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 (150â?¬ 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 GĂ©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 (LycĂ©e Jean Puy). The bar near the high school is called “Bar du LycĂ©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 RĂ©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 Ă®le 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 île 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 crème fraîche, it was a delicious finale to an afternoon feast.

Tarte Tatin

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