Friday, December 31, 2010

Merci 2010

To celebrate the ringing in of the new year I thought I'd compile a list of my own--my list of funny, weird, stupid and happy moments. 2011?  How did we get here?

Packing up the family and finally moving to France after the 5+ years of planning. I still remember sitting in our little cantaloupe colored office in Austin looking at jobs in the South of France...

Being told off by the French neighbor in our hotel in Lyon after our very first night in France. My kids are apparently 'unbelievably loud, like nothing he'd seen in all his travels through England'. Whew, he thought we were English.

The freak March snow that thrilled the kids and stranded us up on top of the hill in the beautiful village of Sommieres.

Not realizing that stores are all closed on Sundays with the exception of a small few that are open in the mornings. And yes, matin is morning, not afternoon and ouverture non-stop means they're open through lunch and nothing more. I've learned some French and then some people.

I filled up the rental car's diesel tank with gas. You know all about it.

We have a tiny, postage stamp swimming pool but the kids don't mind. Neither do Canadians.

Summer here is bliss. The perfect temperature for my once pasty-white Ireland skin and Texas heart.

Paillotes are these amazing bar and restaurant structures built right on the beach where you can spend an afternoon sipping cool drinks and eating food while baring your boobies on the beach.

I tried and failed at six weeks of home school while we looked for our permanent house.

All three kids, esp the big ones, soared in all French school and I can't begin to tell you how happy this has made me.

French is a beautiful, complex and wonderfully frustrating language.

My kids are learning it faster than me.

I really don't like escargots. But I do like wine...even from a box.

I've made some fantastic cyber-friends thanks to this blog and knowing them and that they're here doing all this too makes me feel less alone.

I've watched as my dark blonde, fish-belly white trio turned a burnished gold with hair the color of  farine
I made boeuf bourguignon, oeufs mollet en croute, foie gras canapes and a cheese souffle

I have talked to the postman, electrician, chimney sweep, appliance salesman, van rental, pool cleaner, estate agent, principal, kids' teachers, insurance agent, dentist, doctor, gas attendant, tow truck driver and mechanic, tennis instructor, football coach, horse riding instructor, pizza guy, car dealership and restaurant staff in French.

I enjoy cooking here even more than I usually do....maybe it has something to do with the wine.

I love having friends and family visit more than you can ever know. Thanks Mom, Denice, Abby and Annabel.

It's strange to think of a place where I can speak English just right out to everyone. It's like my whole life before this was spent in a dream of ease and understanding.

I met my guardian angel in the form of a group of French Muslim women in the Ikea parking garage. 

And finally, I'm thankful to all of you who still read this and who encourage me with your comments, kindness and support.

What's on your list?
I wish you all the best in the coming year and a heart full of wonderful memories of 2010.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For the Birds

To be honest I am quite tired of eating birds. All varieties and in their many guises; thick slices of their fattened livers served on toasted fig bread, shredded and spread on white American bread, stuffed with more bird parts and mystery berries and simply roasted. I honestly never thought I'd eat so much bird. I'm not a huge fan of the turkey anyway and roast chickens are a weekday meal. Me, I much prefer the ham.
Oh, ham where have you gone? I'd give a hundred blocks of foie gras for one good spiral cut honey-baked ham right now. I tried to make my own but all I could find was a shank of pork (jarret de porc) which I had to google translate in the grocery store to figure out what it was. It looked kinda like a ham in that it had a bone in the middle and a big cover of fat perfect for scoring and studding with cloves. I bought one to practice with and got sidetracked by a recipe for pork shank with lentils. It was delicious but not really 'hammy'. I'll post the recipe here for you soon. I pushed my doubts aside, bought another one and decided to follow a recipe that recommended brining the pork shank and then roasting with a glaze to serve alongside the duckling for the Christmas meal.
I let it sit in salty, brown sugary water for 24 hours, roasted it, basting with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar glaze every 20 minutes. And it still wasn't the real deal. Instead of being hammy pink it was dull brown. More like a pork tenderloin that had been soaked in water than a ham. All that brine and baste action turned out to be a waste of time.
Can someone please send  me an idea on where to find a proper cut of ham? I will cook that bad boy in Cherry Coke in no time flat and be in hog heaven.

 Because of this culinary disappointment and longing for familiar foods I've been dissatisfied food-wise lately. I know I'm surrounded by all this genius, gastronomic beauty and tastebud tingling perfection and that's wonderful. Fine and good; a discovery and enjoyment all its own. But I've been looking for something I know. Tastes from home and not the junk food that we all make fun of either. The real things you can only find regionally like Christmas tamales, homemade with love and celebration in Mexican-American kitchens, bbq brisket with tangy sauce poured over it and served with warm potato salad and coleslaw from The Salt Lick, and yes,of course, ham; a big one. Along with cranberries, pecans, cornbread, cheddar cheese, jalapeno peppers, bagels, evaporated milk for baking, Karo syrup and pumpkin all nice and handy from a can.

 It was with these cravings and the need to redeem my sad excuse for Christmas ham that I decided to make a brisket. And so began my search. I googled translation for brisket to French and found that yes, it is a cut here and it's called poitrine de boeuf. On a side note, did you know that bacon as we know it is also called poitrine?  So far so good. I went to the butcher, they were closed. I went to one grocery store and all they had was what looked like beef short ribs. I went to another, bigger grocery store with a butcher counter (it was closed) and had a look through their meat section ignoring the cheval. I was rewarded with a pack of meat called 'poitrine de boeuf a pot au feu'. It was a selection of one piece of smallish brisket looking meat and two big chunks that had bones and were some kind of shank. Again with the shank.
So, I bought the pack and went home to slow cook my faux brisket.
I knew I couldn't do it Texas bbq style because Liquid Smoke does not exist here and really it's a bit scary in a way isn't it? Leave that to the professionals with smoke pits for the authentic hit of pungent, woody flavor.
My goal was simply to make a slow-cooked, well-seasoned beef stew of sorts. A balm for all this rich, fatty bird spiked with fruit and booze we've been eating. And this is what it evolved into. Pot au feu a l'Americaine, if you will. Meat with carrots, onions, celery and bay leaves cooked for 4 hours with a bit of red wine and tomato paste. It was good. The family loved it and it was nice to have something homey to sop up the white thick-cut bread that you can find here.
And if this makes you think that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food then you'd be correct. We've got to eat. It should be delicious, satisfying and scratch the itch of craving if at all possible.
My ham bone is itching something fierce.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bubble Remains Intact, For Now

As we prepare for another Christmas morning it makes me think of Christmases past. For one thing, the belief in the Big Guy is still strong in spite of nonbelievers aplenty at French school. Ma Fille  and the Middlest have come home wondering why they don't believe here. While the Middlest lets it sail right by him it seems like ma Fille is believing even harder just to make it so. Plus we have the Baby to think of; at two we've many more years of magic to keep alive.

One year in Ireland we went to visit Santa Claus at a Christmas festival. The big kids were much younger then but had come to terms with the fact that Santa uses a lot of helpers for things such as this....he can't be expected to be at all those malls, fairs and festivals himself. Not when there's so much work to be done. Our particular Santa that day was a jovial, sparkly eyed Irishman with a genuine white beard who played his part well. He seemed to truly enjoy being Mr O'Nick and was a far cry from some of the bargain basement Santas you'll find around; the ones who smoke on their break, banging the soles of their black boots together as they shuffle to keep off the chill and itching under their synthetic beards. This Santa was decreed to be The One and the deciding factor was that his breath smelled like hot chocolate. How can we not believe when we've actually met him?!
We've another year with all three children feeling the magic of Santa's visit, the crackle of anticipation and excitement that can only be found in a child's imagination still charges through our house, intact and sizzling; for now at least.

I wrote the following post last year in Ireland and it is even more true now so I thought I'd repost it for you this year.
I hope your holiday is full of love, kindness, excitement and joy. No matter how you celebrate it. All the best from me to you.

This year was the biggest year for Santa in our house. It is as if the 7 almost 8 year old believes even more fervently than ever before in order to keep it true. Of course the kids talk in the yard. They ask questions, wondering: how could a bike really fit through the chimney….and how does the alarm not go off when Santa creeps in….and why does my guitar say, 'made in China'?

To all of these questions we answer, it's magic. And Santa has elves in China. I was kicking myself for not taking off that little gold sticker! The magic part is real to me. Only if you believe will Santa come to see you. I even believe in him when I am sneaking upstairs holding my breath, to retrieve the hidden crocodile in my closet. It is Santa's magic that keeps them asleep, keeps them from hearing the Elmo cry out, "Elmo needs a hug!" and muffles the deafening sound of that horrible thick plastic they like to ensconce toys in these days.

So, they believe because we believe and none of us want this beautiful bubble of childhood to burst.

At the park on the Sunday then, you can imagine my horror as a woman we were talking to wielded a sharp bubble bursting pin. She didn't mean to, but her comments made me want to grab Ma Fille by the arm and start running, singing la,la,la,la,laaaaa at the top of my lungs to distract her. Of course that would have been silly so instead I screwed up my eyes at the lady then opened them wide, then gave her a creepy smile and a subtle jerk of the head in my innocent daughter's direction.

The whole thing was simply a misunderstanding. The lady in question is from Slovakia and what I didn't know but found out on Sunday, is that in Slovakia they believe that Jesus himself delivers the toys to children on Christmas Eve. She was telling us this interesting bit of anthropological trivia, never thinking that it could call into question our Santa belief. After my bizarre motioning and grimacing she realized and started backtracking.

"Different places believe different things but Santa still brings our Christmas presents." And that was that--bubble intact, floating along iridescent and pure—for at least another year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seasonal Sunday--Clementines with Dates & Sugared, Spiced Marscapone

It's raining and very cold and grey today in the South of France. If it were a few degrees colder we'd be watching snow fall but to the childrens' great displeasure all the snow is in other parts of France.
What I need is a bit of sunshine and since it's not coming from the sky I've decided to make my own with one of my favorite Christmas treats; clementines with dates and sugared, spiced marscapone cheese. I adapted this from a Martha Stewart Living recipe card years ago. It's Christmas in your mouth. Droplets of sweet sunshine.

Clementines, Dates & Sugared, Spiced Marscapone
6-8 clementines
a dozen or so pitted dates
1 container Italian marscapone cheese
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 c. or 75g powdered sugar/confectioner's sugar (mostly to taste and stiffness)

optional: you can add splash of pure vanilla extract or make it grown-up with a bit of brandy

This is really easy because it's only mixing the sugar with the marscapone cheese to the sweetness you like and until it's stiff enough to plop into the hollowed-out dates or scoop up with clementine segments. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla or brandy if you like and mix well.
The hardest part is pitting the dates because it gets really sticky. My kids love to help with this part.
Peel and section clementines.

You can serve this already assembled with a dollop of marscapone inside a hollowed out date with a crown of clementine or make it easy on yourself and leave the assembly for the table. If you do this, simply arrange the clementine segments on a platter with the sweetened, spiced marscapone in the middle and the dates opened or halved all around.

ps I served this for M&Mme Bons Amis last weekend after a lunch of  lasagna and they loved it. It's very light and bright and unexpectedly lovely in its simplicity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rudolph. The Red-Nosed. Reindeer.

This was done when Ma Fille was two. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Great White

My car is something special. Not only is it over ten years old but we brought it over from Ireland so it has Irish plates and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side. That would be enough, right?  But there's more.

It is  a Toyota and originally from Japan. I know what you're thinking, 'of course it's from Japan, it's a Toyota.' But I mean it was driven in Japan. Did you know they drive on the right-hand side too? I had to go back and look at Lost in Translation again to confirm. When we first bought it from American friends in Dublin we would find receipts in Japanese for huge amounts of Yen. This means our great white, psychedelic blue interior Toyota was driven in Japan and then sent over to Ireland on a boat where an Irish person bought and drove it, sold it to Americans who in turn sold it to us.

And now She lives in the South of France. Not bad for a 7-seater born in Japan in 1997.

We have driven Great White to every corner of the Green Isle and back; loaded her down with all our possessions we didn't pack for shipping and brought her to France. She spent the morning on a ferry from Ireland to Wales, drove us across Wales and England to spend a night on the ferry to France and then made it across this Texas-sized country like a champ. How could I not love this car? Warts and all.

It does bug me a bit that she's such a head-turner here. I'm marked out as a foreigner even without opening my mouth. I can't even drive around unnoticed, pretending I'm just as much of a Frenchie as the next person. But it's hilarious to watch people take it all in. They do a double take. Look, pause, look again. Sometimes even stopping dead in their tracks to inspect the plates and then nod, 'Ah, Irlande.'
This is especially true when ma Fille is sitting in the front passenger seat. It's like when I first moved to Ireland and would freak out when the person in the passenger seat was reading the newspaper or happened to be a dog. "What?! Who's driving that car?!", I would think for the split second it took my brain to remember. Imagine when the Frenchies see a little girl in the driver's seat. It makes me laugh to watch their expressions and subsequent realizations.

Toll booths, parking garages, drive-thrus and gas stations are fun too. If I don't have a child with me to reach out and handle the ticket getting and bill paying then I have to put it in park, unbuckle and streeetch over. The other day as I did this to pay for gas the attendant smiled and asked, 'Where is your car from?' 'Ireland.', I answered.'Oh, are you Irish?', he asked. 'Ma voiture est Irlandaise mais je ne suis pas.'
Really the old girl is Japanese. But I didn't want to confuse things.

She's not sexy but she turns heads. And she's gotten us where we were meant to go. Long may she last. I hope the squirrels or sewing machine or whatever it is in there that keeps her moving along doesn't give up on us anytime soon.
Cheers to you Great White, the best dang car on four wheels, so y'are.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big Texas-Sized Love

What is the point of worry? Does it help us to deal with sad and difficult things? Does it allow us to process each detail so we can feel better equipped to handle the worst outcome? Or does it just spin our brains into cyclical negative spirals?

I ask this because I've thought a lot about it this week. When you're far from home and something big happens to someone in your family it's difficult to be so far away. Not that my being in France and not Texas has any effect on what's happening there...that's a selfish emotion. Being far away when something is happening doesn't mean you would have been able to be any closer to the situation if you were actually geographically closer. I feel close to it from way over here and so I have two choices. This is the crux of what I've been thinking. I can worry and think of all the bad things that could happen. Or I can send love, strength and hope through positive non-worry thoughts.

In my past experience as a hard-core worrier I've found that it really doesn't help in dealing with troubling things nor does it prepare you if the worst happens. It only makes you sad and nervous and in turn send out all that negative toward the person or thing you're worrying over. And if things go south all that worry doesn't make it any easier in the light of harsh reality. Save your energy for the off chance of a downturn.

I've also found that things usually turn out better than I expected. The moves my family has made abroad have taught me this. Living in France, learning the language, putting the kids in French school, finding a house, blah, blah, blah. None of it worth worrying over. It's all worked out.
I firmly believe that I personally have wasted way too much energy on negative worry. And with this realization, France helped, I have given it up. I've gone cold turkey on worrying. And I've found that believing the best rather than worrying about the worst makes a difference; in how I feel, how I behave, even in the outcome of things in my life.
It's with these thoughts in mind that I send love, hope and strength to my family in Texas. I ask those of you who read this to do the same. There's power there.

I promise tomorrow I'll post something light and more like's going to be about our car--20 years old, Irish plates and right-hand drive. Quite an attention getter. Stay tuned.
And thanks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seasonal Sunday--Endive, Leek & Potato Soup

endives, leek and potatoes
I love endive. In my opinion it's a much neglected vegetable. Sleek, crunchy and the loveliest shades of green. You've probably eaten it in salads, especially those that come pre-washed in bags, and you might not have even noticed it. It's fantastic with bleu cheese and pears, shavings of parmesan and olive oil and as a healthy alternative to chips and crackers as a dip scooper.
I decided to cook it in a soup for two reasons: 1) Nigella has a great recipe for braised baby gem lettuces that we love in our family so it's not weird to cook lettuce and 2) I have a seasonal French cookbook that features endive braised in butter and cream. Not much of a stretch then to cook it with potatoes and leeks for a warm, thick winter soup.
aren't they pretty?
time for the stock
We had it for lunch today with drops of soft chevre and baguette alongside salt & pepper duck breasts and sauteed haricots verts.

Endive, Leek & Potato Soup

olive oil, drizzle
nob or 1 tblsp butter
2 heads endive, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 large leek, white and light green parts, coarsely chopped
3-4 medium potatoes
chicken or vegetable stock, enough to cover vegetables
salt and pepper to taste
soft goat cheese and fresh baguette to serve

Wash the leek carefully. Leeks are terrible for hiding dirt. I cut them lengthwise and spread apart the layers under running water and then coarsely chop and rinse under water in a sieve.
Wash and chop endive.
Peel potatoes and cube.

Warm olive oil and melt butter in a soup pot. Add washed and chopped leeks and endive. Let cook for a few minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add potatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Then add enough chicken stock to cover vegetables and bring to a slight simmer. Stir occasionally and when potatoes feel soft, turn down heat and season with salt and pepper. You can leave it covered and on low heat like this for as long as you like. When you're ready to eat puree a bit with your trusty hand-held blitzer. I like to leave a few chunky bits of potato for texture but as you like.
bon apetit!
 Serve with drops of soft, creamy goat cheese.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Butterfly Emerges.....she's a papillon

Did you know that in French public school they take your kids swimming as part of the curriculum? I didn't either. And it's wonderful. They spend a semester going once a week and learning the basics. For free. One more thing to recommend school here as far as I'm concerned.

All they ask is that parents sign up to come along on the bus, help the kids change, and maintain some order to and fro. Yesterday was my day to chaperone Ma Fille's class.
As with all of these school functions and volunteering, the kids giggle when I speak French, ask me their two favorite questions in English, 'whot ees yourh nahme?' and 'how h'old arhe yoooh?' and stare, stare, stare. And in each case my kids are a strange combination of proud and embarrassed.

As I have just been randomly asked 'not to ever dance in front of my friends', as if she's got some big dance party planned and is afraid I'm going to start shaking it and doing my signature move--thumbs up, moving across and alternating sides, hips shifting with the thumbs (it's something very special)--I felt maybe the embarrassed might be inching up on the proud and I'd better be on my best behavior.

I was mostly quiet. Speaking only when spoken to, 'My name is Aidan.' 'I am 3* years old.' Tee hee, giggle, stare.

The best part was watching my lovely fille. She was giggling, holding hands and speaking French. The entire time. Even to me. This is the girl who used to say, 'Je suis timide' and refuse to talk. Now she's in on the jokes. Looking out from sparkling eyes, saying things I can't even understand and fitting right in. I cannot tell you how proud and happy it makes me feel to see this happening. I was told it would. And I hoped and believed and now it's coming true. If there was any one thing I was most 'inquiet' about before moving here it was the kids being in French school. I can whole-heartedly say that everyone was right. And like most worries, it was unfounded.
As I sat on that bus, rumbling back to the school, my heart nearly burst with joy for her. She didn't cling to me or want me to sit with her, 'sit behind me mommy'. But it wasn't like she didn't want me there either. She was happy for me to see. To know who she is out there in the French world without me and how well she's doing.

Is there anything we want more for our children than that? No matter where we live or who we are.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Seasonal Sunday--Celeriac & Pink Lady Slaw

I've decided to do a weekly post using something I've found at the market. The French eat seasonally. You've heard me get all excited about the seasonal cheese raclette and its fancy melter. Summer sausages for the grill are being replaced in the stores by sausage stuffing for vegetables and heavier cuts of meat. And cold soups and salads give way to rich stews and warm potatoes. I hope you like it and that your feel inspired to use something seasonal in a different way. Send me any suggestions and I'll try them too.
So to start: Celeriac

I worked up a little recette just for you using the treasure beneath the scenes of the prettily fronded, green celery show off. It's a tuber and like most of the undergrounders it's not much to look at. I've passed it over more times than I can say because I just had no idea what to do with it. Not so now.
Here's what I did....peeled and sliced celeriac into thin batons, added thin slices of pink lady apple and finished it with walnut oil, vinegar and some bleu cheese. I really wanted it to be served warm--a mix between warm german potato salad like you get in Central Texas and coleslaw. It turns out it's a lot like a fancied up, mayo-free Waldorf salad. I think it'd be great with sausages or a nice roast pork.

Warm Celeriac & Pink Lady Slaw

1 gnarled head of celeriac
1 or 2 Pink Lady apples or similar sparkling, tart apple
splash of olive or nut oil (nut oil's better cause of the waldorf salad thing)
3 tablespoons/soup spoons of walnut vinegar (noix)
bleu cheese, crumbled
pinch of sugar

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Prepare an ice bath for blanched celeriac.
Peel the celeriac and chop into thin batons. I used a knife because I'm super clumsy but a mandolin would be great if you have one.

Blanche celeriac batons in boiling water for 4 minutes. It should be crunchy and not limp. Immerse in cold water and then drain.
If you'd like it cold, then stop here. Mix your dressing and add the apples and cheese.
If, like me, you'd like to try it warm, continue this way:
Heat batons in a skillet with a touch of nut oil. Add celeriac and apples, warm through.
While warming, mix your dressing with the vinegar and sugar.
Remove warmed apples and celeriac to a bowl and pour over dressing tossing well.
Crumble bleu cheese over and serve warm.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Une Etoile for Chaque Frere or A Star for Each Brother

Last night we did something we've never done. We treated ourselves to a pre-Christmas dinner sans enfants at the only Michelin starred restaurant in Montpellier. In the entire Languedoc region for that matter. Because it's so famous around here and so well, starry, we decided we had to see for ourselves. It's a restaurant and hotel owned by twin brothers, les freres Pourcel, both chefs and both enjoying notoriety throughout France.

Super fancy, super delicious, super expensive. It was two out of three. Delicious and expensive to the super, but fancy not as much. And that was nice. It wasn't homey or rustic by any means but it wasn't over-the-top, make a couple of Texans feel uncomfortable fancy.
The service was impeccable. Just like you'd imagine when you pay 21 euro for a glass of 2002 Moet. It was fascinating to watch them work...a dance where everyone knew their part and performed perfectly, silently moving to and fro, being in the right place just when you needed them, refilling, brushing crumbs, removing plates.
We ordered the taste of the region menu which included a glass of wine from our region with each course. There were four courses and a tasty selection of nibbles for an apero with our 40 euro worth of Champagne. If you'd like to see the  menu for yourself, here it is. But if you'd rather me tell you I can do that too.

For starters we had little parmesan toasts that tasted like sausage balls (we didn't think they'd like to know that), goat cheese puffs, guacamole and brandade de morue (cod dip) in shot glasses like they love to do here, and fried cubes of pork and foie gras. Don't say a word. Don't judge. It's Christmas. And it's more delicious than you can even imagine.

Next, an amuse-bouche. Isn't that so perfect and adorable? Something that amuses your mouth and makes it feel all happy is a good way to start a meal. It was tiny cubes of sea scallops with clementines, also served in shot glasses. They really do love them. And with that we had a white wine from Northeast Languedoc that was a blend of chardonnay, grenache and a couple of other tasty grapes. Sublime.

Each course was presented by our waiter with an explanation. He'd place the food in front of us and then, with flourish, describe what we were about to eat and how it was prepared.

Then, a crayfish bisque with crayfish know, foamy crayfish cream fancied on top. Tasty and we got more of the white wine with this course. The wine and bisque fell in love with each other. I wanted to take photos for you with my phone but Mon Mari said it would be too embarrassing. You'll just have to imagine the rosy sunset orange soup with foamy clouds floating on top, two crayfish heads perched happily on the edge of the deep bowl, smiling delightedly that they'd been made into soup for my supper.

On to the main. It was a seasonal, bien sur, duck dish...layers of different parts of said duck artfully arranged with perfectly cubed (they dig cubes) butternut squash. There was a smallish roasted breast, perfectly cooked; a light, wafer-thin crouton with three heavenly slices of foie gras, again, have you tried it?; and then a three dimensional cone of thigh meat, braised, shredded and formed into a cone then battered and crusted in pistachios, fried crispy pale golden with a hint of green; a gilded peridot swaddling rich umber. With this we had a deep red minervois--perfectly rich and not at all fruity.

Not being a big dessert person, I'd have been happy to stop here. And then.
They brought out three plates of various sweeties. Donut holes (beignets) filled with cream, shortbread wafers shaped like leaves dappled with pine nuts, tiny chocolate planks sandwiching fruity conserve, madeleine shells with raspberry jam, a champagne glass of cold pineapple and coconut froth, white chocolate disks that gently melted in your mouth stuck like party favors on the ends of wooden sticks and tiny cones of ice cream poised in a glass of white sugar. All served in pairs, holding hands on the assorted plates; a Noah's Ark of confectionery. With this we enjoyed a sweet muscat, a wine famous in the region and served as an aperitif and digestif. It's very strong, dense and sweet but not to the point of cloying like some dessert wines can be.

We had a couple of 12 euro cafes and were ready for bed. Eating like that makes you sleepy. So we rolled ourselves home, thanking heaven we're in the South of France even though it's freezing cold like I hate, and tumbled into sweet dreams of plates of food, spinning around on silver trays, bow-tied waiters flitting in and around, pouring wine and presenting delights with a flourish.
Et voila!

ps funding provided by chez travaille for a job well done. merci!