butter ? you bet, this time not for added fat but to soften the acidic flavor of the Bordelaise with a crank of the pepper mill and VOILA ! Perfect sauce for a peppercorn seared flat iron steak.
That pink beef looks just right !
Last but not least,emulsions come in the savory and sweet variety so being choice poor when it came to seasonal fruit I ended up with pears and strawberries (after 4 hours it seemed the simplest way to go).
Gratin of pears and strawberries.
A great afternoon it was and once again we demonstrated that with a little planning,work and know how you can cook at home a meal as good or in some cases better that any restaurants in town. This week end I am doing braising,steaming and poaching, perfect again for this time of year, flavor is the game.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No time for stocks ? you are missing out

Carrot/ginger bisque
Today I am stepping away from the foie gras headlines to something often forgotten,ignored or just totally abandonned and that is stocks, no, no, not the stuff you buy on Wall Street hoping to make lots more money,the stuff you simmer on your stove.
This sunday, I did a class on stocks and soups and with the cool weather it was just the right fit for the day. How times have changed and how little most people actually cook at home; work demands, always in a hurry,with the family agenda way overloaded who has time anymore ?
Well there is and always will be only 24 hours in one day, so it is for us to manage our time better and go back to something we use to love way back when and that is home cooked foods and ingredients that did not have mysterious components in it. Most people (that would be the ones who cannot actually cook) think that it takes too much time and in most cases that might be true. Still I would advocate taking a step back and make some simple stocks at home without having to switch careers just to learn how. Our mothers chicken soup was not a big deal,the only difference was that it was fresh and we knew what was in it. The canned stuff never even came close.
Being as thorough as I can be I overdid it again and made six different stocks for this class: chicken,beef,fish,vegetable,veal and lobster. You read it right ! it is a bit of work but you just can't get the stuff in the store or in some restaurants which claim to do everything from scratch. I am very happy when some of my students return for a new class and tell me that they did this or that and that it was great. Music to my ears ! Just the fact that they actually do it is plenty for me.
Soupe au pistou
Soups were also part of the class and using the fresh stocks simmering on the stove made for great stuff such as: a beefy chili con carne, a carrot ginger bisque, a soupe au pistou, a portuguese kale soup, a lobster bisque and a seafood chowder that was so loaded with various fish and shellfish that it could have passed for the best fish stew ever. The leftovers were dispensed equally and I of course dropped some off to a sick friend who had not eaten anything in three days ! Well the soup option did help some and I am glad.
Portuguese kale soup
For those of you who think that the same ingredients the Chefs use are not available to the retail public,here is my advice: get to know the Chef in some of your favorite restaurants and ask him/her to help you secure some of the stuff. You just never know and if you don't ask, you don't get ! Everyone should have a Chef on their list of friends. For me, I am just blessed to have my name on a lot of lists.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Foie gras bust in California?

It sure looks that way. As most of you might know (in case you don't you are in the right place here), California has banned the production and sale of foie gras as of July 1st 2012. Here we go again! Remember the ban in Chicago? That did not last very long and Mayor Daley then commented that Chicago had bigger problems to tend to. They repealed the ban and moved on to more important things. As of now it does not look like repeal of the law in CA is coming anytime soon to the dismay of many Chefs there.
My humble origins go back to France in the heart of foie gras country, ie, Gascony. Foie gras in France is everywhere and has been for as long as anyone can remember. It is a delicacy but also an important part of our culinary culture and heritage. France produces 78% of the world's foie gras vs the USA 1.8%. Now you know why some of us are all for it. As a Chef, I am a bit, make that a lot, irritated by this ban nonsense in CA or anywhere else for that matter. I believe that the people who were behind that ban and lobbied for the law have an agenda of their own which bring the question: who are they to tell me what I should eat or not eat? The other side of the discussion is economics and jobs and California is doing it .......again. Chasing more jobs out of the state which is already broke. Let's talk about what it takes to produce foie gras.
The duck farmer needs land that if it does not own it, it will cost him rent.
Then there is equipment and materials along with shelter for the birds.
Then there is the staff to care for the birds 24/7.
Then there are the farmers who produce the feed and corn for the birds.
Then there is the company which produces the eggs ( males are raised for foie gras and meat, females are raised for meat only).
About two weeks old!
Then there are the truckers who transport all of the above.
Then there is the processing plan for slaugthering, cutting, packaging and final State and Federal inspections and stamps of approval (the producer pays for the inspections).
Then there is the cold storage facilities who stores the duck various products including the foie gras which the producer must rent.
Then there are the shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS who deliver the products to your door or to the Chefs directly. See the impact of this ban? and this is only a small fraction of the foie gras production in the USA so what's next?
Getting there, looks like happy ducks to me!
Moulard ducks and the foie gras they produce are close to my culinary heart. Of course I must address the controversy about the forcefeeding of the ducks to obtain foie gras. I recently visited a duck farm to find out for myself and what I saw was standards way above and beyond the farming practices typical of other types of poultries beind raised in this country. The birds are raised in well vented and cooled (or heated as the weather changes) in very spacious barns and have plenty of room to roam and grow comfortably. Once they have grown their feathers they are taken outside where they have plenty of food,water, shade and room to roam free. I was totally impressed to see how much land is used to raised the ducks. I have seen before a chicken farm where the chickens are raised in very cramped conditions and only indoors for all of their short lives. The media would have us believe that animal mistreatment is a common thing in poultry farming and they might be right in some instances. Well, not so in this duck farm. The duck farmers here showed me everything and had nothing to hide. They graciously answered all my questions and thanks to their honesty I now consider myself very knowledgeable on this topic. Of course I wanted to see the forcefeeding of the ducks for myself and was granted that too.
The process is actually pretty short, just a few seconds as the ducks are fed a premeasured portion of corn twice a day. There is no other way to produce foie gras and this process only last two weeks during which time they are housed indoors in spacious pens with plenty of water and in a cool environment.
I had the opportunity to process whole Moulards ducks raised for foie gras over the past year and can assure you all of the eight ducks that I did were in perfect health meaning, no bruises, scratches, no broken bones, etc. Now the same cannot be said for the chicken we buy in our neighbourhood food stores! Next time take a closer look!
What will it take to repeal this ridiculous ban in CA? The Chefs must join together and their guests too. As for me, sign me up for this fight.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A busy year ?

I think so and I am still talking duck so quack,quack to everybody. I have not kept up with this thing but I am here today trying to catch up. Apart from the searing heat we got in Dallas for three months, summer was pretty good overall. No matter how bad things get (still talking weather) we always get used to it and we just got to spend more time inside, worked for me just fine.
In July the American Culinary Federation was holding its National Convention here at the Gaylord and I was a presenter for 3 educational seminars. I was humbled and also very proud to teach these classes to Chefs from every corner of this country. I did two hands on seminars on Charcuterie and one seminar/demo on duck fabrication and foie gras. They were all very well received as the Charcuterie trend is on the rise with many Chefs doing ( or in some cases attempting to do) their own. The Charcuterie classes were the first to sell out and I did accept more attendees but without participation in the hands on segment which was fine as they got to understand the principles of curing and aging various types of meat and game.
The Chefs in this seminar got to taste ten different types of Charcuterie as show above. Yes it is a lot of work but the fun is huge along with the satisfaction from the results.
On the foie gras seminar 162 Chefs showed up as it was open to all; I could get used to this standing room only stuff, real easy. I was overwhelmed by the size of this professional crowd but recovered quickly (no other choice, so why worry) . I totally appreciated the level of attention given to my presentation by all the Chefs but was very surprised to find out that a lot of them were not very familiar with the topic. I went to work and did a PPT presentation on the raising of the ducks and the production of foie gras. The comments were all positive and I did not get any negatives on the process of force feeding the birds to produce the foie gras.
This a mi cuit foie gras marinated in a reduction of malbec and aromatics. The result ? YUMMMMMMMMMMM !
I had lots of help and could not have done this without the support of Junny and Guillermo Gonzales from Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras in California. Junny came in and was very excited and happy to see the support and understanding from the Chefs. It was a very unique class and I must give special thanks to Chefs Mark Schneider, John Jost, Stacy O'Neil and all the culinarians who volunteered and worked so hard to make me look good, keep me focused and on time. To all of you THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU !
After my demo I really enjoyed the Q & A session with my peers, it was great and I hung out as late as I could. My good friend and Chef Stafford DeCambra did process the second duck right next to me and followed my lead perfectly . Good Job Stafford and thank you for being there and being the best team player I know.
I cannot say how important it is in my field to attend these professional gatherings to learn new things, renew friendships and make new ones. Keeping up with trends in the food world and new techniques is absolutely critical, that is why we call it Continuing Education.
These are some of my best Chef's moments that I will always treasure. Just in case anyone still doubts my passion for duck and foie gras this pic should put any doubt to rest.
As they say "better late than never" and I am no different. So until the next post, keep on cooking .

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catching up is hard to do !

Ok, first an apolology for litterally abandonning my blogging. My good friend JK lectured me on

how imporatnt it is to talk to the world out there and I agree. So I will try, make that I will blog at least twice a month as after the JK encounter I realized that I really have a lot to share on food,wine,friends,life and whatever my common sensed mind has to offer.
As I said it has been awhile and as far as the travelling part of my life is concerned it has been kind of busy for the last six months. Dec 2010 in France, Jan 2011 in Argentina/Patagonia and April in NOLA. Not bad and the memories, well you get it, just so very special. My friends always remind me that I do take life too seriously but I must translate that to, I just happen to put real value on the precious moments that we are all blessed with.

The grilled meats and the chimichuri to go with it were great, so were the wines . Thanks to our friends at the Terraza de los Andes winery in Mendoza. (more on that in a future post)
The trip home to France was one of my annual rituals and it went very well except for the weather which was really nasty and cold. Got lemons ? make lemonade. Got cold weather ? throw another log in the fireplace,grab some Armagnac and start writing,which I did but not on my blog. I did however finish writing the bylaws for one of the professional association I belong to (World Master Chefs Society)and that was tedious but I got it done.

Went to the the top of the Pyrenees and over to Spain for lunches and coffee/pick me ups in the afternoon while enjoying the white scenery and the mountains goats running in the snow looking for food. I just love the simplest things in life and they are free too. What a deal !

See the goats ?
The rest of the time was spent with family and friends and of course I did cook for everybody and everybody cooked for me. The French get the prize as they do not need a reason to get together and enjoy what they love best: food , wine and themselves. Foie gras is always a big thing and one of my favorites. Down South where I am from it is half the price we pay here, works for me.
Yes I did schlepp 80 miles to the heart of foie gras country but as you can see it was worth it !

Finally, here it's to you friends in the foodosphere, grab a glass and start a good conversation; don't have a friend nearby ? no problem, make one now, cheers !