Eating Our Way Through Easter Weekend

What a month March has been! Seth’s family was in town, and then my parents came, and between the two groups, Seth and I drove all around France, from Normandy to the Mediterranean Sea. Since Easter weekend is still fresh in my mind (probably because I’ve never eaten so much), I thought I should post about that first.

Seth, my parents, and I spent the weekend in Roanne, which is a relatively little-known city near Lyon. Most outsiders know Roanne because of the famous restaurant Troisgros (150‚?¨ lunch, anyone?), but to us, it’s the place I was warmly welcomed as an exchange student for the 1996-1997 school year. I stayed with three lovely families, and am thrilled we’ve kept in touch. Because we only had about 24 hours in Roanne, we visited two of my three host families.

Apero at the Vernays

We started out Saturday chez G√©rard and Josiane, my first host parents (their daughter, Julie is a good friend of mine and lives in Paris – lucky me!!) , along with their son, Francis (it was his 27th birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire!), and his girlfriend, Laura. We ran into a little traffic on the Paris side of the trip, so we didn’t arrive for lunch until about 2pm. Everyone held out and when we arrived, the feasting began!

The apératif (pre-meal drink course) was served with the most amazing spread of appetizers: endive with herbed cheese, crab in home-made mayonnaise, toasted spiced bread with goat cheese, dried sausage, and the original version of pigs in a blanket: delicious sausages in a puff-pastry.

Pork Dishes at the Vernays
On to the main course: two different kinds of pork (the mustard sauce was particularly memorable), potatoes, and green beans. Seth looks overwhelmed!

I don’t know how I missed taking a picture of the cheese course. It was a beautiful spread on a rustic wooden cheese plate. I also missed photographing the wine, which was made my a family friend. My parents loved it (I think they’re wine drinkers now!) and Gerard & Josiane sent them home with a bottle. We were so stuffed after the cheese that we decided to take a walking tour of Roanne before the dessert course. Julie and I showed my parents the center of Roanne, with its pedestrian walkways, and most importantly, our high school (Lyc√©e Jean Puy). The bar near the high school is called “Bar du Lyc√©e” which always made me laugh, since in the states you can’t drink until college.

Rachel Julie Bar du Lycee

Roanne’s most famous bakery is called Pralus, inventor of the original Praluline, which is a brioche with candied nuts (almonds? pecans?). We picked up a small one to try later on, since we knew we would not need to eat anything for days.

Praluline

Back at the house, we moved on to the dessert course. It was an especially vast spread since it was Francis’s birthday and his girlfriend made a special crumble for him. I thought the Easter-themed papillotes were cute. This is the first year the R√©villon chocolate producer has made them for Easter (they are usually a Christmas & New Year’s tradition).

Easter Papillotes

Josiane made my and Julie’s favorite dessert: the √ģle flottante (“floating island”). The island is made of sweet whipped egg whites, floating in a sea of custard.

Ile Flotante

The chocolate mousse was a hit, and my mom got away with the recipe for both that and the √ģle flottante.

Desserts in Roanne

Dad played a couple of tunes after dessert.

Dad Playing Guitar at Vernays

By the time “lunch” was over it was about 9pm! Our hosts:

Vernays

It was time to move on to Renaison, chez Michel and Martine, where we spent the night and Easter Sunday.

We had mini pastries for breakfast Easter morning and tried not to overdo it, since we knew we were in for another delicious meal. If the size of the bread loaf alone was any indication (about a yard long by maybe a food wide?), we were not going to go hungry.

Easter Lunch Renaison Everyone

Michel took this picture of the group enjoying the apéritif of champagne.

Avocado Crab Verrine

With the apéro we had crab in a cream dip with avocado and toasts with tapenade and a fish spread.

Escargots

The first course was escargots. The sauce is amazing! Put anything in butter, parsley, garlic, and shallots, and I’m sold. This photo shows just one of the two trays of escargots we ate.

Easter Lamb

The traditional main dish for Easter in France is lamb. This lamb was tender and delicious, served with green beans wrapped in slabs of pork breast akin to bacon. Martine served it with whipped mashed potatoes.

After some salad, guess what was next?

Fromages de France Plate

A spread of regional cheeses and yogurts, as well as some camemberts (one of them aged in calvados, a liquor from Normandy).

Easter Cheese Plate

To finish it off? Warm Tarte Tatin. The name comes from the Tatin sisters who first made a homemade apple tart in this method. Served with some cr√®me fra√ģche, it was a delicious finale to an afternoon feast.

Tarte Tatin

Notre-Dame du Charmaix: Alpine Chapel

Chapelle Charmaix Sign

Within walking distance from the slopes in Valfr√©jus sits a hidden chapel that’s been on this site for six centuries. The first construction of Notre-Dame du Charmaix was in 1401, built to house a Black Madonna, and although the chapel has been through many transformations, its essential character seems to remain timeless.

Chapelle Charmaix Path

Chapelle Charmaix View From Path
The view of the chapel from the path doesn’t look like much more than a covered bridge. The main chapel area is under the covered area and to the right.

Chapelle Charmaix Gated
The chapel is closed most of the time, especially now that the interior is being restored.

Chapelle Charmaix Inside
The view on the inside, with the black Virgin on the altar.

Chapelle Charmaix Black Virgin

Chapelle Charmaix Paintings
Many of the paintings inside were old. There were also embroidered works that were in recognition of an answered prayer. The one on the far right had a date on it from the 1880s.

Chapelle Charmaix Reconnaissance
Plaques on the outside are a slightly more contemporary recognition ritual. Many of these date from the first half of the twentieth century.

Chapelle Charmaix Rachel

Chapelle Charmaix Bridge Ravine

Chapelle Charmaix Entire View

Chapelle Charmaix Window

Chapelle Charmaix Tronc

This old-fashioned iron “tronc” is where you can drop coins and it goes into a large, secure area deep inside.¬† Don’t forget to leave a donation to the chapel on your way out!

Skiing in the Alps: the Food!

You eat a lot of heavy food when you’re in the mountains. I guess all those extra calories help you with the hiking and the altitude! Here are some food highlights of our ski trip in Valfr√©jus.

The market:

Valfrejus Cheese Market
I bought a half-ton of cheese from this stand. It is still making our refrigerator smell like feet, but I just had to buy Reblochon for tartiflette, and try two other kinds I wasn’t familiar with. The free samples are what sold us on those.

Valfrejus Sausage Stand
This is where we stocked up on dried sausages for Seth. They may be contributing to the fridge odor as well…

Saucisson Plate
A plate of cut meats, to accompany the raclette we ate the first night we were in Valfréjus.

Fondu Preparations
Fondue night! Here’s the prep shot…

Fondu on the Table
Ready for dipping, on the table.

Fondu Seb
Delicious!

Happy Birthday, Dad

Can’t wait to celebrate when we’re together in Paris next week!

Dad Playing Guitar
Playing guitar on the deck he built.

Dad & Jeff Playing
Dad and Jeff jamming last summer

Putting the Mainsail Away
Putting the mainsail away after a day of sailing

Dancing With Dad
Dancing with Dad at my wedding

Warm Biscuit Fabrics: Cheerful Vintage

Fabric: Aqua Passion VineFabric: Aqua PrimroseGrandma Betty‚??s Aqua Rose

If you haven’t checked out Warm Biscuit‘s offerings in fabric, you’re missing out on a fun and nostalgic trip through color and design. I just love these happy patterns and am inspired to plot another try at quilting.

If you’re not in the mood to sew, however, Warm Biscuit also sells ready-to-love bedding, toys, and other gifts for children.

Fabric: Grandma Betty‚??s Pink Floral StripeFabric: Pink Passion FlowerFabric: Posy

P.S. I have many more ski photos to share, but have to find a place to which to transfer them from my camera – my hard-drive has seen skinnier days!

Skiing in the Alps: The View from the Top

We’re back from our trip to Valfr√©jus, and finally I have some pictures to share! I thought I’d start out with the view from the top of the slopes, accessible by a long gondola ride up about 1000 meters or so (I think?). It was a long trip up, but so pretty!

Ski Top 1
The view from the top, away from the main slopes.

Ski Top 2 Sun
The blazing sun was the best part.

Ski Top Cafe
The café at the top was a popular lunch spot. We ate outside on this terrace one day and enjoyed tartiflette. My favorite!

Cecilia Vin Chaud
Cécilia, enjoying some vin chaud (mulled wine)

Ski top Cafe Window
I loved the painted wood that decorated the caf√©’s windows.

Ski Top Sunbathing
Who needs jackets? Sunbathing at the top.

Ski Top Seth iPhone
Seth even found iPhone reception at the top of the mountain.

Ski Top Gondola
This gondola side of the mountain was the side with the slopes.

Gondola Inside
The ride back down in the gondola. That’s all for today!

Oh, and check out Seth’s snowblogging post and video about blogging from the ski lift.