Chef Essig's Travels - week two, France

Read all about Chef Aran's travels in France... use these links to jump to the day you need... or start at the bottom and read the whole story!

Day Nineteen: January 30, 2013

This is our last day in France. Tomorrow morning (4am to be exact) we head home. It will be sad to leave, but it will be good to be home again.

To celebrate our last day, we have a full day of food ahead!

We start off by heading to the SIRHA show. We are invited to attend lunch at the CHEF lounge... CHEF is a line of Nestle products. Lunch is prepared by Chef Serge Vieira. Chef Vieira's two Michelin star restaurant is located in the countryside outside Chaudes-Aigues in a 700 year old fort Chateau du Couffer. Chef Serge was the winner of the 2005 Bocuse d'Or and is considered one of the best chefs in the world.

Not only was this lunch the best I experienced on this trip, but it was also one of the best meals I've had in my life!!! To make it even more amazing, lunch was served in the trade show out of a temporary booth that was set up like a great restaurant.

We started with a small basket of fish churro, ultra thin puffed seeded cracker, and a savory meringue.

lunch bread

Next comes a small plate of three appetizers.

lunch appetizers

The beef carpaccio and trout gelee were both perfect in flavor, presentation, and textures.

carpaccio

trout gelee

Chef Serge mixes in a bit of Molecular gastronomy, but not so much that it takes away from the central product... it only enhances.

For a first course, we receive a potato carpaccio. The thin layer of potato is perfectly blanched then grilled, placed over a mashed puree with truffle and foam.

lunch potato

For the entrée my favorite, lamb!

lunch lamb

The entree was followed by the dessert that Chef Serge demonstrated yesterday - which we were happy to see again and have more of.

lunch dessert

After dessert, we receive a Nestle coffee menu and I order a latte. After a few weeks of drinking demi tasse coffees, I look forward to a large cup. It is one of the best Latte's ever!

latte

With our coffees, we receive a plate of small sweets... just when you think it can't get any better. The attention to detail in this meal was amazing. If you ever are a couple of hours south of Paris, definetly look up Serge's restaurant (www.sergevieira.com). The pictures on his website are not just for show. That is what ALL his plates look like, and the flavors are even more amazing.

After the amazing lunch, we walk around the show a little, talk to some of the vendors, and look at the displays.

chocolate sculpture

chocolate sculpture 2

sugar

The competition is underway, so we head in to see how the USA team is doing. The platters and plates that the teams put out are picture perfect. They teams spend years practicing, and the expense for entering the completion can run in the $500,000 range by the time you include marketing, travel, and the support it takes to win. Support of the conference, competition, and growth of the profession as a whole is not possible without great sponsors.

CHEF

After some waiting, they announce the results.

Best Beef goes to the United Kingdom.

best beef platter

best beef

Best Fish goes to Norway.

best fish

Bronze goes to Japan (this is the first time an Asian country has been on the winner's platform).

Silver goes to Denmark.

The excitement is now building in the arena. People are on their feet, waving flags, all waiting in anticipation that their country will bring home the gold, and the winner is… FRANCE.

Chef Richard Rosendale and assistant Corey Siegal did an amazing job representing the USA. They demonstrated that there are talented chefs and amazing food here in America. The USA has never been in the top three at the Bocuse d'Or, but we will be.

Here is a picture of Chef Paul Bocuse and his son Jerome on stage.

chef paul and son

By now it's time for us to get across town and go to dinner. We take a few trains and a little walk to the confluence of the Soane into Rhone River. Here next to the Art Museum known as The Cube, we are treated to a wonderful Gala dinner.

gala

We have wonderful company to share it with... we join the team from Nestle and Chef Serge.

There were passed appetizers and amuse bouche on the table.

passed appetizers

amuse

The first course is foie gras.

fois gras

Next comes bouillabaisse -- which I am happy to have here since the one in Nice was a bit out of our price range.

bouillabaisse

Next is the entrée of prime rib and then cheese course and dessert.

gala cheese

gala dessert

The food was good for an audience of over 1,200 in attendance, but the entertainment of musicians, dancers and aerial acrobats was even more impressive.

After dinner we leave and start walking to the hotel and realize that is after midnight. We check out of our hotel in 3.5 hours.

It has been an amazing culinary journey. It is a trip that I will remember and will affect my cooking and attitude towards food for a lifetime.

I hope you enjoyed checking in with us and following the journey.

Thank you to all for your support, friendship and, camaraderie!

Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

chef essig signature

Take me back to the top.

Day Eighteen: January 29, 2013

Today was our first day at the SIRHA conference.

We start the journey by taking the local train (which is jam packed) and then a connecting train to the Expo Center. It is a 40 minute train ride from our hotel, and it is standing room only.

SIRHA is an overwhelmingly large foodservice exhibition.sirha sign

There is an area dedicated to everything coffee, with a barista competition going on, a wine area offering tastings and a winemaker competition, kitchen equipment section that is so huge we get lost in the isles, and the food section is composed of over 300 companies in just one wing.

There are two food wings plus a VIP area offering even more. The isles are lined with showpieces from the week's competitions.

ice

sculpture 2

sculpture 3

We head in to see the Bocuse d'or Competition.

The competition takes two days to give all the countries time to compete and be judged. USA is up tomorrow, but we stay for a couple hours and see what we are up against.

comp arena

As the first fish course is about to be served, they announce the entrance of Chef Paul Bocuse. The crowd rises to their feet and goes crazy as he makes his way to the center judging table.

chefs table

He is flanked on either side by 24 of the best chefs in the world who will help judge the dishes that are about to be presented. One familiar face is Thomas Keller from the French Laundry in California... but there are 26 other judges who compose the most talented and accomplished chefs from around the world. They are ready to judge food from this year's top candidates competing in the Bocuse d'Or.

Fans root for their countries by blasting air horns, noise makers, yelling chants and anthems -- all to show their team that they are behind them. It is an international sporting event like any other.

We stay to see the meat platters come out. They are first paraded past the judges to see how they would be set up for buffet service, then the platters are plated and given to the judges.

meat platter

Around 2:30pm, we meet up with Chef Vid Lutz from Nestle Professional. We join him for an intimate cooking demonstration by Chef Serge Vierira, a two star Michelin Chef who shows us how to prepare some amazingly beautiful and creative dishes using some of the Nestle line of products.

Chef Vierira starts us off with a duck consommé with tapioca pearls, then a quinoa and crab ravioli -- but instead of pasta, he uses an ultra clear gelatin consommé for the wrapper. For the entrée, he wraps braised beef cheek in gele and serves it with a foie gras mousse that is so light it could have floated off the plate.

lab entree

For dessert, Chef Serge creates a white fluffy cloud consisting only of orange syrup and gelatin. It is whipped then frozen and inside a nugget of pistachio ice cream on a cookie wafer with pastry cream.

lab dessert

It was a pleasure to experience such great food prepared in such personal setting in the chef demonstration lab.

For dinner we walked from the hotel next door to Brasserie George's. It is a huge place and is packed with attendees from the conference. We order the chefs menu and start off with a chicken terrine and a berry lentil salad.

lentil salad

chicken terrine

For the next course we receive sausages. A house-made pistachio sausage with celeriac puree and a chitterling sausage with mustard sauce.

pistachio sausage

chittlen sausage

It is good but very filling... especially since we then had the cheese course. And for dessert we had chocolate mousse and this pistachio nouget.

frozen nouget

It was definitly not the best meal we had, but it was what we needed after a full day of walking.

More tomorrow. Au revoir!

Take me back to the top.

Day Seventeen: January 28, 2013

Today starts with a tasting of local wines of the Crozes Hermitage and Rhone Valley Regions. We stayed last night in Tain L' Hermitage which is the center of the great wines of the Rhone.

Hermitage is known for its ability to hold many years in the bottle for aging. The soil here is very unique and varies from hectare to hectare and from one side of the Rhone River to the other. On one side you have the Crozes Hermitage which is the valley region.

crozes hermitage

The hillside wines are known as just Hermitage. Well known wines are Paul Jaboulet and Chapoutier.

paul jaboulet

chapoutier

The soil here is a mixture of river rock and limestone, whereas the opposite side of the river (known as the Saint-Joseph region) is more of a granite and limestone mixture and very different sun exposure which is evident in the wine... even though they are the same grape varietals and made by the same producer.

saint joseph

We stopped in at the tasting caves of Chapoutier, Gilles Bied, and Cave de Tain which is the cooperative of over 300 growers in the area.

cave de tain

After starting our morning with some tasting and some pastries, we follow the Rhone River. The river is as wide as the Mississippi and full to the edge of the banks. Even in winter it is beautiful to see the sycamore and walnut trees that line the streets.

We stop in for breakfast. I need some coffee as most places in town were serving wine and cocktails at 9am - not coffee. We stop in at roadside restaurant and were surprised by a wonderful egg dish. Poached eggs in a rich wine sauce with beans and bacon. A great breakfast with a couple of strong espressos.

eggs bacon beans

After some breakfast, we are ready to see what else the valley has to offer. We stop at the town of Saint-Desirat to take a tour of the Distillery Museum at Jean Gauthier Distillerie. Here they produce wonderful assortment of Eau de Vies - meaning water of life. This is a very strong fruit liquor, 45%+ Cremes and Aperitifs. The museum is interesting, showing the history of the distilling process. After the tour, we got to sample a few of their offerings.

Poire Williams is a very interesting process when displayed with the whole pear in the bottle. The bottles are actually put over the bud of new fruit and the bottle is tied to the tree while the fruit develops in the bottle. Once fully developed the bottles are taken off the tree and filled with brandy. A very strong liquor but quite tasty.

poire williams

poire williams vat

It is getting on in the day, so we keep pressing toward Lyon. After checking in to our hotel, I contact a fellow Colorado Chef, Jean-Luc and his wife Lina. They are also in town for the Bocuse d'Or. We meet at Bistrot des Voraces and are treated to an absolutely wonderful meal. We had appetizers of chicken terrine, smoked shrimp, and foie gras with brioche.

chicken terrine

smoked shrimp

For our entrees. we had sole with braised cabbage and wine sauce, canard with root vegetables, and pig trotters stuffed with foie gras.

sole with cabbage

canard

trotter with fois gras

The service was fantastic, especially since the owner was the only person in the front of the house working 10 tables and the bar. He did everything without showing stress or panic, and he took time to explain and answer questions. Amazing!

After a cheese course of sheep, goat, and local cow milk cheeses, we are ready for dessert. We ordered rum baba, chocolate pear crisp, and a hazelnut cake with house-made ice cream.

baba

chocolate pear crisp

hazelnut

While waiting for our cab, the owner offers a digestif of Poire William. We finish our glass and head back for some rest.

Tomorrow is the competition!!!

Take me back to the top.

Day Sixteen: January 27, 2013

We are heading towards Lyon today, but we are going to take our time and stop off in Les Baux Provence. It is a very small but important region in the production of wine and olive oil.

les baux provence

Crowning the Provence is Les Baux Castle. The site was a limestone quarry in 60 BC. In the 12th century, the carved out mountain side was used to construct a fortress.

les baux

Near the castle, windmills were built for the farmers to use, for a fee, to grind their wheat into flour.

windmill ruin

flour mill

Flour and bread was so central in this time that the bakery was a central part of the castle. The only carving visible is that of the 12th century emblem of the wheat grain placed at the base of the bakery house.

flour emblem

From the farmers who grew the wheat to the mill workers to the bakers, bread was an integral part of the community.

bakery

Have you ever heard the term "Pigeon Holed?" The picture here shows holes carved out of the limestone that was used for inhabitants to house their personal pigeons that could be used either for carrier purposes or for meat.

pigeon hole

No matter what their use, the community benefited from the fertilizer produced for the gardens.

We enjoy exploring the ancient castle then keep on traveling towards Lyon. We decide to stop driving for the day and stay the night in Tain L'Hermitage. This wine region is known for their long aging wines that are grown in the beautiful Rhone Valley. We take a walk across the Rhone River to Tournon and have dinner.

rhone at night

Most of the restaurants we find are closed. During harvest season, the town would be packed, but we are enjoying the off season and quiet streets. We find a restaurant and enjoy some local Crozes Hermitage. I ordered some escargot and a steak with blue cheese sauce, scalloped potatoes, and ratatouille vegetables.

escargot

steak

With a decent meal and a day of travels behind us, we head back to the hotel. It is a rainy walk along the Rhone, but we don't mind the rain.

Until tomorrow...

Take me back to the top.

Day Fifteen: January 26, 2013

We awoke to the sounds of the market going up today. Saturday's market takes up the whole square that is directly below our apartment. From our kitchen window, we can see a colorful array of fresh produce, meats, and fish. This picture was taken from the kitchen window.

market kitchen

I cannot wait to go explore, so I head down to see what we are having for breakfast.

sausage

I buy some fresh baked bread, oranges, pears, figs, pastries, and a fig pork sausage that is delicious. We make breakfast and head off to Monte Carlo.

Monaco is actually a spate principality from France that has been ruled by the same family for over 700 years. It hosts the most expensive real estate in the world and is home to the rich and not so famous... as well as a playground for the famous.

The first casino ever was started in Monte Carlo, the capitol of Monaco. You may remember seeing James Bond playing a game at the tables while ordering his martini. This is the casino he was at. It is illegal for residents of Monaco to gamble here, but non-residents are welcome.

casino

No pictures were allowed inside the casino, but it was more beautiful than any Las Vegas casino could ever be. And it was 100 times more quite. There were no loud bells and whistles, just high class tables and some slots - and a lot of security.

Lining the outside of the casino is the largest car park of 100K plus automobiles I have ever seen. Ferraris, Rolls Royce's, and Jaguars line the street.

monte cars

Across the street is the Hotel Paris. No this is not our rental car.

hotel paris

We go for a walk down to the port which is lined with private yachts -- toys of those who call this city their playground.

yachts

We stop at the port for a light snack of some pizza and an Aranacini.

aranacini

An Aranacini is a saffron-infused rice croquette filled with meat, tomato sauce, peas, and onion.

aranacini 2

We eat our inexpensive snack across the street from the Ferrari dealership.

ferrari dealer

After a walk through the local shops displaying Prada, Gucci, Hermes, and every other brand of the stars you can think of, we head back to the port. A "princely" yacht pulls in adorned with a private helicopter on the back.

heli yacht

In the background is the Palace of the King of Monaco.

palace

When heading out of the city, we come to a stop light on the steepest hill there could ever be. Of course, the light was red. We have a manual car, so I just know that I am going to roll back... if not kill it when the light turns green. Hoping nobody comes behind me, we wait for the light to turn.

From behind comes a brand new Jaguar, and in back of him a gleaming BMW. I am sure a Ferrari was right behind him. The light changes to green, and guess what happens?! Yup, I roll back and kill the engine... coming inches from the Jag. My heart was racing. I motioned for him to back up so I can try it again. Peeling rubber out of Monte Carlo, we hit the highway and head back to Frejus. Whew!! I did not want to find out how good that rental policy was.

Tonight is our last night in the region. We start our journey to Lyon tomorrow.

Take me back to the top.

Day Fourteen: January 25, 2013

What a perfectly nice day in Nice.

nice

We headed out early this morning to make sure we caught the market downtown. Cours Saleya is a huge outdoor market in Nice. Just a block from the Mediterranean Sea, it boasts a colorful array of fresh flowers, seafood, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, and spices - along with so much more.

olives

pate d amande

One vendor is selling eggs which cannot get any fresher.

fresh eggs

There is a lot on the list today of foods to find. We start by stopping in the Gelato Shop and then down the market.

nice gelato

The first stop is at a long row of fruit confits.

confit fruit

Fruits are soaked in sugar syrup for so long they are more like gummies than fruit. But when we bite into one of the mini pears, the seeds are still intact and you can taste the flavor of the fruit.

Our next stop is a Socca vendor.

socca sign

Socca is made of farina and is like a polenta pancake. She has a fire going in the barrel which she stokes and cooks the pancake in the large pan. She cuts strips to order and finishes them with a sprinkle of black pepper.

socca fire

socca wrap

Tourte de blettes are widespread through the market as well. It is a pastry tart filled with Swiss chard and raisins. We would compare this to a rhubarb pie, but not tart and not as sweet.

tourte de blettes

Nice is also known for pissaladieres. These are thin bread crusts which range in style of bread, but are topped with caramelized onion, anchovy paste, and olives.

pissaladieres

After some appetizers at the market, we walk across the street to the sea. Making the mistake of opening up my tourte, we are surrounded by seagulls and pigeons immediately. It was like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's movie, The Birds.

We walk the beach then head to a café for lunch. Lunches here take some planning. Notice the menu with the 24 hour order in advance for bouillabaisses.

bouillabaisses

Also notice the price of 69 euros person... that works out to be about $95 per person. We decide to keep looking.

We could not be in Nice without having a salad nicoise and some ratatouille.

salad nicioise

ratatouille

We enjoy our lunch with a beautiful view of the sea and workers getting ready for Carnival which starts in a week.

view from lunch

After lunch we head to the old fortress on the top of the city which offers a great view of the port and the ruins from the 12th century.

nice 2

Back in the city we pass more markets just opening for the evening. We saw a beautiful spice shop offering local salts and herbs and global spices.

spice shop

It was a long steep walk up to the fortress, so we stopped for a snack. We had some pomme frites and a bami which was like a pad Thai croquette. Interesting.

bami

For something sweet before we headed back to Frejus, we stopped at a cookie and confection shop.

cookies

There was a wide variety of confit fruits, cookies, biscuits, and candies.

suckers

We picked out a few, including a violet cookie.

violet cookie

It has been a great day of gastronomic exploration.

Take me back to the top.

Day Thirteen: January 24, 2013

Yesterday's gray stormy skies are gone, and today is bright blue with warm temperatures. We decide to head for the mountains and explore some small towns on the way to the Grand Canyon du Verdon.

Once we get into the hills, the road becomes very narrow and we seem to be the only car on the road -which is good- because I honestly could not see how two cars could fit through some areas of the road without backing up quite a ways. The forests are beautiful even in the winter. We come to a look out over Lake St-Croix.

lake st croix

We start to drive up the mountain to the Grand Canyon Verdon. After about 5 miles we come to a few icy switchbacks and decide without snow tires or chains we should turn around. We were still able to see part of the Europe's deepest canyon which in areas is up to 2500 ft. in depth and 5350 ft. wide.

grand canyon

Heading north we stop at Moustiers St. Marie.

moustiers st marie

The town is known for its pottery and for the church which lies at the top of the mountain above the town. We tour the pottery shop, receiving a lesson in French history from the owner. She tells us how the introduction of the nightshade family of plants in the 17th century saved the area from starvation. Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant balanced out the heavy diet of meat in the mountain region. History is reflected in all the pottery.

nightshade pottery

Up until the early 1900's, sugar was very hard to come by and was considered "white gold." Sugar beets were not cultivated in France, and imported cane sugar was very expensive. These special sugar vases were used to store the "white gold" and at the end you see how sugar used to be shipped in the cone shape.

sugar vase

The detail in the painting of the pottery is amazing and the lightness in weight tells us that not only is it high quality but that it would never make it back in my luggage.

herb vase

We walk to the church at the top of the town which is one of the most picturesque Notre Dames in France. After the hike we get back into town and stop in at the local butcher for some pate en croute, marinated goat cheese wrapped in ham, quiche, and a rum raisin roll.

lunch

We enjoy our late lunch overlooking the valley and head back down the mountain to Frejus.

I picked up an interesting sausage at the butcher as well. It was just called Pave, which basically means a paving stone used to line the streets. I can tell where it gets its name from the shape but also in the cure. It is a very hard pork sausage mixed with chevre cheese, herbs, and then coated in a thick black pepper crust. Very strong rich flavor... but also good.

pave fromage

We stop in the local bakery once back in Frejus for a fresh loaf of bread and some pastries and then head back for some rest.

Until tomorrow...

Take me back to the top.

Day Twelve: January 23, 2013

We were woken this morning at 4:30am to the sounds of the market going up in the square outside our door. Merchants set up their tents, trucks pulled up to unload boxes, and beautiful arrays of vegetables, fruits, and fresh fish began to take shape.

The other noise going on this morning is lightning. It is hitting all around us, and from our window Eva sees a small bolt hit the metal post holding up the tent to the produce stand. It shakes our single pane windows and lights up the early morning sky. After the rain lets up a bit, we walk out our front door and no more than ten feet away is a beautiful array of goods.

market outside door

There is also a Fish Monger selling an array of local fresh caught seafood.

fish

Snatching up a few items, we retreat back to the apartment out of the lightning and rain. Here is a view of part of the market from our balcony.

market terrace

We head back to Grasse today for a tour of an Olive Oil Press. Sainte Anne is the only stone press left in the Grasse region, and it is over 300 years old.

sainte anne sign

sainte anne

The property produces a variety of oils... one that comes directly from the old press (first picture below) and five other oils that use a modern pressing system (the picture after the old press).

olive press old

olive press modern

The olives that go into the old press must be fully ripe. There can be no green olives or the press will not get the proper paste needed. The new press can take both green and ripe olives and extract the oil.

olives

The olives are crushed, pits and all, for three hours in the old press to make a fine paste. In the new press this time is reduce to 14 minutes. Once the paste has been produced, the paste is placed into a coconut fiber mat.

coconut fiber mat 1

The mats are stacked up, and a hydraulic press is used to squeeze out any liquid. The liquid is a combination of water and oil. A centrifuge is used to extract the oil from the water. The water is used for cleaning purposes, and the oil is then ready for bottling. You can see a bottle of the oil concentration in the picture. It was cold today so the oil was hard.

coconut fiber mat

It takes 5 kilos of olives to produce 1 liter of oil. If the olives are green, it takes 8 kilos to produce 1 liter. The leftover ground pits are used for fertilizing the trees. We are treated to a taste-testing of the six different oils after the process is explained.

The stone wheels were originally driven by a fast moving river right outside the door, but now they are electric. The wheels themselves though have been extracting oil for over 300 years.

After the tour we head to Bellet. Bellet is the smallest AOC wine region in Provence. Chateau de Bellet was the wine chosen for the marriage of the King of Monaco .

bellet region

chateau bellet

The grapes used in producing the wines of this region are unique... Braquet and Fuella Nera primarily. The drive to these vineyards is very steep and winding. A two way, one lane road switchbacks up the hillside to the vineyard which we find closed until 3pm. It is now 1pm. Rather than driving back down the hill, we decide to pull out the playing cards and wait. The manager arrives a little early so we are allowed to taste and pick up a couple bottles for the road and head back to the apartment. On the way, we pass grapefruit trees, oranges, lemons, and even kiwi vines.

kiwi

Once we got back, we cook up some fresh mussels with garlic and lemon and also an artichoke from the market.

mussels

The mussels are so fresh that one had a hitchhiker mini crab. This is Miles.

mini crab

A day would not be complete with trying something from one of the fabulous bakeries. This is bread pudding but baked as a tart with raisins and topped with almonds and sugar.

bread pudding tart

Take me back to the top.

Day Eleven: January 22, 2013

This morning we head out to explore Antibes.

antibes

Founded in the 5th Century BC, the town is filled with great architecture, history, and FOOD! Every time I turn, there is another bakery displaying beautiful cakes, pastries, and torts.

bakery case

bakery case 2

One of the things we try is the Tarte Tropezienne.

tropezienne

This is a buttery light cake with Bavarian Chantilly filling that is found in bakeries throughout the area. After some walking around the side streets, we come across Jean Luc Pele's shop. It stands out from most other shops in the area as it is very modern looking. The wall of chocolate flowing at the entrance draws us in. The shop has a demonstration kitchen in the back and the biggest display of beautiful macaroons I have ever seen.

jean luc pepe

macaroons

pele chocolate cage

pele desserts

We buy a few macaroons and walk the plaza which is full of butchers, store,s and bakeries. This is a piglet Porchata about the size of a half loaf of bread.

porchata

Birds seem to be welcome everywhere. Here is a pigeon perusing the produce.

pigeon produce

After some more exploring and adventurous driving, we head back to Frejus. The whole town is filled with the smell of waffles coming from a stand across the square. We buy a waffle with Nutella and Chantilly and a Grand Marnier Crepe along with a glass of hot Wine Mulled with spices, oranges and some Grand Marnier. We take the sweets back to our terrace to enjoy.

waffle crepe wine

At the local cheese shop we buy a small wheel of Banon Fromage.

cheese display

Banon Fromage is a traditional goat cheese of the area that is dipped in Eau de vie then wrapped in chestnut leaves. It is a soft cheese similar in texture to an aged Brie but smoother.

banon fromage

With cheese in hand and a loaf of good bread we head back and call it a day.

Take me back to the top.

Day Ten: January 21, 2013

Our first full day in France is spent not traveling. We leave the car where it is and spend the day exploring Frejus. A walk around the old town area starts the morning. Our apartment overlooks the town square. We are on the top floor to the left with the blue shutters and terrace.

apartment

There are many places to choose from to have lunch, but we decide on Le Jardin de Jules... which we are very glad we did. It is next door to our place - you can see it to the right in the picture above.

The owners both worked in Michelin star restaurants and one for Gordon Ramsey. The food to come was evidence of the chefs training and skills. We ordered the three course lunch and sat on the patio overlooking the square. Eva and I ordered different things so we could try everything. The menu is Price Fix so it is written daily on chalk boards and you choose from two starters, three entrees, and two desserts.

Ours meal starts off with a phylo wrapped goat cheese salad and scallops en croute. The salad that accompanied both used wine poached pears, peppers, and a dressing that had a caramel apple butter flavor and texture that drew all the flavors together perfectly.

chevre salad

scallops en croute

For entrees, we had a pork shank that was perfectly braised and glazed with a hint of maple and fish with a tarragon cream sauce. Both were accompanied by scalloped sweet potatoes, a chicken liver and cheese soufflé, and vegetables.

fish tarragon

pork shank

For dessert, we had apple tart and praline ice cream.

apple tart

praline ice cream

The owner came out, and we talked to him for a while. They are a new restaurant only open for a few months and are renovating this year in August. If today's lunch was an indication of what is to come, they are sure to be a success.

We walked off lunch and looked for the post office and a grocery. On the way to the grocery, we passed remains of the Roman Aqueducts.

aquaduct

They once extended almost 50 kilometers inland. Frejus is littered with Roman ruins. On the edge of the old town, they were doing construction for a new apartment building. When they started digging, they came upon more foundations from the 1st century.

With groceries in hand, we head back to relax and cook up some dinner. These green beans were so crisp and fresh... like sweet peas.

green beans

I made some scalloped potatoes with herb de provence and crème fraiche, green beans with porchata, and a duck breast with some fig and black walnut preserves from Perigod.

canard

First dinner in France... and we are looking forward to all that follow in the week to come.

Take me back to the top.

Day Nine: January 20, 2013

Today was a busy day of trains, automobiles, and buses. We stayed the night across the street from the Milan Centrale Train Station. At 5am we walked our luggage across the street to the terminal. Eva stayed there while I went to return the rental car to the airport. The GPS system, Tom, was not very helpful this morning, as it guided me to exits that were closed for construction and then started taking me away from the airport... when I finally found it. I think it was mad at me because I never listened to it. Eventually I found my way, returned the car, and caught a public bus back to the train station.

milano centrale

After a four-hour train ride to Ventimiglia, we hurried to our connecting train that is was taking us to Nice. We barely made it and had to jam the doors open to get our luggage on. The train ride to Nice was beautiful as it passed along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco, and ripe orange and lemon trees.

view from the train

An hour latter we arrived in Nice. Once we arrived, we took the bus to the airport and rented our car for France. After a half an hour drive, we arrived in Frejus to meet our host Les who showed us around the apartment and the town we will be staying for the next week. We are staying in old central Frejus - a port town built by Caesar in the first Century. Being an ancient town, there is no parking near town square. Les was very helpful in getting our bags through the back streets and up the steep stairs to the apartment. Thankfully, we do not have to move them again until Sunday morning.

After settling for a few minutes, we walked to the local bakery and picked up a loaf of fantastic bread, some pastries, and a bottle of wine. Eva made a fantastic dinner of Gnocchi Bolognese, bread, salami, and Parmagiani Reggiano we brought with us from Italy.

eva's dinner

It was a very busy and exhausting day of travels, but we are looking forward to the time ahead tomorrow to explore this beautiful town.

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