Mini L’Art de Bien Manger Workshops (and Poires au Vin)

An awfully nasty storm is tearing at the blossoms and fresh leaves outside, furiously and relentless, throwing gushes of raindrops at our windows and trying to squeeze through cracks in the walls. 

I am poaching pears in my kitchen, over the fire, warm, and very appropriate considering spring having such an autumnal fit. I’m experimenting on a recipe by my egg man at the weekly market, a very interesting chap. Knows a great deal about local food and eats, all closely tied to the wine growing which has now nearly disappeared in our corner. 

I’ve written up the recipe further down for you, and I’d be thrilled if you let me know what you think of it, as it’s rather peculiar.

While the pears are sleepily simmering away in the pinot bath we are comparing our thoughts and notes to the opening of the L’Art de Bien Manger workshop. So happy and grateful, it was a wonderful time with a wonderful crowd, we never expected this to be so so so much fun! I will partner with my Mother for all future workshops, she’s absolutely priceless, knowing so much about cookery and culinary indulgence. 

We thus decided to add a couple of Mini L’Art de Bien Manger sessions. These are one day workshops with a focus on creating an elegant and sumptuous five course dinner based on local produce and a selection of fine wines. We’ll spend time outside in the garden foraging herbs and edible flowers, an occasional swim in the Saône or venture upstream by boat. We’ll set up our table under the big ash tree at the river, candles and lanterns, flowing dresses and ruby red wine in crystal glasses illuminating the hot summer night. 

The mini workshops will take place on 20 July, 24 August and 14 of September. 

Brief outline: 

The workshops start at 11am in the morning with a session on local produce and food philosophy, accompanied by a selection of French terrines, pâtés and cheese. In the afternoon we continue with the dinner preparations, diving into specific cooking techniques such as cheese making, smoking and pasta making. Group size is limited to six persons to keep it private and neat, so hurry up to book your spot. 

Cost: 

The cost of participation is EUR 280.- per person. It includes dinner, lunch and all that goes along with it. It does not include any fares and accommodation. There are very nice B&Bs in the neighbourhood and we are more than happy to direct you to the one that suits you. 

Location: 

The workshops will be held at our private house in the upper north of Franche Comté, halfway between Paris and Zurich, or Dijon and Nancy. It is advisable to come by car, upon your request we are happy to organise a driver who will get you at your own expense from the nearest airport or train station.  

Please contact us at lespoissonchats@gmx.ch for further information. 

And now to the Poires au Vin. Peel four nice Williams pears and place them in a not too wide pan. Cover them in a light red wine, a pinot noir for example, and add a generous spoon of honey. Peel two cloves of garlic and add them to the soup. I’ve been very surprised about the latter step, and more so of the outcome! You may or may not add a little cardamon to enhance the flavour. 

Let the pears simmer, turning them from time to time so that they are well coloured on all sides. Cook until the red wine-honey is reduced to a thick soup. 

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche. Bon appétit! 

L’Art de Bien Manger Workshops 2019

When we bought our house in this lost corner of France a few years ago, we never imagined that it would develop such a firm hold on us. We thought it was us making all the decisions, but fact is, as we learned over the years, that this house is rather peculiar. I’d call it a haunted house if this term were not so negatively perceived. I therefore rather like to think of it as a ship, a cosy neat little ship, peaceful, with everything you need for the good life, out there in the vast ocean. A very beautiful battered old ship with a long history. We are comfortably off, because apparently, neither of us is its captain, neither of us is in charge. It’s rather that this ship brings us to places so new we hadn’t ever dreamed they existed. For we are lucky, we have a benevolent and experienced captain. Only thing left to us is to make sure we appreciate this ship’s legacy, harbour it, mend it, if needed. And, of course, add to it. This is the best part, I think. And best things are best shared. This is what we intend to be doing even more in the coming year, it is the new shores that this ship is steering us towards. We already see them, faintly chiseled against the glowing horizon, when we climb the ship’s mast. In plain language, what we intend to do, is probably called culinary workshops, or food workshops. Or a cooking atelier. This is all very well, but we have it in our minds to genuinely share our life on this ship. L’Art de Bien Manger, which is not just cooking but after all the spirit that goes along with it. L’Art de Bien Manger with good people for a few days. Of course there will be cooking, lots of it, and wine, and champagne. French dishes and dishes from where we come from and new breeds. Porcelain, crystal glasses and silver. Pique-niques, delicacies cooked under the stars in summer. Bonfires, fairy lights in the trees. A midnight swim in the river for those who really dare (I wouldn’t, neither would Monsieur, because of the thing with the gleaming eyes). But most of all, there will be stories, intervals of our lives shared, a touch of the soul. That’s the Art. 

We start small, with three dates for 2019, three three days workshops:

The early summer workshop (28 – 30 June 2019)

I love the month of June. When the heat is soft and embracing and won’t scourge you yet. The water still fresh and green. The month of Matisse, Renoir, Redon. There will be a pique-nique, and redcurrant with champagne. Strawhats and ribbons. A little wine tasting and brocante. Dinners on a large table, the windows wide open to let in the balmy summer evening. A night walk through the fields. 

The summer workshop (9 – 11 August 2019)

The time of the stars falling from the indigo sky, the fields slowly turning into gold. Of fiery sunsets and nights in shirtsleeves. We will go upriver towards the wild woods and breathe the clean fresh air. Set up our table on the lawn, make a bonfire with sparks matching the falling stars. Cook under the sky, snake bread and bouillabaisse, rusticity and fine china. A feast to please Titania. Wine tasting and brocante, for these are a must. Refresh ourselves with a swim in the river, or row under the canopy of the luxuriant trees. 

The harvest moon workshop (18 – 20 October 2019)

Golden days and fresh nights, elderberry wine with your back against the old warm wall of our house, watching the sun sink slowly into the river. Strolls through harvested fields, hunting for fresh rose champignons. Gather basketfuls of fruit and do some proper moonshining. Champagne cocktails with hawthorn syrup. Transform nature’s bounty and abundance into the finest treats. Comfortably sit in front of the fireplace, with a glass of ruby red burgundy while the trees whip up a storm outside, listen to the stories, tell yours. 

Brief outline: 

The workshops will usually begin around 11am in the morning. We will start with cooking a light lunch together and slowly move into dinner preparations in the afternoon on day one and day two. Dinner will be at least a five course menu, for after all, we are in France. On the third day, we will prepare another light lunch together and round off the workshop with coffee and mignardises in the afternoon. Group size is limited to six persons, to keep it neat and private. 

Cost: 

The cost of participation is EUR 800.- per person. It includes the dinners, lunches, plenty of wine and all that goes along with. It does not include any fares and accommodation. There are very nice B&Bs in the neighbourhood and we are more than happy to direct you to the one that suits you. 

Location: 

The workshops will be held at our private house in the upper north of Franche Comté, halfway between Paris and Zurich, or Dijon and Nancy. It is advisable to come by car. Upon your request we are happy to organise a driver who will get you at your own expense from the nearest airport or train station.  

Please contact us at lespoissonchats@gmx.ch for further information. 

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