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ONE ENCHANTING FOREST. THREE MAGICAL MUSHROOMS. ENDLESS CREAMINESS

25 octobre 2017
ENDLESS  CREAMINESS

ONE ENCHANTING FOREST. THREE MAGICAL MUSHROOMS.

THREE MAGICAL MUSHROOMS

«How people can get their kids to eat mushroom soup?», one day she asked me. «Mine don’t even want to put their nose in it!»

«I believe, the easiest way should be to bring them into an enchanting autumn forest full of magical mushrooms, to let them pick up more than they can wear, to let them play, a lot, and when they become very tired and starving, they will be even ready to help with the preparation!»

I am not talking from my personal experience. In my family we have never had problems with «Idontwanttoeatthis». Or almost. But when it comes to mushrooms, I can absolutely understand that feeling: it is something like «How people are able to adore cheeses with an intense flavours and aromas from the beginning? Don’t we need to enter smoothly into this range of fragrances?»

«We will take our time, we need to have the whole day in front of us.»

And so it went. The kids were already in the car, the direction was clear: Créon, Entre-deux-Mers, where a huge oak forest full of porcinis was waiting for us!

It was one of those days when you donot need anything but to breathe and to feel happy of the fact that you are alive! 10 o’clock in morning and the sun was still shyly penetrating into the woods. But it was warm, and rich in smells, and wild! And I think, we went slightly crazy.

«It is such an enchanting forest!», the youngest exclaimed. «I think I saw a mushroom and when I went  to pick it up, there was no such thing as a mushroom but a totally another creation.»

«Oh, you are still playing cache-cache!»_ (« hide and seek »), the boys were truly excited by this going out into the wild.

Finally we’ve got a whole car trunk of porcinis, all kind: babies, their younger sisters & brothers, parents and even grandma & grandpa, small and big, and huge solid staff. On our way back home I tried to remember the story I was used to listen as a little girl, the story that my mom had told me: «The enchanting forest, the three magical mushrooms and the endless creaminess».

«Imagine how naive you should be as a baby to believe in such fairy tales!» _This was my daughter_

«I don’t need to imagine it, not at all! We have a record of it: you and me together on our way to the same forest but something like 8 years ago… I was telling you ‘The enchanting forest story’ and in the end you asked me: ‘Encore! Encore!’»

Already at home, everyone received a Chinese paintbrush with some instructions how to clean up the ceps whithout damaging their bodies. Oh mon Dieu! It’s a kind of ART 🙂

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ENDLESS CREAMINESS

Then it came time to cook it. Here it is:

Ingredients:

400g porcini (ceps) thickly sliced

400ml whole milk

1 cup unsalted butter (sweet)

1 leak, white  part only, finely chopped

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic clove, finely sliced

1/2 cup double cream (heavy)

1/4 cup plain flour (all purpose)

40g Roquefort

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

4 slices of bread (your choice)

truffle oil

Preparation

1.Heat 2/3 of the butter in a large saucepan, add the leek, shallot, mushrooms, 200 ml milk and half of the cream and cook until the beginning to soften. Stir in the flour and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

2.Add the rest of the milk and the cream stirring all the time bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

3.Blitz the soup with a hand blender or liquidiser, pass through a fine sieve, then set aside.

4.Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan, fry the bread cubes until golden, then drain on kitchen paper. To serve, heat the soup and froth up with a hand blender, if you like.

5.Ladle the soup into bowls, scatter over the croûtons, drizzle with truffle oil and spread parsley and some crumbs of Roquefort.

BON APPÉTIT!

And because this story and the soup called «Endless Creaminess» are not only for kids but very much for their parents too, here 2 WINE SUGGESTIONS:

One of my biggest Wine Love from the Graves appellation is the wine from

Château RAHOUL

Château Rahoul,2010/blanc

 

Wine Me Please

JE GOÛTE LE TEMPS: ÉTERNITÉ

23 octobre 2017
JE  GOÛTE  LE  TEMPS

LE  GOÛT  ÉTERNEL  DU  TEMPS

«Oh, dès fois il m’arrive à moi aussi de prendre certaines libertés!» _ comme celle-ci de les partager à haute voix avec les autres… _

   La lumière du jour, bleuâtre et encore déterminée, se dissout leeeeentement au cocher de soleil. On voit de loin le vent de l’Ouest s’amuser: les nuages qu’il pulvérise se transforment en clémentines et physalis; les feuilles de mon érable japonais tremblent excitées: «On y va! On y va! Vite vite! Il vas nous rattraper!» Le ciel se réjouit une dernière fois avant de tomber dans la sombreur de la nuit.

   Derrière ces filtres je sens mon visage cuivré. Il y a une semaine on était en été, et l’été était long.

   Je tombe dans les bras du fauteuil, éternel.

«Et alors, quelles sont ces libertés? À ouvrir un Yquem 1995, par exemple, et de le boire seule tout au long de la semaine?». Il rayonne de joie, comme s’il n’est pas fatigué à la fin de cette semaine éprouvante.

«Guidés par la recherche permanente de la Connaissance, pour nous: les hommes et les femmes du vin cela ne doit pas être considéré comme une liberté mais comme une Expérience professionnelle!»

   Les mots se roulent en forme de petites boules de coton et s’alignent, «la liberté» est la plus ronde, aérée et légère.

«Expérience, wow!» _chaque petite surprise est tonifiante! _«Et pour nous, les hommes hors vins?»

«Pour vous, les hommes et les femmes des finances, hm, peut-être il s’agit d’un investissement à court ou long terme…»

   Mon rire plonge jusqu’au fond du verre qu’il m’offre. Et tout d’un coup: un bouquet de million de clochettes fleurissent dans ce creux de silence.

«Bien bien, et si l’on arrête à penser d’une manière professionnelle, goûter un peu d’un Yquem tous les jours est comme de déguster les saveurs éternelles du temps!»

«Les saveurs éternelles du temps!», répète il et on lance le compteur invisible qui enregistrera chaque instant jusqu’à l’éternité.

Je me rappelle de la théorie de ma fille sur «le temps éternel»: «Le jour est éternel mais la semaine est plus éternelle encore et le week-end: oh! j’ai des difficultés à définir quel jour est le plus éternel: le samedi avec le cours de peinture chez Nicole (_sa professeur de peinture) ou bien le dimanche, le sommet d’une éternité écroulante.

192720 – 26280 – 13140 – 8760. HEURES GOÛTÉES

JE GOÛTE LE TEMPS

192720 heures: Château d’Yquem, 1995

«Quelle belle pièce! Une robe brodée aux 250 nuances d’ambre! Et tous ces morceaux extraits du cœur sauternais reflètent la lumière du soleil. Comme des miroirs: safran, miel, fleur de soucis, abricot, caramel, flamme, orange brûlée, armagnac ou cognac.»

«192720 heures depuis sa naissance». L’ambre porte en lui la mémoire du soleil. Et des brouillards, comme celui ici. La sucrosité d’une baie de raisin.

«Regarde!» Le silhouette d’une aile d’abeille s’envole.

«Il n’existent pas deux gorgées absolument identiques!», je le goûte. Le corps est soyeux, sucrosité suave, pas de lourdeur mais une complexité à mâcher! Petite folie de fruits secs, de fruits confits aux épices, au caramel.

et on continue:

JE GOÛTE LE TEMPS

26280 heures: Compté 36 mois d’affinage

Tandis que certains fromages garantissent un goût constant, le Compté, surtout le plus affiné, peut nous surprendre d’un coup à un autre. Il se dévoile au palais lentement et nous laisse découvrir une large palette des saveurs et les aspects de son être dégustatif: des noisettes torréfiées et salées, des notes iodées, un côté crémeux. Un corps solide et fin en même temps!

et puis:

13140 heures: fromage basque d’estive de lait cru de brebis, pâte non cuite

Nous y sommes, dans la montagne des Pyrénées, pendant une promenade parmi toutes plantes et herbes qui y poussent.

Aux caractéristiques très différentes par rapport aux « autres brebis basques »: les arômes sont plus intenses et plus typés que les Osseau-Iraty d’hiver ou de printemps. Et cela permet aux connaisseurs de l’apprécier encore plus lors d’une dégustation! La texture est plus ronde, ample, soyeuse, fondante, lisse, beurée.  Fraîcheur et corps en amalgame harmonieuse: aux arômes floraux, végétaux ou de fruits frais, thym, gentiane, anis, réglisse, agrumes, ananas herbes sèches et herbes fraîches, fruits secs: noix et noisettes, brebis, laine, laine mouillée…On voyage dans cet univers riche et multi aromatique!

et finalement:

8760 heures: Stilton

Un fromage bleu merveilleux d’Angleterre, le plus célèbre concurrent du Roquefort français. Il a reçu son nom au 18ème siècle lors qu’il a été vendu dans le petit village de Stilton, dans le Huntingdonshire, néanmoins il a une histoire beaucoup plus longue! Et juste à la différence du Roquefort fabriqué uniquement à partir de lait de brebis, Le Stilton est fait à partir de lait de vache entier. Ensuite il est affiné pendant 4 à 6 mois et c’est un ce moment que le pencilium roqueforti intègre le corps du fromage. Un intérieur jaune pâle avec des veines bleues-vertes est créé. La texture est riche et crémeuse. Au nez et surtout au palais il dévoile des arômes intenses de feuilles séchées, de champignons, de forêt en automne, de sous-bois, de fruits secs. Un délice au goût de la saison! Mmmmmm 🙂

LA FÊTE DE LA GASTRONOMIE 2017

Wine Me Please

JE GOÛTE VOS PENSÉES

2 octobre 2017
JE GOÛTE VOS PENSÉES

L’AMOUR, LA DISCRÉTION, LE GOÛT

« Si la nuit est autorisée à remplacer le jour, c’est uniquement pour que l’on puisse observer le ciel dans sa métamorphose vers le bleu-violet profond de la pensée. »
« Tu veux dire: la couleur bleu-violet de la fleur pensée…?« , répond-il, « car on risque à tomber dans le double sens, surtout lorsque on parle de la nuit, du bleu et de la pensée… »
Je viens de recevoir un petit bouquet de pensées et débout, près de la fenêtre, je profite de la lumière du jour qui décline pour caresser avec des yeux et les bouts de mes doigts leurs robes en velours.
« En ce moment je crois pouvoir goûter tes pensées. Je goûte tes pensées! » _Aucune raison à répondre à cette confirmation, j’en suis certaine_.
« Puis-je goûter les tiennes? »
La tête d’une pensée couleur champagne fond au fond de mon palais. Je ne sais pas si ce n’est pas mon imagination qui crée ce côté pétillant qui éclate!
« Tes pensées ont le goût de la nuit qui vient« , je dis.

PENSER À LA FLEUR!

     C’est une histoire d’automne, cette saison transitoire entre le chaud et le froid, le sec et l’humide, l’extérieur et l’intérieur. Là, où selon la Tradition Chinoise décline le Yang et commence à croître le Yin.
    Née dans cette recherche d’équilibre naturel, la Pensée se révèle une fleur discrète et énigmatique. On trouve son charisme à la fois dans la forme de sa tête: couronnée de quatre pétales dressés et un plus grand tourné vers le bas. Et à la fois dans l’élégance de sa robe en velours: unicolore, bi- ou tri colore. On la voit habillée dans la douceur de tons pastel de pêche, d’abricot, de papaye et de coquillage rose. Ou bien dans les nuances de bleu: ciel clair ou foncé, des variations de violet et notamment ce fameux bleu-violet claire comme les yeux de ma maman! Mais aussi bordeaux, caramel, couleur cuivre, pourpre et même de noir, de blanc ou de champagne! Tous en velours, avec un sinogramme peint en encre bleu nuit dark.
D’ailleurs, on retrouve cette palette multicolore loin dans le temps. À l’époque de la prude Angleterre victorienne on trouve la fleur de Pensée dans un «tussie-mussie»: un tout petit bouquet de quelques fleurs et d’herbes enveloppées dans un napperon. Là, lorsque toute référence à l’amour ou à la passion était très malvenue, la fleur de Pensée était utilisée pour pouvoir courtiser de manière discrète. Elle servait à exprimer ce qui n’était pas facilement exprimable, comme par exemple: «Je ressens des sentiments pour vous», «Je pense à vous» ou «Vous me manquez»; elle était toujours employée pour parler d’une personne pensant à un autre.
La signification des couleur de la Pensées peut être très simple ou complexe: pensées d’amour – le souvenir – amour oisif – penser – la considération.

 UNE PENSÉE FINALE

« Maintenant je connais tes pensées. Je les trouves très jolies et afin de les immortaliser je les inclurai dans la recette de mon gâteau, pour le sublimer! »

Comme évoqué dans ma «déclaration sur la bonne cuisine», les pensées et les émotions que nous ajoutons à une préparation culinaire sont des véritables ingrédients! Et cela ne doit pas nous étonner. Rappelons-nous le fait que 99,99% de personnes qui mentionnent la cuisine de leur mère parlent d’elle comme une des meilleures dans le monde et encore plus: «la cuisine de maman» est devenue synonyme de «quelque chose d’extrêmement goûteux, inoubliable même», comme on le dit: Yum Yum Yum ou bien Mmmmmm!
On est bien d’accord que pas toutes mamans possèdent le talent d’un Michel Guérard, par exemple. Mais ce qui rend leurs mets si délicieux aux palais des petits et des grands est l’amour senti envers la personne qui les savoura.

Je suis absolument convainque que l’amour est la plus complexe parmi toutes épices du monde, qu’elle sait relever tout d’un coup tous les mets, même les plus simplistes. Qu’elle est l’ingrédient par excellence pour toute recette!

JE GOÛTE VOS PENSÉES, LA RECETTE:

Pour la base:
200g de farine – 4 œufs – 150g de sucre – 1 pincée du sel – 1 C. à t. levure chimique

Pour la crème:
500 ml boisson de noisette – 4 œufs – 7 boudoirs – 150g de sucre de canne – 150g de crème fraîche – 5-6 C à s. de sirop d’érable – 150g de noisette en poudre – 8g d’agar agar

Pour la garniture/décoration:
1 mangue très mûr – 2 C à s. d’ananas découpé en tous petits morceaux – ~20 fleurs de pensée

Pour le glaçage:
le jus d’un ananas – le jus d’un 1/2 citron – 4g d’agar agar

1. Dans un petit bol tamiser la farine et la levure.
2. À l’aide d’un batteur électrique mélanger les œufs, le sucre et le sel jusqu’à obtention d’une crème lisse et onctueuse.
3. Verser à cette préparation le mixe de la farine et le levure en trois fois. À l’aide d’une cuillère remuer délicatement après chaque addition jusqu’à son absorption intégrale.
4. Chauffer le four à 175 degrés. Recouvrez le fond de trois plateaux de 23 centimètres avec de papier cuisson. Dans le cas où vous ne disposez pas de trois plateaux du même diamètre, vous pouvez également utiliser un seul, en divisant le mélange en trois parties, puis en cuisant séparément.
5. Distribuer le mélange dans les plateaux. Faire cuire dans le four préchauffé pendant environ 20 à 25 minutes. Le but est d’obtenir des bases de gâteaux style « éponge ».
6. Faire chauffer dans une casserole /au bain marie à feu très doux la boisson de noisettes.
7. Séparer les jaunes et les blancs d’œufs. Verser les jaunes de la préparation. Remuer délicatement. Ajouter le sirop d’érable et continuer à remuer en permanence.
8. À l’aide d’un batteur électrique battre les blanc d’œufs.
9. Émietter les boudoirs et les ajouter avec la poudre de noisette à la crème en préparation. Continuer à remuer constamment.
10. Retirer la casserole du feu. Laisser refroidir pendant 5 minutes et ajouter à l’aide d’une cuillère d’abord la crème fraîche et ensuite la neige de blancs d’œufs.
11. Verser la poudre d’agar agar. Continuer à remuer délicatement à l’aide d’un fouet. Laisser reposer dans le réfrigérateur.
12. Éplucher la mangue et la découper en tranches fines- de 2mm. À l’aide d’une moule gâteau pâtisserie découpe biscuits, former des cœurs.
13. Placer la première base de gâteau sur le plateau prévu pour l’occasion et cercler à l’aide d’une moule réglable de gâteau en inox.
14. Siroper légèrement avec 1-2 C à s. du jus d’ananas. Placer irrégulièrement les morceaux de la mangue restés après le découpage des cœurs. Ajouter un tout petit peu de « miettes » d’ananas. Couvrir avec une couche de crème de ~3mm. Repeter avec les deux autre bases de gâteaux.
15. Lisser le top du gâteau à l’aide d’une spatule. Avec les cœurs de mangues former des trèfles trois feuilles. Disposer les fleurs de pensées entre les les figures.
16. Faire chauffer le reste de jus d’ananas + le jus de citron auxquels ajouter l’agar agar. Laisser se refroidir et se gélifier un peu.
17. Couvrir le gâteau avec le glaçage, couvrir et laisser dans le réfrigérateur pendant une nuit.

À ce gâteau j’accorderai un Sauternes âgé de 10-15 ans. J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir goûter un Château d’Yquem 1995. J’en parlerai dans la troisième partie de mon billet dédié à la Fête de la Gastronomie. En attendant: Santé!

Wine Me Please

THE THREE GIFTS

31 mars 2017
THE THREE GIFTS

THE  THREE  KINGS

It is yet another year that January rolled down completely rounded, just like king cake [galette des Rois], and we voluntarily let it get us mixed up in its sugary-vanilla-milky fragrances. It all started on January 6th, by a crowned king cake for Epiphany. I though that if there were no crowns that adorn each one of these brioche-like sweet leavened breads (traditionally prepared for Greek Orthodox Easter) it wouldn’t be needed to explain its appearance on the table: it would be a tasty finish of a menu or just another afternoon snack melting on the palate.

Why does the king cake have a crown?”, “Why do we “have to” eat it?” and other similar questions accompanied the cutting of each king cake handed around the table of our family until the end of the month. It can’t be helped: we had to tell!

The biblical account of Epiphany is literally fabulous: the three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar brought three sacred gifts to the newly-born Son of God. But since the story is quite short we ran the risk of reactions like “A million of king cake eaten and a million of golden crowns cut just for that” or of turning it into a sketch for grown-ups who have already heard it and who now quite deliberately wore their crowns tilted to one side (if, by a miracle, the honor fell to them to wear it at all, of course).

To diversify the ritual sharing of the king cake I told them Michel Tournier’s Gaspard, Melchior & Balthazar, one of the most poetic and at the same time philosophical interpretations of the biblical story.

Obviously, I managed to transfer the mysticism that travels in each part of the novel and with each of the three kings until their arrival in Bethlehem because one night, after yet another piece of king cake was eaten, someone cried out: “Well, good, the three magi brought Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And what if they were not magi but fishermen instead?”

This is how our game began. It started like a king cake during many February nights shared with friends. “And what if they were not magi but…?” This was a game of imagination that led us to an area of our purely human creations and, in particular, to an object of special value that can serve as a gift. This is how a book, an inkpot with a quill, a compass, a map of the world, eucalyptus oil and many others appeared.

One evening, almost in the end of March, when we didn’t want to get busy in the kitchen but we wanted to have something simple and authentic so we cut some bread and cheese and opened a bottle of wine. This is the widely-known sacred French trio: bread, cheese and wine, and according to the French (and not only) it is a complete meal. And this also put an end to our game: the three magi had been transformed into a baker, a cheese-maker and a winemaker and their gifts carried another meaning, not less symbolical than the one of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And also an elemental one: to give someone food and water.

I shared it with two of the best, in my opinion, specialists among bakers and cheesemakers in Bordeaux: Florian LAMOUR of Lamour Bakery and Delphine LAPÉNA of L’Epicérie de Delphine. The three of us decided to brace ourselves up and combine 3 breads with 3 cheeses and 3 wines, entirely in the Bordelais tradition, i.e. in the three colors of red, white and gold. And here is what we made:

THE  THREE  GIFTS:

THE THREE GIFTS

1. Cheval blanc 2012: red wine as a gift and a symbol of strength and stability in life This wine is my idea of strength: it is based on a dense matter with deeply woven tannins. In any case, it is not brutal but supple and velvety: Cheval blanc has intense nose with floral notes of violets, peony, twigs of plum in bloom, with lots of red fruit: raspberry, red currant. The body has marvelous build, flexible and juicy. Its perfect match is a bread called Terron, a well-balanced mixture of two types of flour: wheat and buckwheat. Half-made with leaven, of complex essence, this bread slowly releases its fragrances and ends by a very fresh and continuous finish, just like the wine does. The cheese that completes the Holy Trinity is Brie de Luc Dongé, also called « The prince of Meaux », affinage of eight weeks. With soft, textured creamy pâte and rind of red stains. Unpressed, uncooked. 

THE THREE GIFTS

2. Domaine de Chevalier 2011: white wine as a gift and a symbol of optimism and elation in life. I chose it because of the feeling of constant freshness it emanates. I associate the rich aromatic palate that we find in it with Hope and Faith that soak our days. In Domaine de Chevalier Hope is manifested in the notes of citrus, fresh herbs, white flowers while Faith is manifested in the minerality that structures it. The bread in perfect harmony with this wine is wholegrain, with exceptionally dense body. This intensity perfectly balances the wine’s fine acidity. They are perfectly joined by Manigodine, a fermier Tomme de Haute Savoie, produced by Joseph Paccard, native of the village of Manigod. Circled by a spruce ring, it develops a large aromatic range influenced by the resins.

THE THREE GIFTS

3. Château de Rayne Vigneau 2013: sweet wine as a gift and as a symbol of relief and pleasure in life. As I associated sweetness with the optimal feeling of pleasure I chose the sweet wine of Château de Rayne Vigneau to depict this moment. Very ripe, almost compote apricots, saffron, acacia, honey and wax spread out on the nose and the palate to a remarkable finish. Just a little bit of the aromatic palete of this wine that can give relief to body and soul, to give them food and wine, both literally and figuratively. The wine is joined by a bread of very complex making: a mix of dried fruit such as apricots, white sultanas, hazelnuts. Roquefort Le Vieux Berger is an artisanal hand-made cheese prepared by using the extremely rare technique of the incorporation of the mould into the curdling sheep milk.

I guess all of your senses are awakened! There is nothing easier than to follow us: head along the road of Bordeaux wine and leave everything else in my hands – they have everything: bread, cheese and wine!

 You can find the complete range of artisanal breads at the LAMOUR Bakery: 157 rue Judaïque, 33000 Bordeaux

The complete range of cheeses is available at: L’Épicerie de Delphine, 44 rue des Remparts, 33000 Bordeaux

 


 

 

Wine Me Please

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

10 février 2017
THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

The Banquet

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

 

“A Chinese fairy tale has it that the rooster, one of calendar’s most generous animals, gives people as many treasures as are the feathers adorning its gay plumage. And when the time comes to announce the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the one it is to head, it crows 1001 times!”

“Oh, really! 1001 whole times” – the little black eyes sparkle with astonishment.

“But there’s more to it! Just a second after the last crow, 1001 red hens all dressed up bring 1001 platters with 1001 dishes and serve them graciously on the table intended for the New Year’s Banquet.”

At that imaginary sight the little eyes spread into a pleasurable contentment with a mischievous smile and a little gluttonous tongue quickly slips adding:

“The Banquet of the Fire Rooster! With 1001 treasures!”

The author of this newly composed story is Charles, a close friend of ours, and the little eyes, mouth and tongue belong to Julien, his four-year-old son. Of French-Chinese origin, he was born and raised here, in Bordeaux and has celebrated all Chinese New Years in France. The Chinese community expands and there are quite a few children like him growing up with both cultures.

We are quite a big company made up of Chinese and mixed, mostly Chinese-French, couples as well as people like me, true fans who have had the chance to touch China a bit more thoroughly thanks to having worked and lived in the country. We have found each other a long time ago and under different circumstances. Instead of the traditional group visit to a restaurant this year we decided to have a proper celebration of the Chinese New Year by a party of our own. The stakes, however, are high: each of us must prepare some more uncommon New Year recipe and choose a matching wine!

At the time in question we are respectfully queued up a mile-long line at the cash desk of one of the local Asian stores waiting our turn. And while we, the adults are making exciting comments on the preparation, the children start murmuring and hopping from foot to foot. I am trying to dispel their boredom by telling them about the real Chinese Banquet, the one that is neither “le banquet”, nor “the banquet” but the true, ceremonial, Chinese one with all of its splendor in all dimensions. About the one I experienced during my stay in China a couple of years ago, about the one described in William CHAN TAT CHUEN’s books.

I can’t help sharing about this sinologist specializing in “Food Culture and Rituals” who is of huge importance for me. A long-time chronicler of the “Culture Comes with Eating” in the monthly magazine Péquin de Paris, for me he remains one of the most profound connoisseurs of Chinese culinary art. At the table of ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, At the Table of the Chinese Emperor, Varnished Bird/Bloody Bird: Cultural Dialogues between Chinese and French Cuisine, Chinese Holidays and Banquets: hardly is there a francophone interested in Chinese history and gastronomic rites who has not tasted his stories and the recipes served in there. In fact, it is thanks to him that the magical world of a novel unfolded in front of me some time ago: the world of Dream of the Red Chamber.

The banquet is a feast in Ancient China to mark the holidays of Emperor’s family or members of nobility, the seasonal holidays and official ceremonies. There were 8 kinds of registered banquets:

-Banquet for announcement of progress:Fengguang jia mian

-Banquet for Emperor’s Birthdays: Qingzhu shenshou

-Banquet to celebrate military victories: Qinggong zhujie

-Banquet to celebrate the seasons of agricultural calendar: Yangqing shijie

-Banquet in honor of vassal princes: Cian zhu hou

-Banquet of longevity: in honor of the elderly: Qianshouan

-Sacred banquet: Jisi zhili

– Banquet for weddings and funerals: Huanshan zhili

These banquets used to be organized by the Banquet Bureau, or Guanlusi. The number of invitees varied, the hierarchy was strictly observed.

           RUYI, or « May all your wishes come true! »

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

Now, back to our “Banquet Bureau” in Bordeaux and the decision we have made to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Depending on the skills and preferences of each of us we were assigned the task to prepare a dish by trying to approximate the one in Emperor’s banquet as much as possible: in terms of opulence, finesse, and rarity of the products used, their original combination as well as the beauty of serving on the table. Everyone knows my strong attraction to Asian desserts with their delicacy. They do not stress on sugar, they rely on the natural sweetness of fruits and other components, their basic ingredient is rice flour, which is much finer than wheat flour and thus creates a sense of lightness.

The truth is their number is tiny compared to the main courses, soups and others and thus the challenge I took up – to prepare one of the desserts for the banquet – was even greater.

I will not hide the fact that in order to prepare the dessert I directly turned to Cao Xueqin’s novel Dream of the Red Chamber. It is a true encyclopedia of arts de la table et de la cuisine of the nobility of 18th century, the period when Chinese cuisine reached its apogee in all national practices, whether Chinese Han or Mandchoue. No other Chinese novel gives so precise details of the diet therapy, of the preparation of daily menus, of the food variations depending on the seasons, of banquets and holidays. One-third of the novel is dedicated to the “table”. The food as a ritual varying by season or as a token of love, attention and concern is represented everywhere in the book. For that reason Dream of the Red Chamber is considered a vade mecum for all great Chinese chefs. The recipes and banquets described in the book are an object of interpretations not only by renowned restaurants but by Chinese families in general.

In addition, for me it is the most poetic of all novels where the art of gastronomy is so densely present! I had read the novel a couple of times and I can describe some moments in great detail. That’s why it was not very difficult to find the recipe that was a perfect match: RUYI, or “May all your wishes come true”:  glutinous rice flour-based sweets that must be made in two colors. Do you imagine what a sheer perfect I had to make! Here is the recipe:

For the dough:

500 g glutinous rice flour

1/4 liter milk

2 egg whites

10 grams yeast

For the molding:

100 grams red sugar

100 grams black sesame paste

200 grams walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and dried fruits at choice

Make the dough and divide it in 2 parts: mix one with the red sugar, and the other one with the sesame paste. Roll out them into two identical rectangles. Sprinkle the white dough with the chopped nuts and dried fruits and place the black dough on top of it. Fold the edges twice and then cut the roll in pieces resembling RUYI

P1030037

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

And as few people have heard about that odd object, here is a brief description: it is a type of wand worn by famous scientists as early as at the time of the Qing dynasty and it served as a gift symbolizing good prophecies. Similarly to ruler’s scepter it also served to impose authority. Its form and also the material used to sculpt it changed from one dynasty to another. One could also tell the title of its holder by its form. Little by little it assumed the form of a tile and a social function: when visiting the palace the holder of RUYI had access to the emperor. It is known that when Buddhism was introduced to China by the Han dynasty in the 1st century it accompanies the Buddhist texts. It was not until 1000 years later that it became a symbol of good prophecies and during the Qing dynasty it took the form of the lingzhi mushroom, a symbol of longevity and happiness not only because the Chinese attach to it some exceptional qualities that help them cope with the hardships of life but because it is very rare! Since then the wand was called RUYI, which means “May wishes come true!” in Chinese.

                    THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

      Desires Come True  &  Wu Nu Shan

I think that I was successful with my “Sweets of Desires Come True” and my selection of wine. It came quite spontaneously, as all nice things do. In 2016, we were invited and celebrated the Chinese New Year in Clos des Quatres Vents, a real pearl among the domains in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux, owned by the Chinese Dynasty Winery. Along with the vertical tasting of the wines from Margaux, Lina FAN, the Executive Director of the domain provided us with the rare opportunity to taste Wu Nu Shan, a Chinese ice wine. Until then I had tasted Chinese wines only during the last Vinexpo 2015 that took place in Bordeaux. That master’s class left me with impressions that were quite… heterogeneous. I knew that the quality of Chinese wines was increasing by the day but I found the ice wine that came in the end of the Chinese New Year celebration to be on a world level. Made of Vidal, a Canadian variety of vines, themselves originating from Canada and planted in Huanren, the area currently called “Тhe Golden Ice Valley” by the Chinese.

I found that that was the wine that best matches my RUYI: with its exceptionally intense nose of quince, sweet but not intrusive, with continuous final freshness, with notes of dried pears and quinces and baked hazelnuts.

The night of our Chinese New Year the message of RUYI spread across the house. Whether because they had smelled the bottom of the glasses we had used to drink the ice wine Wu Nu Shan, or because we had managed to fully recreate the night of the 1001 treasures of the Chinese Fire Rooster, the whisper of the children, each one holding a candle in hand, was floating around the house for a long time: RUYI – RUYI – RUYI – RUYI…

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

 

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

 

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

 

THE 1001 TREASURES OF THE CHINESE FIRE ROOSTER

Wine Me Please

SHORT VOYAGE TO EAST WITH LONG AFTERTASTE

28 août 2016
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From East to West: myth & history
From its position: the birthplace of the Western civilization, and relating to the history of the New World (Americas and Oceania), Europe proudly wears the name ‘The Old continent’. But as we know: everything is relative. If we take a look at the history of the Ancient world but also at the history of European art & literature from ancient Greek times, we will definitely admit that the image of the Old continent is so much closer to the image depicting by the myth of the abduction of Europa – from whom our continent takes its name – by Zeus, who has taken the form of a bull. According to the story, the very young woman undertook a voyage towards the West. Leaving the myth and talking historically- in the 1st century BC the centre of European gravity literally moved to West. So to say, Western Europe is not that OLD! And more: at the beginning there was the initial movement from East to West!

East-West-East:
It’s Sunday, 28th of August, the temperatures dropped from about 5-10°C and it’s time for a definitive relax. Having a glass of wine makes part of it: it is a Bulgarian VIOGNIER 2014 of the winery EOLIS which will round out the character of the week :-).

The legend says that VIOGNIER has Dalmatian origins (already on East of the West!) and it has been brought to France during the reign of Probus, famous as “The Wine Emperor”. I would simply add “Great” to his nomination :-). (It was in fact he who annulled the edict of Emperor Domitian and his order in 92 AD which resulted in the destruction of Northern vines and officially prohibited for nearly two centuries the planting of grape vines in the Roman Empire. Probus’ new orders encouraged the planting of new vines in these northern Roman colonies.)

I wouldn’t complain- my best VIOGNIER experiences and memories are of Condrieu wines: the small and precious appellation of 168ha exploited by 114 professionals. Wines with extreme intensive aroma expressions on exotic fruits as mango, with floral notes on violet, sometimes enriched by fine iris aromas, with fully ripen sweet peaches and apricots, round up by a deep richness on the palate and followed at the finish by a delicate acidity.

VIOGNIER & FOOD:
Classic pairings are with river fish, crayfish, langoustine, scallops, goat ripened cheeses, but also with fois gras, poultry, artichoke and Asian spicy dishes.

VIOGNIER 2014, EOLIS in a match with EGGPLANT CAVIAR  & WHITE TRUFFLE CREAM
Ingredients for 4 people:
– 2 middle to big size eggplants ~ 400g
– 60g white truffle cream
– 1 tea spoon of hazelnut paste
– the juice of 1/2 lemon
– salt, white pepper

In order to bring the pleasure to a higher point, I proposed quail eggs. Small sized,  with intense flavours, they completed perfectly the creamy texture of the eggplant caviar. And if you have forgotten- the wines elaborated from VIOGNIER grapes are the rare to match with eggs! Table grapes joined this great light Sunday brunch!

A little bouquet of fresh herbs: basil, shi-so and chive decorated not only the table but added some scents to the food & wine harmony!
In the West European culture basil and chive are quite popular, shi-so not that much. There exist two varieties: green and violet. The violet possesses more fruity expressions, while the green one is quite spicy and this is the reason one to choose it: the wine we taste opens up with beautiful floral notes and develops very ripen sweet peaches aromas, has a deliciously spicy finish!

All from me for the moment! Saying to you Cheers or Наздраве- how we say it in Bulgarian!

Wine Me Please

Red Rocks & Vanilla Spicy Clouds

23 août 2016
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Sweet wines have  always been a challenge for wine lovers who are in search of new food & wine pairing temptations. Especially for those who love to experiment « unedited » flavours and matches. In this matter sweet wines offer a large range of…surprises !!!

They are often to be recommended to sea food, to poultry meals, to dishes with spicy character (all kind of spices), to some specific cheeses (try to explore others than Bleu d’Auvergne and Roquefort, please!), to Asian delicacies (due to their sophistication and subtlety), but also to chocolate (mostly dark), to « creamy » desserts, to dry fruits and nuts.

Sweet wines possess a big capacity to influence meals by :

  • coating meats of refined lean texture- mostly poultry- with flavours
  • creating complexity of sweet-salty expressions- sea food, cheeses, roasted nuts
  • moderating spiciness by giving another dimention to it
  • bringing freshness and tastes to tender creamy textures
  • extending the fruity expressions of dark chocolate

Oh, I have already the sensation of sweet roundness in my mouth ;-).

But let’s be back to the idea of this writng :

Few months ago Château Guiraud, 1er Grand Cru Classé of Sauternes have organized a culinary contest: Le Grand Concours Cuisine. It was about the elaboration of original recipe of a meal that needed to match perfectly to the wine of the property. I have participated in it => http://chateau-guiraud-magazine.com/blog/grand-concours-de-cuisine-du-chateau-guiraud-2 and Oh mon Dieu! I still don’t know how it happened but… it was me who won the prize ! Feeling blessed… !

I remember: at that time I was really  involved in the creativity- tasting, tasting, tasting. The idea for the dessert which you can find below came to me in the same way as the recipe of the giant prawns with the crown of vegetables, wine and oolong tea- the winner. We could participate in the contest with only one recipe, so I said to myself that if I win the prize, I will dedicate this dessert to the wine of Château Guiraud. Because since the beginning it was the WINE that inspired me.

You can find it here : it is complex, not too sweet, nicely fresh, slightly spicy and easy to be prepared.

Ingredients for 4 people :

  • orange sweet potatos   ~ 300g
  • 2 tablespoons of crushed roasted hazelnuts
  • 1 tea spoon of grated ginger
  • 2 or 3 tablespoon(s) of maple syrup
  • 1 kg of vanilla ice cream ANGÉLYS
  • 1 tablespoon of candied orange peel cut into small pieces
  • 4 small hot chillies
  • 4 cherries

Preparation :

Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into slices and steam them. Once cooked, put them into a muselin kitchen cloth in order to drain them. Crush them with a fork until you obtain a soft puree. Add the maple syrup, the hazelnuts, the ginger and the candied fruits. Mix them well. With the help of a pastry syringe, at the bottom of a dessert plate form a base shaped in middle size roses.

Cut the chillies with the point of a knife, try to preserve their shape. Take out the seeds. In a very small recipient heat up the maple syrup and caramelize the chillies and the cherries.

Serve the ice cream on the base and decorate with the caramelized chillies and the cherries.

Enjoy with a glass of Château Guiraud wine! Recently we have tasted the following vintages: 2000 – 2008 – 2011. Irresistable, three of them, in three different moments of the life of the wine. Cheers! Cheers! Cheers!