Sunday, April 25, 2010

a Whalesbone of a time!

I found myself at the Whalesbone restaurant last Friday night. Here's what happened:

Chef Charlotte "so tonight I'd like you to bread 60 lbs of haddock, individually wrap them and then freeze them."
Me "ok..."
Charlotte "plus you'll be responsible for plating all the desserts. Half the staff is sick... so tonight is the perfect night for you to come in."
Me "is someone going to show me how to plate them?"

You might be wondering why we were having this conversation... You see, Charlotte is the head chef at the Whalesbone restaurant here in Ottawa. She rocks it. Charlotte and I have been friends now for 8 years... and we both love food. So when Charlotte invited me to learn the business and help with prep and service, I jumped at the chance to work with her. This was my second attempt and this time I was completely on my own.

Are you wondering how long it takes to bread 60 lbs of haddock? Well it took me almost 4 hours... In my defense I did plate desserts while I was breading ... so maybe that accounts for the length of time?

But I really didn't mind, you know why? Because I got to plate some heavenly desserts... a combination of Jenna's (Whalesbone pastry chef) genius and Pascale's (another friend, another chef goddess) world's best ice cream (seriously).

Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake... dollops of mint anglaise and chocolate sauce, the mint chocolate chip cheesecake is then topped with some mini peppermint patties, which are then topped with a cookies and cream ice cream (sigh... you should have seen the chunks of cookies in this one. amazing)

WBOH Snickers... A layer of perfectly dense moist brownie, filled with a dulce and peanut mixture, and then topped with chocolate ganache. Some sponge toffee for extra crunch and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. A sprinkle of coarse salt on top of the brownie and bam! Party in your mouth.

Whiskey Sour... lemon curd spread on the plate, topped with light and fluffy lemon cake, which is then topped by frozen citrus mousses, whiskey ice cream (ice cream with a real punch), caramel sauce drizzled all over the ice cream and then a beautiful deep red Maraschino cherry to top the entire thing.

I had an awesome time... I've learned the following too; when you get an order of 6 desserts for the same table, plate everything EXCEPT the ice cream until you are just about ready to serve... otherwise, you'll be re-plating.

And although I'm excited to eat some breaded haddock... I don't think I'm be serving it that way in my kitchen for quite some time ;0)

Friday, April 23, 2010

inspired by... ME

I'd like to let you in on a secret... well, I guess it isn't a secret if you: (1) live with me, (2) work with me, (3) talk to me regularly. But for everyone else, here goes. I'm obsessed. Yep, obsessed with these tofu sundaes, created at my local organic market (just around the corner and along my route home from work).

A great little shop for all my baking needs, I've discovered that it is also home to these tofu sundaes; peanut butter supernova (not for the faint of heart, or anyone with a peanut allergy), chocolate peanut butter bliss, even flavours that involve almonds and cherries, blueberries and even strawberries.

They sit on the shelve, just waiting for someone to grab them and bring them home. Served in a clear (biodegradable) container, the silken tofu (blended with whatever flavour used) is layered with crushed pecans and chocolate... so that they look just like an ice cream sundae. You know you have a good product when you're offered a spoon by the cashier... they pretty much expect that you'll eat it as you walk home :0) (my kind of service!)

Are you wondering how I became the inspiration for one of these? Well... while buying a chocolate peanut butter bliss sundae I met the girl who makes them, and I thought she should know how awesome I think her tofu desserts are. We chatted a little and I mentioned that in my humble opinion a great flavour combo would involve; pecans, maple syrup, the tofu and chocolate chips. The next time I went in... volià! Minus the chocolate (which I added on my own at home), she'd created the Maple Parallel Pecan Universe. And all because I stopped and chatted with her!

I think that is pretty cool. We've discussed changing it a little, including more pecans and a bit more maple syrup... but here you go. A first look at something I helped inspire :0)

It totally made my day!

**note: I completely understand that silken tofu isn't everyone's idea of a great dessert, so no worries if this entry doesn't rock your boat. But I do hope that my enthusiasm made you smile. Just a little :0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

au revoir...

This is it... in a couple of hours I'll be on the plane, headed for Montréal and then on to Ottawa. We spent my final night in Bordeaux; the plan was to go out to dinner and then go dancing. That was the plan until my body decided to revolt. It seems that 8 days of excess desserts, dairy, wine and uber rich food finally got to me. You see, I felt that since I had gotten through all my other indulgences, a final dinner of pizza wouldn't hurt. Was I ever wrong!

Pizza is to France what curries are to England; you find a pizzeria everywhere you look (yes, even Eymet has one): therefore, into the pizzeria we went. Sigh - a vegetarian pizza with goat cheese only. DELISH! Thin crust, perfectly cooked, lovely, melted, gooey cheese... sigh (I will admit that it was much better than the pizza I had in Italy the summer before). And then... well, my evening was over. I made it out to a super cool bar but ended up grabbing the tram back to my room at the Quality Inn (gotta love trams).

So I wake up feeling a million times better than when I went to bed; all packed and ready to do a final exploration before heading to the airport. First on the agenda - my final pain au chocolat. I can't leave Bordeaux without indulging in one more pastry... we wander the streets and end up in the BEST PÂTISSERIE ever. Seriously. I have the flakiest, buttery, fluffy pain au chocolat; Julie opts for an apricot croissant. Both pastries are worthy of a double sigh. They serve a pretty terrific café au lait too. Overall... a great way to start the day.

That leaves me with a final 40 minutes before I have to get into the car... so off we go and end up in another French Market!!!! It is beautiful. If you've ever been to the Atwater market in Montréal, think that... only bigger and better. Fish, sausages, vegetables, herbs, dried fruit... and obviously cheese everywhere we turn. I wish I could share pictures with you... but I've already packed my camera (I know. Lesson learned. Promise) so you'll just have to take my word for it. It is wonderful.

I'm off to the airport with a box of macarons - this I do have a picture of. They are from Ladurée Paris: raspberry-chocolate, chocolate, caramel with fleur de sel, and pistachio. Aren't they lovely? They taste as good as they look too :0) The cookies are baked perfectly; crispy on top but airy in the centre. And the fillings?! Oh my!!! They just ooze out of the cookies, forcing you to catch the excess with your finger and then lick it up. The best part... I get to use my new straw panier as my sac à main on the plane... how great is that!

Au revoir France and thank you for a lovely stay... oh, and Julie, thanks for being the hostess with the mostess!

À la prochaine!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

an afternoon in Saint-Émilion

This is it... my final full day in France. The day was planned: depart Eymet, head for Saint- Émilion, hopefully not get lost, depart Saint-Émilion for Bordeaux, again, hopefully not get lost. You see, much of my week was spent in the car, attempting to read a map (I still can't) and direct Julie in the right direction. Thanks to properly marked roundabouts (my new favourite thing) we found our way quite easily most of time... but venturing out on an adventure knowing you are likely to get lost adds a little bit of stress to the upcoming ride. But back to my final adventure; Saint-Émilion.

Saint-Émilion is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. A world heritage site, we park the car at the bottom of the hill and climb up the steep and narrow streets until we reach the top and look into the horizon; the views of the countryside and vineyards surrounding Saint-Émilion was well worth the exertion. That, and the prospect of tasting some good, local wine.

I think Julie and I expected our wine tasting experience in Saint-Émilion to be similar to the evening before (as hosted by Mitch); experimental and fun. That was not the case... it seems that the wine merchants actually expect you to (1) enjoy whatever wine you sample, and (2) buy the bottle... no matter what the price point is. Have you sensed that our expectations and the merchants expectations didn't quite a-line? Needless to say, other than entering a couple of wine shops and sampling a few wines; Julie and I spent the majority of the day giggling over a horrible lunch (2 patrons required 4 servers... I kid you not), walking around the town and ... discovering the greatest little delicatessen shop ever!!!

We were greeted at the door by the merchant; a welcoming smile on her face followed by a pleasant conversation. While we chatted, I looked around the shop and was drawn to the shelf that contained cookies. You see, they resembled my gâteau basques! Quelle chance! I asked if they were anything alike and was informed that these palets normands were actually better: sounds like a challenge to me! I bought a bag of 5 cookies, another bag of mini cookies that resembled madeleines and then grabbed a couple pounds of fresh Normandy butter (one for Charlotte and one for me).

We'd made it halfway back to the car before I sampled my first palet normand... at which point I asked Julie if we could go back so that I could purchase some more... they taste like a really moist shortbread. Seriously, the French know how to bake. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside... perfect for a cookie.

Although I still believe that my gâteau basques are the better of the two, I am certainly ok with the fact that I now have a box of 30 palets normands... I'll be passing them around in the office and sharing the love :0)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bacchanalia around the world in 80 minutes...

I would like you all to know that I did in fact do things other than just eat desserts while in France... I will confess that most of my activities lead me to sampling pastries, but each day began with a purpose other than only indulging in culinary delights. And that is how I ended up at a wine tasting.

Julie has become fast friends with Mitch; patron of the Cave d'Eymet - lovely person with a vast amount of knowledge that she loves to share with others (and after having visited other wine cellars, I've realized that not everyone is as inviting or lovely as Mitch is). Mitch coordinates a monthly wine-tasting; selecting the grape varieties when they are at their best, which is how we ended up sampling white wines. The theme of the evening was "interesting and 'generally' unknown white grape variations from around the world". Mitch arranged it so that one quiet evening in Eymet I made my way to Argentina, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Chilli, Tenerife and Spain - all thanks to the white grape!

I've never, ever done anything like this before. And at first I thought it would be pretty intimidating; I mean, what do I really know about wine other than I like some and I don't particularly like others? But there I was, surrounded by 23 other people, eager to pour from an unlabeled bottle (it was a blind tasting too boot!), look at the wine, smell the wine and finally taste the wine. What fun!

The first thing I learnt... I am not very good at figuring out the colour... you see, of the 8 wines sampled, I would admit that they all looked "water white", or "pale yellow with a hint of green", or simply "pale yellow". I than remarked on whether or not the wine clung to the sides of the glass when swirled around (this has something to do with tears???)... All in all, this part of sampling is not my strong suit.

Onto the nose or smell of a wine. I really enjoyed the challenge that each and every wine presented... because when you stick your nose in a glass your greeted by either very pleasant, or at times, highly unpleasant scents. For example, I described one wine as "cat piss"... yep. Cat piss. A truly unappealing smelling wine. Another one smelt of a bonfire, smokey, heavy. Far more appealing to cat piss don't you think? Another one brought back memories of Asia - a predominantly lychee aroma rising to greet my nose. But my favourite wine smelt of berries of the forest and honey. What a combo!

Finally onto the third, and in my opinion, most important aspect of a wine tasting; the actual tasting. The greatest lesson I learnt was that wines do get better after a second sip and swirl. Or not. And, just because I found the nose of the wine to be appealing did not mean that my pallet would be equally pleased. It was also neat to determine whether what I smelt with my nose was registered on the tongue - did I actually taste those berries or apples or apricots? Did that wine taste like cat piss (not that I know what that tastes like firsthand)?

Since I was standing across from Julie who was enjoying the wine samples as much as I was, I didn't realize that people were actually spitting out what they were "tasting"... it seems that only Julie and I drank all 8 glasses of wine... in my defense, I drank a LARGE glass of water between each round, and I did ensure that I grabbed several of the offered baguette slices. No drinking on an empty stomach for me!

It was a truly memorable and enjoyable evening; I got to spend time with really interesting people: specially Mitch - who encouraged any of our ideas about the wines, and never made me feel silly for blurting out the first thing that came to mind when smelling or tasting. It was a grand evening!

In case you're wondering... my least favourite wine was the one I described as cat piss... the taste did not improve (and yet, still I didn't spit); it was from Tenerife, the Vita Norte. And my favourite (which was tricky, because I could have taken half of those bottles home and been very happy) was from Spain! Imagine that!!! After my experience in San Sebastian with the horrible wine, I ended up picking a Spanish wine as my top choice! The Bodega Castro Martin an Albarinho grape variety (I'd never even heard of that grape before) was delicious. Sigh. I bought my bottle and am looking forward to serving it as an aperitif... with the right amount of bite and a slight bubble sensation at the end; it has the perfect acidic balance in my estimation... and it smelt great too!

Cheers to a super evening! Oh... and in the spirit of full disclosure... I did end up having a divine dessert afterward... a raspberry tiramisu...the perfect way to end this evening :0)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

un marché Français

Day 7 of my trip... I'm awakened to the sounds of a market being set-up. You see, I don't think I've mentioned that the studio apartment is situated (almost) directly above the market square. When I peak out the large windows I can look down and see people enjoying a coffee at Kismat Café (run by a lovely, kind English women and her husband)... I can also hop downstairs to the pâtisserie next door, or even make my way to le cave d'Eymet (more about that later).

But back to the market. Stepping into the square brought a smile to my face; not only was it a brilliantly sunny day, but visiting markets is my favourite part of traveling... markets are places where an outsider gets a real feel for the people, the place, the country that they are visiting... which is why we travel right!?

This was a real French market; full of vibrant colours, the vendors as colourful as their products, and people getting the freshest and the best products around. As soon as I wandered into the organized chaos my eye was drawn to the cheese vendors, large hunks of cheese - each and every assortment; standing in front of the stand, your nose was assaulted by bold and sharp scents. From there I was drawn to the bright red tomatoes; perfectly ripe, ready to be sliced and diced. A little further down the lane was the wide assortment of sausages (actually my favourite vendor was selling gorgeous cheese and sausage), duck products, fois gras, fresh herbs, spices, fresh olives (sigh), and dried fruit. Then we hit the fish stands. The fish mongers were a riot - showing off their assortment of fish, bright pink shrimp, smooth coquille St. Jacques... everything looked absolutely fresh and ready to be flash fried in a butter sauce or drizzled with fresh lemon (double sigh).

So in keeping with the idea of a market, we actually picked up some goodies for our lunch... a warm, juicy roasted chicken, some avocado and tomato to toss in a salad, and the most gorgeous cheese I've ever tried (yes, I was actually quite ill at the end of that meal... but so worth it). Obviously I couldn't skip out on dessert... so two wonderful little pastries were purchased - a doughy pastry filled with a chocolate cream and a rum cream... both, divine; light and perfectly sweet. And Julie grabbed a handful of the sweetest, moistest, softest dried apricots I have ever tasted. I can understand why she goes back for those week after week.

But my absolute favourite purchase... was my new straw panier! I bought a new basket to bring back home with; it'll be my market basket in Ottawa... that way I'll always have a little bit of France with me when I hit a marché!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

meat and potatoes... à la Français!

The Chef invited us upstairs again. Day six of my French escape and my mouth is watering in anticipation. What does he have on the menu for us today? Packed with a bottle of Spanish wine (a much better version than my San Sebastian experience) and another bottle of French champagne, we trek up the stairs directly to The Chef's kitchen.

Charlotte... I have found you your new French pen-pal. The Chef shares the same food motto as you do - fresh ingredients, simple preparation, allow the flavours to shine. It is for those reasons that I think the two of you would get along like two peas in a pod... that, and I think he loves fois gras as much as you do! (I know, hard to believe).

The Chef prepared a mouth watering entrée - un napoleon de fois gras et pomme; seasoned with a pinch of cardommom, and accompanied by a red wine reduction. Both the apple and the fois gras melted in my mouth; a thing of true beauty. Charlotte you would have died. Seriously.

He then returned to the kitchen and continued the preparation for the main course... first he walked to the freezer and pulled out the new star of the meal - a truffle. And not just a little piece of truffle, no no no, The Chef had a good knob of it (two actually, although we only used one)! I'd call it liquid gold, only it's not liquid... but is it ever golden! The Chef had already prepared a potato purée, and so he finely grated the truffle into the purée; flecks of black peppering the potatoes. He then turned his attention to completing the canard sauvage; a wild duck that was perfectly crisp on the outside, nice and red in the centre, cooked with beautiful french mushrooms and in a jus that just brought all the flavours together.

Don't you just want to take a bite? Doesn't it all sound amazing?! And to think, The Chef was working off a two ring stove top; no oven, no gas, nothing other than to little rounds and a frying pan. It was an absolute culinary experience.

A traditional French meal, offered up by a very French chef... and enjoyed by a very happy Canadian girl :0)

Friday, April 9, 2010

the dessert that had us coming back for more

Julie loves me to death but she's still wondering... when am I leaving? Julie has lived in France now for 4 months, and although she enjoys the odd (well, not so odd) glass of wine, nibble of cheese, baguette, pain au chocolat and croissant; she doesn't actually gravitate towards desserts. That is, she didn't gravitate towards them... until I arrived.

Julie understands my dedication to this blog; how I feel that I owe it to all of you to come here and truly experience France - which means that yes, I have been enjoying my pain au chocolat along with my café au lait; that I have sipped my vin rouge while I nibbled on baguette, but I also believe that French pastries are meant to be sampled. No buts about it even if you butt expands because of this belief!

This afternoon is case and point. As previously blogged, we stopped in Lalinde while enjoying a drive through the picturesque countryside. As we strolled down the cobblestone streets, I automatically wandered into the local boulangerie-pâtisserie. Oh what a sight! We know that I loved loved loved my pâtisserie in Biarritz, and this one really isn't comparable... except that, the pastry that we bought is actually the best thing I have eaten in France.

It was sitting right next to the cash register and simply titled "our specialty" - so we took that as a sign, paid the 2.10 euro for it and went on our way (to that cream filled, cheesy delight of a pasta meal described in my lactose intolerant entry). Near the end of our afternoon drive through several medieval villages (with pit stops along the way to climb up to churches and soak in the scenery) we decided to sample this specialty... it had a walnut placed on top of it, so we figured that it was some sort of walnut pastry, otherwise we had no clue.


Both of us (YES, Julie the "I don't eat desserts" girl) could not stop gushing over it as we savoured each bite, licked everyone of our fingers, and appreciated the incredibleness of this treat. A pastry dessert that we could only compare to a sugar pie - but it's not. The centre is filled with a thick syrup (I'm sure cream was involved in that process) and ground walnuts. The pastry crust was then brushed with a glaze of beautiful to look at as it was to eat.

And that's when we realized... no pictures! The blog wouldn't be written. People would miss out on my sharing this experience with them! We couldn't do that to everyone; and so we decided, that for you dear blog reader, we would sacrifice our waistlines and stop in Lalinde on our way home and pick up another one of this desserts.

Let me tell you... we returned to the pâtisserie and there were only 2 left in the entire store!!!! What luck to have been able to purchase another one. Sitting right next to it in the display case was another "specialty" - this one titled "tourtiere"... strange since at home tourtiere is a savoury meat pie; but here in Lalinde it's a tart that is covered in powdered sugar, filled with coarsely chopped nuts and brown sugar.

I am positive that the speciality aspect of both of this desserts is the pastry that holds them together. Full of butter, this pastry dough melts in your mouth (I swear, upon impact it simply dissolves), but is baked to that crispy perfection, firmly holding the centre filling until you are ready to bite into it. In a word... bliss.

Julie has ended up in bed with an upset stomach... it seems she reacts to too many desserts the way I react to cheese and dairy products... it's not pretty. What a girl doesn't do for a blog and a whole lot of laughs!

lactose intolerant... pas en France

I have to confess something to you. I have always loved cheese. So much so that I actually gave it up for lent. Imagine, 40 days, 40 nights abstaining from the one thing that makes "everything taste just a little bit better". I did that... and so have lived with the consequences of that decision for several years. You see, on that 41st day I decided to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich... I took a bite, sweet heaven; followed by many other bites until the entire sandwich was consumed. I was so proud of myself for lasting the entire duration of lent that it took me a moment to understand what was happening. My stomach started to cramp, I couldn't stand up straight... but I knew that cheese and my stomach were no longer friends: we had become "frenemies". Sigh.

Skip ahead to the present: 2010 and a trip to France. Who comes to France and doesn't indulge in some cheese? or cream? café au lait? Not I. I decided that if it looked tempting enough to try, then my stomach would just have to suck it up... because I was going to eat it.

Skip to day five of my trip. The quaint village of Lalinde, close to Bergerac. It was a sunny day and we decided to park the car, grab un sandwich and a bottle of water, sit by the river basking in the mid-day heat. After grabbing our meal at the local (and divine) pâtisserie, we then passed the cutest little café (actually it is also a boutique; if you like the decor you can buy it as you dine).

The menu taunted us... salad, fresh pasta in a cream sauce and a simple dessert all for 12.50 euro: we looked in the window and there two diners were already indulging in their lunch. It looked too good to resist. The sandwiches went into our bags, dinner would already be waiting for us at the end of our daily jaunt. We were going to sit down and truly enjoy our lunch.

You can tell from the pictures that this was a feast, not only for the eyes but also for the stomach. A bright beetroot salad to start - capers, fresh croutons, little nuggets of beets all tossed in some fresh olive oil. A light beginning to our meal. Then the main dish... the star to be exact. Fresh pasta; lightly coated in a cream sauce to accent fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. The warmth of the pasta melting the large chunks of mozzarella cheese. It tasted even better than it looked, I promise. And not heavy at all! The main was then followed by orange slices marinated in a simple syrup with some anise seed to add some flavour; we were offered some thick, heavy cream to dollop on top (I declined that offer, since at that point my stomach had already begun rejecting my lunch).

No matter, it was well worth the pain it caused (sorry Julie for dragging you into that one), and it did remind me of the wonderfulness of cream, cheese, all things dairy. I followed up my lunch with a salad drenched in goat cheese - seriously, I pretty much grabbed the log of cheese and added it to my salad.

I knew I was right... cheese really does make everything taste that much better!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

the chef upstairs... and the artist below

Six degrees of separation is a truly amazing thing. You see, I'm staying in the town of Eymet, France in a studio apartment... rented out by someone who has known my father for 30 years. It's not like this trip was planned with that in mind, heck, we'd never even met until I landed in town and we spent an afternoon together. Just another funny coincidence.

I'd like to introduce you all to The Chef and The Artist. They live in the studio above the one I am temporarily staying in; they purchased the entire building and renovated it from the inside out; the result is a quaint, beautiful, inviting home. But it's their warmth that is even more endearing; I arrived and they invited me to spend the afternoon sightseeing, visiting their new renovation project and then The Chef invited us up for dinner. Oh, how I do heart chefs :0)

On the menu; a light shrimp salad - fresh shrimp in a marinade that included mustard, shallots, garlic, oil; everything perfectly seasoned. Accompanied by blanched asparagus (my favourite of all vegetables), all laid on top of creamy buttery lettuce. Sigh. The perfect start to a meal - well, actually, the bottle of Veuve that we opened and toasted too was the absolute perfect way to start a meal, but this was the perfect entrée.

The Chef then quickly prepared duck breast for us... simply made, perfectly made; accompanied by simple potatoes - simple only in the fact that they were potatoes. Again, perfectly seasoned, cooked to perfection (with a bite but not undercooked). A French meal to be shared among new friends.

While I enjoyed the culinary delights the Chef offered, I was also able to admire the work of The Artist. Hung above their bed is a painting that just enthralls me... the geisha. The largest of a series of geisha's - this one just smiles as we sit and chat and get to know one another.

I fell in love with this painting on first sight, just as I had already fallen in love with another one of her paintings. A large tableau hung in the main entrance - three friends, arms wrapped around each other. If I stand outside on the street and look in the large window, I look into The Artist's studio; filled with images that you admire, not only for their beauty but also for the talent that created them.

What a team eh? Culinary artist in the kitchen and a talented painter... kind, generous and lovely to boot. I sure lucked out with this visit.

Merci à vous pour votre générosité :0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a quick trip across the boarder

The beauty of travelling with your best friend, who also owns a car is that you can change your travel plans on a whim. As in,

me: "is that sign pointing to San Sebastian, as in Spain?"
Julie: "yes, we are only 50 km away"
me: "can we go? Wouldn't tapas in Spain be better than tapas in Biarritz?"
Julie "great idea! Let's go!"

And that my friends is how I ended up spending Easter Sunday (afternoon) in San Sebastian... from the surfing mecca of France to the surfing mecca of Spain.

We left Biarritz in a rain storm that left us convinced that the sun would never break through the clouds and that we would end up holed up in a small Spanish bar enjoying tapas and drinking red wine. Low and behold, we parked the car as the rain stopped; another beautiful day in a seaside town. San Sebastian is everything I could have imagined, the beach for miles, the ocean absolutely clear and the town just as charming as I had hoped.

We wandered around and found a small bar to enjoy a glass of wine... asking for wine when I don't speak the language was certainly interesting... honestly, I thought I could get by better than I did -but holding up two fingers, pointing at glasses and then wine is universal; with the exception that I couldn't specify that I wanted good wine. We ended up being served probably some of the worst wine I have ever tasted. I'm so happy that I can laugh at myself, chalk it up to being a tourist and saunter out to try something else.

The next mission was tapas... when in Spain right? Oh my... I've never seen tapas like the ones that we enjoyed (they seemed larger than expected); but the fish was fresh, as were the veggies, and the bread they rested upon was light; making it the perfect base. Plus, our drink options were easy - either a beer or sangria. A big smile, a "sangria por favor" and a plate full of tapas later, Julie and I were very happy to have crossed the boarder (sans map) and enjoy an afternoon in the sun, wandering around without a care in the world... that is until it got late and we wanted to find a place to stay overnight.

It would seem that every pension we spotted was full due to the holiday weekend - perhaps we weren't the only ones who decided that a seaside escape was the perfect way to spend Easter? With no place to stay and our bellies full; we decided to take the hint, grab the car and hit the road... 4 hours later we'd finally arrived in Eymet, Julie's quaint little French village (I will say it could be a bilingual village since I am meeting as many English folks as French).

Three days of adventure, two countries, loads of pastries, seafood, wine, and mostly laughter has brought me to Eymet - I wonder what I'll find here?

my favourite dessert... to date

Day three... Sunday. As in Easter Sunday. Who can forgo some sort of little treat on Easter Sunday?! Surly not me! By this point I've landed in Biarritz - surfing Mecca of France - white sandy beaches, a beautiful white-washed town with old French charm. After enjoying probably my favourite meal to date; fresh pasta tossed in a seafood medley, and dancing the night away (well, not quite the entire night, but a good portion of it), it was time to meet the day, walk around the town and find some sort of Easter delight.

I found my own personal Mecca. La Pâtisserie Miremont ; it didn't matter which way I turned, I was surrounded! First those dainty little cakes; chocolate, caramel, butter, sugar... all that is decadent in this world! Then I discovered the gâteau macarons... imagine, a cake decorated in macarons... I heart the cookies, but could I heart an entire cake? And finally, the treat that truly tempted me... a little tartelette known simply as le gâteau basques. It honestly looked like the simplest of all the options, but something about it just made me want to grab one, wander down to the beach and bite right into it.

A buttery tart filled with a light cream and then baked to perfection, coarse sugar sprinkled on top, it was the perfect blend of crispy outside, moist, flaky filling and an explosion in your mouth. My goal is to find this recipe... un gâteau basques is now my new favourite dessert.

La Pâtisserie Miremont is my new standard on pastries... it has beat out the Sacher Hotel in Vienna (and I ADORE the sacher torte). Taking a bite of this little tartlette really did brighten my day. Sitting on the beach didn't hurt any either :0)

I hope the next time I blog about this gâteau I'll have made it in my kitchen and can share a recipe with all of you! À la prochaine mes amies!