Posts Tagged French

Restaurant Review: La Galette Berichonne

10 April 2013

Fordland, MO is not exactly the culinary capital of the world. That’s why I was surprised to hear rave reviews about a French restaurant in Fordland called La Galette Berichonne. With a Gallic sense of skepticism, I decided to try it for myself.

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First Impressions. The building itself is modest but decorated with little French touches. Each meal came with a house salad and homemade vinaigrette and an abundance of freshly-made bread. All food is made from scratch using local ingredients whenever possible and the quality is reflected in the great taste of each dish.

The Menu. La Galette Berichonne is a bakery/cafe so the menu includes lots of pastries and sandwiches. A chalkboard lists the hot entrees, which change on a regular basis. Everything on the board looked good to me so I peeked into the open kitchen and asked the chef for his recommendation: he suggested the Seafood Croustade and I was favorably impressed with the result (see below for pictures).

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Seafood Croustade

Spinach quiche

Spinach quiche

Lamb

Lamb

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Fellow diners after a great meal (notice the open kitchen in the background)

Fellow diners after a great meal (notice the open kitchen in the background)

The Verdict. What a surprise to find authentic French fare (though in American-sized portions) prepared by a genuine French chef at very decent prices in the heart of nowhere! This restaurant is a real jewel.

Casual lunch? Date night? This restaurant would fit any occasion and any budget. One suggestion: call before you go. They are open different days for different meals, and even offer a once-a-month 7-course evening dinner for those who reserve well in advance. Chef Parny offers some culinary classes as well.

Why Fordland, MO? So why did Chef Roland Parny choose Fordland, a town of 684 situated 20 miles east of Springfield, for his restaurant? Apparently this part of Missouri is similar to Le Berry, the region of central France where Parny grew up. “Berichonne” means “from Le Berry” and “Galette Berichonne” is a savory stuffed pastry typical of Le Berry.

Bon appétit!

French Onion Soup

8 January 2012

 

French Onion Soup

I recently read on the cover of a magazine that January is “soup month.” Sounds good to me! There’s nothing as soothing on a cold day as a hot cup of homemade soup. Here’s a favorite recipe from our family vaults.

INGREDIENTS

2-3 cups sliced onions

2 TBS butter

4-5 cups water

1 cup white cooking wine

2 bouillon cubes

Salt, pepper to taste

Cubed French bread (day-old, crusty bread works best)

Grated Swiss cheese

DIRECTIONS

Brown onions in butter. Add water, wine, bouillon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer until onions are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Put cubes of bread into individual oven-proof serving bowls and sprinkle with a little grated cheese. Pour soup into each bowl and top with a generous additional amount of grated cheese.  Place the bowls under the broiler until  cheese is brown and crispy. Serves 4-5 people.

Bon Appétit! 

This Holiday Season, Eat the European Way

22 November 2011

When it comes to overeating, holiday potlucks and buffets are the ultimate danger zone. The temptation of a buffet, of course, is to taste everything. Keeping in mind these two steps (practiced for centuries by Europeans and gourmets) can help you navigate the buffet minefield and come away from parties satisfied, yet without the customary side dish of guilt.

STEP ONE: APPLY 3 BASIC GASTRONOMIC PRINCIPLES

1.      Enjoy with your eyes first. Appreciating the presentation of a dish (actually looking at your food and admiring it) enhances the taste of the food.

2.      Savor each bite. Savor first with your nose by noticing the smell of the food, then with your palate. Vocalizing your appreciation of the food’s qualities will guide your taste buds into noticing each subtle flavor and texture.

3.      Take your time. Don’t rush! Pause when you are intent in conversation to avoid mindless eating. Enjoy the atmosphere around you and breathe deeply as you dine.

 

STEP TWO: APPROACH THE MEAL AS A SERIES OF SMALL COURSES

If the event is casual enough, get up frequently from the table and return to the buffet for each “course.” For example:

1. Salad and Soup. By beginning with a soup and salad, your stomach starts filling up so the “I’m full” signal gets relayed sooner to your brain. Some tips to remember at the salad bar:

  • Start with a solid base of leafy greens
  • Add real veggies on top
  • Go for a rainbow of dark, bright colors
  • Avoid croutons and bacon bits
  • Clear dressings (simple vinaigrettes, for example) generally have fewer calories than creamy dressings (like ranch and thousand island)
  • Clear soups generally have fewer calories than creamy soups

2. Main Dish. Help yourself to a small portion of one entrée (beef, fish, chicken, pork) and two small sides – you can even have one small portion of bread. Or sample small portions (silver dollar size) of several entrees and sides, but only enough to fill a small plate, not a dinner plate. The key emphasis should be on moderation and the key word should be “small.”

3. Cheese and Fruit. Indulge in a few bites of cheese with crackers, and have as much fruit as you desire. The goal is for you to start feeling full around this point to avoid the grandfather of all pitfalls: dessert!

4. Dessert. By the time you get to this course, if you’ve focused on the presentation, smell and taste of your food and gotten up between courses to walk around, you should be filling up. Do a dessert sampler (1 ½ bites of anything that looks good to you or 1 small slice/portion of your favorite dessert; no ice cream unless that’s your whole dessert). Enjoy with coffee or other hot drink.

If you follow these steps, you’ll leave the buffet full but not stuffed. You’ll have exercised self-control but not lost any dining pleasure. You’ll be constantly amazed by the Lord’s creativity when it comes to food, with such a variety of colors, textures, flavors and smells. As the Psalmist wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

PrayerWalk Paris — Walk 1 (Sneak Peek)

7 September 2011

Notre Dame, ParisThe Historic Heart of Paris

Ile de la Cité & Ile St. Louis

Summary of Area

It is thought that Paris began around 250 BC as a primitive Celtic fishing village on Ile de la Cité, a little island in the middle of the Seine. Ile St. Louis, the other island in the Seine, is tree-lined and picturesque these days but was a swampy pastureland prior to development efforts in the 17th century. Today, Ile St. Louis houses one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods of Paris. Enjoy centuries of natural and man-made history as you walk from the Gothic masterpiece of Notre-Dame to King Louis IX’s intimate royal chapel, Sainte-Chapelle.

Key Facts

      • Starting Point: Point Zéro (metro: St. Michel; Cité)
      • Finishing Point: Palais de Justice (metro: Cité)
      • Days to Avoid: None
      • Length of Walk: 1 mile 1/2
      • Time Needed: 3 hours

1. Point Zéro

Point Zéro (also Kilomètre Zéro) is a circular bronze plaque on the ground about 30 yards from the central doorway of Notre-Dame that marks the geographical center of Paris. It is also the spot from which all highway distances in France are measured. The equestrian statue to the right as you face the church is of Charlemagne (“Charles the Great”), known as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Catholicism was the “politically correct” religion of the French people until the Revolution in 1789.

 

2. Notre-Dame

Visitor Information – Free admission; church open daily; hours vary depending on day of the week: 8:00 am-6:45 pm weekdays, 8:00 am-7:45 pm weekends. Free English tours available. Visit early in the morning when the cathedral is at its brightest and least crowded. Free organ concert on Sunday afternoons. Website: www.notredamedeparis.fr

It took 170 years to create the Gothic masterpiece of Notre-Dame de Paris, with its flying buttresses, rose windows of stained glass, 295-ft spire, two massive towers and host of gargoyles. The colorful windows were designed to tell Bible stories in pictorial form to an illiterate populace.

Kings and emperors were crowned and blessed in Notre-Dame. It was here in December 1804 that Napoleon took the imperial crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII and laid it on his own head, as depicted by Jacques-Louis David in his painting Coronation of Napoleon, which now hangs in the Louvre.

Notre-Dame is designed in the shape of a Christian cross, with the altar where the crossbeam intersects. The cathedral can hold up to 10,000 people and often does so when hosting classical music concerts. The South Rose Window depicts Christ in the center, surrounded by virgins, saints, and his twelve apostles while the North Rose Window pictures the Virgin encircled by figures from the Old Testament.

Prayer Points:

  • For the warmth of the Gospel to envelop Parisians who have only known the coldness of an impersonal religion.
  • That a genuine, transforming encounter with Christ would replace ritual and religiosity.
  • That the complete story of Christ would be preached: that the hope of his resurrection might replace the sadness of his death.
  • That the spiritual walls of stone and gates of iron that have separated a “religious” people from their Savior since the Middle Ages would be broken down.

Point to Ponder: Sitting in one of the hundreds of wooden chairs in the nave, feel the coldness of the stone and how far away God seems among the gilt and statuary. This is the god of millions of Parisians: a distant, cold and impersonal deity.

Take a Break: The café directly to your right as you exit the cathedral is a wonderful place to sit and reflect on what you’ve just seen. It’s called Aux Tours de Notre-Dame and though pricey – as are all cafés in Paris – you can enjoy a good cup of coffee and a sweet snack that will help you through the rest of your sightseeing. And you’ll need energy, especially if you plan on climbing to the top of the towers. This side street is a great place to buy postcards, too.

Tip: Candles in Churches. In visiting the many churches of Paris, you may be tempted to buy some candles to burn. Before you do, consider that – though they look pretty – Catholics consider candles an integral part of their sacred ritual of praying to saints and to Mary.

3. Towers of Notre-Dame

Visitor Information – Admission: €8 adults, €5 ages 18-26 (must meet certain conditions) and seniors, children under 18 are free. Tower entrance covered by museum pass but no bypass line for pass holders. Open daily 9:30 am-7:30 pm, with seasonal variations. To avoid crowds, arrive before 10:00 am or after 6:00 pm.

To get to the top of the towers of Notre-Dame, you must climb 387 spiral stone steps that get narrower as you get closer to the top. The reward for such painful labor is a breathtaking view of Paris. The towers are 246 feet high and the main bell, called the “Emmanuel” was last rung in 1944 to celebrate the liberation of France.

Gargoyle Fact: As you look out over Paris, notice the eerie stone creatures that are also gazing down on the city and have been doing so for centuries. These gargoyles are meant to represent souls caught between heaven and earth. Their main practical function, however, is as rain spouts.

Take a Break: Square Jean XXIII, behind the cathedral, is a delightful place to eat a picnic lunch, to read, or to watch people.

4. Ile St. Louis

Charming, enchanting, and picturesque, Ile St. Louis is quintessential Paris. Among the attractions of this quaint little island are the 17th century hôtels, cafés, chic restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques that line its main street, St.-Louis-en-l’Ile. The wealthy and the famous have resided here for centuries. The best way to view this tiny island may be to wander through the streets without any specific trajectory.

Lines at Berthillon can stretch around the block

Tip: There’s a post office here that may be a convenient place to buy stamps for your postcards. Ask for stamps for the United States:“Des timbres pour les Etats-Unis, s’il vous plait”. Show them your postcards so they know what the stamps are for. Try your French but they will probably respond to you in English.

Take a Break: Berthillon, an ice cream parlor on Ile St. Louis, is famous for having the best ice cream in Paris. Their selection includes over 70 varieties. Order a single-scoop (“Un cornet seul”) or a double (“Un cornet double”). Note that eating ice cream in-house is usually more expensive than ordering to go. Berthillon, 29-31 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 75004; Open Wed-Sun 10:00 am-8:00 pm; Closed Mon, Tue, and August.

A Berry Parfait

26 March 2011

Parfait means “perfect” in French … and this tasty, healthy, and beautiful treat is perfect at any time of the day, whether as a nutritious breakfast, sweet snack or light dessert.

Ingredients

(There are no measurements, as everything is “to taste.”)

Blackberries, whole

Blueberries, whole

Strawberries, sliced lengthwise

Strawberries, whole

Vanilla-flavored yogurt

Granola cereal

Directions

Place several washed strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries in a clear glass or cup. Add a couple spoonfuls of yogurt and let it seep down through the berries. Add an additional layer of berries. Cover with more yogurt, then sprinkle with granola. Top with a whole strawberry with stem.

Bon appetit!

Global Gourmet: Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe

24 March 2011

To the discriminating palate, rarely is store-bought fare as good as home-made. But there are a few glorious exceptions. One of those is brownies: who makes “from scratch” home-made brownies these days?? Why would you, when there’s a box mix to suit every possible chocolate craving?

Ham & Potatoes Au Gratin

One other exception is potatoes au gratin. Now, au gratin sounds like a fancy French term, right? Would you believe the literal meaning is “with the scraping” (i.e. the burnt part)? Doesn’t everything sound better in French? :-)

Anyway, here is a fun, easy, quick, deeee-licious recipe that takes a store-bought box of potatoes au gratin and improves on it so that it tastes completely home-made.

(Note: Try pairing with a fresh garden salad!)

Ingredients

1 box Betty Crocker au gratin potatoes

2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup milk

2 TBS margarine or butter

1/2 cup cubed ham steak, uncooked

1/4 cup chopped red onion, optional

Chopped parsley, fresh or dried, optional

 

Directions

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Stir sauce mix from package, boiling water, milk and margarine or butter with whisk in 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Stir in potatoes from package.

2. Add ham and onions, stirring gently to distribute. Sprinkle lightly with parsley flakes.

3. Bake uncovered about 25 minutes or until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender (sauce will thicken as it stands).

Lentils and Love

22 March 2011

I wish I could attach a “scratch-n-sniff” plug-in so you could get a whiff of the heavenly aroma wafting through our kitchen right now.

Mom and I are making lentil soup. Athough this may not sound very exciting, we are cooking up memories to last a lifetime. The windows are open for the first time this season, letting in the fresh spring breeze, birds are chirping cheerfully, our Korean neighbor is kneeling over her vegetable garden, and I’m enjoying learning from my mother how to fix this simple and delicious dish.

As the lentils simmer on the stove, I’ve been thumbing through the 456-page tome on French cooking that I received yesterday and came across this beautiful quotation by Chef Henri Faugeron:

“If the science of nutrition is an act of the mind, the art of nourishing one’s neighbor is above all an act of love.”

An example is given of a prominent French chef of the early 1900s whose friend, author Marcel Proust, often came to dine. The chef would fix grand meals for the writer in exchange for one of his fabulous stories. And once, when Proust was out of sorts and had no appetite, the chef made it his mission to entice him by making a special omelet stuffed with fresh, minced truffles cooked in cream sauce. It worked: Proust devoured the meal and was full of gratitude towards his friend.

What a wonderful concept! Food as a way of sharing love with a friend, a neighbor, a loved one. Those of us who love cooking sharing with those who do not or have not. Those who love eating filling our hearts with contentment as we watch them taking pleasure in the food we’ve prepared.

How blessed we are. Every day we have the opportunity to share this little act of love with one another.

Lord, help me cherish today. Help me to be thankful for a nose that can smell, a palate that can taste, ears that can hear, eyes that can see, and a mind and hands that can work together to make something nutritious to eat and to share.

(Click here to see our French lentil recipe)

The Perfect Cheeseboard Series: Selecting the Cheeses

18 January 2011

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” asked Charles de Gaulle, French general and president.

It’s true: the French are nuts about their cheese. They’ve elevated the humble cheese almost to the state of national religion. The “cheese course” in a French meal is a source of pride for the hostess and sometimes a way of subtly showing off.

And because I’m part French and mad about cheese, I’m going to blog on the art of creating the perfect cheeseboard (and creative ways to use the leftovers). Here are the four essential steps: (1) Selecting the cheeses, (2) Choosing the breads, (3) Picking the accompaniments, and (4) Presenting the whole.

Clockwise from lower left: Blue, Brie, Boursin, Cheddar

1. Selecting the Cheeses.

Picking cheeses for a cheese board is not unlike arranging a bouquet of flowers. You should decide your theme or strategy before you start. Typically, you’ll want to display several cheeses in a variety of different colors, textures, tastes, and smells: a soft cheese such as Brie or goat, a firm cheese like an aged cheddar or smoked cheddar, a spreadable cheese like Boursin, and a nice old veiny cheese like a Roquefort. But you could also try:

  • a single theme cheese, like a blue, from different parts of the world
  • fewer types of a more expensive cheese or more varieties of cheaper cheeses
  • cheeses from different animals like cow cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese and (if you’re up for an adventure) yak cheese
  • highlighting interesting local varieties

Selecting cheeses takes art and skill. Tempt your guests’ taste buds. Avoid boring.

Additional thoughts on selecting cheeses:

  • Typically a pound of cheese will feed about 5 people
  • Cheeses you would never see on a cheeseboard: parmesan, mozzarella, American, Colby, pepperjack. These cheeses are used more for cooking and office parties
  • Don’t worry about keeping the cheese cool. It’s best at room temperature
  • Unwrap the cheese before displaying it on the board

Whistle While You Rest?

20 October 2010

The French are striking again. Aaaah, ze French!

I remember one Christmas when the Eiffel Tower workers went on strike because they claimed the staff parking lot was too far away. The rest of the world would say, “Hey, you have an allotted parking space in Paris!” (If you’ve ever driven in New York City, you can relate) But, considering the Eiffel Tower is their #1 tourist attraction, the government said: “Voila! You may have ze new parking spaces!”

And there was the time when farmers went on strike because of wheat prices or tariffs or the price of French bread and “planted” an entire wheat field in the Champs-Elysees. Vive la France!

The current issue? The French government has considered moving retirement age from 60 to 62.  French workers feel that this action would violate one of their fundamental rights. What? Did you just chuckle? Ah, but you must understand that the French take their time off very seriously.

We work at work and we work at play.

In the United States we pride ourselves in our Protestant Work Ethic, typified by the “3-day weekend” – the power nap equivalent to a vacation. What do we do with this day subtracted from our workweek? We work. We do our spring-cleaning or attack projects in our yard and then “relax” by holding a cookout for our neighbors and playing football.

We work at work and we work at play.

The concept of a 3-day weekend is as foreign to the French as Wal-Mart, garage sales, or wearing deodorant.

I remember my childhood in France as a cycle of 7 weeks in school followed by 2 weeks of vacation. France is at its core a Catholic nation and every religious holiday must be celebrated. No objections from me and my school friends! Each holiday was a chance to get away, travel, relax, unplug and spend time with our family and friends, mostly over long meals.

What would Americans do with 2-week vacations every couple of months? Probably get bored. We’d have no idea what to do with so much down time – except perhaps get a second job.

Yet perhaps we should be better “resters.” The American Psychological Association says that one-third of the U.S. population experiences extreme levels of stress. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience high levels of stress 15 or more days per month.

Severe stress takes a toll on both body and soul that can only be countered with rest – true rest.

Two-hour lunches, 6 weeks of paid vacation per annum plus innumerable holidays may seem frivolous to us. We think, “Those French people – it’s a wonder they ever get anything done!” Yet they have an enjoyment of life virtually unparalleled in any other society.

Perhaps we can learn a little from their joie de vivre.

Paris Basics: The French & Their Food

14 September 2010

A Culinary Love Affair

Anticipating a trip to Paris? Some cultures eat to live, others live to eat. Here are some basic things you should know about the French and their relationship with food.

Mealtimes

Mealtimes are quasi-sacred to the French. Schoolchildren have the option of going home for their hour-and-a-half lunch break or eating a multi-course  meal in the school cafeteria. Many mothers (and sometimes dads, too) arrange their schedules so they are at home with their kids at lunch.

Montmartre CafeMeals are served in courses: the first course is the entrée, which Americans would call an appetizer or starter course; the second or main course is called plat de résistance and is usually accompanied by vegetables or other side dishes. The main course is followed by a cheese or yogurt course, then by dessert or fruit. Fresh bread is served with every meal.

While Americans often drink coffee with their meal, French diners drink theirs with, or after, dessert. Here’s another notable dining difference: no ice in beverage glasses! To order ice, just tell the waiter “Avec glaçons, s’il vous plait” (“With ice, please”) with your order.

Free refills are not a French concept. You pay for every drink you order.

Dining OutRestaurant a Montmartre

The concept of proper service in restaurants differs greatly between the U.S. and France. In many restaurants in the United States, the wait staff receives only a crash course before beginning to serve customers. To the French, waiting tables is an art that requires the most rigorous training: professional French waiters must go to school for several years, pass difficult exams, and participate in challenging competitions before entering into full time service.

The French waiter is trained to be as discreet as possible and anticipate diners’ needs in the most unobtrusive manner. The American way of serving usually centers on relationship building (“My name is Megan and I’ll be your server this evening”). To the French, such familiarity can be offensive. The French tend to see the American waiting style as overbearing (“Is everything okay? Can I get you anything?”).

Often in America the wait staff performs duties with a good tip in mind. French servers are salaried and do not expect to be tipped. They are paid to perform their duties then disappear into the background in order to allow patrons to enjoy their dining experience.

There is much to love about Paris—the romance, joie de vivre, art museums, architecture—but each visitor will leave with a unique impression of the City of Light based on individual experience. Knowing as much as you can about Paris before you go will increase your chances for good experiences and pleasant memories. Bon voyage!