Posts from August 2012

Cows at Night, Greetings from Toulouse Place du Capitole via Cow Parade

Shortly after leaving my hotel (Ibis Centre near Place Jeanne d'Arc on a quiet street) for a digestive evening walk in Toulouse, I noticed 'rollers' zooming down Rue Matabiau towards city center. We managed to catch up with the tail end of the group followed by a van with a Roulez Rose logo.

As we reached Boulevard de Strasbourg, here came 50 or so bicycle riders following in the wake of the 'rollers'.


They happened to be all headed for Place du Capitole as others intent on taking in the sights and sounds of the Cow Parade, a 2 day installation.


Greetings from Toulouse on a cool Friday night.

(* I was a guest of Ibis Toulouse Centre for one night)

Found Serenity at French Gardens of Palais de La Berbie near Musee Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi

In past 8 days, while my writing has been spotty, I must have taken a couple hundred photos of places in and around Toulouse.

Yesterday morning i paid a visit to Albi. 

We started with tour of Musee Toulouse-Lautrec followed by a walk through the French gardens of Palais de la Berbie where the museum is located.


I found serenity thanks to wonderful views of the Tarn river and the city.

Inspired by Stendhal? Black and Red Currant Ice Cream Recipe from Foolproof Freezer Cookbook

Third taste of Foolproof Freezer Cookbook (Kyle Books, USA edition, August 2012) by Ghillie James has summer treat spelled all over it.

Black and Red Ice Cream

2 and 1/2 cups black currants

heaping 1 and 1/2 cups red currants

4 tablespoons sloe gin or apple juice

1 and 1/2 (14-ounce) cans lowfat or regular condensed milk

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 meringue cookies or meringue cups, lightly crushed (optional)


I thought it would be nice to make an ice cream with red currants as they seem to be overlooked for desserts. You could make this with just black currants if you like, but a mixture works better than red currants on their own. The fruits can be cooked from frozen if you have not bought them fresh. Eat it within a couple of weeks, as it tends to lose its texture if you leave it for too long.

Makes about 2 quarts 

In a saucepan, place the black currants, red currants, gin, or juice and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the currants look like they have more or less burst, strain through a strainer over a bowl and, using a spatula, push all the puree through. Let the puree cool.

Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until floppy, then beat in the condensed milk and berry puree. Using a spoon, fold in the meringue (if using) and turn into a 2-quart container.

Place in the freezer for at least 4 to 5 hours, or until frozen.

Remove 20 minutes or so before eating and let stand in a cool place.

Turn out onto a plate and cut into slices.

(* Recipe from Foolproof Freezer Cookbook by Ghillie James-Kyle Books, US Edition, August 2012-reproduced with permission- Photography by Tara Fisher)

Walked up and down Cordes, Rennes le Chateau and along Canal du Midi after recovering from Jetlag

After recovering from jetlag, I have walked up and down Cordes, visited Musee de la Chapellerie in Esperaza (did you know that Indiana Jones and John Wayne hats were made in the area), Rennes le Chateau, Carcassonne old city in past couple of days and along Canal du Midi after recovering from Jetlag.

Musee chapellerie pedale

So I have been quietly busy.

(* Photo of Musee de la Chapellerie from Aude Cathare site)


Maybachufer Market on Friday, Treptow Park on River Spree, Yaam Bar, Berlin 10 Do's and Dont's

After 2 French women's'take on Toulouse a week ago with Lunch at Au Nez Rouge, Visit to Black Virgin of La Daurade, an ex-Londoner gives us his take on Berlin after 2 years spent in the city. We only spent a few hours in the German capital last Wednesday morning between flights from New York and to Toulouse.

10 Berlin do's and dont's with @unionberlinman

Mark Wilson came to Berlin with his girlfriend for a weekend and 6 months later he had quit his job in London and realised his dream of leaving Glastonbury festival in a camper van and not going back to a 9-5 job. He's been in Berlin 2 years and blogs about the local cult football team, 1. FC Union Berlin, works as a political consultant and runs a networking event for the Berlin tech startup community called Uberthirst.


1. Do take a tour that looks at an alternative side to Berlin. Check out Gidsy and you'll find an activity to suit your taste whether it be taking a 60 minutes sightseeing flight over the city, discovering Berlin’s hidden secrets to hunting for antiques.

2. Do check out Maybachufer market on a Tuesday or Friday. There are numerous food stalls and it's always a laid back atmosphere in the summer with musicians and locals hanging out at the end of the market overlooking the canal. Try a Gözleme – Turkish pastry filled with spinach and cheese.

3. Make sure you go to Mauerpark on a Sunday and check out the flea market. Karaoke is the main attraction though and is situated just outside the flea market in an old amphitheatre. Arrive about 5pm, get yourself a cold beer and a seat and watch until it finishes at around 7pm. The mad and crazy of Berlin congregate here and you may see 'Bubble Man' blowing his bubbles or a woman trying to streak ushered off the stage by the police - and that's just my last two visits.

4. If you like your history and you like your monuments big then take the time to head out east to Treptow Park and check out the Soviet War Memorial. It's well worth the trek and seems to always be devoid of huge swathes of tourists.


5. Do Google 'Berlin blogs' and check out the Slow Travel Berlin guide to the top 25 and see what takes your fancy. If you want a hip website to check out then look no further than Mogli Oak Berlin for insider tips. You could end up part of a Berlin flashmob running amok in Ostbahnhof Station or at one of the more off-the-beaten-track clubs Berlin has to offer.

6. Berlin has a number of beach bars. Yaam is probably my favourite. The relaxed atmosphere, strong cocktails and river side views make for an excellent summer's evening. If you don't want to pay the €3 entrance fee then just along from Yaam is Oststrand. It's touristy, but if you get a deck chair over-looking the river Spree, you hardly notice the crowds and the chilled out music creates a nice vibe.


7. Do get involved in Späti drinking culture. This is essentially getting a group of mates together and drinking outside a ‘late’ shop that sells alcohol. Berliners love a späti party and if you stumble upon one - GET INVOLVED. You can go to as many bars and clubs as you like but until you have whiled away a Berlin evening outside a Spätkauf then you have not sampled the real Berlin life.

8. The drink of choice on a Sunday morning, which will help keep you awake, is Club Mate and vodka. Club Mate is served in 330ml or 500ml glass bottles. You'll be asked to take a swig (make it a big one) and you'll be rewarded with the bottle being topped up with vodka. The caffeine content is impressive so an ideal 'mate' on a big night out.

9. Do try and come to Berlin in May. To counter the Mayday riots you now have Maifest - a great day out full of drinking, music and great Turkish food. The last weekend in May sees the Kreuzberg district play host to The Carnival of Cultures. A weekend celebrating the diversity of the city. The pinnacle of the weekend is the Sunday parade. It finishes around 10pm and numerous after parties ensure you’ll still be dancing on Monday morning.

10. Attend an FC Union Berlin match. Union are in the German second tier and you can still stand on the terraces – unlike at neighbours Hertha Berlin where it is all seated. Union have cult status and are an association with a proud history whose fans stood up against the Stassi. The atmosphere at Union is revered throughout footballing circles. Check out my blog I'm an FC Union Berlin Man for more info. 


1.  Don't worry about not speaking any German. You can live here for years, try and learn the language and most Germans will insist on speaking English to you - even if you are not English as an Estonian friend of mine testified. Bonkers.

2. Don't go to Berghain. There. I've said it. The unmentionable. Yes, it's a cool venue and yes of course it's worth checking out, but Berlin has so many more weird and wonderful clubs. Seek and you shall find. My favourite club is Sisyphos - the club, situated in an abandoned dog biscuit factory - has to be seen to be believed. Arrive about 5am when it starts to get going. It's often open all weekend until Sunday night.


3. Don't leave without trying a Dönner Kebab. Bagdad in Kreuzberg is one of the best and close to all the action in terms of clubs and bars in Schlesisches Tor. 

4. Live in the city and don't work for a while. It almost feels the norm when you meet so many like-minded souls doing the same and enjoying the laid back Berlin life style.

5. Don't listen to people about how cold the winter is. Yes it's a tad cold but you're still in Berlin. Wrap up warm, sup some glühwein and seek out a cosy Kneipe.

6. Never go out hungry. The service is Berlin is exceptionally slow. Enjoy it, soak up the atmosphere and have a drink while you wait. 

7. Don't have a currywurst - they usually consist of a low quality sausage and ketchup with a sprinkling of curry powder. If you are a fan though you should check out the Currywurst Museum.

8. Don't be surprised if you see a protest. Berliners are always protesting - often about the raising rents.

9. Don't put your glass bottles in the bin, especially during the summer. They are worth a few cents and someone will be collecting them to make an extra few euros.

10. In the words of Basil Fawlty, "Don't mention the war!"

Danke Schon, Mark!

Aboard United Flight 96 from Newark to Berlin

Getting everything together and ready to go before leaving for 2 weeks trip to Europe left no time to write this Tuesday.
Aboard United flight number 96, leaving in 15 minutes for Berlin.
Short stop in Berlin then on my way to Toulouse.
So little writing until late Wednesday.

Spice Up your Cheese Intake with Picodon Method Dieulefit

Some areas of Ardeche and Drome in the Rhone Vallley might be too dry for wine yet just right for goats to roam.

Without these wandering goats there would be no Picodon cheese which comes in various iterations as Wikipedia piece on Picodon spells out:

"Picodon is made from milk with only a small quantity of rennet added before being poured into small moulds dotted with tiny holes. Lactic protein, frozen curd, and concentrated or powdered milk are all prohibited by regulation. The cheese is twice salted using fine, dry salt. The cheese is left to dry for at least fourteen days, although four weeks is more common."

As for the affinage method Dieulefit which is our main focus today here's what Wikipedia offers:

Cheeses labelled with affinage méthode Dieulefit (after the commune of Dieulefit) indicates that the affinage included hand-washing the surface of the cheese with water, following which the cheese is left to mature in covered earthenware jars for at least a month."

Picodon dieulefit

The piece also notes that "Picodon de Dieulefit (40-90g) is sold in both young and mature varieties."

Picodon de Dieulefit also gets its own yearly celebration on the second Sunday of August.

I almost got inducted in the Dieulefit hall of fame for my previous mentions of this goatsy treat. I just could not make it in time to Dieulefit.

Something to consider when I plan my French holidays for 2013.

This article was Sponsored by Picodon AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) Method Dieulefit.

(* Image of Picodon Dieulefit from article on Picodon Dieulefit Festival by Le Progres, Photo DR)

Lunch at Au Nez Rouge, Visit to Black Virgin of La Daurade, Toulouse 10 Do's and Don'ts by Mamina and Anne

Before I hop on the plane and head to Europe, I thought it would be timely to share 10 do's and don'ts on Toulouse by someone local.

Pascale Weeks of C'est Moi Qui l"Ai Fait (French food blog) was kind enough to play matchmaker and introduce me to Mamina who pens Et si c'etait bon (another tasty French food blog) 

Mamina does not live in Toulouse yet she is a frequent visitor to La Ville Rose since her daughter Anne who practices nuclear medicine moved there 3 years ago. Anne enjoys her life by the Garonne and is always happy to share her Toulouse discoveries with her mother.

Here's Mamina and Anne 10 Do's and Don'ts of Toulouse.


1-Must see Basilique St Sernin, beautiful sight day and night, wall, find your way there from Place du Capitole walking in the shade provided by historic homes that line the streets of the neighborhood. If you visit St Sernin on a Saturday morning, Place St Sernin hosts a flea market. 

2-Place du Capitole, the heart of la ville rose and its pillar, Glacier Octave (homemade ice cream). Do not skip a stop there under any circumstances. You will find other ice cream shops in the vincinity yet nothing compares to Octave. Enjoy their ice-cream creations on the terrace or take it to go. 


3-Take a walk along the banks of the Garonne river and admire its bridges especially Pont Saint Michel where you get a great view of the sights. Walk along Canal du Midi in the Rangueil neighborhood.

4-Make time for Marche Victor Hugo (food market, open Tuesday through Sunday from early morning to around 1 pm). The fish stalls are outstanding and butcher shops have few equals in France these days. Let yourself fall for charcuteries, especially Noir de Bigorre (black Bigorre pig) specialties 

5-Have dinner at Au Nez Rouge (The Red Nose), a wine bar in an old 'colombage' house. This no fuss place has a very good wine selection (some by the glass or the carafe) and a simple and tasty menu. Prix fixe options are offered for lunch including 'plat du jour' at 10.50 €.

6-If you want to add to your kitchenware collection, check Maison Habiague (44, rue Alsace Lorraine), the equivalent of Ali Baba's cave for the discerning cook. Chefs and amateurs alike frequent this place in search of perfect or rare kitchen tools. Store is opened Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Note that as many stores in Toulouse, they close for lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm Monday through Friday.


7- Fans of aviation and industrial history can take Airbus Tour on the outskirts of Toulouse.

8-Feel like Haute cuisine, Michel Sarran, his cooking will make you melt. More home than restaurant, the dining rooms are artfully decorated. If dinner prices are out of your range, try the lunch prix fixe 'Capitole', 3 courses for 49 Euros (wine and coffee included). Sommelier Jean-Luc Planelles will be happy to introduce you to local wines. Restaurant is closed from August 4 to September 4.

9-Buy cheese (if only one) at Xavier, place Victor Hugo, they do their own affinage. Francois Bourgon was named 'Meilleur Ouvrier de France' in 2011. The shop is full of 'fromage' treasures.

10-Have lunch at Chez Navarre (49, Grande rue Nazareth). It is a Table d'Hotes which means that you will eat what the chef Jerome Navarre had in mind that day at long communal tables. Opened Monday through Friday, it is closed during the summer.



1-Never expect to be served quickly in shops...In the south (midi), people pace themselves.

2-Don't walk alone along the Canal du Midi in the Gare Matabiau (train station) neighborhood.

3-Do not select an hotel without air conditioning. Summers are hot, sometimes very hot in Toulouse.

4- Make no mistake, Pont-Neuf is the oldest bridge in Toulouse. Garonne is a 'magnifique' river that should be crossed numerous times in various places via different bridges.

5- Do not have dinner at Bibent on place du Capitole. Serice is very often very bad and food quality lacks consistency.

8- When driving do not take 'peripherique' at rush hour. Traffic is horendous, even during the summer.

9- Don't forget that police has radars on bridges to check motorists speed when peripherique is not crowded. 

Black virgin

10-Don't think that St Sernin and the Capitole are the only sights worth checking. Pay a visit to the stunning Black Virgin at Notre Dame de la Daurade church, visit the many museums.

A big thank you to Mamina and Anne for their guided tour of Toulouse.

(* Photos and video from respective spots mentioned in this piece except for image of Black Virgin of La Daurade from piece on Laws of Silence blog)

Appetizer or Canape, Tamarind and Shrimp Triangles Recipe from Foolproof Freezer Cookbook

After a 'spiked' first taste of Foolproof Freezer Cookbook (Kyle Books, USA edition, August 2012) by Ghillie James with Mojito Sherbet here's some finger food to be enjoyed as an appetizer for dinner or passed around as a canape at a party.

Tamarind and shrimp triangles

Make these as an appetizer, or smaller versions for canapés. They are delicious served warm from the oven with a few salad greens on the side and maybe some mango chutney for dipping. Keep the seeds in the chile if you want a more fiery end result.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 large red chile, seeded and chopped

14 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

juice of 1/2 lime

11/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

8 ounces raw peeled jumbo shrimp, chopped into 5/8-inch chunks

6 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

5 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons for brushing dough once thawed

To serve

Salad greens and mango chutney

Makes 12 triangles (serves 6 as an appetizer)


In a pan, heat the oil and gently sauté the onion until softened, about 0 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

Then add the tomatoes, tamarind, and lime and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce, remove the pan from the heat, and let cool.

When completely cool, stir in the shrimp and cilantro.

Lay the sheets of phyllo out on a clean counter and cover with a damp dish towel. Take one phyllo sheet and brush all over with the melted butter.

Taking hold of one long side, fold it toward the center. Brush again with the melted butter and fold in the other side to make a long, triple-layered strip. Cut this in half so that you have two pieces about 8 inches long and 3 and 1/4 inches wide.

Place 2 teaspoons of the filling at one end of the strip, leaving a 3/4-inch

border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Place the triangle on a baking sheet covered in wax paper. Continue until you have made all 12 triangles.

Freeze: Open freeze the unbaked triangles, then transfer to a container, label, and cover.

Cook: Brush the frozen triangles with melted butter, then bake at 400˚F for 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve with salad greens and mango chutney (loosen with a little hot water).

(* Recipe from Foolproof Freezer Cookbook by Ghillie James-Kyle Books, US Edition, August 2012-reproduced with permission- Photography by Tara Fisher)

Cupcakes Grande Dame, Lemon Queen Cakes Recipe from Vintage Cakes

Those of you who like to flip, roll, layer during their baking hours will eat up Vintage Cakes (Ten Speed Press, Summer 2012) by Julie Richardson, the head baker of Baker and Spice in Portland, Oregon.

Old fashioned recipes and whimsy cohabitate in her book.

First slice I serve is cupcakes grande dame.

Lemon Queen Cakes with Meringue Frosting

6 to 8 servings

Bake time
30 to 32 minutes


6 to 8 teacups or ramekins (4 to 6 ounces each), greased with about 2 tablespoons of soft butter, plus a roasting pan large enough to hold all the cups 


1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11/3 cups (91/3 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from approximately 2 lemons)
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)
3/4 cup (33/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
11/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Meringue Topping
4 egg whites (see Whipping Egg Whites, page 87)
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Queen cakes

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F.

Butter the teacups and place them in a roasting pan.

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg yolks, two at a time, and blend on medium-high speed until the batter is creamy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often to keep the mixture uniform. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir in the lemon juice by hand, followed by the flour, mixing until evenly incorporated. Finish the batter by stirring in the milk. The mixture should be thin.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until medium peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Distribute the batter among the buttered teacups, filling them to just below the rim. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully add enough hot water to the pan to come about one-third of the way up the sides of the cups. Bake the cakes until the tops of the cups are firm and appear golden in spots with little cracks beginning to form, 30 to 32 minutes. (The bottoms of the cakes will stay a pudding-like consistency, so don’t try to test for doneness using a wooden skewer.) Carefully remove the teacups from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool.
Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the meringue topping. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk by hand the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Continue to gently whisk the mixture by hand until it reaches 160F. (Use a thermometer; if you don’t have one, proceed carefully by feel: the whites need to get extremely hotªtoo hot to touch!) Move the bowl to the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume, hold stiff peaks, and look thick and glossy. Quickly distribute the meringue evenly atop the cakes, spreading the meringue over each to completely hide the lemon cake beneath. Using a metal spatula or the back of a metal spoon, sculpt the top of the meringue into peaks and valleys.
Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue to a golden brown hue (alternatively, place the cups on a baking tray and slide the tray into the middle of the oven preheated to broil, watching vigilantly and turning the tray as necessary to toast the meringue tops).

Because the egg whites in the meringue cooked to 160F, these cakes can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days. That being said, this dessert tastes best on the day it is made!

(* Reprinted with permission from Vintage Cakes: Timeless Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Snack, Chiffon and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth by Julie Richardson, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: Erin Kunkel © 2012)