Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.

kitchen

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.

Winter in France

gite en paradisSomewhere in the middle of January, I was looking through some cookbooks and recipe cards I had brought back from one of my trips through Bourgogne. Though we love France in the summer, a while ago we discovered there’s quite some magic to be found in French vineyards during winter. Driving past the bare vines and seeing all the hard work involved in the production of wine makes you appreciate the product even more. That’s why we love vacationing in Bourgogne around late February, especially in the Côte Chalonnaise, an area known for producing the ‘other’ Burgundy wines. Not as fancy as those in the Côte d’Or, but wonderful nonetheless. A few years ago I wrote an article about this wine region, and you can read it here. This is the region of Mercurey, Givry, Rully & Montagny. Names I’m sure will sound familiar to any wine lover.
While looking through some of the recipes cards (which I happened to get at the wine cave in Buxy), my daughter Kirstie caught glance of them and asked when we were going back. By Friday, I had booked the best house I could possiblly find in the village, and the countdown to the big day began!
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Back to Bourgogne… and a tarte aux pommes

tarte aux pommesSunday: Today started off very gray with a light drizzle of rain. It was rather cold, but we still headed to the market in Chalon-sur-Saône after a breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked in our rustic French kitchen. I did the cooking as Hans tended to a fire to get the kitchen nice and toasty and provide a little atmosphere to our first full day back in Bourgogne.
Even though it’s winter, the market at Chalon is phenomenal! What an explosion of color! And what beautiful food presentations! There was pink garlic, freshly-slaughtered, fat Bresse chickens, artisanal cheeses, fragrant pastries and even an oyster stand. I took notice of a beautiful butcher’s truck where tongue and pigs’ feet were on display. Odd to some, normal to the French.
After the market, we drove back to Buxy for lunch, only to find that the only restaurant serving lunch on Sunday was the local bar, Bar Le Bacchus. We decided to give it a try, and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. We had steak-frites with a bottle of local Givry wine and for dessert the best îles flottantes ever. Not all that bad for ‘bar food’. After a meal like that, there was little choice but to roll back home and spend the rest of the day by the fire”

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Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (& Nord-Pas-de-Calais), Part III

I was supposed to write a follow-up to my last post, but France didn’t let me. We got back to our apartment after a lovely dinner at Restaurant Du Marché, and the only thing I wanted to do was let the whole day just sink in.
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage We ate at Du Marché last year, but I had no idea it was such a popular place until last Saturday evening. Swarms of wealthy Parisians started pouring in at around 8PM, removing their fancy fur coats and ordering glasses of champagne. The place was absolutely buzzing, and the food was great. I had the Marmite Du Marché, a rich fish soup with cream, mussels, cod, salmon and potatoes. So incredibly good! How I wish I would’ve had room for dessert. Instead I had a Grand Marnier. Majorly bummed that they didn’t have Armagnac.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageThe next day was Easter Sunday and even though we weren’t home, I still tried to make our table a little festive. We had a nice breakfast (though everyone was so not amused with my stinky Maroilles) and then headed out for a drive through the countryside and beaches. If you know me, you probably know that my heart belongs to Le Sud Ouest. This region, however, has something magical. I feel that every time I look out over the endless hills or breathe in the salty ocean air.
Our drive took us through a few different places, including Wimereux, Audresselles and Ambleteuse, where we stopped for lunch.
Nord Pas-de-Calais IMG_4401 (1) unnamed (1)When hubby suggested where we should go for lunch, I hesitated. From the looks of the place, called ‘Le Freestyle‘, I wasn’t too convinced. We went in and were greeted by a very friendly young man who quickly seated us. Just in time, because moments later, everyone who came in was turned down. It was a simple resto, all decked out in American style (license plates everywhere, blues and country music playing in the background). The food (and wine) were surprisingly good. I had the regional specialty, potjevleesch, which is a cold meat terrine, somewhat similar to Burgundy’s jambon persillé. If I’m back in the area, I will definitely return.
IMG_4412I even had room for dessert, a yummy café gourmand, with a kick ass mousse au chocolat and crème brûlée.
dessertThe rest of the day included a little relaxing and more walks on the beach. We certainly took advantage of the beautiful weather.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais Nord-Pas-de-CalaisThat night we also made a late dinner reservation, just so we could see the sun set. It was stunning. We walked down the boulevard as the sun slowly went to sleep, not saying ‘good-bye’, just saying ‘until next time’.
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageLe Touquet-Paris-PlageOur dinner reservation was at Café Leffe, one of the few places that was not fully booked. I think all of Paris arrived (and quickly booked every restaurant!) the day before. Luckily, this proved to be a lovely place, too. I started with oysters and a glass of Chardonnay. My main was the leg of lamb (succulent and beautifully cooked), and for dessert, I had to have the crêpe with salted caramel. Yes, I was stuffed, but it was worth it!
Le Touquet-Paris-PlageThat last day was well-spent. The next morning, after a pain au raisin, we headed back to Holland.
boulangerieCan’t wait to see you again, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage!
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

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