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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ma France à manger - 5 things to eat before you die

[My France to eat]

Be conscious that after having read this post you might develop severe addictions.

Two weeks ago, when I received an email from Melissa, writer of the gorgeous Traveler's lunchbox, I was –let's say- more than excited.
Firstly because she's my ultimate role-model and secondly because what she was planning was brilliant.
She wanted me and four other bloggers to come up with a list of 'five food recommendations, which can be dishes, ingredients, restaurants, recent infatuations, etc'.

PS Thank you Mae for tagging me as well, i was really honoured.

It took me a whole week to narrow my thirty-something list to just five things.
I would have never thought it would be so hard. But here is what I came up with:

le meilleur fromage de chèvre du monde [the best goat cheese in the world]
Once you'll have tried the goat cheese made by Bruno on La ferme des Courmettes, every other goat cheeses will be tasteless and rough.
Bruno probably makes the best organic goat cheese on earth. It's very fine and tasty.
I love the soft cheese covered with ground black pepper, the buche cendrée and the tapenade [black olive paste] soft goat cheese; though the tomes are also delicious.
Bruno is passionate about his work and it shows. Some of the best restaurants of the Côte d'Azur crave his cheeses.
But more than that, Bruno shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with me and now it's difficult for me to realize I won't work on la ferme again.
Thank you so much Bruno for all you've done for me. I've loved every single minute of the six weeks I spent on your farm.
PS. Merci Françoise pour tous ces bons moments.

la jonchée
Coming-up with this list I realised I might have an obsession I didn't suspect: cheese (OK I knew it but wouldn't admit the truth to myself).
Indeed three things on the list are cheese-related.
Jonchée is a local produce you can only find in Poitou-Charentes and in my case, in Fouras - the small town where my grandparents live.
Every day I would go to the marché and buy one or two jonchées.
It's definitely not easy to come up with a definition for jonchée.
I should tell you first that it is a kind of cheese flavoured with almond-oil, eaten with sugar or honey and shaped with a mat made of reed grass (a bit like a sushi mat).
Reed grass is called jonc in French, hence the name jonchée.
The jonc gives a peculiar, slightly bitter flavour so specific to the jonchée. And its texture is unique: a fairly dense exterior and a soft/very-fine interior.

le plaisir sucré
Plaisir Sucré is the easy-form of the famous Cerise sur le gateau Hermé created in 1994 (then he was only 24) pour redorer le blason de Fauchon.
I bought Pierre Hermé's Mes desserts au chocolat only for this and the least I can say is that I have not been disappointed.
The Plaisir Sucré I made might not be the better-looking one but it's the best thing I've ever eaten.
I'd love to give it another go to finally get the picture-perfect version but my memories are intact: the crunch of a quality milk chocolate sheet, the creaminess of a delicious chocolate Chantilly, the mellow of a milk chocolate ganache and the exquisite nuttiness of a hazelnut dacquoise base.

le fromage de brebis corse avec la confiture de figue de ma grand-mère [Corsican sheep's milk hard cheese with my grandmother fig's jam]
We all know that cheese and fruit (either fresh or in jam) make a great pairing. But the association of a hard sheep's milk cheese and a sweet fig's jam is pure heaven.
Each year my grandmother makes tons of jam (sad she doesn't have a blog I'm sure it would be SO popular + she could have been able participated to Nicky and Oliver's Can you can SHF) – including this great confiture de fig delicious alone, simply spread on toast but even more luscious when paired with Corsican cheese.

les artichaut au barbecue de Peter
Take baby provençal artichokes called poivrade, drench them in good quality olive oil and barbecue them and you'll end up with delicious caramelised yet crispy delights à la Peter – my boyfriend"s father.
These are a THE crowd-pleaser and my own weak spot!

OK so now i've got to tag 5 bloggers:
Marieke of Maison Dorré Trifles
Ooishi of Sooishi
Cathy of A blithe Palate
Joycelyn of Kuidaore
Keiko of Nordljus

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Monday, August 28, 2006
Mirror mirror on the wall ... who is the winner of them all?

Seventy-two contestants! Hours of work! But gosh, this was worth the effort. Not only I discovered talented foodbloggers I didn't know before but I'm also cheerful to have participated to such an event involving the whole foodblogging community, which I'm proud to be part of.
So thank you everybody for participating, 'de près ou de loin'.
You'll notice the judges and myself have decided to add a couple (OK, a little more than that) of categories because some pictures really stood out and we wanted to congratulate the brilliant photographers (which is, in my opinion, the aim of Does my blog look good in this? -- Andrew, I hope you won't mind :*)

I can't make you wait any longer. Here are the results. Roulement de tambour...

It may be due to the heat or to the icy-licious pictures, but ice-cream is certainly THE big winner of this month challenge. Either in sandwich, in handmade buckets or in lovely cones... We are all melting for these beautiful iced delights.
Haalo from Melbourne gratifies us with a gorgeous blackberry semifreddo sandwhich.
We really liked the vitality of the bright pink and the cute heart details.
eatability – 9/10
originality – 9,75/10
aesthetics – 8,5/10
total – 27,25/30

This beautiful blueberry ice-cream picture hit us because of the wonderful composition and styling (Mae painted the buckets herself!) but also because of its quality.
eatability – 9,03/10
originality – 8,35/10
aesthetics – 9,83/10
total – 27,20

This sexy picture comes from Aun/S. We loved its sensuality – two ice-cream cones, a bottle of wine (is it wine/champagne Aun?)... Lighting and focus are also excellent making this picture a professional look-a-like.
eatability – 8,85/10
originality – 8,55/10
aesthetics – 9,60/10
total – 27/30

What is yummier than pancakes drenched in a melted-golden-like maple syrup? Nothing.
Kit proves us that simpler is better. A stack of fat pancakes and a drizzle of maple syrup and our judges are in heaven.
eatability – 8,85/10

Aesthetics is one of the main factors in food photography. With good lighting, sharpness and great composition you can make almost everything look luscious.
Lara's picture – aesthetically perfect exudes her love for good and fresh food and you can't deny she's one of the most talented photographs out there.
aesthetics – 8,65/10

Frozen yogurt is already original. But star-shaped frozen yoghurt is even more unusual.
This creation, by Nemisbéka, nicely astonished us by its ingenuity and its great focus, colour and perfect exposure.
originality – 8,73/10

A food picture always benefits from a sharp focus and thus from a great depth of field.
This picture taken by Andrew is a good example of terrific use of depth of field which results in a yummy yet stylish photo.

Although we tend to think that best food pictures are taken under natural light we really liked this one, taken by Bron.
The light might be slightly too bright but its use seems under control – we love the way the beam reflects on the tomatoes creating a great sparkling effect and revealing the top-freshness of the tomatoes.

Ribbons, placemats, napkins... are to food photography what hats, scarves and bags are to fashion – fundamental accessories.
Bea proves that a simple ribbon bow can have a great impact. Again simplicity is the key-word as we think that a crowded picture distracts the viewer from the central element (that accessories are supposed to highlight and not to hide): food!

Composition is –at least in my mind- the way the elements of a picture are positioned. In this case we wanted to highlight how a great arrangement could bring to light the food.
This minimal croissant picture by Bonnie is a good model: a stack of two croissants and another one in the background make the things clear – it's all about croissant!

This picture from Nicole has the cute factor that brings everyone into childhood again. The tiny cheesecakes, the glossy cherries... 'Hey, are we in Wonderland?' asks the rabbit.

Congratulations to all the participants and winners.
Here are some lovely badges created by Matt. Winners - feel free to use them on your blog.

And if you're interested in participating to next month's challenge, head over ToastPoint...


Sunday, August 27, 2006
Mirror mirror on the wall ... does my blog look good in this? - The judges

72 entries!
Wow that's a lot. But who is going to spend endless nights now?
The judges of course!

I choose a friendly panel of 4 judges + me. Some are foodbloggers, other aren't, but i think it's a quite a good thing since they have a food-virgin eye and can only be objective.

Anne-So is a french blogger. Her blog Cachemire et Soie is beautiful and explores design and girly stuff. She also loves her food. She recently made a lovely (and rock-and-roll!) Ispahan cake and you really shouldn't miss her post about eating a Ladurée religieuse - pure extasy!

Marieke is a Holland-based foodblogger i discovered quite late this year and now i wonder how i managed to live without knowing Maison Dorré Trifles before.
The pictures taken by Edwin (Marieke's husband) are a delight for the eyes and Marieke's writing is great.
I'm so happy she accepted to join the team because i really wanted to share with you this treasure-blog.
Look at this and i'm sure you'll all want to make a good-old trifle afterwards!

Ooishi, of So Ooishi, is one of the most talented foodblogger i know. I simply love her recipes and gorgeous pictures.
She's also a big fan of Japan -a passion which i share with her-; thus she likes her food to be cute. Have a look at this delicious post and you'll understand what i'm talking about.

David isn't a foodblogger, not even a blogger but he's a film student and my lovely assistant boyfriend.
He's been holding wooden boards (to make the pictures background), choosing between tons of pictures THE one i should blog about... ever since the birth of foodbeam. Hence, i ask you to give him your full confidence; this guy knows what he does.

And eventually, me.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006
F is for... Fleur de Courgette

When something is available for only few months you should rush for it; especially if it's fleur de courgette.
Fleurs de courgette, or courgette flowers are associated with provençal cooking in my mind because I don't know other ways to cook them that the way old grand-mères niçoises do.
But they're also linked with a memory of mine. The kind of memory you'd prefer to have forgotten. Though, this memory is thankfully soothed by the gorgeous courgette flowers. I suppose I'm not being very clear, so let me develop.

It is a hot summer day during the late eighties. My parents brought me on holiday along them and I am eager to discover the wonderful city of Marseille.
We go to the gorgeous beaches; we walk through attractive fruit/vegetable stalls at the farmers market...
It was all perfect. Perfect until the day my dad decided we should go at the grand place where the boule pétanque challenge takes place.
We sit here on a wooden faded-green bench and we watch.
It is so hot! But the high trees provide an enjoyable shadow, making the heat more bearable.
As usual, my chatty dad starts talking with the players and my name comes to the conversation.
'In Provence there is a tradition. When a pétanque player looses 'il est fanny' [he's fanny]; meaning that he has to kiss the bottom of a girl called Fanny.'

I am there, sitting and unable to face my destiny. I am scared: I think the looser will actually try to kiss my bum (which is by the way prettily draped in a new-bought dress).
So as soon as the game reaches its near-end I press my parents.
'Maman, Papa! Allez on y va!' [Mum, Dad! Come on! Hurry up!]
Few minutes later we are – to my relief – quitting the grand place and heading towards a crique [creek] where friends of my parents are waiting for us.
As we are walking the air is getting packed with aromatic perfumes. 'On arrive bientôt!' [We're approaching!].
I can see the creek. A tiny little creek and a giant wooden tent! I rush inside the tent where Marcel is preparing the dinner.
I immediately spot the small basket filled with gorgeous yellow flowers. I ask Marcel what there are.
'Fleurs de courgette' 'J'aime pas les courgettes' [I don't like courgettes]
'Mais là, je suis sûr que tu vas adoré' [Maybe, but i can tell you that you're going to love this]
Indeed he was right. I loved it: a delicious combination of crispy batter and soft flower.
That night, Marcel also delighted us with a luscious bouillabaisse [fish soup].

Beignets de fleur de courgettes
These are, as suggested above, a pure treat: almost melting inside and dead-crispy outside.
Use male flowers for this and if you can, remove the stamens.
The batter I used here is a tempura wannabe though it's a little more thick.

Beignets de fleur de courgettes
serves 2 as a starter

6 fleurs de courgettes
1 egg yolk
100g flour
100ml ice-cold water
seasoning to taste
olive oil, to deep-fry

Fill a high pot with 4cm of olive oil and bring to the boil.
Mix the egg yolk, flour and water in a bowl. Season.
Dip the flowers in the batter and deep-fry until golden and crispy on both sides.
Eat as soon as ready.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
Mirror mirror on the wall ... does my blog look good in this? - The last hours...

Only few hours remaining till the end of this month Does my blog look good in this?
In case you've missed the last two episodes, Does my blog look good in this? is a food photography challenge and the submissions will be accepted until midnight.
So if you haven't submitted your best picture yet, it's still time to do so.

How to participate?
Read the submission guidelines.

Com'on! 70 bloggers from around the world have already submitted their picture. It's your turn NOW!
Grab the best food/drink picture posted on your blog during July and send me an email with your name and location, picture and camera used, permalink.

Where can I see the entries?
Check the gallery.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006
Chili Prawn linguine and vintage cookbooks

This summer, it seems that I cook more than I can reasonably eat and write about.
But this matter fact has shown me something: food and cooking hold a major place in my life.
I can't spend a day without:
1) cooking
2) thinking of interesting food / combination / recipe
3) buying things related to food (read: cookbooks, plates, placemats...)

However something quite strange is happening. I am literally bored of cookbooks. It seems I can't find one that really stands out.
For example, I love the design of Apples for Jam, but do I really need another recipe for beef pasta? I know I'll end buying this book because Tessa Kiros is such a great writer and inspiration, but what a strange feeling!
I tend to lean towards pastry chef cookbooks – such as my new favourite PH10.

Though, when I cook for myself I like to keep it simple and fresh. I love clean Asian flavours: lemongrass, soy sauce, coriander are high among my everyday favourites.
This was the simple comfort dish that I made at least once - if not twice - a week during the last few weeks.
It's pretty straightforward (as most of Bill Granger's recipes) but has that wow-factor that makes everyone sited at the table go wild.
I like to replace the linguine by egg-noodles, which adds a nice touch.

Anyway, I'd love to hear how you feel about recent cookbooks? What are your favourites and why?
Just a little parenthèse [parenthesis]: I'd like to buy some vintage cookbooks but I don't know where to start. So any suggestions would be appreciated!

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Sunday, August 13, 2006
Un diner à la Colombe d'Or

[A dinner at la Colombe d'Or]
When I was offered a dinner at La Colombe d'Or I could help but accept. I mean, who would have preferred to stay at home with a bowl of pasta when you can visit one of the most beautiful restaurants of the French Riviera.
La Colombe d'Or is an auberge created in 1932 by a lovely couple that made it famous for both the art and the food.
And indeed, the place is gorgeous: from the beautiful white and blue themed terrace to the house - filled with thousands of stunning pieces of art.But the greatest surprise was certainly what you could find behind the door at the back: the swimming pool, a hidden treasure somewhere between relaxation and luxury. There, I fell in love with the coloured tiles.
The food was unpretentious yet excellent. It was certainly no Ferran Adria or Hervé This but the simplicity made it spectacular.
What you could call cuisine provençale et familiale in French.I had a lovely starter called Hors d'oeuvre – an assortment of dozens of ramequins: haricots, marinated red peppers, garlic beetroots, herring, couscous, Puy lentil salad, sardines... My favourites being: the delicious boudin noir [black pudding], the saffron rice and the tian de légumes.
The main course menu is well furnished - from lamb racks to quenelles de saumon. Simple and scrumptious!
A great selection of lovely dessert will please everyone; my little guilty pleasure being crème caramel. Yum, so good!
La Colombe d'Or is a great place to visit either to discover a haut-lieu of the post-world-war French art or simply to enjoy a glass of good wine, delicious provençal food and the beauty of the house and have an innoubliable [unforgettable] time.
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