Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hello Countryside

The new digs.

This summer we rented (for 8 weeks) a lovely house in the country about 15 minutes from our village.  It was perfect for the business and the kids and the dogs.  We also rented it for our culinary retreat too.  It's not cheap and we still had to pay rent at our house in the village, even though we weren't staying there.  And we had to basically move out of our old place and move into the summer house, which was a pain.

We decided to approach the owners about renting the house year-round.  It made sense, will save money and we were itching to get out of the village.  Not that our village isn't beautiful, but we are always out of the village, either hiking, climbing, running or biking and being in the country makes up happy.  The house had been on the market to sell (out of our price range) but after some discussion the owners decided to take it off the market for a year and rent it to us at a really good price.

We moved in the first week of November and are really happy up here.  I say "up" because we are on one of the highest points around "haute" is part of our hamlets name.  We have 2 other houses around, but not next door and it's quiet and peaceful.  We have a big fenced in yard for the dogs and hiking trails all over too.  We close up most of the house during the winter (4 bedrooms upstairs and the gite next door) because it would cost us a fortune to heat.  We've spent the last few weeks making our mark on the place, putting up our pictures/Bruce's paintings, bringing in our furniture, etc...

Do I miss living in the village?  No.  The only thing I do miss is being able to walk to our little market when I realize I'm out of something, but I'm sure I'll get over that fast.  We love it here, it already feels like home.

Kitchen area (my new piano de cuisson too)

Living room

Looking into the living room from the outside

From our yard on a clear day we can see the Pyrenees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Basque Country

I know it's been a long time since I've updated the blog and I'm going to try and update it more regularly.  This summer was very busy, we had 2 amazing groups come for our teen art camps (3 weeks each).  Kids from U.S., England, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Columbia and France.  Some were return students (one has come for the past 3 summers) and some were new.  It's non-stop, 24x7 for us, but we love it.

During one of the camps we got an email from our good friends E&K in Los Angeles.  They wanted us to meet them in The Basque Country - San Sebastian and Bilbao, Spain for 5 days.  It's only 3 hours from us, if they were going to be so close we had to go see them.  Plus we had never been to the area and both really wanted to see the Museo Guggenheim and it was a few days after my birthday, so it was good excuse to celebrate.

We started in San Sebastian, a lovely seaside town.  We rented bikes, Bruce surfed, we shopped and ate pintxa (like Tapas) and had some good wine.  Weather was perfect and it was relaxing and great to spend time with E&C.  After 3 days in San Sebastian, we left for Bilbao.

View of San Sebastian from our hotel balcony

Bruce & Kevin

Pintxa spread

Hanging by the sea in San Sebastian

Bilbao had a very different vibe, but we both really liked the city.  We had a private tour of the Guggenheim too, which was really nice, it wasn't a tour of the artwork, but a tour of the building and an overview of how it was built, etc.  It was really interesting.  We ate at some really nice restaurants and did some shopping too.  The weather wasn't as nice here, cold and rainy, but we didn't let that stop us.

Me & Erica

A few glasses of wine

Outside the Guggenheim at night

My man

The Guggenheim

It's hard to say goodbye to your best friends...but we know we'll see them very soon (or at least on Skype once a week).  We had a great time and would go back to both places in a second.  The people were so lovely and nice and both cities had loads to offer.  If you haven't been, I'd highly recommend you go.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Quick trip to Paris

We took a quick 2 night trip up to Paris this week.  We went up to see our favorite artist, Paul Weller.  We have seen him about 11-12 times, but never in Paris.  We drove up on Wednesday and saw the concert that night.  It was a really small venue in the 11th and we had a great time.  We had dinner at our friends restaurant Les Funambules, which is also in the 11th.  We first had dinner there 4 years ago and we sat next to the owners (not knowing they were the owners).  Every time we visit Paris we eat at Les Funambules.

At Les Funambules

This trip however, we also ate at their NEW restaurant in the 7th called Les Parisiennes.  It's located at 17 avenue de la Motte-Picquet, actually 1 block from the apartment we stay at.  It was fantastic!  One of the best dinners I have had in a long time.  The menu has many choices, the prices are reasonable and the decor beautiful.

Inside Les Parisiennes

Les Parisiennes

I started with gazpacho, which was so so good and Bruce had burrata with tomatoes.  Then for dinner I had steak tartar (my favorite) and Bruce had vegetable risotto.  Dessert was a hot fudge sundae (they also have strawberry too).  Of course we had a lovely pinot with dinner.

They are open for breakfast and serve eggs, bacon, croissant, orange juice and coffee.  Of course we had to go on Friday morning before we left Paris.  We love our breakfasts.  They are also open for lunch too.

If you live in Paris or are visiting Paris, I highly recommend you visit Les Parisiennes. You won't be disappointed.  We can't wait to go back.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Culinary Retreat

Welcome to our Culinary Retreat

We just finished our 2nd culinary retreat here in France. We had 6 lovely women from Los Angeles come  to cook with Chef/Instructor Carol Cotner-Thompson, who is also from Los Angeles.  Carol works at The New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA. 

Shopping at the Vide Grenier in Caussaude

Hanging at l'halle during the Sunday market
The day was split between sight-seeing and cooking classes.  Bruce and I were the tour guides, taking them "medieval village" hopping (St. Antonin Noble Val, Cordes sur Ciel, St. Cirq Lapopie, etc...), visiting cheese farms, open markets, vide greniers, museums, etc.  Then we'd come back to the house, have a couple hours to chill and then cooking lessons would start at 5:00 pm,  around 8:00 pm we had our amazing dinner.

Cooking class with Carol

Busy in the kitchen

Beautiful strawberry tart

Our first nights dinner 

Lovely dinners on the terrace

Carol and the ladies in Bruniquel

The day was split between sight-seeing and cooking classes.  Bruce and I were the tour guides, taking them "medieval village" hopping (St. Antonin Noble Val, Cordes sur Ciel, St. Cirq Lapopie, etc...), visiting cheese farms, open markets, vide greniers, museums, etc.  Then we'd come back to the house, have a couple hours to chill and then cooking lessons would start at 5:00 pm and around 8:00 pm we had our amazing dinner.

We had the most incredible meals.  The ladies baked bread, make puff pastry, duck, lamb, flat bread, beautiful desserts, wonderful appetizers and super side dishes.

St. Cirq Lapopie

Lunch at Lou Bourdie in Bach

Visit to a local goat cheese farm


Peas for the pea soup

The ladies made flat bread on the grill and then a green olive tapinade, served with fresh goat cheese.

Almond cake

Just in time for cherries

Goat cheese from the market

Fresh walnut bread, served with fava bean purée

Stuffed artichokes

Visit to the abbey at Beaulieu-en-Rouergue

Our amazing chef/teacher

Here I am with Megan and Rachel in Cordes sur Ciel

Making puff pastry - then apple turnovers

Carol is a great teacher and the ladies that came loved to cook and loved food.  We all had a great time.  Lived together in a 200 year old farmhouse in the French countryside, like one big happy family.

We'll be having another culinary retreat in September with Pamela Salzman and we can't wait for that.  But, we are hoping to bring Carol back again next May.   You can check our website Raison d'Art for more information on our retreats.