Relocation, Relocation, Relocation Tuesday, Jul 27 2010 

In the world of real estate, the three magic words of the profession are ‘location, location, location.’ Success is based on the value of place–think ‘Boardwalk’ and ‘Park Place’ on the Monopoly game board.

When in France, I adopt this adage to my time spent there—and it becomes ‘relocation, relocation, relocation.’ Whether I am in this gorgeous country for a few days, a week, a month, or several months, I consider myself to be living as a full-time resident. It’s a state of mind. It’s a way of being and acting. Success in this context is living the sense of French place to the fullest.

I am spending a good part of this summer in France, and it feels wonderful to be ‘home.’ I am here with my American husband—as many friends of French Affaires know, I was married for the first time a few months ago—who is also at home in France and of Europe. We have ‘relocated’ to the Bordeaux area for several weeks for both work and vacation.

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On the French Affaires web site, I will be posting current adventures from our southwest France experience in the days to come including this year’s Tour de France race, the Bordeaux wine country, bastide towns in the Dordogne, the varied countryside of the Médoc, beaches on the Atlantic coast, French lighthouses, French oysters…

But first, here are some of the small French pleasures I love to come home to (in no particular order!):

-       Delicious  wines by the ‘pichet’ (pitcher) at French restaurants

-       Windows open all day long, particularly for the cool air at night

-       Fruits and vegetables just picked from gardens

-       Long lunches on outdoor ‘terrasses’

-       Real French camembert cheese made from raw milk

-       Lovely qualities of sun and light in France

-       Relaxing walks on French country roads

-       Buying fresh baguettes every day

-       Mind-boggling selections of mineral waters, yogurts, breads, pâtés, cheeses & wines

-       Beautiful ancient churches in every town and village

-       Reading French newspapers and magazines

-       Diving into French novels in the country where they were written

-       Open air markets in every city, town & village

-       French and European friends old and new

But there are so many things to enjoy about France, please share your favorites too in the comment section of this posting. Meanwhile, bonjour from la belle France!

Behind the Pastry Scenes in Provence Monday, Jul 5 2010 

Following last week’s “art walk” of French pastry shops, I thought it would be fascinant (intriguing) to go behind the pâtisserie scenes and see how some of this edible art is created. Our virtual visit takes us to Jouvaud, a divine pastry and chocolate shop in the heart of Carpentras in Provence.

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The French Affaires Fall 2009 Trip visited Carpentras this past October as part of our “Best of Provence” adventure to France. Now I normally would not put Carpentras on my list of “must-do’s” while in Provence—no slight intended to those who live there. There are just other Provence towns and sights that are a higher priority in my book. But of course, food and related activities can make some destinations in France very palatable.

Friday is market day in Carpentras, drawing together social groups who don’t usually mix:  the local bourgeoisie, immigrants from North Africa, country people who live in the region, vacationers from Paris who have second houses nearby, and tourists. We were in Carpentras as guests of Serge Ghoukassian, the celebrated wine expert, passionate gourmand (foodie) and creative mind behind Chez Serge, his wonderful restaurant in the center of the old town. He makes a mission out of sharing les bonnes choses (good things) and les bonnes adresses (good contacts) so had put together a special food and wine day for us. Were we in for a treat!

Our first stop was Jouvaud which is owned and run by Serge’s close friends, Frédéric and Nicole Jouvaud. Frédéric’s parents began the successful venture in 1948, and today, three generations of their family are involved. Click here for the story of the family’s pastry odyssey in their charming online ‘scrapbook.’  They also own another pâtisserie in Avignon. 

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As the town mobilized for the Friday outdoor market, we enjoyed coffee and viennoiseries (breakfast pastries) on the terrace in front of the shop. My pain aux raisins (raisin croissant) was hyper bon (wildly good).

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You can see a small round chocolate peeking out from behind the pain aux raisins. They gave us some of their signature chocolates with “J” on them to sample with breakfast. The French are wonderfully generous, especially when it comes to good things to taste and to drink. And who could resist chocolate even at that hour of the day?

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But this wasn’t the main show. After our petit déjeuner (breakfast), Serge took us up the back stairs of the shop to the kitchens where the daily pastry magic happens at Jouvaud. We met Frédéric who maintains a hands-on approach to running his sweets operation. Here he is in a tablier (apron) ensuring that each chocolate is perfect before placing them in the shop’s vitrine (display case) below.

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In every corner of Jouvaud’s kitchens that morning, something wonderful was happening. I was particularly interested in the watching the cake chef create the chocolate shavings that garnished these for-the-moment-nondescript gâteaux (cakes).

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First the chocolate is gently melted in the bain marie.

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Next, the chef spreads a thin layer of chocolate on a prepared board. It is just the right consistency and temperature for him to lift it off and then expertly form it into chocolate waves.

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They are then laid perfectly on the cakes. He makes it look si facile (so easy). I wonder how many times he attempted this in pastry school before it came out right?

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I wish we had the time and space to share the whole tour here. But suffice it to say, all of Jouvaud’s sweet treat are worth a detour, and the entire staff is warm and welcoming. We ended up making Jouvaud our home base that entire morning in Carpentras. In case you make it to Carpentras soon, here are some quick snapshots of some of Jouvaud’s other spécialités de la maison (house specialties) which are indémodables (never out of style) and à ne pas manquer (not to be missed):

Les Fruits confits (candied fruits)–a must to try when in Provence

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Candied clementines still in their syrup

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Les Rocailles, meringues with bits of hazelnut and a gooey center, so named for their resemblance to the stones at the top of nearby Mont Ventoux. They come in vanilla, coffee & chocolate flavors.

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