Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabulous French Fridays ~ The Art Of The French Dining Table

I have dining tables on my mind. I keep folders of things I love and thought perhaps you might enjoy a peek into one of my little collections. Generally, when you visit Metis, Andrea and I often write detailed and hopefully informative posts on things authentically French. But in thinking about the French dining table (whether it is authentic or just a grand interpretation) I think that there is no right or wrong way to prepare for a meal. One can however immediately sense when it has been done beautifully. So this week we will let the images speak for themselves.

Dining room in south of Provence


Shubel 18

French-style dining room | Dining room furniture | Decorating ideas | Image | Housetohome

A dining room with luxurious drapes.

May you enjoy a weekend full of feasts, friends, and family,

Andrea and Laura

The winner of our Chiens de Paris books is Karena! If you don't know he lovely blog Art by Karena, please stop by for a visit...

True Random Number Generator 6 Powered by RANDOM.ORG


Thursday, February 17, 2011

French Fridays ~ Les Chiens de France & a Giveaway

Did you happen to catch any of the Westminster Kennel Club’s 2011 Dog Show this week? If you know me and Laura just a little you know that we are absolutely mad about our poochies! So, it only seems fitting this week to talk about les Chiens de la France
and have a fun little giveaway too….
What comes to mind at the mention of “French Dogs?”
Perhaps the iconic French preparing to dine on a morsel of Brie; the poodle may be a perfect representation of French…grace intelligence and style, in a dog suit~
poodle brie
Napoleon had a black poodle named Moustache, which would accompany him into battle. Moustache was decorated with a medal for his numerous heroics in the battles of Marengo, Austerlitz and Iena, including once crossing enemy lines to bring back the remains of le drapeau or flag. His name is also inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe. I understand that the remains of Moustache were stuffed by a taxidermist and now sit in Les Invalides in Paris. Unable to find a photo of this, I instead have a cute gravure to show you of Moustache being presented to Napoleon, executing his “jump over the sword” trick~
Besides poodles, the French have a great love of hunting dogs. This is one of my favorite dog paintings, by Constant Troyon (1810-1865). Troyon started as a painter of porcelain in Sevres, but became a fantastic Barbizon painter.
The breed here is called an Aregieous Hound~
As with this year’s winner of Westminster Kennel Club’s show, the Scottish Deerhound, the French use all sorts of dog breeds for hunting rabbits, fox, deer, pheasant and other game. Here, another painting by Troyon dated 1854, which is found in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris; in English we call it “the Game Keeper” but its French name is Garde-Chasse Arrete Pres de Ses Chiens.” "Game Keeper stopped near his dogs."
A beautiful painting showing the relationship between man and his dogs and Nature~
troyon gc2
Yes indeed, the French of all ages have a love affair with their dogs….
CDP little boy
{Paul & His Dog, Nadar (Gaspard Felix Tournachon) 1854}
Of France’s 8.1 million dogs, it seems many provide steady companionship to their owners rather than hunting or other utility functions~
CDP cig
{La Poet Jacques Prevert au Gueridon, Robert Doisneau 1955}
Does it seem that when life is tough, as it was post-War,
people cling to their beloved dogs for some cheer?~
CDP femme v {Avenue de Clichy, Edouard Boubat 1948}
One thing that can surely be said for the French, they have a low tolerance for ill-behaved dogs or children. Why does it seem that the dogs in France are much less hyper and more calm than many other places in the world? Even this little Jack Russell for sale at the Marche in Louhans last year, 9 months old and calm and sweet as could be…~
With dogs as with children, there is a certain social pressure that guides the French; keep your children and dogs under control, or you get nasty glaring looks from those around you. Are the French dogs bred to be calm, or do they just not tolerate any squirrely dogs?? There are very strict laws for any dogs showing sign of aggression; otherwise, dogs are allowed just about everywhere, in cafes, on the Metro. But not in the Louvre. And technically not in some food stores, though that is not strictly enforced as long as the dog behaves~
CDP resto
{Restaurant; David Seymour 1952}
To be sure, the French love to promenade with their dogs,
usually in style~
CDP borzoii
{Fevrier, Paris, Avenue du Bois du Boulogne, le Matin; Jacques Henri Lartigue 1912}
Laws regarding dogs on the street have started to change. In 1992 France instituted a Poop Law, requiring you to pick up after your dog. Plainclothes sanitation officers fanned out over the city, issuing citations. The French paid about as much attention to the law as they do to the parking regulations (that is, very little attention) and today you still see sanitation workers on their motorcyles ("motos") with suction hoses attached.
Et voila! Pas de Poop! Merde or crotte in French.
In Paris though you still see the signs; this one means Keep your Dog off the Sidewalk. At least if the dogs poop in the gutter, the motos or the street cleaners can get to it before someone steps in it~
CDP trotoir
This sign means "No Dogs, Even on a Leash."
You frequently see this on playgrounds or in some parks~
But do French dogs, which are informally called “toutou” ~ sort of like our word “doggy,” bark with a French accent? Bien Sur! A French dog does not say Woof Woof it says Wouah Wouah. A French cat by the way does not say Meow Meow it says Miam-Miam. And while we are on the vocabulary, a puppy is called a Chiot and a kitten is called a Chaton. Regardless of what they are called and what language they speak,
you can't help but love the personality of many French dogs!
CDP top hat
{Donio, Dresseur du Chien, Robert Doisneau 1946}
Most of the photos from this post are from a sweet little 8" square book called Les Chiens de Paris by Barnaby Conrad III. As a treat, we are offering a copy of this book to one of our Amis who leave a comment on this post.
What could be more French than a pair of French Bulldogs with fur collars?~
CDP frenchies
{Simone avec Lily et Zett, Avril 1913, Jacques Henri Lartigue}
You will love the cover alone;
a perfect French poodle again, ready for cafe~
CDP cover
{A La Terrasse des Deux Magots, Edouard Boubat, 1955}
Winner will be chosen by Random Number one week from today, next Friday; last entries midnight Thursday. To enter, please leave a comment on this post; you can comment on French dogs or tell us about your own dogs. Multiple entries are fine and will each be counted.

Bonne chance a tous~

Linking to:

Friday, February 11, 2011

French Fridays~ Valentine’s Day in France

Oui, the French do indeed celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. It is no secret that the French are well known for amour. There is even a pretty little village known as Saint~ Valentin located in the heart of Champagne Berrichonne, in the Indre department.

A popular belief dating back to the Middle Ages in both France and England is that young lovers noticed that birds begin to mate in mid February. This was considered a lucky sign and people began exchanging tokens of love during this time.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, French poets began creating a romantic image of one special day in the minds of the people.



A peculiar custom that arose was known as "une loterie d'amour"  or “drawing for love”. Unmarried  people of all ages would go into houses facing each other and begin calling out from one window to another and pair off with a chosen partner. If a young man was not particularly enthralled with his new valentine, he would desert her. A bonfire would be lit later and the single ladies would burn images of their ungrateful lovers and shout abuses at them. The ritual was eventually abandoned when thankfully the French government handed down a decree which officially banned the custom.



It is believed that the Valentine card originated in France. A young Frenchman, Charles, Duke of Orleans, is said to have written the first Valentine's Day poem to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London after he was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The tradition continues today with the French exchanging cards which contain sweet messages entitled “cartes d’amities”.


Joyeuse St. Valentin!

Andrea and Laura

Linking to:


Thursday, February 3, 2011

French Fridays~ Valentine’s Creme Puffs

In case you are wondering, yes, of course, the French also celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.  The modern tradition is said to have started in ancient Rome, with the Festival of Lupercus, god of fertility, who appeared dressed in sheep’s clothing.  Mention of Saint Valentine first appeared in XIVth C England.  But you can look all of that up later, today we want to show you something excellent to make for your Sweetie, Hubbie, Children or Best Friends to show your amour~
Simplicity, perfection, in French tradition; the humble creme puff~


The creme puff is basically foolproof to bake.  The finished or filled puffs can be refrigerated or frozen, giving them great versatility. These puffs were featured for our shopping guests at our recent Long Beach Flea booth, to rave reviews and a dusting of Laura’s pant leg!
The pastry to make the creme puff is referred to as Choux, and filled and prepared, on the menu in France, you will often see them called profiteroles.  They can be filled with whipped cream (flavored or not), creme anglaise (custard), or soft ice cream.  The savory version incorporates Gruyere cheese, and is worthy of a separate post. 
You might be surprised at the ingredients to make these delectable delights…pufs are very easy and inexpensive to make, and most fun when you have two or three people to share the task. 
So, on y va! Let’s Go and make some creme puffs according to Julia’s Child’s recipe, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking~
As we say in French, le mis en scene, the setup:

Medium sized saucepan
1 pastry bag with wide round fitting
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use a generous pinch of French sea salt)
1 teaspoon sugar
dash pepper, ground
dash of nutmeg
1 cup flour, sifted
a wooden spatula or spoon
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten, with 1 tablespoon water added

Place the water, butter salt, sugar, pepper & nutmeg in the pan, bring just to a boil (make sure the butter has melted).  Nutmeg is the secret ingredient in these choux; it gives a wonderful flavor versus a bland dough~


Remove from heat, add the flour, all at once, and stir with the wooden spoon to incorporate the flour. 


The dough will form a mass; continue to stir until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. 


Return to the heat and stir the dough, turn and mash the ball, to dry it out a little.


Turn the mixture out into a small mixing bowl (Cuisinart or Kitchenaid Mixer); add one egg at a time to mix well; you will need more time to incorporate the eggs for the 3rd and 4th eggs. The mixture should be smooth.


Once the dough is made, spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, any kind will do; the largest one in my set says Wilton 10 so that’s what I use~ 


Fold the pastry bag back before you fill it; this will let you fill it up without getting the dough all over the sides~


Once filled, fold the top of the pastry bag back- left corner, right corner, center, and wrap the folded top in a paper towel; this lets you pipe without the dough coming out the top of the pastry bag; if I am too 101 I am sorry, just took pics all along the process~
By the way, notice the wooden spoons I use are from Dehillerin Paris; this is the cookshop that Julia Child shopped at when she lived in Paris; it is where Williams-Sonoma first bought their wares; Laura and I will be taking orders for these indispensible yet inexpensive spoons for our loyal readers during our trip to France in May; each spoon is stamped Dehillerin Paris with their address~


Pipe a little over 1” diameter and 1 1/2” high and about 1 1/2” apart. Make one quick firm shape, not “around and around;”I use sil-pat style bake sheets.

Puffs can be made in all sizes, but Laura and I love the small bite-sized versions.  You can use this dough to make the larger puffs, but the centers must be scooped out prior to filling.  The tiny ones we show you here are easier….poppers….this recipe makes about 75 puffs.
If you don’t have a pastry bag, no worries, you can spoon small balls of pastry on to the cookie sheets.
When the puffs are piped out, use the lightly beaten egg and water to “top the tops”~


That is to say, dip your pastry brush in the egg mixture and just tap the top of the puffs; just to flatten the little peaks; this also gives the puffs a nice golden color and crust on top.  Do not let the egg run down the sides of the dough, or it will prohibit the “puffing”~


Into the 425 degree oven, your choux will look like this~


10 minutes or so later, until they are golden and firm, they will look like this; cooking times vary. It’s the heat and the egg that make them “puff”.  Look for firmness, and testing one is the best way to know~


Puffs can be left to “dry” in the oven with the oven door open for a few minutes up to 10 minutes if you want them more firm.  I like them softer, so I take them out of the oven when they are brown.

Step Two: The Filling
Mis en Scene:
1 pint whipping cream
1 chocolate bar (71% or better, bittersweet)
Fruit sauce, jam or fresh fruit to taste
3 tablespoons powdered sugar


I swear by Valrhona Chocolate; I used to buy it at Zabar’s in NYC but now you find it at Trader Joes in the 71%, my fav. 


Melt one bar in a small bowl over simmering water (double boiler). Whip the cream and divide it in half, if your guest like a choice :)  Mix half the cream with fresh fruit or in this case, strawberry/raspberry sauce from last summer. This is equally delicious on cakes, waffles and pancakes~


Mix the other half of the cream with most of the melted chocolate, to taste.  Which do you prefer, chocolate or berry?


Using the pastry bag again with the large round fitting, fill the pastry bag and then fill each puff, insert the tip into the puff and fill ‘er up~


You will get the hang of it quickly; you will end up with a bunch of this~


Dust with powdered sugar, which hides all errors, then drizzle with the last bit of melted chocolate~


As Miss Biscuit says, Mmmm mmm Good! It was her first birthday yesterday, so she got creme puffs….


Bon Appetit and email us or comment with any questions about this delicious little pastry!

Linking to: