Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cousins Cooking and Wine in the South of France

Who would have imagined so much fun!  This September seven family friends met in Paris then took the fast train to a little oasis called the Mas St. Antoine just south of Avignon. Theme? Cooking and Wine!!! The 300 year old country home gave us a base for our cooking sessions and a cool respite from the agreeably hot weather in the south of France.  Pierre, a long time friend of Corinne's was our chef de resistance as he guided us through the Mediterranean and Provencale recipes! Our first "training session" on fish was held in his lovely apartment kitchen in downtown Marseilles - very a propos dishes for this port city.  We sauntered through the markets and culinary emporiums before heading off to learn how to make the famous french macaron!  2 1/2 hours to make those little darlings - now we know why they sell for over a euro each in the patisserie!
The next cooking session was held right in our kitchen at the Mas! Everyone was put to task, whether it was smashing the potatoes, braising the magret de canard to medium rare or adding grandmariner to the cake once or twice for good measure.  The patio table decked with candles  and lights allowed our enjoyment of our creations to go long into the night.
The final night we cooked everything upside down as it was Tintin night!  Everything from an olive and tomato amuse bouche to apple tarte was baked and then flipped.  Somehow we fed the mulitudes with these pies as other guests joined us around the dinner table. 
Our theme of cooking and wine had us visit a Salin de Midi near Aigues-Mortes. Here we took a visit of this salt farm that stretched out into the Mediterranean Sea and of course filled our bags with the famous Fleur de Sel.  Wine too was the theme the day we visited Chateauneuf-du-Pape to tour and taste the Pere Ansleme from the crooked, dusty bottle and also enjoy a picnic lunch in the vineyards at Domaine de la Marotte. So nice of them to accommodate us during their busy harvest time.

The key to the grand success of this tour was Pierre our chef- laid back and charming with a great sense of humour who shared his profound knowledge of French Cooking learned over his 15 years in Provence. Merci beaucoup.  Also Keryn and Kerrin our hosts at the Mas just made everything so enjoyable and easy for us!  Lovely swimming pool and garden, a welcome provencale reception, gourmet pizza night and a full French breakfast of croissants, hams and cheeses the morning of our departure. 

As we took the train back up to Paris we marvelled at how we all got along and had so much fun together.  We do a cousins trip every year, but this was the BEST ONE YET!