Sunday, June 26, 2011
Well, it's summertime. Summertime means it's time to eat frog legs, so put on your greasy butter bibs and belly on up to the frog bar, boys and girls!!
The most important part of eating frog legs is being "in the know". You can't just eat them any old place. Many restaurants serve frozen frog legs and that, my dear readers, is a major faux pas! They must be served fresh and cooked just right which is not as easy as it may seem.
Bien sur, we all know that, traditionally, the frogs originate from the étangs (ponds) of the La Dombes in the "Pays de l'Ain", ancient principality of the Beaujeu family which only became part of the kingdom of France in 1762. Situated between Bresse, Lyon and the Beaujolais areas, it is a mere 30 minutes from Lyon.
You cannot eat good frog legs in town!! Non, non, non!! Parisians come to La Dombes with their Guides Michelin tucked under their arms, to eat the best frog legs at les bonnes adresses.
There is nothing like leaving the city behind and bombing around the French countryside on impossibly small and winding country roads. And just when you think you've lost your way and there couldn't possibly be any form of civilized anything near by, you turn a corner and there you see, nestled in a small nondescript village, a restaurant with about 500 cars parked out front. (Okay, slight exaggeration on the 500, there!)
Warmly greeted, you are then seated either on an outdoor terrace or in a lovely garden. An aperitif is promptly served and the meal commences, lasting for hours. Wine is poured and course after course is served as the sun sets and the garden lights come to life bringing with them playful shadows in the surrounding foliage and the sounds of insects playing their summer medleys.
Fresh frog legs cooked to perfection
Poulet de Bresse à la Crème
A vegetable dish
And roll your old bones out on a stretcher!
Without further ado, I give you the top 10 bonnes adresses for frog legs in the Lyon area (Highly coveted by my ex-mother-in-law, mind you, and most certainly up to date!)
My personal favorite at the moment, the best meal for your money:
Chez Bibet in Saint Bernard, right on the Saône River with a massive terrace, great ambiance, a perfect place for visiting family and friends. I love that there are people playing Pétanque next to the parking lot round midnight when you stagger out of the joint.
The French institution, the classic, the insanely delicious, L'Ancienne Auberge de Georges Blanc in Vonnas. Guaranteed to be a meal never forgotten. Perhaps you can't afford Georges Blanc's gastronomic restaurant in Vonnas (which locals refer to as Village Blanc), but you can afford his mother's restaurant L'Ancienne Auberge. Still pricey, but top of the tops.
Restaurant Roland in Condeissiate. I love this place! The prices are right and the food is pretty good, (not excellent, mind) the frog legs are guaranteed delicious and fresh. The restaurant has been around for quite a while, the owners are a little spacey but kind and there is a quaint ambiance. I spent New Years Eve there two years ago with my bestie from the States, couldn't have had more fun.
Golf de la Bresse in Domaine de Mary, Condeissiat. (Golf, anyone?) Kidding aside, a lovely if not somewhat chic ambiance where the outdoor terrace overlooks the greens. Expensive, but well worth an excellent meal in an excellent ambiance.
La Tour in Chatillon sur Chalaronne. (Click here for a menu) Très chic, Lance Armstrong stayed here during the Tour de France! Chatillon is a gorgeous village which I know every square centimeter of by heart as it is "where I am from" in France, home to my ex-belle famille. A great place to spend the weekend, the architecture is stunning and perfectly preserved (thanks in large part to my ex-beaux papa), the covered market is renowned and insanely ancient, the church dates from the 11th century, there is a fantastic old castle, cute little restaurants and a lovely retreat for spa and relaxation (click on the Détentes button in the navigation for more info).
Le Saint Lazare in L'Abergement Clémenciat (just down the road from Chatillon sur Chalaronne). Very nice, very calm, lovely view of the French countryside. You can eat in the épicerie de la grand-mère section (moins cher and you must order the frog legs ahead) or in the gastronomic section (plus cher no ordering in advance necessary).
Restaurant Emile Job in Montmerle sur Saone. Très chic! They have a hotel as well in the event you can't roll your old bones on home!
Restaurant Serrurier also in Montmerle sur Saone, more of a "friture" restaurant which means more populaire (ordinary) and less expensive than a gastronomic restaurant like Emile Job.
Hôtel Restaurant de la Gare in St-Paul-de-Varax. Excellent frog legs, lovely setting (click on Présentation de l'établissement in the navigation) and nice cozy rooms to stay overnight if needed.
Le Buldo 2, quai Raoul Carrie, Lyon. Okay, okay, I know I said no eating frog legs in the city! but this isn't technically the city, it is just on the outskirts of Lyon directly across from the gorgeous L'Île Barbe (from the Latin insula barbara, meaning l'île savage or wild island). L'Île Barbe is home to one Gaul's oldest Abbey founded in the 5th century. Charlemagne commissioned a beautiful library on the island. It is a must visit place, and what better than to stroll around the island in the early evening and then dine on frog legs whilst admiring said island!
My aunt and uncle with me at Chez Bibet a couple of weeks back
Don't forget to swipe up the last of the garlicky parsley butter with your crusty baguette!
Friture. Gross, Charley doesn't eat whole fried fishes!
How us un-French people leave the bones on the plate (scandalous, there is still so much flesh on the teeny, tiny bones!).
How the French leave the bones on the plate!
Bon dégustation des grenouilles et a bientôt!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still" during the longest day of the year.
The Celts, whose archaeological culture dates back to 800 BCE (Before Common Era), had already migrated to France by 450 BCE bringing with them their culture, language and rituals. The Celtic language still survives in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales Cornwall and Brittany, France.
The Celtic culture and language spread throughout France and, by the time the Romans invaded, the Celts, then living in what today we know as France were called Gauls. You've read a little Asterix and Obelix, n'est-ce pas?
Druids were the Celt's priests, religious officiants, judges, teachers, lore-keepers and sacrificers who performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the benefit of the community. The Romans reported that the Druids held their ceremonies in sacred groves, at sacred pools and near votive pools.
One of the Celtic rituals in France was the celebration of the Summer Solstice; it is thought to be a time of magic (just ask Shakespeare), a time when evil spirits are said to appear. The Celts gathered magical plants and healing herbs (Saint John's Wort, Vervain, Yarrow, Fern and Mugwort) one of the most effective being Saint John's Wort. B
Today's Druids celebrating at Stonehenge.
As is the case with many Christian rituals and celebrations, the Pagan Summer Solstice was taken and transformed into La Fête de la Saint-Jean. This Catholic festivity in celebration of Saint John the Baptist takes place on the 24th of June as opposed to the 21st. Bonfires are traditionally lit and people dance around them and leap over them.
Here is a macabre piece of information: in France, from the 17th century right on through the Renaissance, people partook in Cat-Burning during Le Solstice et Fête de la Saint-Jean.
"In this form of entertainment, people would gather dozens of cats in a net and hoist them high into the air from a special bundle onto a bonfire. According to Norman Davies, the assembled people "shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized."
"It was the custom to burn a basket, barrel, or sack full of live cats, which was hung from a tall mast in the midst of the bonfire; sometimes a fox was burned. The people collected the embers and ashes of the fire and took them home, believing that they brought good luck. The French kings often witnessed these spectacles and even lit the bonfire with their own hands. In 1648 Louis XIV, crowned with a wreath of roses and carrying a bunch of roses in his hand, kindled the fire, danced at it and partook of the banquet afterwards in the town hall. But this was the last occasion when a monarch presided at the midsummer bonfire in Paris. At Metz midsummer fires were lighted with great pomp on the esplanade, and a dozen cats, enclosed in wicker cages, were burned alive in them, to the amusement of the people. Similarly at Gap, in the department of theHautes-Alpes, cats used to be roasted over the midsummer bonfire."
Happily, the modern-day French have elected to celebrate Le Solstice with big music festivals throughout the country. From the 21st to the 24th, music is heard all night long, covering both Le Solstice et Fête de la Saint-Jean.
I tend to appreciat the magical feeling of the Summer Solstice, the idea of new beginnings and welcoming fertility in thoughts, concepts and everyday life, the pleasure in welcoming in the longest day of the year.
Another quote (gentler!):
“Legends describe the solstice as a time when the doors to enchanted castles and the underworld were cast open and mortals could mingle with fairies and imprisoned princesses and explore hidden caverns. Shakespeare set his silly and brilliant comedy on this night, depicting the collision of three very different worlds in a magic forest where fairies work romantic mischief on sleeping couples, while bad actors rehearse a Roman play about doomed lovers. The youth of today may not pause to think that they are reenacting ancient midsummer celebrations or mating rituals when they get debaucherous at the many music festivals that kick off around the solstice, but the primal desire to be outside dancing and carousing late into the night is irrepressible at this time of year.” - Megan Cytron, Salon.com
Bon Fête du Solstice et de la Saint-Jean!!
Gros bisous et a bientôt.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Today I went on down to Lyon's annual Marché de la Mode Vintage.
Their website features a list of vintage shops in Lyon. Look for the Marché right next to the fair, just below the Aquarium (Bus 8).
Their website features a list of vintage shops in Lyon. Look for the Marché right next to the fair, just below the Aquarium (Bus 8).
Ma fille made sure we there bright and early to receive our free shopping bags.
The place was packed. Today was the first day, it's on all weekend.
Some fun bangles.
Everyone needs a pair of these furry boots!
Fur stoles, anyone?
A high end stand: they had vintage Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Hermes at 1,000 to 1,500 a pop. Is that in cash?
Way cool rings made with pieces of vintage material.
Treasure troves of bijoux!
Ditto on the trove, but for pipes and old lighters.
Miles and miles of shoes.
An ancient, orange computer.
Ohh, a Supertramp album!!
Lotta sixties stuff ....
These guys were fun!
Ma fille browsing the 5 euro rack.
My future is so bright, I gotta wear shades!! :-)
A colorful plethora of skinny, leather, 80's ties.
Ohh, loved these furry little mules!
Now, this mink coat was gorgeous and pas cher.
Loved the graffiti on the back wall, the whole ambiance was warehouse chic.
Bags for days!
Many of the sellers and customers went all decked out, dressed in their best vintage look. So theatrical!
I've never seen so many real fur coats! What up?
Nice little vintage Dior trunks.
Ma fille's purchase, a cute little leather back pack purse.
Bon, gros bisous de shopping vintage et a bientôt!!
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Circa 1980, I had the pleasure of coming to France via an exchange program through my high school.
I took my H.A.S.H. jean wearing,
Candie's shoe sporting,
Robert Plant hair-styled self
to Europe with the music of Led Zeppelin, Foreigner and Cheap Trick echoing in my mind.
First, a handful of us arrived in London where we stayed for a week-long cultural visit where we saw many new and exciting goings-on, très different from what we were accustomed to!
Punks, for example, where everywhere, especially on Kings Road.
I was kind of digging the concept of skinny pants and got myself a pair of these (well, for women, bien sur),
as well as a cute leather jacket.
The music was abrasive, à la Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and the gang, I wasn't too interested.
In France I discovered pixie boots, leggings and skinny jeans. My hair was right on target with the new 80's fashion, no worries there.
The French teenagers were way more laid back than their American contemporaries. The drinking age was 16, it was not cool to drink to get drunk, rather you sat around nursing a drink, smoking Gauloise cigarettes,
wearing distressed Levis, strategically ripped and graffiti'd with your favorite band,
sporting Clarks shoes,
and discussing politics, religion and world affaires.
Bien sur, we also frequented nightclubs with our new-found French friends where we drank Gin Fizz's (pronounced geeen feeez) and danced to "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell.
My family, with whom I lived for 6 months, was incredibly warm, friendly and adorable. They spoke not one word of English! Needless to say, the first month we were breaking out in constant peels of laughter as I flipped through my trusty dictionary searching for ways to communicate, flapping my hands, pronouncing everyone wrong.
My French mother was quite the cook. After bragging for several weeks about her culinary skills, my best friend (who was staying down the road with her own French family), invited herself over for dinner. The concept of not one, but two Americans in the house put the French family into a tizzy and my French mother was determined to make the finest meal, a meal never to be forgotten.
And I will never forget: The French father, his three children, me and my American friend seated around the dining room table, the titillating air of anticipation crackling in the air, listening to the French mother banging pots around in the kitchen behind closed doors (the entire culinary operation had been top secret all afternoon).
Finally, she called her eldest daughter in to help carry out the platters. I jabbed my best friend in the ribs, raised my eyebrow in a knowing way and said, "Oh là là you are going to see what I've been talking about!" She rubbed her hands with glee.
And then the door to the kitchen opened and out came my French mother with this beef tongue stretched out on a white platter.
Bon! Gros bisous des années 80 et a bientôt!