30 June 2008

Window panels at Bourges cathedral

It's fun to take and see pictures of stained-glass windows in churches. The colors come out really vivid when the light is right. Too much bright sun right behind the glass won't work, and neither will a gloomy gray sky.

The day CHM and I spent in Bourges had perfect weather. Mixed clouds and sun, so you had plenty of chances to take a good picture as light conditions changed. Here's a link to the first topic I did about the cathedral at Bourges.

After lunch that day we spent a couple of hours in the cathedral taking pictures. I snapped away with abandon, convinced that if I used up my camera battery it wouldn't matter because I had another, fully charged one in the car. My battery did run down, and when we went back to the car, I discovered I had left the spare battery in its charger... at home!

That limited my picture-taking for the rest of the day, but I was able to take a few pictures here and there. We mostly saw churches, with a couple of châteaux. That's what there is to see here.

An appointment at the doctor's at 9:30 has cut my blogging time very short this morning.

28 June 2008

L'Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais in the Marais

A gothic-style church...

...behind a classical façade

On the way to the Trumilou restaurant with Cheryl on June 2 (can it have been that long ago already?) we walked past the St-Gervais church on the edge of the Marais neighborhood — just as I have done so many dozens of times over the years. It's official name is l'Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais, and it's in the same neighborhood as the Trumilou restaurant and the Café Louis-Philippe.

Stained glass windows in the Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais

The Michelin Green Guide says that Gervais and Protais were brothers and Roman military officers who were martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero. As early as the 6th century, there was a basilica on this same site dedicated to the two sainted brothers.

The windows were refurbished in the 1800s
and again over the past ten years by the city of Paris

The window pictured just above is called The Wisdom of Solomon. It shows figures dressed in French Renaissance style and in a Renaissance-style palace. The poses and gestures of the figures are remarkable, as is the detail of their costumes, and this window is an example of technical virtuosity for its time (early 1500s, Flemish school). That's what I read on this site in French.

The current St-Gervais church was built in flamboyant gothic style beginning in 1494 and was completed in 1657. The church's façade is in the French classical style and was built between 1616 and 1621. Some like it, and some don't. In 1918, a German mortar shell hit the church and caused major damage, killing more than 100 people inside. The church was repaired, then, in the 20th century. It is home to a monastic community even now.

Tall vaulting at St-Gervais-St-Protais

Some of the stained glass windows in the church, dating back to the 1500s, survived the WWI bombing incident, as did the church organ and some of the old carved stone and arches. The organ is in fact the oldest church organ in Paris, and the church has played a big role in the history of French music.

Some of the more contemporary windows at St-Gervais

The pictures in this entry include some parts of the old stained-glass windows and some windows that were obviously done as part of the 20th-century repairs to the building. The old windows feature bright panels in primary colors, red and blue, especially, whereas the newer ones use more muted, earthtone colors and abstract forms.

Be careful what you visit, because the Cadogan Guide to Paris says the Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais isn't even worth going into. I wonder if the guidebook writers saw the same church I saw.

27 June 2008

Another lunch at the Café L.-Ph. in Paris

Le Café Louis-Philippe in central Paris

For somebody who almost never goes to restaurants, I had a great month of June. In fact, May wasn't bad either. I got to go have meals in two Paris restaurants where I'd been wanting to eat for years -- one of them twice. Thanks to Cheryl and CHM for the invitations.

The menu

I wrote about the Trumilou here and here and about the Café Louis-Philippe here, here, and here. Then CHM and I went to the Café L.-Ph. again last Monday. It was good the second time too.

A menu on a blackboard

As it turned out, these two restaurants are located just a few steps from each other on the right bank of the Seine, near the Paris Hôtel de Ville and the Ile Saint-Louis. The Trumilou is an old bistrot that I'd been reading about for ten years, and it wasn't a disappointment. The Café Louis-Philippe is a place I had walked past dozens of times during trips to Paris starting in the mid-1990s, but without ever managing to stop in.

Paris is one thing, and Saint-Aignan is another. I was also lucky enough in May and June to eat two meals at one of our local institutions, Le Crêpiot. I blogged about it too.

At the Café L.-Ph., CHM had a herring salad, which is the same thing that Cheryl had when we went to the Trumilou with Claude a couple of weeks earlier. The one CHM had is pictured below, and the one Cheryl had looked like this. Actually, Walt had the same thing at the Crêpiot in Saint-Aignan a week or so earlier. Looks like a trend.

Hareng, pommes à l'huile — herring fillets with potato salad

At the Café L.-Ph., I had what I think is called a Lyonnaise salad: greens with lardons (chunks of smoked pork bacon) and a poached egg. I had had the same salad a the Trumilou a few weeks earlier. The one at the Louis-Philippe was tastier because at the Trumilou the dressing seemed to be watered down. Both had perfectly cooked poached eggs, however. The L'.-Ph's is below and here's a link to the one at the Trumilou.

Salade aux lardons avec un œuf poché

As main courses, I had bœuf bourguignon and CHM had blanquette de veau (links are to pictures I posted a couple of days ago). We chose those because they are classics but also because the L-Ph. has them on its menu every day. The beef was mostly very tender and falling apart, as was the veal. CHM said he thought the rice with the blanquette wasn't very good — it might have been instant rice. And it had some wild rice mixed in. I tasted the veal, however, and can vouch for its goodness.

The weather was gorgeous and warm, and we sat outside at the Café L.-Ph. The service was very good. The terrace is a little noisy because there is a lot of car and truck traffic on the wide street right there along the Seine, but hey, this is Paris and it is bustling.

The lunch (starter + main course) with a small carafe of rosé and a glass of Burgundy red cost just short of €30 per person. That's reasonable for Paris. We didn't have dessert but I did have an espresso.

The café stays open all afternoon and features a wine for daily tasting and drinking. Last Monday it was Chablis, which, in case you don't know, is an excellent dry French-style Chardonnay from the village of Chablis in the northern part of Burgundy. It was going for €4.50 a glass.

Speaking of green

Here's one of the reasons why I think my monitor might be showing me things through green-colored glasses. But no, it really is very green here. Thanks to all the rain we had in April and May (and the 12 months preceding...).

The Renaudière vineyard at 7:30 a.m. on 25 June 2008
Picture not retouched in Photoshop

Most of the vines have been clipped now to allow the maximum
amount of sunlight to shine on the grapes and keep them warm.

Everything is growing nicely, including blackberry brambles. Yesterday, I went out and cut some thorny vines that are growing over our back fence. You have to keep them under control or they will take over.

The road out in the vineyard where we walk with Callie

Callie the border collie coming when called

We are having beautiful weather right now, but I see on TV that some clouds and rain are going to cover most of Normandy this afternoon. We are right on the edge of the bad weather, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed. As soon as the sun goes behind a cloud, you can feel a slight chill in the air.

More orchids? Purple. Picture taken yesterday...

By the way, I noticed that the pink flowers in this picture I posted yesterday look more purple than pink our our laptop display. On my monitor and Walt's they look pink, as they did "in person." Do they look pink or purple to you?

26 June 2008

Days of color and warmth

A butterfly on the window in the sunporch

I think I finally have the monitor adjusted. It was a process of trial and error that took me many hours yesterday and the day before. I had to change the settings of the monitor itself so that it displayed minimal color, high brightness, and medium contrast. Then I used the settings in the video driver of my computer's graphics card to overlay color, brightness, and contrast settings that produced the desired result.

Yellow flowers on the edge of the vineyard

A juvenile jackdaw that I saw in Vendôme the other day.
Jackdaws are Eurasian and are the smallest of the crows.

With two sets of adjustments to juggle with, it was complicated. But using only the monitor's or only the computer's settings wasn't working. They had to be balanced against each other. Now I have a widescreen monitor that runs in 1440 x 900 resolution and gives me a larger on-screen workspace. The monitor itself cost less than $300 (€200 or so, and that may explain why it was so hard to adjust). I actually bought it to use it as a television set, but then decided I needed it more as a computer monitor.

The cactus CHM brought me from America is flowering

Little pink flowers on the edge of the vineyard

The weather yesterday was just beautiful. I took two walks with the dog and took a lot of pictures. I did a little bit of cleanup work in the garden (there is always a lot of work to be done out there). We got our vegetable garden in very late this year because we were so busy in April, May, and June, but if the weather continues like this we should get good results.

Sitting in the back yard on a warm sunny day

Another shot of the cactus flower

In this post I'm including some photos, partly for the colors again, but also because they give you an idea of what the weather and the vegetation around here is like right now. There are little flowers everywhere. The flowers that are looking the saddest right now are the roses, which peaked last week. Roses grow in peoples yards and gardens, not out in the vineyard, by the way.

25 June 2008

More pix, just experimenting

Here are some pictures from my most recent trip to Paris. I'm still trying to see if they look okay. If they don't look okay on your monitor, let me know.

Lunch at the Café Louis-Philippe — bœuf bourguignon

Lunch at the Café Louis-Philippe — blanquette de veau

An old sign inside the Café Louis-Philippe

A red 2CV parked on a street behind the Hôtel de Ville in Paris

Color adjustments

I got a new monitor and I'm having a really hard time adjusting it to get the colors I'm used to. I'm not sure now what color my pictures are. I'm posting these to see what they look like on this monitor and on the two others we have in the house. Do they look right to you?

Yellow flowers

A pale pink rose

A white daisy with a yellow center

24 June 2008

Translation of tajine recipe


I got back from Paris yesterday at about 7:00 p.m. I had taken a long slow drive up there on Sunday, through Vendôme, Châteaudun, and Dourdan, as well as innumerable villages, to drop CHM off at his apartment. We had lunch at the Café Louis-Philippe yesterday and then I drove back to Saint-Aignan.

A window in the Sainte-Madeleine church in Châteaudun

Here's a translation of the tajine recipe I posted yesterday with some notes I added. French recipes are pretty cryptic sometimes, I know.
Tajine of Chicken with Carrots and Raisins

4 chicken leg/thigh sections (or one whole chicken, cup up)
4 large carrots (or more to taste)
1 onion
Ras el hanout* to taste
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup or so of water
a handful of raisins
salt & pepper

Brown the chicken pieces in olive oil at medium heat until they take on a golden color.

Peel the carrots and cut them into large pieces.

Cut the onion into slices and add it to the pan to cook down for 5 or 6 minutes with the chicken.

Then add the carrot pieces to the pan along with the spices, salt, and pepper. Add about a cup of water.

Cover the pan and let the chicken and vegetables cook at the simmer for an hour or more (I let mine cook for about two hours on very low heat). Test the carrots for doneness and when they are getting close to being ready, add the raisins and let them cook for about 15 minutes so that they swell up.

For a golden finish, put the whole dish under a hot broiler for two or three minutes before taking it to the table.

Serve with boiled rice or steamed couscous grain.
* Ras el hanout is a blend of "warm" spices that can vary from 6 to 21 ingredients. I have two packages of Ras el hanout that I bought on different days. One contains coriander, turmeric, cumin, pepper, caraway, mild red pepper, fennel, and fenugreek, all ground finely. The other is just cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and cardamom. You can make your own blend or just put in pinches of many of these spices along with pinches of allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and so on.

Here's a blend of ground spices for Ras el hanout that I found in the Joy of Cooking:
  • 2 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. each black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • ¼ tsp. each cloves and cayenne pepper
That's ground cloves of course.

23 June 2008

Tajine de poulet aux carottes

Tajine de poulet aux carottes et raisins secs

Still more food. It's such a big part of daily life here in Saint-Aignan and France. On Thursday I had bought a big bag of carrots. And I had a chicken in the freezer. Poulet aux carottes, I thought, like boeuf aux carottes, with onions, white wine, and smoked lardons (pork).


Then I looked on the web for recipes and I found a Moroccan tajine with chicken and carrots. It sounded good so that's what we made. With onions and Moroccan spices: turmeric, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and so on. I added some raisins for the last ten minutes of the cooking time. It turned out to be delicious. Served it with couscous.

Here is the recipe, in French:
Tajine de Poulet aux Carottes

4 cuisses de poulet
4 carottes
1 oignon
ras el hanout*
1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
une poignée de raisins secs
sel, poivre

Faire revenir le poulet à feu moyen dans une cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive pour qu'il soit un peu doré.

Préparer les carottes, les nettoyer, les éplucher, les couper.

Couper l'oignon en lamelles, l'ajouter au poulet.

Mettre les carottes avec le poulet, rajouter le ras el hanout, et le cumin. Saler, poivrer. Mettre également un peu d'eau (3/4 verre d'eau).

Laisser cuire environ 1 heure et servir. Un quart d'heure avant la fin de la cuisson, ajouter les raisins secs.

* Le Ras el hanout est un mélange d’épices « chaudes » qui peuvent varier de 7 à 21 épices. C’est un assaisonnement typique d’Afrique du Nord pour tous les plats orientaux et couscous. Littéralement, Ras El Hanout signifie « Toit de la Boutique ». Le mélange peut être composé de : Coriandre, Piment fort, cumin, Fenugrec, Gingembre, Poivre noir, Carvi noir, Cumin, etc.

Here's a link to the topic that includes a translation of the recipe above.

22 June 2008

Foie de veau au déjeuner

La Taverne de Maître Kanter near the cathedral in Bourges

While I'm on the subject of food, let me tell you what CHM and I had for lunch in Bourges. It was foie de veau — calf's liver — en persillade, which means with a sauce of butter or olive oil, garlic, and parsley.

And it was delicious. The restaurant we went to is a big chain called La Taverne de Maître Kanter. We weren't being very particular, or we would have looked elsewhere. We just found the place closest to the cathedral, because the cathedral was the point of the trip. Maître Kanter features Alsatian specialties including choucroute garnie — saurkraut with sausages, pork, and potatoes.

Foie de veau en persillade, purée Crécy

The liver was the restaurant's plat du jour, the day's special. It was served with a puree of carrots and potatoes. So that's what we had. I think it's usually a good idea to have the plat du jour if it's something you are at all interested in eating. That's the dish that the cooks are focused on that day and they make a special effort to see that it is attractive and delicious. It was.

21 June 2008

French truckstop food

It was warm and the front door of the restaurant
stayed open while we were there.

Yesterday, at the invitation of CHM, we had lunch over in Noyers-sur-Cher at the Grill des Nouettes, which is the place I call the truckstop. One friend described the décor as more like an American Midwest church supper hall, and I think she is right. But his is definitely a truckstop: it has the Relais Routiers sign displayed prominently out front on the road.

Le Grill des Nouettes in Noyers-sur-Cher

Yesterday there were several big rigs, some cars, and quite a few white vans (little ones and bigger ones) parked on the gravel lot out in front of the restaurant. It was 12:15. We went in and there were a dozen or more guys in t-shirts, jeans, and other workclothes-type outfits in the bar, having their apéritif I guess, and another dozen or so sitting at tables in the restaurant. There was one woman we could see — a 60-something woman having lunch in a corner with, presumably, her husband.

The salad bar at the truckstop

What's the food like? First of all, at noon there's a fixed-price menu for 11 euros. For that price, there's an hors-d'oeuvres buffet (all you can eat) featuring standard French salads of carrots, beetroots, and grated celery root as well as mussels, salami, local rillons, cantaloupe, hard-boiled eggs, and so on. It's quite a spread.

Beets, tomatoes & mozarella, mushrooms à la crème,
taboulé, and rillons

There are two main courses that change daily. The constant is that one choice is always meat or fowl and the other is fish. Yesterday, the two choices were (1) a brochette or shish-kebab or (2) a truite aux amandes, a whole pan-roasted trout served with slivered almonds.

The room. I think we counted three women
among many dozens of men.

We asked what the brochette was. Lamb? No, beef, the waitress said. Beef and kidneys, actually. Presumably veal kidneys. We all ordered that and then went to the salad bar for our appetizers.

Kidneys for lunch twice in one week. That's a record. Especially since Walt had only eaten kidneys once before in his life, and I hadn't eaten kidneys many times over the past 10 years (I do remember having then at Astier in Paris in 2006). The brochette was big chunks of meat served in a thick brown sauce that had plenty of Dijon mustard in it. That made it very tasty. The meat was cooked rare, and the beef and the kidneys were tender. The accompanying noodles were just so-so.

Beef and kidneys in a brown sauce with noodles

The third course at the truckstop is cheese, which is served without ceremony. A platter with half-a-dozen cheeses is passed around from table to table by the waitresses. When one piece of cheese has been eaten up, another is added to the plate. As you can see from my photo, the cheeses are varied, going from Swiss-type cow's-milk cheeses to brie to blue to goat's-milk cheese. The plate is left on your table and you take what you want.

The truckstop cheese platter

As for wine, it's included in the price of the lunch. The waitress brings a 50 cl carafe of local red wine to the table when she comes to take your order. That's the equivalent of two-thirds of a bottle, and it doesn't matter if you are one person or four at the table, that's what you get. But wait: you can get more. You just tell the waitress you need more wine, and she brings it. No extra charge. You also get a carafe of tap water.

The coffee is espresso

And then there's dessert. Floating islands was one choice yesterday. We all three decided to have ice cream, or glaces. Two scoops each. There were many flavors. CHM had two scoops of black-currant. Walt had pistachio and vanilla. I had pistachio and chocolate.

Then we had coffee. The bill for three people came to 37 euros. The meal was definitely worth the price.