Tis the Mushroom Season Wednesday, Oct 28 2009 

The French love the earth. This passion takes various forms. For many French, having a garden is de rigueur (a must). Whether a large potager (vegetable garden) in the country or a few herbs in pots on the apartment balcony in Paris, a bit of dirt in which to make things grow is a link to the land.

The earth and the French meal experience are also tightly linked. The notion of terroir, which roughly translates as ‘taste of the earth’, means that food and wine taste of where they are grown and produced. French people know this well and appreciate the nuances of flavor and aroma that speak to the richness and variety of French soils and terrains. Restaurant menus often describe where a main ingredient is grown or raised as part of the dish.

Moreover, the French have an innate love of la campagne (the countryside) and spend good chunks of time out in nature. Walking in rural areas is a favorite pastime and in the fall, mushroom hunting inevitably becomes part of the outdoor, earthy fun. The French are proud of their ability to seek out mushrooms and distinguish good ones from those that are poisonous. But when in doubt, local pharmacies can verify which mushrooms are ‘keepers’.

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If you are just passing through France and can’t get out to the country for a good mushroom hunt yourself, then I highly recommend a visit to the local market during mushroom season. You’ll see an astounding variety of fungi–and a multitude of customers lined up trying to buy the best of that day’s ‘catch’.  A couple of weeks ago, I was fascinated by this vendor in Aix-en-Provence who was selling the usual suspects such as cèpes and girolles, as well as many mushrooms I had never heard of…

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You can also find restaurant chefs taking advantage of the seasonal riches with mushroom dishes featured prominently on menus. Earlier this month, I enjoyed grilled artichokes, onions and mushrooms at Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris, as well as a lovely mushroom tart at an outdoor lunch near St. Rémy-de-Provence.

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Currently, I am back in the States and starting my own ‘mushroom hunt’ to see what’s available at the supermarket to this home chef. And dreaming of the embarras du choix of mushrooms in France.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

An easy way to enjoy the maximum flavor of wild or domestic mushrooms is to sauté them in a bit olive oil and butter. The fricassée of mushrooms is great with meat dishes or folded into omelets. Patricia Wells has a wonderful recipe in her cookbook Simply French: Patricia Wells Presents the Cuisine of Joel Robuchon. Ina Garten also takes advantage of the fall specialty in her cookbook Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home. Enjoy the mushroom season!

Sidewalk Fashion Saturday, Oct 17 2009 

When our French Affaires travel group boarded the plane in Dallas a couple of weeks ago en route to Paris and Provence, we saw local fashion directors and buyers dressed to the nines. We quickly realized they were on their way to la Fashion Week in la Capitale (Paris). Leather riding-type boots worn on top of skinny pants or jeans was the fashion ensemble du jour.

We didn’t think much more about Paris Fashion Week 2009 until a Sunday post-lunch stroll along the Champs-Elysées. We had been admiring the beautiful gardens along the grand boulevard when we came across larger than life covers of French Vogue magazine lining both sides of the trottoir (sidewalk). Suddenly we were immersed in the best of French fashion–without wrangling for a single ticket to this year’s fashion shows.

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It turned out we had discovered a short-term outdoor exhibition called “Vogue Covers” designed to relive 90 years of women’s history as seen by this ‘Bible’ of fashion. Running from October 1 to November 1, the show includes covers from 1920 to the present representing the best models, fashion designers, photographers, artists and illustrators. Of course, French actress and model Catherine Deneuve makes multiple appearances.

Paris is always full of wonderful surprises, and this is one of the best I’ve come across lately. There are still a few more days to see “Vogue Covers” in person. Or you can get a feel for it in the visual tour below. Vive la mode à la française (long live fashion French style)!

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The French edition of Vogue was first published in 1920 and has never missed an issue except during the Occupation when the magazine refused to work under German supervision. Nearly 90 years of publication, represented here by some of the most striking covers, express certain sides of French history—its taste, its fashion and aesthetic trends—but also illustrate the magazine’s constant focus on quality.

Translation: The French edition of Vogue was first published in 1920 and has never missed an issue except during the Occupation when the magazine refused to work under German supervision. Nearly 90 years of publication, represented here by some of the most striking covers, express certain sides of French history—its taste, its fashion and aesthetic trends—but also illustrate the magazine’s constant focus on quality.   

 French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

To get French fashion direct chez vous, you can subscribe to the Paris edition of Vogue magazine and other France-based publications via Express Mag. Express Mag handles U.S. subscriptions for a variety of international publications, including the French versions of Vogue and Elle. Click here to get French Vogue without ever having to leave home.