When En Route editor Andy Arnts asked if I was interested in going on a press trip to Bergerac, it didn’t take long for me to say ‘yes’. I love the city and am there every summer during our vacations in Duras, which, as you may know by now, is “my heart’s home”. You can imagine my surprise when I reread the mail he sent me and discovered that the press trip would also take us to… Duras! In case, you don’t know, by the way, I am the culinary columnist for En Route.
The trip, which was organized by Vins de Bergerac & Duras and Business France, featured wine, food and culture. We (I had the pleasure of being in the company of Renée Salome from Winelife, Loethe Olthuis from the Volkskrant and Marjolein Schipper from De Telegraaf) had the chance to taste fantastic Bergerac wines (I am especially in love with the wines from Château Bélingard, and Laurent, the owner is just about the most charming person you will ever meet), dine at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Les Fresques at Château des Vigiers and La Tour des Vents, and visit beautiful places such as the château and tower of French philosopher Michel Montaigne and Château de Monbazillac. Being in Duras again (just weeks before our vacation) was also fantastic. One afternoon, we visited the Maison des Vins and had a lovely walk through the Berticot vineyards. We were in the village late at night though, so it was pretty much deserted, but we did get treated to a spectacular light show at the château!
We stayed at the beautiful Château les Merles where I also got a chance to interview the gracious owners Jan van Grinsven and his wife José as part of an assignment for an awesome magazine (more on that in due course). I can tell you, however, that I pitched the magazine just days before my departure and got the ‘go-ahead’ the same day! Mr. Van Grinsven was a joy to talk to. He is truly an example of someone who isn’t afraid of chasing dreams. Oh, and I really enjoyed hopping on one of the golf carts with him and seeing both his abundant potager (which is used by the on-site restaurant) and his favorite spot overlooking the vineyards!
Now I know this may all sound idyllic (and that I may even make you slightly jealous), but believe me, press trips are not all-expense paid vacations — they are work, and the workdays are long (but lots of fun)! Every sip of wine, every bite of food and every place is carefully analyzed. I made notes, took video, recorded explanations, took pictures, posted extensively on social media… and then came home and spent the next two weeks organizing all the material, doing further research and writing.
But this is the best job ever. I can definitely say that my work involves a lot of ‘pinch me’ moments!
Here are some pictures. You can find more on Instagram.
When I visited Le Touquet this past April, we ate at a lovely restaurant called À Table. It was our second visit to the restaurant. The first time was two years ago, also during the month of April. We had such a positive experience that first time, that we decided to book a table for lunch on our last day there. Luckily, it did not disappoint, as did a few other restaurants we returned to (here’s a hint: stay away from Le Matisse and Le Restaurant du Marché).
Though À Table is small (my chair was literally touching that of the person behind me), it serves gorgeous food and is friendly and welcoming.
My main course that last day was certainly memorable. I was served a tender pork loin with a velvety lavender sauce. Who would’ve thought this would be such an exceptionally beautiful combination! After that wonderful meal, I was reminded about how much I love lavender. In my garden, bath and pillow, but also in my food. In fact, there are three lavender recipes on this blog that can attest to that! Ever tried lavender in jam or in baked treats? Well here’s your chance! The one thing you have to remember is that you must use edible lavender. For those in the Netherlands, I got a bag at Dille & Kamille (not sponsored), but you can also try health food shops or organic supermarkets.
I recreated the pork loin recipe one Saturday evening and it was quite a success. However, I did not write down the recipe. Stay tuned!
In the meantme, here is a lavender creation all ready for you to try your hand at. This strawberry and lavender mousse is an elegant, summery dessert that can be made in advance. In other words, it’s the perfect way to end any dinner party in the months ahead! Enjoy!
Strawberry & Lavender Mousse
Serves 4-6 (depending on the size cups you use)
300g strawberries, plus some extra as garnish
1 1/2 tsps dried edible lavender
4 tbsps sugar
5 sheets of gelatin
200ml single cream
Place the strawberries, lavender and sugar in a blender and blitz into a smooth sauce. Pour into a small saucepan and heat while stirring for approximately 5 minutes. In the meantime, soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze out the gelatin sheets and add them into the hot sauce one by one stirring well after each. Allow the mixture to cool. Whip the mascarpone and cream until the mixture holds its shape. Carefully fold in the strawberry sauce in three batches. Do not stir too hard or whisk! Divide the mousse over 4 or 6 cups and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with fresh strawberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.
One of the things I look forward to most during the weekend is going out for lunch with my husband. Though we usually stick with places that have become firm favorites, sometimes we like to try something new. So on Saturday morning, I installed myself on the couch with a cappuccino and went in search of places that have just opened nearby.
One of them was La Cave in Bussum, a French bistro and traiteur that opened late this past August. After one look at the menu online (classic French salads, soups, sandwiches, egg dishes, oysters, langoustines, cheese, charcuterie and more), my mind was made up — La Cave it was going to be!
Shortly before we left, hubby asked me for the address, and you wouldn’t believe our surprise when we both realized this was the exact location of Allegria, one of our favorite Italian restaurants which had closed down last February, much to our dismay. We really loved that place.
Eager to see if this new establishment would bring the location on Kapelstraat 11 back to life, we drove to Bussum in delicious anticipation. Though there was no wine list online, the name obviously meant there was good wine to be had!
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the very friendly and smiley waitress. We chose a table, ordered shrimp croquettes as our appetizer and were advised a fleshy Touraine sauvignon blanc to wash them down with. The crisp tiny, little croquettes promptly arrived, steaming hot, though perhaps a little too brown for our liking. Looking around, I took notice of how much the place had changed. Whereas Allegria was homey and cozy, La Cave has an understated elegance with a modern edge. Simple, rustic wooden tables and chairs; minimalistic lamps; an open kitchen; and walls decorated with maps of wine regions, specials written on chalkboards in French, and crates filled with interesting wines. I even spotted a few handsome Givrys.
For our main, we both decided on the ‘Salade Lyonnaise’ paired with a jammy pinot noir (their best ‘by the glass’ choice). The salad was beautifully crisp, as were the diced potatoes and bacon. The egg was perfectly poached, and the baguette had a wonderful crust and a light, airy and chewy crumb. The serving size was just right — a good thing because that meant room for dessert. Hubby opted for the apple tart with vanilla ice cream, and I had mousse au chocolat with pears and an orange sabayon which was absolutely delightful. The food, wine, service and ambience were excellent. Our only gripe was the espresso that ended our meal — way too watery, it may as well have been a minuscule coffee. Nevertheless, we’ll be back, for dinner. There’s confit de canard to be had!
PS: Before leaving we purchased a 250g pack of butter made by renowned cheesemaker in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Philippe Olivier. Ten euros for the pack, but worth every penny. I did have a laugh though when the owner warned us it was going to be “very expensive”… La Cave Bistro, Traiteur & Négociant, Kapelstraat 11, Bussum
This past Saturday hubby and I headed to Hilversum for our weekly lunch date, a tradition we both love and very much look forward to. Well, actually, the whole Saturday is one big date for us because in the evening, we also enjoy a candlelit dinner for two! Couples, we both highly recommend this!
But about the place we visited for lunch…
It’s been quite a while since we went to Hilversum, and after this visit, we both decided we should go back a little more often. The market has a few nice stands (including a French food truck where we purchased incredibly delicious smoked garlic sausage) and there is a nice selection of shops and restaurants.
This time, we decided on a relatively new pasta and wine restaurant. Fat Joe’s opened last fall and is a hip and modern establishment with urban vibes and food and wine at great prices. Located on a lively corner, not far from the market, the restaurant has an inviting (heated) terrace. However, we chose to sit inside, which was a good thing because the decor is something to be enjoyed as well! We took a seat not far from the attractive bar, and to my right, I could take a peek straight into the open kitchen.
The lunch menu has sandwiches, salads, a small selection of pastas, two specials and three desserts. Hubby opted for the pappardelle with sausage, and I had the pappardelle with porcini and truffle cream sauce — absolutely delightful and beautifully presented with a nice drizzle of olive oil. The Puglian Tormaresca Negroamaro-Cabernet Sauvigon, chosen to wash down the meal, was full of red fruit and juicy plums with slightly spicy notes. Gorgeous with my dish. Kudos to the spot-on serving sizes (we left satisfied, not stuffed) and the friendly service.
To round off our lunch, we ordered two espressos which arrived perfectly made with a good, thick crema layer. This is definitely a place we’ll return to in the near future. I spotted some very appetizing dishes passing by… like the charcuterie platter and the New York cheesecake! PS: And with a name like that, you’re likely to smile before you’ve even had a chance to stuff a forkful of twirled pasta into your mouth! Fat Joe’s Pasta and Wine, Groest 42, Hilversum