laura_valvanne (at ) hotmail.com
Copyright Laura Valvanne
Monday 8/22/11 time 9:39 PM - Laura Valvanne
I went to see Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France too long ago. I have to get there again soon. I had at that time a really crappy camera so no good pictures came out of the trip and the island is after all one of Unescos masterpiece of the world heritage of the humanity! I remember driving towards the island on a fairly flat region of Normandy and suddenly this mystical small island appeared in the horizon with a castle looking building on top reaching the sky.
They say that Archangel Saint Michel appeared to bishop Aubert and ordered him to build a sanctuary on this rocky island. This happened in the year 708 and so started the history of this island surrounded by the highest tides in Europe.
Entering the island it is like entering into a Harry Potter story. Small shops, restaurants, narrow cobblestone roads going up the hill and all the ancient buildings surrounding you telling a story of life in the village since the middle ages. Bear in mind that this might be hard to see when visiting the island during the highest season in August. It is neither that educational nor pleasant to follow the flow of tourists from A to B and not being able to stop and feel the history. There are apparently over 3,5 million visitors every year.
In Paris the 14th of January 1873 Annette Boutiait was married to a baker’s sun from Mont Saint Michel, Victor Poulard. They soon after in 1888 leased a hotel “Saint Michel Tête d’Or” in Le Grande-Rue du Mont Saint Michel. The “Hostess” Annette Poulard was an intelligent woman and saw the opportunity in all the travelers that came in to town. She greeted them with a big smile an apron and a shirt with puffed shirtsleeves and gave the impression that she was the head of this family business, everyone’s mother.
“Have you had a good trip? She would ask. “Quickly come in and sit on the table. You must be starving. Give me your coat, Madame, I will dry it and iron it for you. It would be good as new when you go visit the castle. Sit down and eat well and when you are finished we will show you the way.”
At this point she was cleaver to think what to offer to these busy visitors who were hungry but eager to continue their business. It couldn’t be something that took long to prepare so she would have to improvise. The famous omelet of Madame Poulard was invented.
This very thick and more of a soufflé like omelet was something everyone had to have and everyone also wanted to know the recipe. Even some theories were made that some wine were added or creme fraishe, but here is the simple recepy according Madame Poulard. She was asked the recepy by Monsieur Robert Viel from Académie des Gastronomes in 1922.
I break good eggs in a bowl and I wisk them well. I put a good peace of fresh butter on a frying pan but don’t let it turn brown. I add the eggs and stir them all the time. I don’t cook the omelet too much the I turn it, roll it and put in on a plate. The omelet must be served hot.
This recepy according to Madame Poulard needs good eggs and fresh butter and has no secret ingredients... of course the butter from Normandy is excellent.
The Auberge de Mère Poulard is still in Mont Saint Michel and they still serve the omelette. I wonder if it tastes as good as when the Madame made it herself?
From book: La ”Mère Poulard” by E. Gouillard
Mère Poulard cookies and cookiejars : www.delideli.fi
Wednesday 8/3/11 time 5:38 PM - Laura ValvanneI had an opportunity to visit Toulouse this June. It was my fourth time and I was exited since I have always liked the town of Violets, its red brick architecture, hot weather, lively town centre but especially its situation on a map. All this wine around and only an hour or two away from cities like Carcassonne, Cahors, Bordeaux, and direct train to Paris and Nice.
When walking in the town centre I love watching people sitting in cafés and bars passing time and eating delicious looking food. There’s a sandwich bar in every corner and smell of croissants is luring you in to buy 1 of each pastry from the counter since it is too hard to decide. But there are also shops after shops of clothes, old historical buildings to visit and a beautiful town square with le Capitole.
One of the must see is the market place Victor Hugo. It is on the ground floor of a parking building and It looks awful from the outside but once you go in you are surrounded by fresh seafood, duck liver, pâtés, cheese and dry-cured hams and sausages, all the specialities of this area.
To see: Maison Garcia - to take home their pata negra and Xavier, a cheese shop outside the market place - to take home all the cheeses you can carry.
I stayed right on the other side of the entrance to the market place and I was amused when the poor delivery guys brought cases after cases of products each morning and had to leave their van right in the middle of the 1-lane, 1-way street. Just as the first guy was ready to leave, the next one arrived and those poor drivers who just wanted to drive through this street were stuck for a very long time.
Every time I go to Toulouse I find something new and I like it a bit more. One thing bothering is massive traffic and I guess the only thing missing from it is the sea, the river does not really do the trick for me.
This time around I had the possibility to dine on my own. Not that I like to eat alone, not at all! When I arrived to the Hotel from the airport I was so tired that I just was not able to go around the town and try to find something new so I just entered the nearest Bistro, J ‘Go , on the opposite of my hotel. Their roof terrace was so close that I could see from my hotel window what people ate.
Amusing was following the waiters’ faces when I arrived and wanted table just for me. Not so common in France at night to eat alone, there must be something wrong with me? And I came so early, it was only 7pm.
I got the smallest table on the furthest corner of the terrace so that no one could see and a few minutes later they, I guess felt sorry for me, brought a fellow ”dining alone tourist”, a man, right next to my tiny table, so close that we almost touched. There we were on the darkest corner of an empty terrace, two poor things...
The menu was extremely appetizing. I could have, if not so tired, eaten everything on it.
The restaurant states that seasonal vegetables and meat they offered was from specific local farms they work with exclusively and that the restaurant wanted by doing so support the hard work of the profession of farming and agriculture. Good thing I think and nice marketing factor. One of the specialities of the house, dry-cured ham ”Noir de Bigorre” was simply excellent and with it I just had to take: Méli mélo de jeunes pousses et légumes de printemps, copeaux de vieux brebis Azkorria et vinaigrette à la betterave. This sounded so delicious and good to the ear, I could just imagined a straw hat farmer picking some tiny beetroots and carrots on his little farm, the sun is shining, goats and chickens are running around and birds look like from a Disney cartoon....blob! Sorry, I went too far... This salad was nice mix of these”jaunes pousses” meaning young, miniature root vegetables, with good brebis sheep’s milk cheese and beetroot vinaigrette. The next door neighbour , I could not help but notice, had a huge juicy looking steak and not at all bad looking tray with a selection of cheese for dessert. By the time I left the restaurant quite full, it was also full.
Next night I didn’t think twice, I went again. This time I was there little later, more normal time for the French, but again alone. Nice thing was that the waiter new me and before saying a thing he already said”pour une personne?” and offered me a table on the roof terrace. I found myself sitting again at the other end of the terrace at the last table but this time didn’t mind. The restaurant was full and I had a good view on all the tables and saw what people ate. A 10 person business dinner took place right next to me and I found it very ”homey ” that big salad bowls, baskets of bread and pate in a glass jars was put on the table as a starter and everyone dug in. Not so official eating, like home, but with shirts and ties.
I was eager to try a bit more than the night before. Starter was the best foie gras salad I’ve had since long time. Nothing extraordinary but here again was proven that good ingredients are the key. This would have been quite enough for my dinner, but since I was here... The duck breast I had was nothing special and a bit chewy but fries cooked in duck fat were excellent, just a bit too much fat for my liking. Another successful dinner and I left the restaurant happy.
I found out later that J ‘Go is one of the most appreciated Bistro in Toulouse, what a chance!
Here is the address: www.lejgo.com
Next day a visit to Cahors...