Normandy Chez Mes Amies Les Brossollets-Vacation Part 2
Maison Brossollets à Reveillon
my friend max brossollet is publisher of the scientific american in france, called pour la science, and he reads what he publishes. despite his great appreciation for technology (they even cook by induction in their paris apt.) they claim they will never have a computer so i can assume they will not be reading this blog. therefore i can confide that though i know they love me, they always find some little thing to criticize. last visit it was my running shoes so i made sure to bring more conventional walking shoes this time. max told me he now accepts that running shoes are the fashion. so this visit’s reproach was my lack of capitalization in the blog posting article i printed out for him on their friend the molecular gastronomist hervé this. my dear friend nadège brossollet was especially horrified when she saw her name without capitalization. at least this time i finally got the spelling right (i managed to fail at this in both mentions in two of my cookbooks).
getting back to max, he is a font of fascinating technological and scientific information and a great conversationalist to boot. when driving through the beautiful countryside of normandy for example, he explained to me how this area between le bouce and orléans is the most fertile in all of france and perhaps in all the world. proof could be the crème fraîche into which i went ecstatic over. (this atrocious grammar being a direct result of my over to top delight recollection) nadège is an equally fascinating friend and fantastic cook. she had already purchased some excellent crème fraîche in paris—far better than anything we get in the u.s. because it is made with raw (unpasteurized cream). but i insisted that i wanted to try the crème fraîche or normandy, renowned for its dairy products and she obligingly purchased some at the local market. we were all astonished at just how justified this claim of superior dairy products turned out to be. the crème was yellow with butterfat and the flavor beyond description—o.k.—i’ll try—faintly nutty, distinctly tangy, yet compellingly mellow and coating the mouth with velvety fullness. sorry—that’s the best i can do. moaning is far more expressive.
we spent my entire visit of 7 days in normandy, returning to paris the afternoon before my flight to germany. every glorious day followed a similar routine: breakfast of country eggs soft boiled (oh the flavor!) and bread from the local bakery toasted and cut into rectangles to dip in the yolk, then toasted brioche for nadège’s confitures my favorite of which were the quince and the blackberry—in fact my hardest decision of the day was which one to choose. yes—i was spoiled silly. let me do a quick run down of what we ate over a period of several days:
pâté of hare (hunted by max), lamb chops, magret de canard, bio (organic_ spinach of incomparable flavor, buttery mashed potatoes, grilled tomatoes, haricots vert, oysters, grey shrimp, pink shrimp, scallops, fat white spring asparagus with sauce mousseline (hollandaise lightened with stiffly whipped egg whites), salmon. strawberries for desert were accompanied by a special whipped cream from a dispenser. no—not fake cream—crème d'isigny made with madagascar vanilla. the night we watched the elections we ate a t.v. dinner, i.e. foie gras de canard and grand cru champagne (a first in every respect except perhaps the foie gras of which i have been blessed to enjoy on many occasions). did i mention that no meal other than breakfast went without an excellent wine. (max is the family expert, buy and bottling for his entire family.)
the one lunch we had “out” was on market day in the town of l’aigle at l'auberge de st. michèl. the compatibility of our 25 year friendship was demonstrated perfectly by the fact that we all ordered the exact same things: escargots (fabulous!) followed by pied de cochon in mustard sauce--memorable. but i was the only one who had to try dessert: crèpes filled with caramelized apples then oven crisped, served with vanilla ice cream AND crème anglaise.
on the way home, nadège asked max to stop by the town of vernuil where i took this photo of the gothic church known for it’s “dentelle” or lace-like details. then home for dinner.
all i can say is that when i wasn’t eating i was walking—long 2 hour walks. the fields were filled with bright yellow flowers called colza—so bright they seemed to capture the very sunlight. it turned out to be the source of the ubiquitous rape seed oil.
where was elliott you may be wondering? eating himself sick is NOT his idea of a perfect vacation and he doesn’t speak french so he was happily at home and work, awaiting a very special week we are spending with wine friends in tuscany this coming fall.
speaking of future plans, max also pointed out the nearby 13 century church, explaining about the dark stones interspersed throughout that are an amalgamation of materials, including iron, of unsurpassing strength. they are visible in the photo if you look carefully. he went on to tell me that the little graveyard in front of the church would be their final resting place and smiling said that someday i will be able to visit them there. i had an instant image of standing by the church gate tears running down my face. yet—it was a dear thing to say and i cherish knowing that my treasured friends have so beautiful a place in which to spend eternity. (elliott and i plan to spend ours somewhere in the molecular environs of the universe. of course i will have the good fortune also to be found in several million cookbooks!)