I woke up with the laptop purring on my chest.
Jet lag, a heavy back pack, the disappointment with my apartment and soft duck down pillows may have been some of the reasons I passed out minutes after getting into bed last night. I had a crazy idea that I would go back to my lovely room and blog. What the foie gras was I thinking?
Refreshed and ready to start a new day, I sauntered down to the gorgeous French country kitchen. Again, more of Francine’s decorating skills to discover while I was served tea until I decided what to eat from the array of food on offer.
Francine asked the magic question, would I like eggs. Perfect, I hadn’t had a decent breakfast in days. Fresh baguettes, creamy French butter and the warmth generated from the huge Aga stove, while sitting back on grey linen covered chairs accessorized
with hot pink cushions and napery was exactly what I had envisaged from the photographs on Cote Jardin’s website. If the truth be known, it was the photos of the kitchen that seduced me into staying here.
I probably have more photos of where I stayed than the town of Senlis itself! Every detail, perfectly orchestrated yet, simply and stylishly understated, I felt as if I was sitting amongst the pages of a style magazine.
What I didn’t realise until I checked out, was that Francine had upgraded me to one of her special rooms because I had had my heart set on staying in a particular room that wasn’t available. Now I understand her question when she presented me the room. Is this ok for you. It was her subtle way of letting me know that I had been upgraded. What a lovely gesture!
I purposefully stayed at Cote Jardin on Thursday night, so I could explore the Friday markets of Senlis.
Unfortunately it was raining but it didn’t seem to stop the excited shoppers lining up for fresh fish, cleaned and gutted on the spot, fresh chickens hanging from the temporary vendors vans and fresh fruit and vegetables. I feel quite certain that I was the only tourist in town and the camera attracted a lot of jovial attention, asking if I was from a newspaper!
There was a really great atmosphere at this market and I love the excitement and gusto that French shoppers adopt when they are shopping for food.
Senlis is in the region of Picardy and it’s close proximity to Paris, makes it possible for a day trip.
The rain put a bit of a dampener on exploring this medieval city that has a long and interesting history. The 7m high wall, built in the 3rd century to protect what was then Augustomagus from invasion is still intact around parts of the city today.
But the atmosphere, the friendly vibe and so much to explore down narrow cobbled streets and passages made it quite an adventure. Remarkably I didn’t get lost.
Although the gothic Notre Dame Cathedral that sits towering over the city centre is smaller than the Notre Dame of Paris, it is still very impressive in it’s own right and the medieval remains are free to explore, there is even an old roman amphitheatre but it is closed at this time to the public, so all I could do was peer through the gates at a grassy entrance. Although I did manage to climb to the top of part of the fortress wall.
Here you can see parts of the remaining wall. On the left, is where I climbed up for a bird’s eye view and the tower you can see in the distance was also part of the wall.
To the right are more remains closer to the city centre.
As I said yesterday, if there was a cute town award, Senlis would win. Such a charming place to explore. It was well worth the trip, despite the rain.
I headed back to Paris earlier than planned because I had a rendezvous with my friend Julien, he told me he had a surprise for me, which he is certain I will enjoy.
You know how the joke starts out .. how many people does it take to ….
Take to do what? Cook foie gras for example? Probably one, but just say you had an audience of four people. It would be stressful for me, but not for Julien’s friend and this was my surprise. To watch and learn how to make foie gras – the French way – the proper way.
Julien’s friends greeted me with a warm and welcoming hello, not two kisses to the cheek but three; his friend comes from the country where three is in order, and I almost lost that last kiss on offer.
Fortunately for me, English was also on offer, unfortunately for one of the other guests, who doesn’t speak English. I am sorry that he must have felt alienated. I know what it feels like to be surrounded by people who speak a language you don’t understand and it isn’t pleasant. I sensed his embarrassment that he couldn’t speak English and yet it was me who was the foreigner, the odd one out who should have encountered this.
We sat around their kitchen with drinks and nibbles while we were entertained by Julien’s aproned friend as he went about cooking up 2kg’s of duck livers that he had ventured out to Rungis to purchase.
Rungis is the replacement for what was the large sprawling historic and central market of Paris in the Les Halles area. Much to public outcry, the covered market was demolished and moved outside of Paris.
There is an art to making a successful foie gras, it needs to be marinated for a couple of days with the exact amount of salt and pepper and alcohol. Depending on your taste, it should sit for a couple of days before being consumed. Everyone seemed to have their favourite day to eat the foie gras. Julien’s heavily pregnant friend prefers the 5th day she tells me. This is when the flavour is perfect for her.
This is an annual event, cooking up a large batch to eat over Christmas. First it is cooked in the oven at a low temperature, then checked with a thermometer, this is important. Then we ventured outside to the cool night air, where it can cool down with a bottle of orange juice for weight to press it.
I joked that if we did this in Australia, we would come back to find ants, cockroaches and possums having a fine feast!
Later the fat is drained off, cooled and poured on the top for preservation. Wow, what a wonderful surprise and Julien was right, I certainly did enjoy the experience of being in his friends home and being treated to this important Christmas ritual.
Here is one he prepared earlier.
This will be part of our dinner.
But dinner, now does he have to cook dinner?
I noticed earlier that Julien’s friend had slapped a parcel wrapped in white waxed paper onto the bench. His dad is a butcher and he seems to know everything there is to know about meat quality.
Another fine food lesson.
Look at this he says as he proudly unwraps the parcel of fillet steaks, a large smile upon his face displaying his fine cuts of meat as if it was his soon to arrive, new born baby.
Keeping it simple is also a French art.
Within minutes and with no apparent fuss or fluster, entreé was served like magic.
Light, simple, stylish.
Three lettuce leaves with a home made vinaigrette dressing and goats cheese encased in pastry.
Now it was time for his steaks to be cooked. How does everyone like their steaks he asks. I think really this was to check that I didn’t eat over-cooked meat.
He knew exactly how it should be cooked and there was much discussion about how certain cuts and meats should be cooked and confirmed for me that when I order ‘a point’ – I should be getting medium rare but sometimes it is over done.
He decided that this is either due to a bad chef or the chef assuming that I am a tourist and prefer well done.
Julien and I brought the dessert. I mean really why cook dessert in Paris when there is an array of deliciousness to be found.
We brought a selection of pastries that I forgot to photograph, we were too busy enjoying the sweet, sticky delights.
What a wonderful, entertaining and informative evening.
It was such an honour and a pleasure to be invited into their home and to be treated to such an exotic evening, as Julien called it.
Simple, stylish and relaxed, just as Julien had promised.
My surprise was much appreciated, what a lovely and thoughtful gift and what a foie gras kind of way to end a long adventurous day!
And if that wasn’t enough, I was presented with my very own small pot of foie gras to take home!
I think a bottle of champagne is in order and maybe I will try it every day to discover, as the flavours develop what my favourite day is to eat foie gras.
Find out more about the Castle of Chantilly, the Medieval Village of Senlis and the most gorgeous bed and breakfast in Senlis :
- Château de ChantillySituated 50kms north of Paris and a short 25 minute train ride, makes the sumptuous Château de Chantilly a pleasant and easy day trip just outside of Paris.
- SenlisCharming cobbled streets, pretty stone cottages and a vibrant market can all be seen in a day from Paris in this Medieval town but an overnight stay ...
- Côte JardinOozing style and charm with an attention to detail, Côte Jardin is everything you ever dreamed about a French country Bed and Breakfast, located in the delightful village on Senlis.