The Gastronomique Tour: Week 2 – Switzerland

The second and final week of my tour lands me in Switzerland to sample some of its delicacies (food and drink), and more importantly, visit w/ my cousins, some of whom I haven’t seen since 2004. My home base was Delemont, the town where my mom grew up and where most of my cousins still live. It’s close to the Alsace region of France so we visited a couple of beautiful towns just across the border – Kaysersberg and Colmar. Other stops were Lucerne (famous for its covered bridge), Vercorin and Grimentz (two alpine villages in the Valais region). Grimentz is one of the best preserved Swiss alpine villages in that region. 

One of my cousins introduced me to Damassine, a delicious eau de vie made from damson plums. It quickly became one of my favorite after dinner drinks, having a great aroma and flavor in addition to aiding in the digestion of wonderful meals. One evening we sautéed 2 types of local fresh trout purchased at the Delemont farmers market and of course we finished the meal w/ a bit of cheese and Damassine!

While in Vercorin, my cousin prepared a tradition meal called Assiette Valaisanne, which typically is a platter loaded w/ local cured meats, local cheeses, butter, thin slices of a dense rye bread called seigle, sliced fruit, nuts, cornichons and tomato wedges. This is served w/ wines produced regionally. It makes a delicious meal. Click here for an example.

It was hunting season while I was in Switzerland, so most restaurants offered seasonal dishes made w/ fresh game meat. I was fortunate to sample some venison and chamois prepare a couple of different ways during some of our meals out. One chef slowly braised chamois for 18 hours and served it w/ local mushrooms, spaetzle, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Another preparation was a roulade of venison breast stuffed w/ ground venison and served w/ red cabbage and spaetzle. Both were delicious!

When in Switzerland, I always hope to eat Raclette (a Swiss specialty). It’s one of my favorite ways to eat cheese. A picture is worth a thousand words as you will see in the photos of the Raclette lunch we ate at a cousin’s home one day.

I hope you enjoy these choice photos as much as I enjoyed my short time in Switzerland!

P1010958 Kaysersberg

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P1010985 Vineyards in Alsace

P1010986 Colmar (aka – “Little Venice”)

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P1020031 Very slow braised chamois at L’Etoile in Moutier

P1020038 After dinner at L’Etoile

P1020051 Lucerne

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P1020095 Delemont (my mom grew up in the building on the right – her dad’s bakery was on the bottom level)

P1020101 One of the many colorful fountains in Delemont

P1020148 Delemont farmers market

P1020130 Our trouts for the evening are the filets on the right

P1020143 Mushrooms galore

P1020209 Downtown Delemont

P1020213 Waiting for the Raclette

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P1020214 Yum!

P1020281 Vercorin

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P1020250 Grimentz

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P1020269 Our lunch spot in Grimentz

P1020276 On the menu…

P1020271 Veggie lasagna

P1020272 Braised venison

P1020273 Venison roulade

Au revior et a bientot j’espere!

Bruno

The Gastronomique Tour: Part 2, Week 1 – Armagnac

The second installment of my European adventure takes place in the town of Eauze, France, where we were fortunate enough to visit the Armagnac producer, Marquis de Montesquiou. They normally don’t give tours but my brother told them I was coming all the way from St. Louis and was a fan of their Armagnac, so they made an exception. Our guide was the maître de chais (cellar master), Eric Durand. He was kind enough to take 1 1/2 hours out of his busy day to show us around and explain the Armagnac production process.

Armagnac is an eau de vie, like Cognac, but different in that it is distilled only once using a continuous distillation process. This process captures more of the esters from the fermented grapes and results in a more flavorful end product. Eric also noted that the oak barrels in which Armagnac is aged has a looser grain than the barrels used for aging Cognac, allowing the Armagnac to absorb more flavors from the barrels than Cognac.

Our tour culminated w/ a tasting of the house reserve Armagnac that dates back to 1900. If I remember correctly, Eric explained that with every vintage there is some excess Armagnac that won’t fit into the barrels used for that year’s production. This excess was placed in select barrels and is a blend of all vintages dating back to when Marquis de Montesquiou was founded. How fortunate we were to taste something that rare! My friend said he had never seen as big a smile on my face as when that golden nectar touched my taste buds! My brother commented to Eric that I’m now spoiled for life because no other Armagnac will taste as good as this house reserve. So true… so true!!

Here are a few photos from our visit:

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P1010792 “La Cathedrale” (the cathedral) where the barrels are housed

P1010797 Inside “La Cathedrale”

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P1010801 The large blending barrels (w/ a normal sized barrel in the foreground for perspective)

P1010812 The large blending barrels and the lab

P1010808 A label on one of the blending barrels

P1010802 A label on one of the normal sized barrels (noting the vintage, grape type, farm of origin, etc…)

P1010815 Markings on one of the normal sized barrels

P1010804 Maitre de Chais, Eric Durand, explaining the distillation process

P1010816 Inside the lab

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Bob's Agen photos4 The moment of glory!

 

Thank you Eric for such a memorable experience!

A votre sante’…

Bruno

Asian Basil Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

asian basil gelato with roasted hazelnuts1

Here’s a good recipe if you still have basil growing in your yard and don’t know what to do w/ it. You could surprise your friends at whatever Thanksgiving gathering you attend this year by bringing something unusual! In this recipe I used Asian basil to add a more pungent flavor, but any basil will work. I also tried a new technique of letting the basil steep in the gelato base in the fridge for 2 days before churning. This punched up the flavor and color.

Basil Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

Ingredients:

1 cup Asian basil leaves (packed)

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 quart half & half

1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (coarsely chopped)

Procedure:

1) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow.

2) Place half & half in a heavy pot and heat until scalded.

3) Very slowly whisk warm half & half into egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture.

4) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously w/ a heat resistant spatula until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling.

5) Once cool, pour into a food processor, add basil and pulse until basil is finely chopped.

6) Pour back into bowl, cover (I use a shower cap that fits snuggly over the top) and place in fridge for 2 days.

7) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding the hazelnuts when mixture begins to thicken.

8) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container and quickly stir to evenly distribute the hazelnuts and basil.

9) Place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm.

Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts 

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Bruno

The Gastronomique Tour: Part 1, Week 1- Southwestern France

How do I edit a fantastic 2 week vacation during which I snapped 670 photos?… Not easily!

To sum it up, seeing family I hadn’t visited since 2004 was so enjoyable I wish I had more time to be w/ them. I definitely won’t let so much time pass before my next visit.

My first stop was Southwestern France. I landed in Bordeaux and spent the first week exploring the region surrounding Agen, the city where my brother and his wife live. This region is filled w/ great food and beautiful countryside which encompasses many well preserved medieval villages.

This post and the ones to follow will provide a visual taste of my experiences…

P1010639 Agen’s organic farmers market

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P1010661 Gavaudun

P1010683 Biron

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P1010712 Monpazier

P1010732 Bonaguil

P1010739 Rocamadour

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P1010839 Foie gras museum

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P1010873 Josephine Baker’s old house (Chateau des Milandes)

P1010881 Beynac

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P1010919 Our picnic spot (Roque – Gageac)

P1010920 Decadent picnic food

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A bientot!

Bruno

 

Peppers Picked and Pickled

pickled peppers 2015

Huge crop this year… mucho pickled peppers for the winter months!!

Lovin’ the heat!

Bruno

Garden 2015 – Update #3: Fading into Fall

Well, summer’s almost over…what a bummer! Besides spring, it’s my favorite season. Gardening has been good this year. I already have a few ideas for next year that I’m looking forward to putting into action.

Here are a few photos that I shot this morning. As you can see, there are many tomatoes and peppers yet to be picked, and a few baby butternuts that hopefully will plump up for good eatin’! If you enlarge the photo of the zinnias and look closely at the top right flowers you might be able to spot a Monarch butterfly that stopped for some nectar to help it w/ the long flight to Mexico.

garden1 Sept 5 '15

garden2 Sept 5 '15

garden3 Sept 5 '15

garden4 Sept 5 '15

garden5 Sept 5 '15

garden6 Sept 5 '15

garden7 Sept 5 '15

garden8 Sept 5 '15

garden9 Sept 5 '15

Enjoy the final weeks of summer!

Bruno

Garden 2015 – Update #2: First Tomatoes!

We’re finally getting a normal rain pattern in St. Louis. A good soaking rain about once a week is just what the garden needs besides my daily watering. Getting some nice ripe veggies on a regular basis… this is why I love to garden!

The following garden pics were snapped on July 26th and on August 5th, voila, the first ripe bounty for my eating pleasure!

garden1 July 26 '15

garden2 July 26 '15

garden3 July 26 '15

garden4 July 26 '15

garden5 July 26 '15

garden6 July 26 '15

garden7 July 26 '15

garden8 July 26 '15

garden bounty1 August 5, 2015

I’m one happy gardener :-)

Bruno

 

Pepper Jam

Pepper Jam1

If you’re looking for something different to do w/ all those peppers growing in your garden, here’s a quick and easy recipe. I love the sweet and spicy flavors of this jam! Want it more sweet than spicy… just use less spicy peppers, add some bell peppers or just omit the hot pepper seeds/ribs. This jam will wake up your palate in the morning!

Pepper Jam (recipe adapted from popsugar.com)

Ingredients:

Mix of jalapeno and fresno peppers (stems, seeds and ribs removed, leaving seeds/stems of only 3 or 4 jalapenos) – enough for 2 cups when minced

3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cups of sugar

1 tablespoon fruit pectin

Procedure:

1) Finely mince peppers in a food processor

2) Place a small plate in the freezer

3) In a large heavy-bottomed pot combine minced peppers, cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat and boil for 10 minutes, stirring often.

4) Add fruit pectin, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat.

5) Remove plate from freezer and dab a small amount of jam on it. Return plate to freezer for 1 minute. If the jam has jelled and does not slide down the plate when tilted it’s done. If the jam slides down, continue to cook mixture for another minute and try the freezer test again. If the jam is the desired consistency it’s ready.

6) Let cool a bit, then ladle into a jar.

Yield: 10 ounces

 

Pick a peck of peppers!

Bruno

Can You Spot the Goldfinches?

A pair of goldfinches stop by in my yard from time to time to snack on the zinnias. They’re beautiful and fun to watch as the pull the petals off the flowers to get to the seeds. I was drinking my morning cups of coffee the other day and spotted them in action through the kitchen window. Can you spot them? The female is a bit more difficult to see in the photos but she’s there! (click the pics to enlarge for easier spotting)

Goldfinches1

Goldfinches2

Goldfinches3

Goldfinches4

Happy Birding!

Bruno

Garden 2015 – Update #1

So far this season the garden is doing well despite being drowned by all the rain we’ve been getting. A total of 11.25 inches of rain has fallen so far this month alone! Some baby tomatoes and jalapenos are starting to form already. My basil seems to like all the moisture because it’s growing like crazy. I harvested enough the other day to make a big jar of pesto. I also harvested some oregano. It’s being dried out and will be used in tomato sauce and crumbled on top of pizzas. The zinnias are looking beautiful, but the hollyhocks were so badly damaged from rust disease that I removed them from the butterfly garden yesterday. The following garden photos were taken on June 24th. The pesto and oregano pic was snapped this morning.

garden1 6-24-15 Zinnias

garden2 6-24-15 Basil in the foreground

garden3 6-24-15 Lettuces, greens, etc.

garden5 6-24-15 Baby tomato

garden6 6-24-15 Baby jalapenos

garden4 6-24-15 Butterfly garden

garden7 6-24-15 Wildflowers

garden9 6-24-15 Herbs

garden8 6-24-15  Veggie enclosure

pesto 2015 Oregano and pesto

Until next time…

Bruno