Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mise en place

I have to apologize for my recent absence in this space. (Sorry!)

You see, it has taken a lot longer to get my internet up and running here in Louviers than I could have possibly expected. It also took a few rather emotionally-trying phone calls with some rude "customer service" people at a particular French company that shall remain nameless, and which resulted in absolutely nothing.

Thank goodness for sweet American computer experts who are only a phone call away in Paris.

Now that I'm back online, I will of course, be filling you in on how I've been spending my time thus far (Paris, macarons and vinaigrettes, oh my!). I thought it might be fun, though, to send along a few pictures and a broad overview first, then share more details later. I hope you won't mind.

Paris, never know where to begin there, do you? The city is just too good, and it's hard to be articulate when I have such an utter devotion.

For the time being, suffice it to say that I received some great recommendations from this lady and this book. I followed Clotilde's chocolate recommendations, as well as some found here, which led me to heavenly tablettes filled with candied apricots and almonds from Jean-Charles Rochoux and an insanely smooth 85% chocolate tablette from Pierre Marcolini. Oh, and a chocolate-basil ganache!

And did I mention some of the best duck I've ever had at this lovely restaurant?

Oh, and my first Ispaphan.

After a week in Paris wandering around old and new haunts, I headed to Rennes to visit my lovely friend Merrill who's working there as a language assistant, or was until the entire country started to strike. Either way, she is lucky to live within two minutes of a fabulous bakery with an amazing buckwheat baguette and a wine store with an adorable owner who has a gift for picking out tasty bottles for under 10 euros.

Oh, and in case I forget to mention it later, I really missed rillettes and Reblochon. Huge thanks to Merrill for providing them!

After a lovely long weekend in Rennes, I managed to get myself to Louviers with my two heavy bags in tow. I should thank the incredibly nice strangers in the Métro and on the trains who helped me with my bags. Just picked them up and started up the staircases without a word.

The house is lovely, old and full of staircases and light blue windows. Oh, and the exposed beams, persnickety Aga stove and stunning butcher block island don't hurt the ambiance either. There are heaving bookshelves everywhere, giving me plenty to keep myself busy when I'm not looking after my young charge or working on mise-en-place or recipes for class.

I had my first official cooking class as an assistant yesterday, and it was even more fun than I expected. And I had high expectations, mind you. Filleting my first mackerel, putting together the mise-en-place, setting the table, being a gopher--it didn't matter what it was, I learned something doing it.

So far, it's kind of like living in a fairytale, albeit a fairy tale with an ornery stove that decided to go out yesterday morning. Eh, c'est la vie. Besides, I have blankets and a beautiful green stove to cook at and dance around.

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