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Archive for the ‘Food and Recipe’

Cooking sessions in Provence continue with chocolate

October 11, 2013 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Women 2 Comments →

I know you are all waiting for the chocolate but before that, there is more.

We went with the owner of our hotel and the chef to the supermarket to buy the veggies for our cooking session. Pierre, the owner, explained the local produces you can find at this local store:

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Jutta, with the green shirt, was very attentive. Jutta is probably our A student on the trip. Lani and Cathy, on the other end, would probably not get a A. They were much more …dissipated.

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At least they are having fun and that is what matters. Below is a picture of the whole group with the chef Yvan (below to the L and the owner Pierre):

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Back at the hotel, we started our cooking session. Yvan taught us easy recipes to reproduce, that involved pistou (=provencal version of pesto), tapenade, lamb, veggie tart, tian of veggies (a version of ratatouille), mashed potatoes with raw garlic (and gallons of olive oil in it!!!!) and for dessert, a “fondant au chocolat” (chocolate lava cake).

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As you can see, in the back, Jutta is watching very carefully and taking notes. I told you she was our A student.

We aslo went in the herb garden with “kilted” chef….Yes our chef wears the kilt (see pic below) and I couldn’t answer Lani’s question. Does he wear it the “real” way meaning the scottish way, without anything under???

Kyle was following him, not because of the kilt-I think- but because she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to taste some samples from the garden. When it comes to picking up herb and tasting and smelling, Kyle is the A student.

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Lunch was served in the garden.

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Kathy had a different question, not about the kilt but about the the pot. What does it have a hole in the tip?

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Lani suggested it was to avoid dripping and Kyle, who also gets a A for google searching, confirmed the hypothesis.

What about the chocolate pastries? Well, we did make a chocolate lava cake but I forgot to take a picture. Tomorrow, we will go to see a pastry chef who will teach us how to prepare some fine chocolate desserts.

Too see the whole itinerary of this cooking and food trip to Provence, click here.

Olive oil tasting and truffle hunt in Provence

October 09, 2013 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Women 3 Comments →

French regulations demand that the origin of the olive oil must appear on the bottle. Look closely. At times, such info appears in mouse type. The FR5 sleuths embarrassed one shady vendor at a market in Aix-en-Provence who was selling olive oil from Spain.

Take the generic phrase “a product of the European Union” that appears on the back-of-the-bottle label of the popular French supermarket brand Puget. Origin of this olive oil: Spain.

So if you want to make sure the olive oil is from France, you should go and see Andre in Gordes, Provence. That is what we did on our food trip. Andre built his beautiful shop in 2003 and started to produce olive oil.

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We started the visit with a walk in the olive orchards. We learned everything about the olive tree, the harvest technique by hand and the process to produce the oil: extra virgin first cold press of course.

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We then tasted the different oils Andre produces: AOC or tradition olive oil but also basil, rosemary and truffle olive oil. But that is not all: toasts with different tapenades and of course some rose wine.

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Kathy, from our group, felt very comfortable with Andre…

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Kathy is the “trouble maker” in the group. You will see what happened to her in the afternoon.

After lunch we went truffle hunting. Of course, we needed a dog. We went with Robert, truffle hunter and his dog, truffle hunting under the white oaks in the forest of Gordes. Kita, the dog, was excellent and found 5 truflles in the 3 different areas we visited.

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After the hunt, we were invited by Robert to eat truffle toast in his house. He served us toasts with butter, fleur de sel de Camargue, sliced truffles and olive oil. It was simply delicious. He also served us two different types of white wine.

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Kathy, again, decided to double the slices of truffle on the toasts. So she removed the slice from one toast and put it on another one. She started to pile up all the toasts from where she had removed the truffles. She finally tried to hide them but doing so, she spilt her glass of wine on the table and on Jutta’s pants…Robert had to take care of it.

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I think Kathy should be voted out of the truffle farm too!!! Just kidding. We all love her.

It is actually a very nice group and everyone is getting along great. More adventure to come on our food and cooking tour to Provence.

Food and culinary tour to Provence

October 07, 2013 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary No Comments →

My new trip has started, a food and culinary holiday in Provence for small groups.

The trip started yesterday with a welcome drink and a gourmet dinner.

Today we went to an educational farm. We started by picking up veggies, fruits and herb in the organic garden. The do have many varieties of tomatoes, some that you don’t find at the supermarket anymore: red tomatoes, pineapple tomatoes, orange tomatoes, green tomatoes, 10 finger of Naples tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, etc…I don’t even remember all of them.

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Cathy, the farmer, gave us many samples to taste or to smell but Kyle (with the black hat below) just ate everything: strawberries, figues, tomatoes, chocolate mint, stevia, lemon verbena, grapes, etc…

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Below is our group: from L to R, Lani, Jutta, Kathy, Kyle, Cathy (the farmer) and Christine.

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After our harvest, under a pleasant sun, we went to the kitchen to start our ratatouille, a typical provencal dish. For hygiene reasons, we needed to wear hats. We looked like women in “the little house in the prairie”:

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Time to get started: washing, peeling, cutting, dicing,…

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Jutta was the clever one!!!! In terms of cutting more, she took over the lead and replaced the chef, stirring. She said that she saved the meal because the ratatouille started to burn but by stirring away  she avoided  a catastrophe!!!!

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Kathy has been “voted out of the island” or should I say “out of the kitchen” on day 1  because of her lack of talent slicing the tomatoes. Kyle, Lani and Kathy were slicing the different colored tomatoes to make a pretty salad. Lani stated quite vigorously that Kathy had no skills and asked her to remove her sliced tomatoes from the dish. It just didn’t look good!

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Kicked out of the kitchen, Kathy decided to use her skills in decorating the table, under Christine’s supervision. Apparently her skills were better used there.

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In the afternoon, we went to Chateau Neuf du Pape village, well known for its famous wine of the same name. Kyle loves wine so she bought a lot of it. But we don’t know if she bought it because she liked the wine so much or she liked the sommelier….with his blue eyes and little black fur on his chest!!!

After the wine, chocolate of course: Lani and Kyle were not the last one for the tasting….

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Not sure if Kyle bought as much chocolate as wine (I guess the woman doing the chocolate tasting was not as cute as the guy at the winery…) but for sure Christine did:

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More adventure tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Gourmet Catalan food on our painting tour to Spain.

September 17, 2013 By: guest Category: Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Travel to Spain, Women, painting workshops No Comments →

Every day started with an enormous and delicious breakfast: many pastries, cheeses, yoghurts, egg tortilla, but also ham, chorizo, salami, salmon, sardines, a lot of fruits, different types of bread, water, juices, even wine!!!!, hot chocolate, many different types of coffees, teas, etc…

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And in addition to the sumptuous breakfast, you have the incredible view on the ocean.

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We also had gourmet dinners. I will let Sandy Delehanty, our teacher on the watercolor workshop, tell you about it:

“Our French Escapade led Watercolor Journaling trip to Spain, continues with gourmet food that Jackie our French Escapade guide has included in this trip and we are all LOVING!

Judy said one night that she thought Jackie should have advertised this trip as a “Painting/Gourmet Food Trip” since every one of our dinners together have been fabulous and we have learned so much about the Catalan way of cooking.  I think she is right!

Here is a market photo that gives you an idea of the freshness of the ingredients that the chefs use to do their magic.

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One of our dinners was at Can Joan in a nearby town that some locals recommended to Jackie when she was planning her first tour of this area.  The specialty was a unique version of Paella made with the rice negro grown here and a very soupy style sauce and of course loads of fresh seafood and sausage etc.


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Really great, as were all the many tapas.

June not only loves the food and the company she also loves the Sangria, but do not worry, not all of the glasses in this photo are hers, she is too much a lady to go overboard.


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The next morning at breakfast June confessed that she did not have quite as much “spring in her step”! The dessert was a real treat as well.


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And since we are by the coast, the fish is caught that day. At many restaurants we went to, we were presented with the fishes of the day so you can choose which fish you want.  I am not a fan of mussels but everyone else in our group has been raving them.  At home I do not like sardines, but fresh caught here they are terrific.


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Those big shrimps were used in a typical Catalan dish called Fideua. It is a different version of the paella. The rice has been replaced by little noodles.

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Below was the best salad I had on  this trip, warm goat cheese salad.  The large round of goat cheese was actually grilled, their were all kinds of goodies along with it as you can see, even tiny sweet strawberries, and the dressing was balsamic vinegar and oil, artfully drizzled.  The restaurant’s name I have forgotten but it was in the tiny seaside village of Calella de Palafrugell where we have been staying.
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It was as much a painting than a food experience!”
If you want to taste the Catalan food either on a painting tour or a cultural tour, click here.

Barcelona: traditions and food

May 16, 2013 By: guest Category: Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Travel to Spain, painting workshops 1 Comment →

We are now in Barcelona on day 6 of our painting workshop.

Today, we didn’t expect to met the giants. Not the sport team from San Francisco but the giants from Barcelona, the ones made out of wood and clothing.They are part of the Catalonian tradition. They use them on special occasions. They walk and dance in the streets. So Dee and I had the chance to see them perform on plaza Reial.

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In the evening, I had a surprise for the group. We were invited at Julius’ house for dinner. We were served an incredible dinner with Catalan and Spanish specialties. It was a real feast.

Julius presented us the fresh fish and sea food he will use for the dishes.

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We had a private dinner with 8 different tapas, 2 main dishes and dessert. The least we can say is that we were stuffed but in heaven…

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Dee is presenting the Cocal de escalivada, the Catalan version of our pizza.

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Karen decided to dress up to go to this very nice place, a clandestine gallery in the Barri Gotic.

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One of the main dish was the Catalan Fideua with sea food and aioli. It is the “noodle” version of the paella.

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We could barely walk back to the hotel after eating all that food but it was an unforgettable experience.

Join us on one of our tours to either France, Spain or Belgium at www.frenchescapade.com

We got invited into a French home

October 07, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Women 2 Comments →

It is not everyday that you travel to France and get invited into someone’s home. When you travel to France in a small group with French Escapade, you do.

Our guide, Jackie, had a surprise for us. She invited us into her house in France. Valerie, her friend was our host and had prepared a wonderful lunch for us.

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Smoked salmon, rice salad with tuna and beans, hams, tomatoes and mozzarella, corn bread, cereal bread, walnut bread and of course wine. Here, Lupe, Susan and Kaye:

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From L to R: Judy, Valerie (our host in the back), Carol, Laurie and Cathy:

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Sandra and her mother Kaye:

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Christine and her daughter Megan:

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The other surprise was the celebration of Carol and Lupe’s birthdays. Valerie had bought some pastries made by the chocolate maker we visited in the morning. Delicious!!!!!

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Here is our entire group with our host Valerie (front  right).

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It was such a wonderful event and really unexpected. Make sure you go on a French Escapade tour to France to experience the same.

Light show on Bourget Lake in the Alps

October 06, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary No Comments →

Two days ago I mentioned the surprise I had for the group. It was a dinner and light show on the lake. Here are some pictures of the incredible event:

Here is the picture of the boat during the day. We went on the boat at night.

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Here is a picture of Lupe and Laurie at dinner on the boat:

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Below are Carol and Cathy on the deck watching the show (well, laughing first!!!):

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The cliffs of the wild coast of the Bourget Lake were lit up by the boat to give an amazing  show. Everything in music….Just sensational!

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Today, we went to see a chocolate maker in La Cote St Andre in the Isere department of France. Pierre Jouvenal created the first chocolate museum in France, in 1996.

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He explained everything about the history of chocolate, the biology of the cocoa tree, the difference between bad and good chocolate made of 100% cocoa butter.

Kaye and Susan bought candies made out of white chocolate and strawberry, the new specialty from the chocolate maker. Susan bought so much chocolate that Pierre asked her if she was going to open a store in the US!!!

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But where is Lupe? She is not here? She was still inside the shop and Pierre has already locked the door of the museum, ready to go home. Luckily, Laurie, her roommate on the trip, noticed that Lupe was missing. I guess, it could be worse than being locked in a chocolate store….

Find out about our culture tours to France, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium on www.frenchescapade.com

Cheese tasting in the French Alps

October 04, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Women No Comments →

Yesterday, a new group has arrived. This time a bit bigger: 11 people. I know it is still a small group but usually I take 8 so it is bigger.

We are staying in the charming town of Aix les Bains, by the Bourget lake. A real feeling of vacation.

Today, we went to Haute-Savoie in the town of Thones to visit a cheese factory. They make raclette, abondance, tomme de savoie and reblochon cheese. The cow in Haute Savoie are mostly the Abondance type. How do you recognize an Abondance cow? She wears sunglasses. Really, she has a brown stain around her eyes:

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We had a chance to see the cheese being made then went to the cellar to see how long and how the cheeses age:

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We saw a movie about the making of the reblochon and the unique story of how this cheese got its name that means “double milking”  and then …did the tasting of course, everything served with Savoie white wine:

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In the afternoon, we went to the biggest ski resort in the world: Chamonix.

Did I take pictures of Mont Blanc? of the glacier? of the “Aiguille du midi”? Well, not exaclty. I took a picture of Mont Blanc but not the mountain but a pastry. Here it is, next to some other ones that are worth being in the picture as well:

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Tonight, I have a surprise for the group so I can’t tell you what it will be!!!!!

To join us on our tours to the French Alps, Belgium Provence, Swizterland or Spain, check our site at www.frenchescapade.com

Will you stay in Provence for the weather or for ….

September 27, 2012 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women No Comments →

What will be your reason to decide to live in Provence? The sunshine 300 days a year? The lavender? The olives? The nougat? The potteries? The art? or ….?

Well, Sherri M., one of our guests on the cooking tour for women in Provence has another reason for living here:

Sherri M. says:

“No cooking expedition to France would be complete without an exploration of that most precious of “mushrooms”
known as the diamond of the kitchen- the truffle. While many amateur cooks visiting France would be content to purchase truffle pieces or truffle oilat Fauchon or Hediard, we were fortunate to go on a truffle hunt in Gordes with Robert Florent, a third generation truffle hunter, and his son.

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Our hunt took us in search of summer or white truffles, but Mssr. Florent educated us about winter or black truffles as well. We learned about truffles from the region, from Perigord, and the less desirable truffles from China. We now know how truffle oil is made, what truffle products to avoid at the grocery, and how to store and use fresh truffles.

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(Sherri continues..): For me, it was love at first sight, or should I say at first bite. The unique flavor of summer truffles, which we tried thanks to the hospitality of Mssr. Florent who welcomed us into his home and served us savory truffle canapes, and winter truffles which I’ve been privileged to taste in the past, had made me dreaming about relocating to Provence and marrying the charming and entertaining Mssr. Florent :)!”

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Here is a picture of Sherri cooking while dreaming of the truffle man!!!!!!

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New cooking tour in Provence: a fun group!

September 25, 2012 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence 2 Comments →

We are now in Saint Remy de Provence and a new group has arrived for….cooking in Provence.

Everyone has received an apron to be ready for the cooking sessions:

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Today we went to an educative farm where we cooked a ratatouille, a typical Provencal dish. But first, we needed to go and pick up the veggies in the garden: eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, purple basil, pepers and more. Some were not small although everything is organic.

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The farm has many different species of each veggies. For example, the tomatoes: you can see on the picture below some of the tomatoes we used for our salad: green tomatoes, black tomatoes, pineapple tomatoes, moroccan tomatoes, roma tomatoes and some whom I forgot the names:

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Everyone took part of the cooking, even Stephanie who doesn’t eat tomatoes and Sherri who doesn’t care about cooking but only about eating:

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September is also the time for the harvest of the grapes. That is what we did. We used the grapes along with figues and apples to make a fruit clafuti.

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As for me, besides doing the translation, I picked up little tiny flowers…

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Check the complete itinerary of our cooking tour in Provence.

There is more than just painting in Provence

September 20, 2012 By: guest Category: Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

Although it is a painting workshop, our guests have more to do in Provence: shopping on the  market and eating of course. Ah the wonderful French food!

Norwegian salad with all different seafood:

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Here is rice with gambas flambes:

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Donna is enjoying her Irish coffee:

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Here is a chocolate cake with “creme anglaise”, prepared by Martine, our hostess at our hotel in Venasque:

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Bust besides eating, there is shopping: We went to Isle sur la Sorgue to the provencal market. I was told in the morning that they wanted to only spend 30 min shopping and then painting of course. I gave everyone up to 1h15 and everyone came back at the last minute, even Victoria, the teacher, who is usually “obsessed about painting”.

And here is some of the shopping of the day:

Brenda bought a bright shirt/dress/all usage piece:

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Linda bought a flowery shirt:

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Susan bought some flashy sunglasses, perfect match with her outfit:

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You too want to be in Provence? Make sure to check our site to find out more about our painting but also cooking or cultural tours to Provence but also Belgium Switzerland and Spain.

A breathtaking view in Provence

June 27, 2012 By: guest Category: Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, Women, painting workshops No Comments →

Today, we ventured to Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France.  It is a hilltop village built in the medieval times. The bad news is that it is so beautiful that there are many tourists there.

That didn’t stop some of us to paint. Here, Barbara and Cathy are sketching the hilltop village. I call them the “A” students versus the ‘F” students who decided to go shopping in the village instead!!!!! Just kidding.

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Below is the view Cathy and Barbara sketched. Sonja, the teacher was there too of course, but in a different shady spot. There weren’t too many of those unfortunately and the weather was very hot.

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But France is not all about painting. It is also about eating. For lunch, we always do picnics. While everyone paints (or shops!!!!!) I go to the market and buy fresh veggies, fruits, salami, cheese, baguette. Eating outside with all the cicadas around is quite magical.

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In the evening, we go to different restaurants or eat at the hotel. Food is superbe. Here is a picture of Linda H and Sonja sharing a lemon-meringue dessert. After tasting it, they wished they had ordered one dessert each. Too late!

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Chocolate and more chocolate in Switzerland

June 12, 2011 By: guest Category: Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Switzerland, painting workshops No Comments →

In the afternoon we went to a chocolate factory.  What a great experience in several ways.

The place is very well organized for visitors.  The tour began with a cinema, or so we thought.  It was all computerized.  English speakers were grouped together for the intro and history of the development of chocolate.  We walked into what turned out to be an elevator that took us down into the first of several rooms with a mini Disneyland-like presentation in each one.

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Rooms were decorated, animated, interesting, informative, and fun  There was an ever-present smell of chocolate.  Everytime the speaking ended in a room, a door opened to another room.  That was followed by a room full of cocoa beans, hazel nuts, almonds, etc, with information about all the ingredients, the benefits of chocolate for our health, etc. The smell…..Hmmm, cocoa everywhere.

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Cailler is one of the few manufacturers worldwide to use slightly condensed milk instead of milk powder. It is a special process of vaporizing the milk into the cocoa that gives Cailler chocolate its unrivalled  taste and texture.

The milk in milk chocolate is from local cows, and the sugar is also from Switzerland.  Other rooms showed the old and new machinery and process of mixing, forming, and packaging  of individual pieces of chocolate.

Then there was a tasting room where no one paid attention to how many samples you tried…with no wrappers to slow you down.

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Oh boy!  I decided to risk a migraine headache, and sampled with reckless abandon.

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So far so good, though I most definitely pigged out and enjoyed every bite.

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We all skipped dessert after dinner tonight.

You too, taste this delicious chocolate by joining our tour to Switzerland.

Where to taste the double creme with meringue?

June 10, 2011 By: guest Category: Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, Switzerland, painting workshops 8 Comments →

In previous post, Betty, one of my guests on the Switzerland tour, mentioned that she ate meringe with double creme. Well, it is worth to tell you more about this Gruyeres specialty.

If the region of Gruyeres is most well known for its Gruyere cheese, a close second is the fresh, local cream, famous for its high butterfat content.  Gruyeres has more cheese and double cream per square metre than any other town in Switzerland.The local make a fuss about it and they are right, it is really  worth the fuss, for its unparalleled, unctuous texture and its rather unique aroma.
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Thick cream skimmed off milk. Its aroma, its delicacy and its creaminess make it one of the region of Gruyeres specialities. That’s probably why it’s served on top of just about everything, at all hours of the day. It is most often served on top of meringues or various berries. Hmmmm, really delicious.

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The meringues are weightless and have the same texture throughout.  Bite into one and it just crumbles away in your mouth (and all over your shirt). The double creme is always served in a traditional wooden dish and with a sculpted wooden spoon as well like in the old traditions.

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If you’re in Gruyères, you won’t have any problem at all finding meringues or double cream to buy.  Step into any shop and you’ll see walls piled high of plain meringues, or bags with different flavors, including caramel, chocolate or even cheese.

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Every restaurant serves it a different way. They are all soooooo gooood!!!!!!!

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Bon appetit!

If you want to taste this delicious double creme with meringue, join our tour to Switzerland.

Cooking Trip in Provence

May 14, 2010 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Provence No Comments →

I am now in Provence with my first cooking group in Provence: 9 women who love food and want to learn the secrets of provencal cooking.


On our first day, we went with Finette and her master to hunt for truffles. Finette is an expert dog in finding truffles. Despite the rain, Finette found several big truffles. Since we are in May, the truffles are the white truffles or spring truffles. They don’t have the same aromas as the black truffles from the winter (and are only worth about 180 euros/kg instead of 1000 euros!!).


After the hunt, we got invited by the master into his house.  We were served rose and white wine and toast with truffles of course.

To make the toast: grill some little pieces of baguette on both sides, cut the truffle on top, add salt from Camargue and olive oil. Let them sit for a few hours so the olive oil can melt the salt.

It was delicious.


Tomorrow, we will be cooking a ratatouille in a farm, picking the herbs ourselves.