Saturday, October 29, 2011

We love Cheese

I know that I have told you before that we love cheese! We love warm goat cheese on a bed of butter lettuce lightly dressed with tangy vinaigrette, yummy macaroni and cheese, raclette cheese with warm boiled potatoes, and fondue made with a blend of Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois.

We also love to finish meals with cheese especially when the cheese selections include Saint-Félicien, Cantal, Roquefort or Gruyère. Our favorite cheese from Provence is Banon, a tasty disk of goat cheese wrapped in grape leaves made in the region around the town of Banon.

One of the first things we do upon arriving in Sablet is to head to Vaison-la-Romaine to pick up an assortment of cheese from Josiane Deal at Lou Canesteou, the wonderful cheese shop located on Rue Raspail off Place Montfort, the town's main square.

As you can see on the front of the store, Josiane Deal has been named a Meilleur Ouvrier de France - literally translated as best worker of France, for her cheese knowledge and skill in aging cheese. In addition to her many cheese choices, the store also has a good selection of gourmet products such as wines, locally produced saffron, honey, risotto, pasta, dried mushrooms, locally produced jams and olive oil.

Step through the beaded curtain into Lou Canesteou and you will immediately smell a wonderful aroma from the ripe cheese displayed in the refrigerated cases and on shelves along the back wall. By now, Madame Deal recognizes us and we get a very warm 'bonjour". I always ask her to recommend a variety of cheeses and without fail, she makes selections that we love.

It is not unusual to see on the menus of area restaurants that "fromage sélectionner" - cheese chosen by Josiane Deal. The association with Josiane Deal is obviously an indication of high quality. I once mentioned to her that we had a cheese plate the night before at a local restaurant where this was written on the menu and she told me she didn't think she supplied any cheese to that restaurant. So be aware.

We also love quiches with cheese and tarte au fromage - cheese pie. I must admit that I am intimidated at the thought of making my own pastry dough, especially rolling it out. So although I do most of the cooking when I am around, wife Shirley is a pro with pastry dough and always makes our pies and tartes.

In addition to the fondue and raclette we made while we were in Sablet a few weeks ago, we also enjoyed a tasty cheese pie that Shirley made for us. Here is the recipe, just a few ingredients and easy to make (except for me since I don't do crusts).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.


8 ounces grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
2-3 cloves minced garlic depending upon size and taste
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Make your favorite savory pastry dough or buy a good quality store bought crust.
2. Place your crust in a glass pie pan or in a tart pan with a removable bottom. Crimp the dough around the edge of the pie dish or tart pan so that the crust stays at the top of the dish.
3. Take a fork and pierce the dough on the bottom of the unbaked pie evenly over the bottom of the dish.
4. Prebake the crust in the middle of the oven until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
6. Dredge the flour with the grated cheese and spread evenly in the pie dish or tart pan.
7. Whisk the milk, eggs, minced garlic and salt together.
8. Pour your milk and egg mixture over the cheese, making sure it is evenly spread out and cheese is covered.
9. Bake the cheese pie for 40 minutes. The pie should be golden brown on top and should be pretty set when lightly shaken.
10. Upon removable from the oven, let the baked cheese pie sit for 10 minutes before you slice and serve.

Bon appétit et à bientôt mes amis.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rasteau and Domaine la Soumade

As you know, our house is in Sablet, a pretty village built on top of a mound at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Surrounded by vineyards, we are a short distance from well known wine producing villages such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Tavel and Beaumes de Venise.

One of the villages we see across the vineyards to the northwest is Rasteau, a small village of wine-makers built on a hill 200 meters high or about 650 feet. Houses and wineries spread out across the flank of the hill at the foot of the 12th century Romanesque church of St Didier. There are about 750 people who reside in Rasteau; people who live in Rasteau are called Rastellains.

Here are a few pictures from Rasteau. This memorial to the children of Rasteau who died in wars for France is located in the center of the colorful Place de l'Apparent, the main square in Rasteau around which life in the village revolves.

The pretty l'Apparent Fountain in the same square, one of four fountains in the village.

The clock tower topped by the campanile.

The 12th century Romanesque church of St Didier.

A statue near the church.

Rasteau is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for wine in the southern Rhône wine region. The AOC designation applies to both the sweet fortified wines (Vin Doux Naturel) which can be red, rosé or white and since 2010, effective with the 2009 vintage, the unfortified red wines produced in Rasteau.

The Rasteau AOC covers mostly the commune of Rasteau but also includes some vineyards within the communes of Cairanne and Sablet. The primary grapes in the Rasteau AOC are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

We didn't know anything about Rasteau wines until this past summer when we kept seeing 2007 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau on wine lists in the area. We ordered bottles of this wine several times and really liked it so we decided to go visit the Domaine and déguster - taste their wines.

Domaine la Soumade is owned by André Roméro and has been owned by the Roméro family for more than 200 years. Son Frédéric Roméro is learning and will take over from his father when he retires.

Domaine la Soumade owns 28 hectares or about 69 acres of vineyards. A new wine making facility and tasting room were built a few years ago just off the D-975 on the road from Cairanne to Rasteau.

Part of the tasting room with a display of empty bottles of wine from different parts of the world.

The Domaine la Soumade wine making facility.

Wife Shirley at the entrance to the Domaine la Soumade facility.

The view from the terrace at Domaine la Soumade across the wide expanse of vineyards towards Sablet.

Rasteau is now part of an elite group of Southern Rhône AOC's. So if you are like me and don't know anything about this new AOC, I recommend you go try the wines. At the present time, Domaine la Soumade is among the best and well worth a visit. If you see the wine on a wine list, don't hesitate to choose this wine.

Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Back to Sablet

I am so excited because we are headed to Provence and to our village in the Vaucluse in a few days. I can't wait to be back in our house in the center of Sablet within earshot of the Church of St Nazaire bells and a few steps from the fountain at Place Yvan Audouard.

As you know, we usually have family members or friends visit and this time is no exception; we are meeting up with dear friends from Michigan who are making their first trip to Provence. We are looking forward to showing off our favorite villages, going to the markets, tasting wine and of course we plan to eats lots of good food.

My favorite thing about our Sablet House is the large Provencal yellow kitchen with all the counter space for prepping food and cabinets for storage with the adjoining terrace where we eat on nice days. As you can imagine, my being a foodie and all, and loving to cook and entertain, the kitchen is fully equipped with everything I need for cooking and baking.

At one end of the kitchen, there is a cozy seating area in front of a fireplace where we have aperitifs, read, do puzzles, nap, watch videos, and play on our computers. Although we have a large living room or parlor (depending upon where you come from) with a large fireplace and TV, we spend more time in the kitchen than anywhere else.

In addition to the kitchen, I really like our cozy bedroom with the walk-in closet that looks like it might originally have been designed to be a bathroom. For those of you who have been to our house, you will notice we have added a few things to the bedroom.

I love the light and airy feeling of the bedroom, especially in the morning when we fling open the doors and shutters and the morning sun and fresh air stream in. With 9 hours time difference between Sablet and Northern California, early morning in Sablet is late evening in California, so we lay in bed and talk to our kids and catch up on the grand kids latest accomplishments and mischief.

Shirley works hard to keep the backyard beautiful at home in Northern California. Its nice to look out the bedroom window and see the hot tub and flowers throughout the year and carefully cultivated raised garden beds. I should mention that she has harvested a bumper crop of tomatoes, beets, salad greens, squash and soon pumpkins and broccoli from her garden; but I digress.

No matter how much work she does, the view from our bedroom window in Northern California over the backyard and back of our neighbor's house can't compare to the beautiful scenery from our bedroom terrace in Sablet towards the Dentelles de Montmirail.

We love our house and the village of Sablet and feel so blessed to be able to come several times a year. We feel good knowing that the guests who go there fall in love with the house, beautiful village and Sabletains (residents of Sablet are called Sabletains).

If you are interested in finding out how to make our house your home for a short or long séjour (stay) in Provence, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.