April 2004 Cuisine International Newsletter
Apr 09, 2004 09:17 PDT
April, 2004 Cuisine International Newsletter
What a beautiful spring we are having here in Texas. The days are cool,
perfect for walking around neighborhoods overflowing with tulips,
daffodils, azaleas, dogwoods and even a few bluebonnets. Dick and I are
attempting to control our appetites so that when we leave for Italy next
month, we will have a little “room to grow”.
As I mentioned in the newsletter last month, Diane Kochilas and her
husband, Vassili, are beginning to hold art classes along with the
cooking classes in the fall. You can see examples of his art on our
website under Greece. “Seeing nature, understanding nature, learning
from nature” is the best way to describe the philosophy of Vassili’s art
classes. The week begins with an introduction to painting and drawing.
You, the students, will choose a subject or subjects to explore and
spend the first days painting and drawing on site. Then Vassili will
take you on different excursions for additional subjects. You will
explore landscape painting, still life, portrait painting and live
models. You can explore such medium as oils, tempera, pastels,
watercolors and even some small-scale sculpture. Vassili will also
conduct discussions on Greek art, both classic and modern. Then for
meals, you will join the cooking school students for additional lively
topics and delicious food. This is a perfect way for a couple with
varied interests to spend a holiday together.
Check www.cuisineinternational for details.
Tuscany is a fabulous region of Italy but is often overcrowded and
overdone. The rage is now to explore Umbria, often called the “poor
man’s Tuscany”, a misnomer, I assure you. Dick and I have driven all
through Umbria with close friends and we feel just as strongly about
this region as any other in Italy.
The wonderful couple, Marcello and Raffaella Tori, who lead the Food
Lover’s Adventure in Bologna have now started weeks to explore the Food
Lover’s Adventure in Umbria. The Tori’s have a faithful following due
to the fact that they give such personal attention to detail and are so
very charming. Many of our clients that have been with them in Bologna
are now signing up for this new adventure.
Love Chocolate? A visit to Perugia, home of the famous Baci “kisses”,
will satisfy your cravings. You will have a cooking class with Chef
Mirko on chocolate plates and desserts. Love Truffles? You will go on
a truffle hunt with a family in the hills and then enjoy lunch with them
on their farm. Crazy about Salami? Norcia is the perfect town to
explore and taste, famous for their cured meats. How about wine? Visit
the famous Arnaldo Caprai Winery and taste their Sagrantino wine, which
is now considered one of the best red wines in Italy. Cooking classes
will feature olive oil, truffles, mushroom specialties, local grains and
a full menu of creative Umbrian dishes. There will be lots of shopping
opportunities seeing the beautiful aspects of this historic region. You
can see a complete itinerary on our www.cuisineinternational.
Vegetarians will love their vegetarian weeks in both Umbria and Bologna.
Again, check our website for information. www.cuisineinternational.com
Dick and I are preparing for our trip to Amalfi at the Hotel Luna
Convento. This is the birthplace of Cuisine International, having
started the business there in 1986. It is hard to believe that I have
been able to enjoy this company for nearly 20 years. We have only two
spaces available for the week, so if you are interested, you need to
sign up quickly. The week is May 16 – 22.
Are you getting tired of the high prices in Europe due to the drop in
our dollar value? We will be planning trips to Brazil, Peru and Ecuador
for next winter. Details will be in the next issue of the newsletter.
The food is fantastic in South America, the prices much lower, the
history as ancient as Europe and in many locations, more so. The
beaches in Rio are to me, the best in the world, and Machu Pichu is one
of the most spiritual. There will be an add on to the Galapagos Islands
for the nature lovers among you. “Stay Tuned” as we discover this
wonderful world of ours.
***** Rates among our top restaurants in the world
**** We absolutely love and would go back every time we could, well
worth a journey
*** We would return if there was time in our schedule, worth a
** Okay, but we would not make an effort to return
* We would never return.
There are always a few places in the world that we remember with clarity
and fondness in our lifetimes. For me, one of these is a very peaceful
spot that is “the spirit of the Loire Valley”, Parc de Belmont in Tours,
France and owned by Sophie and Jean Bardet. Dick and I went there for
our anniversary and fell in love with everything aspect of the Relais &
Chateaux paradise, just a couple of hours out of Paris. This, to us, is
definitely a 5 star.
The history of Parc de Belmont is fascinating; you can read about it on
the website as it is much too long to go into here. It was originally a
17th century building overlooking the right bank of the Loire River that
has been added on to and renovated into a hotel of 16 rooms and 5 suites
and holds the famous Jean Bardet Restaurant, a Michelin Two Star. Jean
and Sophie purchased it in 1987. The beautiful grounds are perfect to
wander in or just relax. A heated swimming pool helps build up an
appetite for the fabulous cuisine. The gardens are amazing; both floral
and culinary plants abound.
Sophie and Jean Bardet are very welcoming, making their guests feel
right at home. Sophie is always there; ready to answer any questions
and make sure your holiday is perfect. She is likened to a director of
Jean is one of the greatest chefs of his generation. Quoting Jean, he
says, “Gastronomy is the orchestration of wine, alcohol, delicacies …..
I was drawn to cooking by a love of wine. For me, a dish must honor the
wine and reciprocally. Wine is the intellectual complement of a dish.
Cooking is the reflection of a lifestyle, a season and a mood. One must
not serve only seasonal products but return to basic cooking.”
When we first arrived, we were shown to our beautiful and very
comfortable suite overlooking the gardens. Opening the French doors and
stepping onto the balcony exposed us to views of gardens, the river and
the sounds twittering birds and aromas of spring flowers. It truly felt
like paradise. Before dinner, we were taken on a tour of the gardens
in which are planted over 100 aromatic plants and 600 vegetable plants
that are taken care of by Jean Bardet and his three gardeners. His
selection of herbs is unbelievable.
A Rolls Royce is at your command where a chauffeur will take you on
excursions such as the Chateau de Chambord, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau
and other wineries. It is also possible to hike to a number of
locations such as the historical sections of Tours, the Cathedral, the
Basilica of Saint Martin, Jacques Mahou’s Oven, a number of museums and
But now to the most important part of the visit: the incredible cuisine
of Jean Bardet. We dined exclusively at the hotel rather than trying
any other possibilities because we wanted to savor his creations while
there. Choices can be made from the following selections: “A L’Humeur
de Jean Bardet”, “Menu Tout Legumes”, “Degustation” and “Fascination.
The largest portion of the wine list is given to local wines, many quite
rare and precious and perfectly paired with the cuisine.
How to describe what we experienced? Perfection comes to mind. As Dick
loves Foie Gras, we tried it prepared in several ways, each as delicious
as the other. Chef Jean prepared it as a croque monsieur with
asparagus, seared and placed on tender greens from the garden and as a
confite with port wine sauce. As he is well known for his Les Coquilles
Saint-Jacques, we both ordered this second course so we would not have
to share. It was divine, served with citrus buerre blanc. Tiny, tender
lamb chops were accompanied with tender vegetables direct from the
As this generally fills me and I always want dessert, I left the entrees
to Dick to enjoy. He had the most incredible pigeon dish with the
breast sliced and the legs and thighs whole, simply prepared in its own
juices and fresh herbs and served with tender vegetables from the
garden. It was so tender it melted in his mouth. I did sneak a couple
of bites! Another dish Dick selected was a young Guinea Fowl served
with potatoes Dauphinoise; so rich they were sinful. He also ordered
the cheese course, composed of several local cheeses and served with
dried fruits, nuts and fabulous breads.
With my sweet tooth, I succumbed to dessert at every meal. Being in
France, I of course had to have the chocolate soufflé, a dark chocolate
creation with creamy hazelnut sauce. It was the best I have ever had.
I also tried an apple tarte with both a caramel and creamy sauce.
Again, to die for. But what I loved best of all was a chocolate crepe
filled with sautéed bananas, caramel sauce and vanilla cream.
Each dish brought to our table was perfection, both in presentation and
taste. If only I could show you all the pictures we took of the food.
Each one is worthy of framing. Would we go back? You had better
believe it. And when I talk Chef Jean into accepting a group in his
kitchen, we will be arranging a tour there for all of you. I can think
of nothing better.
Reservations are a necessity and you can make them on the website:
Recipes of the Month
Wilted Spinach Salad from Jean Bardet, featured as his monthly recipe
for April 2004.
14 ounces baby spinach
8 slices pork belly [good quality smoked bacon works well]
2 ounces butter
14 oz. Wine vinegar
4 ounces aged mimollette cheese [Parmigiano Reggiano works well]
3.5 ounces walnut oil
1 tablespoon strong mustard
2 hard-boiled eggs
Freshly ground salt and pepper
The size of the leaves differs depending on the season and sowing. I
prefer the small raw leaves in salad, and the big leaves for wrapping
the main ingredients (papillote) or as a side dish for fish or meat.
When I buy spinach from a market, I place my hand inside the crate: if
it is warm, then the spinach is too old and starting to ferment.
I mix the mustard and the walnut oil with a whisk then add in the egg
yolks that have been mashed with a fork and the snipped chives. Then I
finely chop up the egg whites.
In a frying pan, I melt the butter and when it starts to froth, I brown
the slices of pork belly. When done, I set aside the pork and deglaze
the pan with wine vinegar. I then pour the contents of the pan on my
spinach shoots. I add the mustard mixture, walnut oil and egg yolks. I
season to taste with salt and pepper and then toss them together.
I place the mixture on the plate, arrange the slices of the pork belly
on top, add some slices of radish, walnut halves and shavings of aged
mimollette cheese. I garnish with the chopped egg whites and serve it
right away while it is still warm.
Zucchini Ripieni from Raffaella and Marcello Tori with Fool Lovers
12 zucchini medium size
a glass of milk
3 cups ground beef
1 1/2 cup grated parmesan
butter and olive oil
tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes chopped
10 cherry tomatoes
Soak breadcrumbs in the milk. In a bowl, mix very well ground beef,
salt, parmesan, egg and breadcrumbs squeezed.
Trim ends from zucchini and core them. Stuff each zucchini with the meat
Put in a pan the oil and butter and heat medium/high flame
Put zucchini in the pan and cook covered, stir occasionally and add a
little broth, for about 20 minutes.
Add tomato ragu and more broth and the cherry tomatoes and cook for 30
If you made meatballs with the extra meat, brown them and then add to
the pan for the last 30 minutes of cooking time
Thank you for subscribing to the Cuisine International Newsletter. We
are thrilled that our subscription list is so large and that so many of
you are interested. Until next time, we wish you good health, peace and
Judy & Dick Ebrey