Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Wharf of Chartrons Book Review and Giveaway

Book Synopsis

A family linked by wine and old rivalries sets out for new territory, during the turmoil of World War I. David and Gaspard are cousins, bonded by family and their allegiance to their winemaking heritage. Parting with tradition and moving their vineyards near Bordeaux threatens to upset the family peace, but that’s only the beginning of their trouble. Short on funds, they are forced to team with a wealthy but morally corrupt engineer—though perhaps at a cost too high for the cousins.  Despite the odds, David and Gaspard succeed in making a successful wine, Clos-Marzacq.  Along the way, they each fall in love, though not always in the best of circumstances. And now, to cement their successes, the cousins need to secure a stronghold on the Wharf of Chartrons, seen as the gateway to selling in England and America


I would never describe myself as an oenophile just a francophile, but I always seem to enjoy books that center around vineyards, winemaking and wine.  Having had spent some time in the Bordeaux region I really enjoyed this book.  I felt that I could identify with the content of the book.  

The book was originally written in French.  I must confess I am not a fan of translated books.  I throughout that the translation was good and while there were a few occasions were the wording was a little odd it did not detract from the story line.  

David and Gaspard are cousins that leave their family homes for Bordeaux to plant their own vineyard.  While they are young and ambitious the two cousins seek their own place in the wine industry.  David is content to work the land and be connected with the soil, while Gaspard is introduced to high society and the world of political connections.  Their love for wine is a result of their grandfather's passion.  

I enjoyed the story of how the young men develop their vineyard  and set out to break into the tightly knit wine society in Bordeaux.  The book also offered insight into France's wine industry and how the war impacted wine growers.  

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely,  Author Jean-Paul Malaval wrote a book that will transpose you back to a different era.  The Wharf of Chartrons is a continuation of The Winegrowers of Chantegrele a book that I am going to seek out.  

Jean-Paul Malaval was a journalist before turning to a career as a writer of local photography books and later fiction.  In 1982, he began what would become a long-term relationship with the publishing house Éditions Milan, in Toulouse.  To date, Jean-Paul Malaval has written ten works of historical fiction, mainly based in the region where he grew up, the Corrèze, which is near the Dordogne. Five of his ten novels have been published by Presses de la Cité.  He is loyal to his home region and has been mayor of the town of Vars-sur-Roseix in Corrèze since 1995.


This giveaway is open internationally, one print book for someone in the U.S. and on ebook for someone anywhere else in the world.   Thanks so much to France Book Tours for organizing this great tour.  To enter the giveaway go here.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parasailing in Chamonix France

 A number of years ago, I spent some time in Chamonix.  Before I arrived I knew that I wanted to parasail in the alps.  You have to understand, I am very cautious.  I would never sky dive-the risk seems too grave.  Who jumps out of planes.  Parasailing, it seemed perfectly sane and reasonable to me.  My husband, hates heights.  He never thought that I would go through with it.
 So of course he agreed to go.  He assumed that one the way up the gondola I would chicken out and he would not have to go through with it.  I am not sure at what point he realized that I was serious and not even considering chickening out.
 The scenery in the French alps is just breathtaking.  The alps are gorgeous.  We were fortunate to have had a lovely summer day.  The skies were clear and blue.
 How did I enjoy parasailing?  I loved it.  Running of the cliff like a lemming was a little strange.  I am not one to run off a cliff.  My husband laughed and said that my guide just shoulder checked me off the cliff.

 When you are in the air with your guide, he gave me a great overview of the land.  He also explained to me that we would find thermal pockets and could continue to stay afloat instead of descending.  For me this was all I needed to hear.  While my husband descended as quickly as possible, I stayed up as long as possible.

My other memory of Chamonix...this amazing strawberry mousse that was as light as air.

This is my contribution to Dreaming of France, hosted by Paulita at An Accidental Blog.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Iles St. Louis

 Iles St. Louis in Paris is one of two natural islands in Paris.  It was one of my favourite areas to stroll; although the island has become very commercial over the last decade.  The property here is considered to be some of the most exclusive in Paris.  Both sides of the island have lovely views of the Seine.  Located in the 4th arrondissement it is an easy stroll to Notre Dame and the Marais.  I have stayed here many times, both in hotels and in apartments.

   The last apartment I stayed at overlooked the Seine.  I would take my dinner and sit on the banks of the Seine with it.

 During the summer months there is always a hubbub of activity on the island, especially on the bridge.  On any given afternoon you will find musicians and entertainers.

Given that the island is home to Berthillion ice-cream this is the perfect place to stroll over to on a summer evening for a scoop.  Yes, the French only get one scoop.  The option is there for two or three scoops, but you rarely see the French indulging in more than one.  There is no real need.  Their ice-cream and sorbets are delicious.  Most of them are fruit based, think passion fruit and mango, coconut and my favourite in the winter is prune armangac.

There are also some clothing stores, a fromagerie, patissier, a grocer, some galleries, restaurants, a church, a laundromat,  post office and unfortunately an increasing number of tourist shops.

Should you find yourself in Paris, stroll over to the island you will be pleasantly surprised.

This is my contribution to Dreaming of France hosted by Paulita at An Accidental Blog.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Idiot's Guide to The Mediterranean Diet


The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded as one of the healthiest diets in the world thanks to its ability to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, assist in weight loss and boost the intake of key nutrients.
Implementing the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle in your own home has never been easier, thanks to the debut cookbook from Denise Hazime (creator of and recently-named Hidden Valley Sandwich Superstar), Idiot’s Guides: The Mediterranean Diet Co ok book. Perfect for beginner cooks or kitchen veterans, Idiot’s Guides: The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook includes:
  • Recipes for every meal of the day, from healthy breakfasts to satisfying desserts
  • A look at the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
  • A glossary of terms
  • Pointers on stocking your kitchen with good-for-you ingredients
  • Information on components of the Mediterranean lifestyle, including reducing stress and increasing exercise
  • Advice on adopting the Mediterranean lifestyle as your own

With delicious Mediterranean recipes such as Traditional Hummus, Tabbouleh, Chicken Shawarma, Baba Ganoush and Baklava, Idiot’s Guides: The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook is sure to become an invaluable resource in your kitchen

MY REVIEW:  I must confess that I received this book in late May and it has sent next to my bed for a number of weeks.  Thankfully Stephanie Swope from WIlks Communications emailed me to ask if I had had a chance to review the book.  I told her the truth that grieving and reviewing just did not seem to go hand in hand.  But really maybe they should.  

I love Mediterranean food.  The food is flavorful and healthy.  On the day that I decided to reenter my kitchen and actually cook I grabbed the book and read through it before deciding what to make.  There are so many great recipes to choose from.  Given that my husband is also from the Mediterranean region and his mum is a wonderful cook I was familiar with many of the dishes.  When you think Mediterranean I want you to think Greek, Lebanese, Syrian.  Do not think Italian.  There are a few pasta dishes but not the traditional ones you would think of.    The recipes are laden with eggplant and tomatoes and other delicious vegetables.  I want you to start dreaming of hummus and tabouli,  green beans and okra cooked in tomato sauce.  Yes, I must confess I do dream of food.  

I am fortunate as I am petite.  My mum was petite and she not only dreamed she indulged in food.  As much as I love meat I can eat vegetarian some nights.  To me there is nothing better than a creative dish with vegetables.  

The recipes presented are varied, diverse and interesting.  I am sure there is something for everyone and even for someone who is not familiar with the food I am sure they could find a recipe that interests me.  I did find a few recipes that have been "Americanized" such as the chocolate peanut baklava-baklava is never made with chocolate.  That recipe I found a little entertaining in that the book discusses the health benefit of eating according to the Mediterranean diet and yet includes a recipe like this-also peanuts are never use-walnuts and pistachios are the nut of choice.  Next to this are traditional recipes such as yogurt cake and date cake along with date balls.  

The book has a wonderful choice of salads, meat dishes, seafood dishes and maybe my favourite dips and spreads.  I could eat hummus and tapenades all day if I was allowed.  The recipes are easy to follow, however I do wish that there was some photography in the book.  

I found the recipes in the book to be authentic and true to their roots. I made kibbe which is one of my favourite dishes.  My mother-in law makes it for me all the time.  

(Photo taken from the internet)  Sorry I would have my own photo but for my husband diving in and devouring my kibbe.  Kibbe can be made in one of two ways, in a pan or in balls and then boiled on the stove top.  I traditionally have them boiled so I decided to try the variation of baking them in the pan.  They were delicious.  My husband was very impressed with them.    At some point I had to ground my husband -he ate more than 3/4 of the dish and I really wanted some more.  No more kibbe for you I told him.  

Given that Mediterranean cooking is rather rustic this book can be followed by everyone.  The recipes are easy to follow and would appeal to all regardless of their cooking ability.  Most of the dishes have little healthy tips or comments which are helpful.  I really think that everyone would enjoy this book.  The book is part cookbook and part healthy suggestions.  If one can eat healthy and enjoy it all the better.  For me, I know this is a book that will get pulled down from my shelves often.

This is my contribution to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais Book Review

Richard Morais' book The Hundred Foot Journey is a culinary feast that will have you sampling the lives of families, dreams and my favorite topic, food. To truly appreciate the nuances of the book one probably needs to be somewhat of a gastronome with an understanding of the history and culture of food in France. 

How did I hear about this book? I had the pleasure of meeting the author at the BBC reception in NYC in 2010 . Morais is a former editor for Forbes magazine. He resided in London and is now back in the US.  

Why did I decide to read it? The author did a great job of self promoting his book-although this was not a hard sell for me. I knew it was about an Indian family and food. ( I cannot remember if I knew that they would go to France-just saying food, India and France would be enough for me). PS. I am a shallow cover reader and I really like the cover of this book.  I really enjoyed speaking with Mr. Morais.  He is the type of stranger that I could talk to for hours.  Ok, I can talk to anyone for hours and often wonder who are these people that I have nothing to say to. 

Morais tells the story of the Haji family. The title of the book, The Hundred Foot Journey is symbolic of the Haji's acceptance into the community and the Hassan's journey. From a small food stand in India, the family finds their calling and success in life. As often happens in life, circumstances takes the family from the warmth and hospitality of India, to the dampness of England. While on a road trip on the continent the family settles into a little village, Lumierie nestled in the French countryside complete with cobblestone streets and a daily market. 

The Hundred Foot Journey tells the story of the Haji family, life as migrants and the story of the French's relationship with food. Throughout the book, Morais shares the intimacy that the French have with their food. Morais makes reference to the bible of French cooking, The Escoffier, the treasured Michelin ratings, France's 35 hour work week and the dreaded Vat. It was these small truffles that Morais has inserted into the book that made it truly special for me. I am not sure if the average reader who is not familiar with the French food culture would appreciate these little details.

I found it interesting that he had the Haji's settling in France England would have been more obvious. I am not sure if I have ever seen an Indian restaurant in France. Morais was able to both characterize the differences between the two cultures and have demonstrate their clashing through his three main characters, the patriarch of the family, his son and Mrs. Mallory the spinster French chef. 

Was there anything I did not like-200 pages into the book there was some unnecessary adult language-why he chose the English words I do not know, there may be the French equivalent-cannot say as my knowlege of French slang is lacking.

I do wish he had included some recipes.  That would have made the book perfect.

The movie debuts today and while I do not have a date set to see it, it is on my list. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

France's Shades of Purple

 I love lilacs.  In the springtime you see plenty of lilacs at the market.
 There is always fresh garlic (ailes in French)
 The French love their flowers.
 You will find flowers on their window displays.  The clothes from this store are quite fun.  I always pop in to see what they have.
 Love love love the colour of this house on Belle Isle.  I am a huge fan of shutters.
Even the tourists are wearing purple in the Jardin Tuilleries.

This is my contribution to Dreaming of France hosted by Paulita at An Accidental Blog.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ruby Violets Ice Cream Dreams by Julie Fisher book review

Ruby Violet's Ice Cream Dreams is like a step back in time.  Everything about the book seems so romantic and British.  Who is Ruby Violet?  Ruby Violet was author Julie Fisher's maternal grandmother who was born on the first day of spring 1906 when King Edward V11 was on the throne.  Author Fisher or should I say icreamstress quit her job as a photographer to sell ice-cream.  Not just ice-cream but ice-cream out of a food truck.  This is not the truck that usually comes through your neighborhood.  All her ice cream is made without artificial additives or preservatives.

I must say it all looks delicious to me.  She believes in seasonable fruits so that she can make the ice cream fresh each day.  It is probably a good thing that her shop is in England.  I think I would be there every day.

In her book, Fisher teaches one how to make ice cream.  There are two basic recipes-the sweetened ice cream mix and the unsweetened ice cream mix.  I must confess that I have not done a spreadsheet to see when you would use the sweetened vs the unsweetened recipe.  Making ice cream is relatively easy.  You make your mix and then your ice cream needs to churn and freeze.  I have two ice cream makers, the old fashioned kind that uses salt and a cuisinart.  With the cuisinart one must also think in advance they want to make ice cream and place it in the freezer.  

I am not sure if I would make each of the ice creams in the book as some of them are too odd for me. Horseradish ice-cream is not for me .  However licorice and blackcurrent ripple sounds interesting.  White chocolate with toasted coconut has my attention.  She definitely has some interesting pairings.  
Should you want to turn the ice cream into a show stopper there is a recipe for baked alaska and ice cream bombs.  There are recipes for wafers and sauces that all sound so enticing.  If you have the time visit Fisher's website the photos and events are lovely.  I may just have to fly over to London to learn how to make baked Alaska.  

Thank you to Rizzoli for providing me with a copy of the book.

This is my contribution to weekend cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.  
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