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eGfoodblog: Dave Hatfield

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Dinner last night. Sorry for the late post, but I had to go on my regular Friday walk this morning. Three hours over hills & dales near Najac, but that's another story.

Anyway, as I mentioned we had an unexpected extra guest last night. We managed to cope Ok although, obviously, Linda had to do a quiet clandestine rearrangement of the table.


Avocado filled with garlic butter, wrapped in smoked ham & baked. This is a great dish as it is so easy to do. The only drawback is that it has to be made at the last minute. (you can do the garlic butter ahead of time.)


Smoked Trout in Flaky pastry with horseradish sauce. A newly invented dish of mine that worked well. Very easy to prepare. The sauce is simple creamed horseradish with creme fraische & a little tomato puree for color. Go easy on the horseradish as you want a taste of it without overwhelming the trout. (one of these got cut in half to accommodate the extra guest.)


Roasted quail with braised leeks & baked eggplant with garlic. I like this combination and its pretty easy to do and to get the timing right. I cooked extra quail for those who wanted seconds. They all got eaten.


The cheese. You've seen this picture before. The St Nectaire is one of my all time favorites.


Here's the Tart Tatin. Yes, we served it a la mode!


Ah yes; we drank some wine. The red was a Corbiers and the white a Burgundian Aligot.

A nice meal & a lot of fun. Our friends had a good time and said they wished I'd blog every week if it meant a free dinner.

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Nope, its St Nectaire. St Marcellin is also delicious, but looks & tastes a little different.

Hmm, I dunno. St. Nectaire is a big, cave-aged tomme-like cheese, not a little one in a dish in the St. Marcellin/St. Félicien style.


Sharonb, You are absolutely right! My humble apologies. Senility must be creeping in faster than I thought.

Its St Félicien. Who's the patron saint of embarrassed blogers?

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A little wine discourse.

I’m not sure this qualifies as a rant, but I will take this blog opportunity to say a few words about wine in general and wine in France specifically. In a nutshell those of us who live in France and enjoy wine are spoiled. There is so much good wine available at low low prices that it’s hard to choose. Whether one buys from a wine merchant, the Super Market or direct from the winery there is a lot of quality out there at very good prices. Equally, there is a lot of bad wine available as well. The trick is sorting out the good from the bad.

I do not consider myself a wine expert. Although I grew up drinking wine (I’m from Sonoma County California) and have enjoyed wine all of my life I am much more of a value for money type than a connoisseur; I just won’t pay for reputation. Chateau Talbot is not ten times better than Chateau Viella, but costs ten times as much. There are limits, of course, to cheapness; I remember on one vacation to France having a cheap wine contest with our friends. It was who could buy the cheapest “drinkable” wine; the only rule was that the bottle had to have a cork. The winning wine cost, at the time, less than one dollar. Drinkability was open to interpretation.

Currently in France there is little reason to pay more than $20 (15 Euros) for a really nice wine. In fact our everyday table wine comes in at well under $10 per bottle. Example: HyperU, a local Supermarket, sells a Chardonnay for $ 2.75 which is lightly oaked and very palatable. Ideal for summer meals. At the other end of the white wine scale I can buy nice Chablis Grand Cru o r even a Mersault for under $20 if I want to impress. The same goes for reds.

A confession. We do buy boxed wine. My wife was aghast when on the last time we visited St Emillion I bought a 10 liter box instead of a case of bottles. BUT; when you get to the lower priced wine the packaging become a large portion of the cost. Boxes are cheaper per unit volume than bottles & corks. I know of one local winery where you can buy their wine in a bottle, or a plastic container (bring your own) or a box. Same wine all that varies is the cost. A favorite Cote de Tarn coop sells 20 liter boxes for 15 Euros. Pas Mal, as we say.

The secret in France, or anywhere for that matter, is in the looking. Here the Supermarkets are great as they use their knowledge and buying power to keep prices down. The wine merchants are in my experience very knowledgeable and seem to be able to sniff out bargains. And, most fun of all, visiting wineries is a great treat. You normally don’t save any money, but you will find wines you can’t get elsewhere. Another example: This spring we were invited to a preview tasting evening by a local supermarket for their big wine sale. I found a Corbières in the catalog that looked good so I looked around & found it. There was something wrong with the price as it said it was 18 odd Euros; way too much. I got one of the clerks over & he checked then told me that the price was per case of 6 bottles! Wow! I promptly bought a couple of cases. As soon as we’d bought & paid for all of our purchases & got out to the parking lot I opened a bottle of the Corbières. (doesn’t everybody make sure they always have a corkscrew in the car?) (I learned about having this essential tool in the car when buying wine at Trader Joe’s many years ago) It was great. My friend & I went back in & bought their entire stock.

Situated where we are we tend to visit & buy Gaillac, Quercy, Cahors, Pays d’Oc, Buzet, Madrian and Corbières. We do buy from the other regions, but not as much. For reds my preference is for the Cabernet Sauvignon based wines a la Bordeaux over the Pinot Noir based Burgundies. A sweeping generalization I know but a rule of thumb for me.

Finally, my attitude towards wine is the same as it is with food. Taste is everything. It has to taste good either on its own or as a compliment to the food it accompanies. Label, region, price are all very secondary considerations. But, why pay more than necessary to get top quality and why not enjoy the finding & selecting process?

I’m sorry I can’t give any specific buying advice, but what gets exported is, many times, different than what we can buy here. And after 6 years out of the states I’m too out of touch with the US market to be of any use.

Try, buy, enjoy is my motto.

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In this context a 'hangar' is on open faced barn. The left side of the house was originally open. The stairs & veranda were added during the renovation.

I'll bet that's why the airplane storage building is called a hangar...yours is the older use of the term. I've always wondered why we store airplanes in hangars, since we don't generally hang them. Now, if we knew why an open-faced barn came to be known as a hangar, we could close the door on this topic.


Avocado filled with garlic butter, wrapped in smoked ham & baked. This is a great dish as it is so easy to do. The only drawback is that it has to be made at the last minute. (you can do the garlic butter ahead of time.)



Here's the Tart Tatin. Yes, we served it a la mode!

Gorgeous, all of it.

I've never tried baking avocado. I'd heard that avocado doesn't stand up well to cooking and quickly loses its flavor. Is that not the case? How long and how hot do you bake that concoction?

Do you buy the flaky pastry, or make it yourself?

The tart is so pretty is just bears revisiting.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Its St Félicien. Who's the patron saint of embarrassed blogers?

Penitents traditionally call on Mary Magdalen. Since she's an expat and called the first apostle to France, it's only befitting. How far are you from her shrine at Vézelay?

* * *

Great blog!

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Salad Nicoise

Those of you who have read my blog may remember this recipe from almost exactly a year ago. I usually get a great yearning for this classic salad about this time of year; maybe that’s because all of the ingredients have just come into season. Now through the end of September is the time and we‘ll have this salad numerous times during that period. SO:

Here’s my version of Salad Nicoise. Its only one of many available & even though I think it’s reasonably authentic I’m sure there are plenty who would argue the ingredient list ferociously.

In any case we like it and as we are approaching full summer all of the ingredients are coming into their full glory.


Ingredients: (for 6 hungry people.)

4 good sized red onions

1 large red bell pepper

Pannier of cherry tomatoes. (about ½ lb or 500g) a combo of red & yellow is nice if both are available.

1 lb (500 grams) green beans

1 lb (500 grams) of new potatoes (nice small ones by preference. In France rattes are ideal; in the Uk Jersey’s)

8 eggs

Tin of anchovies, oil packed

3 medium tins of tuna, line caught & oil packed.

1/3 Lb of black Nicoise olives, pitted is nice, but you’ll probably have to do it yourself. Some Kalamatas are nice as well or YOUR favorite olives.

Vinaigrette (1 part Sherry vinegar to 4 parts olive oil. add 1 more part of Dijon mustard, a good dose of herbs de province, salt & pepper. Adjust to taste. Or use your own favorite recipe.)


Here because I like the picture.


1) Cut off the root end of the onions then peel. Slice very thinly across the layers, preferably with a mandolin, but can be done (very carefully) with a very sharp knife.

Toss the onion slices with your fingers so they separate into individual rings then place them along the center of an oval or round platter. Set aside.


2) Cut off the stem & veins of the red pepper, get rid of all seeds, then slice long ways to make a julienne about 1/4 “ wide (6 mm).

Set aside.


3) Make the Vinaigrette. Set aside.

4) Cut the cherries tomatoes in half. Set aside.

5) Boil the eggs until hard; about 6-8 minutes. When boiled put the pan under a cold water tap & cool them off. When cool carefully peel & cut into halves length ways. Set aside.

6) Top & tail the green beans. Place into boiling water, when the water comes back to the boil leave for 2 minutes before draining & plunging into cold water. (All this is to end up with beans that are still crunchy & bright green.) Set aside.

7) Scrub the potatoes well, but don’t peel. Cut into large bite sized chunks. (Leave the small ones whole.) Have half of your Vinaigrette ready. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they seem soft enough when you stick the point of a knife into them. Remove from heat, drain & as soon as dry put into a bowl & pour the Vinaigrette over them. Toss gently to cover. Set aside.


Potatoes with vinagrette

8) Pit the olives, if necessary. Set aside.

9) Open the anchovy & tuna tins.

We are now ready to assemble the salad. Here’s how:

a) ‘Fluff up’ the onions in or along the center of the platter.


b) Upend the cans of tuna on top of the onions. Use the oil. Use a fork to get the tuna out of the can & too spread it over the onions a bit.

c) Spread the potatoes evenly around the edges of the onion.


d) Spread the green beans around on top of the potatoes.


e) Same with the tomatoes.

f) Same with the pepper.


g) Place the hard boiled eggs, cut side up, around the perimeter of the platter.

h) Put an anchovy fillet on each egg half.

i) Have a last look for appearances. It won’t alter the taste, but it may as well look pretty.

j) Finally, drizzle the rest of your Vinaigrette over the whole salad. If, like me, you love the anchovies you can also drizzle some of their oil over as well.


The finished product.

That’s it! Lots of steps, but all of them are easy to do. Serve with good bread & a robust white wine.

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In this context a 'hangar' is on open faced barn. The left side of the house was originally open. The stairs & veranda were added during the renovation.

I'll bet that's why the airplane storage building is called a hangar...yours is the older use of the term. I've always wondered why we store airplanes in hangars, since we don't generally hang them. Now, if we knew why an open-faced barn came to be known as a hangar, we could close the door on this topic.

Gorgeous, all of it.

I've never tried baking avocado. I'd heard that avocado doesn't stand up well to cooking and quickly loses its flavor. Is that not the case? How long and how hot do you bake that concoction?

Do you buy the flaky pastry, or make it yourself?

The tart is so pretty is just bears revisiting.

Think you are right about the use of hangar.

I buy the flaky pastry as I'm too lazy to make it. Regular pastry for pies, pizza, pasta I make.

The avocado is cooked at 180 C for about 20 minutes, just until the ham starts to get crisp. Doesn't seem to lose its flavor and the taste combines beautifully with the garlic butter.

Here's an avocado anecdote for you. Back in the bad days of Russian/USA relations the US Embassy in Moscow used to send a Junior staffer over to Helsinki every month to pick up supplies that they couldn't get in Russia & which couldn't come in the bag.

One month part of the supplies were a dozen nice avocados. As the staffer was going through Russian customs the official asked what the avocados were. He was told they were avocados, but not knowing what they were he decided to confiscate then just for the hell of it. As instructed the staffer gave them up without an argument.

As the staffer walked away the Russian official called out; "By the way, how do you cook these things?" The instant reply; "Well, first you boil them for two hours!"

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Enough! Enough!! I give up!

I thought I was doing pretty well but the Niçoise was too much. I will have to make this for tomorrow. There. Full capitulation. Wonderful blog, Dave. Thank you! Now if we can just get some of those boxed wines across the pond...

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Dave, I'm really enjoying your blog, it captures French life so beautifully. And I love the picture of madam! You mention that old ways of life are fading, what traditions/practices are dying out and what is remaining steadfast?

Many good things seem to be staying. Honesty. Friendliness. Generosity.

Enjoyment of life and what they have seems to be general around our area. There's not too much striving to keep up the the Chirac's. Frugality is common, the French peasants don't waste their money. They spend it upon what they deem important. (food, wine.) There's almost a reverse snobbery about cars for instance. The older the better they think. A new car is almost as case for commiseration as it means the old one wore out. I'm exaggerating of course, but you get my point.

Fortunately the peace of the countryside remains. Lots of open space, not that many people. This area is a hikers paradise. So many trails & tracks to go along & all of them open to the public. In 5 years of doing long walks at least once a week we have never been told that we couldn't go there or that we were trespassing.

Food habits are slowly changing. They make less of their own & buy more than they used to. Mind you they keep the supermarkets on their toes & the markets still thrive. I don't have time now, but some day I'll write up the story of our pig butchering. 300 pounds of fresh pig; what to do with it?

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Great blog!  I will be in Provence and Paris in September so I am particularly enjoying it.

The cheeses look wonderful.  Chicago now has a very good cheese shop that I travel from the suburbs for an hour to get to.  Nothing as good as France, of course, but still better than what was previously available to us.  Since I was French in another life and am living vicariously through you, can we see more of your home? 

Jean Blanchard

I must ask - which one are you referring to? Pastoral Artisan Cheese shop on Broadway? Marcy's Market in Sam's Winery? The cheese shop in Binny's Wine depot is good too, but I doubt you mean that one!

I bet you are talking about Pastoral.....am I wrong? If so i must know what is better!

"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."


hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

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I think I promised another local trip earlier in the week. Here it is, but first I need to say a bit about our walk today.

There were 5 of us Plus, of course, Rupert. We started from a friend's château (yes, a real one) at the top of a hill the other side of Najac. We walked down to the River Averyron then along it & finally crossed over on the railway bridge. Now we had to get back up to the Najac level. This took about an hour of steady, but not too steep climbing. We walked a ways through Najac then started back down again. Across the river then along it and finally back up the steep hill to the château. Boy did that beer taste good!

Typically, during the entire 3 hour walk we never saw another person except a few when we were actually in Najac village. The scenery is incredible. We'll go somewhere else next week.


St Cirq-Lapopie

St Cirq-Lapopie is another spectacular village not far from us. It about 1/2 hour away. St Cirq is situated high above the river Lot and is topped by a ruined castle. The highest building you see in the picture is the recently restored church. The castle is behind and has been virtually leveled.


Rupert & I walking a street in St Cirq-Lapopie

The village is literally perched on a near cliff some 500 feet above the river. The views are just wonderful. The village itself is steep and is typically medieval with narrow streets and houses leaning over. It has not yet been spoiled by tourism. There are numerous artists and some interesting shops. (especially one that sells local wines & liqueurs plus a huge range of decanters and other wine paraphernalia) There are also a couple of decent restaurants as well as good cafes.

There is a nice little hotel right on the square where my hiking buddies & I stayed last year on one of our overnight walks.


Along the river below & down from the village is this amazing path carved out of the limestone. What you can't see well are the carvings in the rock. They are not old, but are very well done.

Back across the river & about 3 miles away are the caves at Pech Merle. These are well worth a visit as they are not only beautiful caves, but they have some of the best pre-historic cave paintings in all of France. Tours are limited. The museum is very well done and worth the time.

Slightly further down the river there is a Michelin one star restaurant and beyond that the old city of Cahors.

We also have the villages of Cordes sur Ciel, Conques and Rocamadour not that far away. The countryside around here is just beautiful and, despite having been settled for thousands of years, unspoiled. It seems that somehow most of the time man's additions to the countryside enhance rather than detract from it's beauty.

Tomorrow we're going to another wonderful village and having lunch at our favourite restaurant. Le Vieux Pont at Belcastel. Starred by Michelin & run by the Fagegaltier sisters. Nicole is reckoned to be one of the top five woman chefs in France.

We love this place.

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Of course, "hangar" may have nothing to do with the English "to hang", but my first thought of "hangar" in an agricultural setting was hanging carcasses awaiting butchering.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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Four little chevre's. Aren't they pretty?

What are these flavoured with?

Other than the paprika & the pepper, I can't remember.

Not these, but other little goats cheeses are typically coated in herbs (thyme, herbs de Provence & so on.)

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Here's the Apricot Tart recipe with some pictures.

Just to let you know, Dave, that your Apricot Tart - or mine :rolleyes: - is in the oven right now. Cannot tell you how it was until Sunday, as we're off to our country cottage early tomorrow morning, and take the tart along..

It looks very promising, however, so thanks for the recipe!

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Dave, what a beautiful Nicoise! From whence the anchovies? Salt of oil packed?

And, thanks, too, for your discourse on wine. Here in the US (at least in MN), there seems to be an obsession with "pairings." Does the same hold true in France?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Dave, what a beautiful Nicoise!  From whence the anchovies?  Salt of oil packed?

And, thanks, too, for your discourse on wine.  Here in the US (at least in MN), there seems to be an obsession with "pairings."  Does the same hold true in France?

The anchovies were salt & oil packed and are found in a cold cabinet her in France. Or at least the best ones are. You can buy them in tins as well. I always serve extra ones as we have lots of anchovy lovers around here.

Here's a simple recipe using anchovies that makes a nice little amuse bouche.

1) roll out some flaky pasrty.

2) chop up some anchovies & de-seed & chop up some black Nicoise olives. You want a fairly rough consistency. The ratio should be about 2/3 olives by volume.

3) Spread this mixture over the pastry reasonably evenly.

4) Roll the pastry up from both sides to the middle. (see the smoked trout recipe in Thursday's dinner.)

5) Cut across the roll into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then arrange on a cookie sheet.

6) Bake in a 400 F oven until the pastry is brown & crisp.

7) serve hot.

You can dream up all kind of other fillings for this.

I wouldn't say that the French are obsessed with wine/ food pairings. Naturally, they want the wines to compliment the food, but I don't know of anyone who goes to extraordinary lengths.

Edited to add volume ration to recipe.

Edited by Dave Hatfield (log)
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Salad Nicoise


The finished product.

Dave, this is great! I just brought home some freshly picked green beans and vine-ripe cherry tomatoes. This will be lunch tomorrow. :)

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Woke up to a glorious morning. So, I decided that I would try a little exercise in photo journalism. I've tried to record the walk & errand that Rupert & I did this morning. Bear with me!

We left the house & drove up to the village.


The bread shop is just about the first place you see. The pharmacy is just across the road

From there we went up to the church yard at the top of the village.


The views are stunning.


Stone table in church yard.

Near the church is this wonderful carving on a house:


Down to the 'main' street of Parisot.


And on along to:


The château end of the street.

Near the old covered market.


We left the village & headed for one of our favorite walks, but had a slight delay:


However, we continued on.


Past the lavoir.


Then the poubelles.

The cows greeted us.


Up the lane:


To the track:


And along to the path we like.


Look at the old disused road complete with stone walls.


No idea where this goes or why its here as there are no nearby villages. My suspicion is that it used to go to Cornusson where there is a very large château. Must find out!

Rupert got very ambitious with a big stick.


On our way back we took a picture of Lavros château which is semi-ruined.



And we saw our friend on the tractor working. Today the farmers are working as hard as they can as thunderstorms are expected tomorrow & rain the day after.

We headed for Caylus as we wanted cash for later in the day & the nearest cash machine is there. On the way we passed a beautiful little church. It is a puzzle as there is nothing around it, no ruins or anything. Yet, it is still used and there are up to date family burial plots. The church yard & area surrounding the walls are kept neat & tidy.


Further along towards Caylus there is this house.


For sale! Don't know the price, but could find out if anyone is interested.


We arrive in Caylus. Note that the sign is in both French & Occitan which is the old local language. Bet you didn't know that 5 million people in France speak Occitan.

Finally to the bank. My favorite shop is next door. Alladin's cave for the handyman. More hardware that you knew existed.


Got our cash & headed back home. A typical Saturday morning. Other Saturday's we'd probably go food shopping, but today is lunch at Belcastel.

Can't wait!

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A simply beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing.

I love your 'guardian chicken'....it's fabulous.

What's going to happen to the village when the 70+'s start to vanish? It's something that we talk about in our village....

Hathor, I'm not sure what will happen. We seem to be keeping a reasonable number of young people & young families. Our school is well attended.

The government program to ease the building of new houses that young families like & can afford seems to be working. We've had 5 new houses in the past year or so.

So, fingers crossed. We hope the young people will continue to appreciate the advantages of village life AND be able to find good employment.

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Semi-ruined chateaus and mysterious old roads... man! Hide a big, ol' wireless hub in that church steeple and we'll populate that valley with eGullet people! Think of the dinner parties?!

Dave, my eggs are chilling and I'm off to get some fresh beans for my nicoise. I bought a hunk of tuna tail so I'm going to poach it in olive oil and see what happens. Beautiful stroll today, thanks for sharing

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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      I love great cheese. This may be the week for Beer Cheese Soup.
      I try to limit carbs, though I do cheat.
      In any given week C. and I probably eat cauliflower, broccoli and green beans as a side.
      Tonight's dinner will be Vietnamese inspired. We'll see how it goes. I'll post about it as soon as I can.
      Any requests? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.

      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.

      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:

      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.

      The children don't get spared either

      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.


      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.

      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.

      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.

      On a nearby table is this

      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.

      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.

      Let the eating, finally, begin.
      In no particular order:

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato

      Bamboo Shoots


      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery

      Stir fried pork and beans

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)

      Pig Ears

      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.

      Stir fried Greens
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
      Roll on dinner time.
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
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