Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NIORT



The sales are on in France. Second markdown already. See, it`s a bit more structured,or should I say restricted here in France. Sales do not happen every Saturday. Just twice a year. And then every one goes shopping. 
Winners stresses me out, so for sure Victoria was on her own. But she would not go to Niort by herself, I had to drive. 
 I took the opportunity to explore this city in the south of the Deux Sevres department a bit beyond the shops.

While the peripherie is ringed with power centers a la America, the historic part of Niort is what`s exciting to see. A famous Dungeon, churches, great architecture and quite simply the heart and soul of an old town.  When you look at old buildings that are a bit rundown, you can`t help but wonder about it`s century old stories, what happened, who lived there, what business was on the ground floor 150 years ago.

Dominating the view from almost every angle is the church of Saint Andre, elevated above the town.
Having seen my fair share of churches (it`s part of life in Austria), this one was a very nice surprise. The stained glass windows, old frescoes, oil paintings, wood carved monuments, all of them a testament to the talent employed by our pals in the catholic church.

The covered market hall, right next to the famous dungeon, a generous pedestrian zone which begins/ends at Place de la Breche. Which is undergoing some massive renovation and the end result this summer is nothing short of world class. All parking has been moved underground, the square will be greened with 350 trees, dozens of inviting Cafes and Bistros.

Niort is well worth a visit if you come down to the area.




NIORT WITH 11TH CENTURY CHURCH OF ST. ANDRE

DESTROYED AND REBUILT IN THE 16TH CENTURY

STUNNING STAINED GLASS WINDOWS

AND MODERN

FRESCOES

GILT SIDE ALTAR

(NEO) GOTHIC


COVERED MARKET


WOULD MAKE A NICE FOUNTAIN IN YOUR YARD

CAFES ALONG PLACE DE LA BRÉCHE

COVERED SHOPPING ARCADES

FINE ZONES PIETONNES

ARCHITECTURE

IF YOU LIKE A PLACE IN WINTER, YOU`LL LOVE IT IN SUMMER

 NOT THE BUSINESS IT USED TO BE

 NOT SURE WHAT, BUT COOL GRAFFITI NEVER THE LESS.

AN ACTUAL ENTRANCE TO A HOME

H0TEL DE VILLE

THE DUNGEON



Monday, January 30, 2012

GLUTEN FREE WRAPS



Well, in case you wonder what Victoria does all day. She experiments. A lot. Almost every day. Tinkering around with one recipe until it meets her standards? It may take weeks. I eat a lot. It's all good in my eyes, but Victoria won't even let me Blog about it unless it's fit for you. I just keep eating the trial items. They are GREAT!

Not uncommon, that in the middle of the night Victoria switches on her bedside lamp and goes back downstairs for 30 minutes or more. Why? She thought of something, a detail, and wants to write it down properly before it gets lost in her mind by the morning.  Isabella calls it Baker's OCD.

Our rental is great. Cozy, with great people around, but the kitchen is just not equipped enough, nor does Victoria have the space to spread out her wares. Hence the urgency to get a kitchen soon. Her licensees need new products. So they can keep humming with great gluten free products.

One of the recent trials involved a perfect gluten free wrap. In my eyes they are ready for production. Victoria does not think so.
 It's still this, it's still that. She needs to get out more and eat what is available.....

I don't mind. I just keep eating Burritos. Lots of them. They are good. Gluten free good. Coming soon to a bakery near you.





PERFECTLY THIN,  THEY HOLD A LOT

THEY DON'T LEAK

THEY ROLL NICELY

THEY DON'T BREAK APART

FRANCE FOOD SAFETY, QUITE RELAXED

Sunday, January 29, 2012

FISH & CHIPS



Though 90% of my food consumption is gluten free, once in a while I do venture out and get myself a baguette with Rillette or Jambon. I am in France.....

And thanks to a very strong presence of British expats, we even have a Chip truck in the area. I did make them gluten free in Calgary, but in this rental Gite, I do not have the right equipment to deep fry some GF beer battered Cod. Or make home made fries for that matter. I'd set the place on fire.

The truck comes around Loulay every other Saturday, so we ventured over there to try it out last night. Hoping that maybe the fries would be made separately and the whole family can eat something. But no such luck, Victoria stuck with wine.
The local restaurant struck a deal with the truck owner, where you can actually eat your order on proper plates with cutlery, for one Euro. A nice combo really. Sit down and enjoy a good deep fried meal.  Both fish and the fries are made fresh, some sides such as mushy peas are available as well. A very good meal, not for Celiacs.
The truck does a weekly tour of villages and towns in the area, after all there are 30000 + expats in the Charentes.
It did seem a bit of a social gathering as much as ordering a fry, there was quite a nice gathering of Brits that evening. George, our neighbor was there too, a familiar face in the crowd. 







A CHIP TRUCK IN FRANCE

MENU





GEORGE, OUR NEIGHBOR IN VILLENOUVELLE


GLUTEN FREE VERSION



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GROCERY SHOPPING IN FRANCE



Besides going to the market for our fresh foods, we do frequent a supermarket close to the village for daily things. And items you can't get at the market.

Intermarché, a chain across France, is our go to place. No preference, just convenience. There are some major differences between shopping at say, Superstore, or here at this supermarket. Not going into pricing,  just obvious things such as the giant selection of UHT milk, which we really do not like, versus the three milks you can choose from fresh.... French love their milk sterilized. Very sterilized. With this Ultra heat treatment milk achieves a shelf life of up to 9 month. 
If there would be a war, or nuclear accident in the area, I`d agree with loving it. 
But heck, it just tastes not good.  Try making a Cappuccino with that kind of milk. NOT GOOD.

Wine would be another HUGE difference to Canada. You`ll get it anywhere really. In this medium sized market, 3 aisles were dedicated to wine and spirits. 
Yesterday in Bordeaux, we visited an independent bookstore similar to Chapters, guess what? A huge wine selection smack  in the middle of the books and CDs.  Sort of makes sense, since it is a wine producing country. maybe french drink wine while they read John Grisham. I don't know.

Yogurts. Massive choices. All fresh. Not UHT. Which makes it a good product. We eat much more Yogurt here, than we did in Calgary.

Deli section. Pizza no, Roasted chicken yes. A few annoying things about buying cold cuts here, they won`t slice it thin even if you beg them and some real strange habit of theirs? They don't take  off the skin. Now, who would want to eat a 1/4 inch thick Mortadella sandwich with skin on??? Peculiar.
On the very positive, staff is usually very competent and friendly. Ingredients check never a problem. I think they enjoy it actually to investigate what is in the products. Nobody else seems to ask is my impression. they always have to go and find a huge binder with all the labels in there.
Same goes for the cheese counter. You'll not only find a selection similar to that of wine, there is always a vendor who loves to tell you about their favorite choice. and which to avoid, for whatever reason.

I bought fish again today and the fishmonger made me stay away from the Vietnam fish, because who knows what's in  and what they did to that fish over there. Buy this one she said, it's similar in quality and taste and caught in Normandy. Never mind that it is double the price. Gotta love that patriotism.

Right at the entrance or exit, depends when you buy bread, is the in house bakery. I buy the occasional Pain au Chocolat, but cannot speak to the bread. I am eating Victoria's.
Bread is sold by kg pricing and bakers are a protected trade. meaning, not  everyone can snow into town and open a bakery.  except Intermarché it seems.



SIMILAR TO SUPERSTORE

IN HOUSE BAKERY

CLEARLY MARKED BREAD PRICES

UHT MILK SECTION

FRESH MILK SECTION

PLENTY OF FISH

BIG AND SMALL

SAUCISSON SEC

PATES, TERRINES

RILLETTES

WINE EVERYWHERE

ALWAYS A SALE FOR WINE

ETHNIC FOOD?

YOGURT SELECTION

GRAND SELECTION OF SPARKLING AND STILL WATER

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ROASTED RED BEET SALAD



Over the last few weeks I have watched a stand at the Farmers' market, that sells roasted beets. Betteraves Cuit. 
They look shriveled up to say the least, burnt almost. Why do people stay in line to buy them?
Save the hassle of cooking them? Less messy? 

I think it is the flavor. We finally bought one yesterday, peeled it (less messy), chopped it up, sprinkled some Balsamico and sea salt on it, FLAVOR. Smokey roasted flavor. Rich in Vitamin A and C, full of antioxidants. Maybe I should eat them more often? 

Do you have a favorite way to eat them?


TASTY, HEALTHY, COLORFUL

FARMER AT THE MARKET

THEY TASTE BETTER THAN THEY LOOK

DEEP RED

CHOPPED UP

Thursday, January 19, 2012

GLUTEN FREE GNUDI RECIPE



In Sage butter no less.

Gnudi is the cousin of Gnocchi. The somewhat refined cousin. Even fluffier than Nona's potato dumpling from Tuscany.
Made with Ricotta, they make for the perfect appetizer, or main course if you will.

Here is Victoria's most successful version of them:

3 Eggs
425 gr Ricotta (Please no low fat....)
3/4 Cup of GF PATISSERIE flour, plus 3/4 tsp Xanthan (substitute at your own risk)
1tsp Salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a bowl whisk eggs until blended. Add Ricotta and whisk into the eggs.
Add flour, Xanthan, salt and cheese. Whisk some more until the dough is blended.
Let rest in fridge for 20 minutes, then with a couple of teaspoons form Gnudi and drop into hot, simmering water. 
Once they start floating, let them simmer for another minute. Skim the Gnudi into browned sage butter, toss gently and serve. Family will be happy.

I am just glad that I don't have to write a cookbook. That's a tedious job. Especially with Victoria as an over the shoulder editor.


COTES DE PROVENCE ROSE, PERFECT WINE WITH GNUDI


 RICOTTA

LET THE DOUGH REST IN THE FRIDGE FOR 20 MINUTES

FORM THE GNUDIS WITH A COUPLE OF TEA SPOONS IN CIRCULAR MOTION

SIMMER UNTIL THEY FLOAT

THEN SIMMER FOR ABOUT ANOTHER MINUTE

BROWN SOME GOOD BUTTER AND SAGE LEAFS

GENTLY TOSS THEM AROUND

SERVE WITH SHAVED PARMESAN & SALT, CRACKED PEPPER,