Category: Food News

Press Trip to Bergerac… and “My Heart’s Home”!

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.

Château les Merles, where we stayed during our trip. Beautiful four-starred hotel with GaultMillau restaurant and lovely owners.
Château les Merles, where we stayed during our trip. Beautiful four-starred hotel with GaultMillau restaurant and lovely owners.
Wines at Bergerac's Maison des Vins.
Wines at Bergerac’s Maison des Vins.
Jan van Grinsven's (owner of Les Merles) favorite spot.
Jan van Grinsven’s (owner of Les Merles) favorite spot.
Château de Montaigne, where French philosopher Michel Montaigne wrote his famous 'Essais'. The book is now on my night table.
Château de Montaigne, where French philosopher Michel Montaigne wrote his famous ‘Essais’. The book is now on my night table.
Tasting session at Domaine du Haut-Pécharmant.
Tasting session at Domaine du Haut-Pécharmant.
The lovely cheese course served by Paul Ebbing and Reinoud Slinkman of La Maison Forte.
The lovely cheese course served by Paul Ebbing and Reinoud Slinkman of La Maison Forte.
Tasting with Hugh Ryman at his organic vineyard, Château de la Jaubertie.
Tasting with Hugh Ryman at his organic vineyard, Château de la Jaubertie.
The marvelous kitchen at La Jaubertie… what a dream!
Enjoying dinner with Daniel Hecquet from Château Puy Servain at Michelin-starred restaurant Les Fresques.
Enjoying dinner with Daniel Hecquet from Château Puy Servain at Michelin-starred restaurant Les Fresques.
Tasting at Berticot in Duras. Wines I know all too well!
Tasting at Berticot in Duras. Wines I know all too well!
A wonderful way to end our press trip: lunch with Laurent and Sylvie de Bosredon of Château Bélingard!
A wonderful way to end our press trip: lunch with Laurent and Sylvie de Bosredon of Château Bélingard!
Views over Château Bélingard... stunning.
Views over Château Bélingard… stunning.

Learning French (the Gourmet Way!)… and Cooking with Julie Andrieu!

Some of my favorite ways to improve my French include singing along to French music, listening to France Bleu (Gironde), reading French newspapers and magazines and watching French television. Here in the Netherlands, I often have a look at the news on TV5MONDE, a channel that also features children’s shows in the morning and subtitled movies in the evening (great for those who are starting to learn French). Their website also has a few clever ways to brush up on the language, so it’s definitely worth a look.
As a food and wine lover, however, gourmet shows, whether that be French cooking channels on YouTube or cooking shows on television, will always have my preference. They are not only an excellent way to learn French (recipes are often visually described in steps, so very easy to follow and understand), but they are a great source of inspiration. Years ago, I discovered Julie Andrieu’s cooking shows and immediately fell in love with her beautiful recipes and charm (she’s such an elegant French lady!). I have a few of her books, and this past week I picked up another one in Bergerac, Les Carnets de Julie: Un voyage gourmand en 140 recettes. If you enjoy French cooking or are a Francophile (I’m both, as you know!), this book is a must, provided you can understand some French!
The book is based on a series that sees Julie cooking her way across France. She gets inspiration from local producers, home cooks and others who have some kind of a connection to food. They are exactly the kind of French recipes I adore, not the fancy stuff from revered chefs, but honest food prepared with love and savored the French way: around a table full of people, bread and wine! Each episode will transport you to France, entice you with the country’s gorgeous, varied landscape and equally gorgeous and varied dishes. Have a look at her channel on YouTube, though be warned, you may get hooked!
But back to that book! Here’s a little preview. Scroll to the bottom to see the first recipe I made, which my family loved! Bon Appétit !

The cover
The places visited…
No fancy chefs, instead you’ll find favorite meals cooked at home… with love!
My favorite part of France!
Oysters in Cancale…
This is one of my favorite ways to cook potatoes. You can’t go wrong with duck or goose fat! YUM!
The first recipe I tried: a delicately scented cake with orange, nuts and honey. A lovely afternoon treat.
Here is the result! I had to use two oranges as one did not provide the 120ml necessary. I also used the zest for added flavor. And, I used 100g unsalted pecans.



Holiday Wish List for Food & Wine Lovers

The holidays are here, which means it’s time for decorating, good cheer, eggnog… and wish lists. Here is your handy list of top ten products and brands guaranteed to please the food and wine aficionados in your life, including yourself. PS: Choices are listed in no particular order.

1 Mauviel copper pans
The history of  some of the best pans on the market for both professional chefs and home cooks goes back to 1830 when Ernst Mauviel established his company in Villedieu-les-Poêles, a village in Normandy which has been manufacturing copper for the last eight hundred years, hence its nickname, ‘the city of copper’. Today, Mauviel continues to make high quality cookware used by professional chefs all over the world. Their collection features over one thousand products, not only made of copper, but also stainless steel and aluminum.
If you want pans that will last you a lifetime, Mauviel is a brand well worth investing in. These beauties don’t come with a modest price tag. Expect to pay approximately €160 for the smaller pans and up to €450 for the larger. But also expect pans that won’t scratch, will always cook your food perfectly and will remain looking beautiful — even if you forget to polish them, as I often do.

2 Cook’s One Line A Day: A Five-Year Culinary Memory Book
Cook's one line a day

Food is more than sustenance. Food is also love and memories. Your first meal in Paris. Your mother’s lentil soup. A fabulous idea you saw on your favorite cooking show. That first college cooking disaster (and what you learned from it). Now you can chronicle all those special food memories for the next five years in one beautiful little book, Cook’s One Line A Day — all it takes is a quiet moment, a pen and a few words. Consider it journaling for gourmands. Or, if you’re a new parent here’s another idea — use it to keep track of your child’s first eating adventures.

3 Riedel Wine Glasses

According to Robert M. Parker Jr., “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on a fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.”
And I could not agree more. I first became acquainted with Riedel during a wine tasting event a few years ago and was not only amazed by their elegance and finesse, but also by the way they really allow you to experience the characteristics of the different grape varieties. Riedel was established in 1756 and has been producing exquisite glassware for wine and spirits ever since. Their products are used at top restaurants and wineries throughout the world. If you really want to appreciate your wine’s bouquet, taste, balance and finish, try a pair of Riedel glasses for your favorite grape variety and experience the difference for yourself. For me, wine drinking has never been the same after discovering Riedel.

4 KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Consider it the Ferrari of the kitchen equipment world, especially if you get yours in red, like I did. The famous KitchenAid stand mixers have been a classic since 1919 and will become more than just your best friend when it comes to baking. Sure, these stylish and super efficient machines are great for kneading, whisking and mixing, but they can also help you slice, shred, grind, juice, strain, and even make sausages, pasta or ice cream. Simply fit one of the various attachments into the power hub at the front of the machine and you’re all set. This beauty is stable, robust and so much more than just another coveted item. It’s a must-have.

5 Cava Brutal
Cava Brutaal

They call it the ‘super rebel’ in the world of bubbles. Hailing from the Penedès Cava region in Catalonia, the non-conformist Cava Brutal made by recognized winemaker Joan Rovira and creative agency in Breda, the Netherlands, is the answer to overpriced champagnes. Bottled in bright orange and black, this Cava is everything but pretentious — it’s pure attitude! The 2012 vintage is made from a mix of the crisp grape varieties Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay. It has toasty notes, a pleasant acidity and a good finish. Pop open this Cava to ring in the weekend in a stellar way or serve it with chicken in lemon and cream sauce.

6 Plenty More
Plenty More

Food writer, chef and restaurant owner Yotam Ottolenghi has done it again. Four years after the successful publication of his international best-seller Plenty, comes Plenty More, the result of Ottolenghi’s expanded range of ingredients and techniques. Divided into twelve chapters based on these techniques, the book features one hundred and fifty vegetarian recipes that will make even die-hard carnivores swoon with pleasure. Not to mention those of us who have an overloaded spice cabinet and no idea how to put its contents to good use. The root mash with wine braised shallots, I dare say, is better than the best boeuf bourguignon I’ve ever had.


7 Mary Belgian Chocolates
Mary Belgium

Mary Delluc can rightfully be called the ‘Grande Dame of Belgian Chocolates’. She opened her first shop in 1919 on the Rue Royale, not far from the Royal Palace. At the time, chocolate was still regarded as a medicinal product, yet Madame Delluc succeeded in changing its status to that of luxury item. Her chocolates soon became the choice of Belgian royalty and in 1942, Mary was awarded the Royal Warrant of approval by King Leopold III.
Everything at the exquisite Mary boutiques attests to the brand’s finesse — from the flamboyant Rococco style furniture to their Boîte Prestige boxes which are nothing short of a chocolate lover’s dream. Available in three sizes, the white boxes with gold detailing are filled with an assortment of Mary’s finest products. No wrapping necessary — these beauties will look wonderful under the tree just the way they are.

8 Reveal
Reveal Collection - Intense Glass

Experiencing the qualities of fine coffee is akin to experiencing the qualities of fine wine. Now take what I told you under #3 and apply that to savoring the ultimate espresso: being able to enjoy its aroma and richness and taking your drinking experience to the next level. Riedel has recently teamed up with Nespresso to bring you the Reveal Collection. Two different types of tulip-shaped espresso glasses designed to increase your sensory pleasure. The Intense glass heightens intensity and aroma, while the Mild glass puts freshness, acidity and lightness in the spotlight. This may not be the glass you’ll whip out every morning groggy-eyed and yawning, but it’s definitely what you’ll want to use when ending a meal the right way — with a good digestif and a proper espresso.

9 The Urban Cook
Urban Cook

Why is seasonal and local best? How can you choose animal products ethically? You’ll find the answer to these and other questions, plus more than one hundred simple, pure and beautiful recipes in The Urban Cook. Written by Mark Jensen, chef of restaurant Red Lantern in Sydney and eco-conscious father of two, this book will not only encourage you to investigate where your food comes from and how it is produced, but it will also mercilessly entice you into the kitchen with stunning photography that makes the clearly written recipes even more irresistible. Even the book exudes goodness with its solid, cardboard cover and thick, matte pages. If you want to cook great food with the best that nature has to offer — and a clear conscience — this is a book you’ll want to add to your collection.

10 Le Creuset Pie Bird
Le Creuset
We all love a good pie in the winter. What we don’t love is the dreaded soggy crust, or worse, a huge mess on our oven floor if the filling seeps over the edges. Le Creuset, another respected cookware brand, especially known for their enamelled cast iron pans, has the solution in the form of a decidedly cute, old-fashioned, ceramic pie bird. Simply sit this little guy at the bottom of your two-crust pie before adding the filling, and make sure it sticks out over the top layer. The steam will vent through the top during baking making spills and wet crusts a thing of the past. The bird comes in a variety of colors and is dishwasher safe.


End-of-the-week Ramblings

food writer

Friday again, and what a full week this has been! With work for DUTCH (the print deadline is quickly approaching!), social engagements and recipe writing for Vriendin, I have not had a chance to catch my breath. Only a good thing, though. I don’t know if I would be sane with empty time slots in my agenda.
One of the things I did this week was attend a press dinner showcasing Lidl’s ‘Delicieux’ collection for the upcoming holidays. If you haven’t read about that yet, check out the two previous blogs. During the event I tried a wide variety of excellent products, but the one that caused the biggest impression on me was a wine — the 2008 Saint-Estèphe from Château Andron Blanquet, a Cru Bourgeois and part of Château Cos Labory. The wines consist of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. With strong tannins balanced by ripe, dark fruits and spicy notes, it is a wine that pairs well with rich meat dishes. A beef wellington for example, but also a good steak — exactly how I will be serving it soon, because it absolutely swept me off my feet. I will be stocking up on this one for sure.
Speaking of wines, tomorrow I will be attending a wine tasting fair in Utrecht featuring organic wines from France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Spain. Sixteen wine growers will be present to explain their vision on organic wine production, something I am still reading up on and very eager to learn about.
That evening I will be dining at a French restaurant in Amsterdam, A La Ferme. The restaurant is taking part in the ‘Franse DinerDagen’, or ‘French Dinner Days’ and serving a four-course menu (incl. coffee and a digestief) for only €34.50 per person. During ten days, from the 14th to the 23rd of November, fifty top French restaurants across the country, selected by IENS and En Route Magazine, will be offering the same deal.
My review on Sunday will therefore not be about a lunch date, but about a dinner date. Expect some of those here and there as well, too.
But first, on to the order of the day. After writing my editor’s letter for DUTCH, I will start editing and testing the recipes for a production on winter warmers for Vriendin. I’m really looking forward to testing these recipes — especially the ‘easy and quick’ cassoulet! My own recipe starts a day in advance and calls for duck, lamb and Toulouse sausages. This one, however, had to be written accessibly, so that everyone can make it with products found at any supermarket. A challenge for me, which I gladly accepted.
Have a great weekend and hope you’ll come by Sunday to read about my experience at A la Ferme!