Making chorizo

My friends MariJo and Lucio have a business making chorizo. Every Thursday a pig is delivered (in two parts) to their home/studio. On Saturday, they make the chorizo, which they sell from a curing room in their home. Talk about artisanal. Not to mention delicious. If only I could bring some home.
Here is their family (son, sisters) making chorizo. I tried to help out, but created more trouble than help.

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After a fabulous lunch of something resembling osso buco (I have forgotten the Spanish name) and a siesta, we went into the nearby city of Vitoria, which is the capital of Euskadi (Basque country). We walked around the medieval section and had pintxos (basque tapas). Yum.

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Travel day from hell

I’ve been dreading today since I first planned this trip. Rather than pay $1000 to return a French car in Spain, I had to do the following:
* Return French car at Bordeaux train station. Fortunately, Christian drove in with me (and went home by train) to help with bags, etc. One huge duffel (30 pounds?) one huge overnight/shoulder bag, and of course, Ellie in her case.
For those interested, I bought a separate ticket for Ellie, as required.
* train from Bordeaux to the border town of Hendaye. Some nice French guy helped me get my duffel aboard. A tiny Japanese girl helped me get it off.
* in Hendaye I dragged my duffel (it has wheels) while carrying my overnight bag and Ellie (in her case) about 1/4 mile to the local Euskotren to San Sebastián. Just made it.
* got off at closest station to europcar rental–not at the main station in San Sebastián. no one I asked knew where plaza de Irun was, even though it was a block away. Couldn’t find europcar. Walked around plaza for half an hour until a helpful traffic cop pointed it out on the second level of a mall.
* car not in space they told me it would be. Finally found it, not in 94 but in 99. Plugged in GPS and–no service. Near panic.
* on leaving garage, GPS worked. Got onto highway. It is getting dark. It starts to rain. The road, while a 4-lane highway, runs through mountains. Hard to keep to the curves at 120 km/hr. My car speaks to me in Spanish, which I don’t understand. Worse, the road signs are in basque!
* fortunately, my friend Lucio has given me the exit number, because the GPS loses service just before my exit. Now what? Driving aimlessly, I get off highway at little town with absolutely no sign of life. Lucio says to stay there–he will come get me and lead me home.
Ok. So I decided to go to Spain because I wanted something new, an adventure. Which I certainly got. The upside–lovely house, very nice meal, and I am still alive.

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Au revoir Arcachon

It’s been raining for several days now, but the eating never stops. Last night I made risotto with truffles I brought back from Perigord.

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This evening we went to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Arcachon. The food was outstanding and the service even better. They gave me a shawl to wear while I was outside smoking. Below is the menu I selected from. My choices were the demi-sphere iodee (basically mushrooms and shrimp in a fantastic sauce with little “caviars” of the woods. Some sort of grain from japan.) Also the noix de St. Jacques (scallops), cheese and a grand marnier soufflé. Ellie, of course joined us.

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If anyone is trying to email me, please use my gmail address, as my verizon account seems to be on the blink. Bon soir from France. Friday, we are on to Spain.

La Vie simple

Sorry to all of you suffering through this awful winter–especially in Boston. It’s been raining here, which I’m sure you would happily exchange. But today was sunny and warm. Here are Ellie and I on the beach!

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Other than a few walks, all I’ve been doing is eating. I will be a blimp when I get back.

Perigueux

Yesterday I drove from Sarlat to Perigueux, which is a much larger city in the Dordogne. I spent about 1 hour viewing some of the 16th century architecture and the rest of the time, checking out clothing shops. Last night I had dinner and slept over at the daughter of my friend Michele from Normandy. Lovely young couple.
Today drove back to Gujan (about 2 hours on the autoroute). Now 10 days of doing absolutely nothing except relaxing. So if I don’t post for awhile, it’s because nothing is happening.

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I liked this old building with what looks like a Botero statue.

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Sarlat (bis)

Sarlat is, according to michelin, one of the most perfectly preserved medieval and renaissance towns in France. I think the photos below will make you agree. The square with the goose sculpture is the Place des Oies, where the goose market is held.

Just in case you think I am ignoring the food portion of my travels, lunch today was a stew from a wild boar shot by a neighbor. And in Sarlat, I stopped for dessert–local specialty, walnut cake with creme anglaise.

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Prehistoric decorated caves

In addition to eating, I am using my time in Perigord to see some spectacular sights. Today Michelle and I visited two of the most important decorated caves in the world. Combarelles is filled with amazingly detailed engravings and the guide really made them come to life. Later, we visited Font de Gaumes, the only painted caves still open to the public. (Lascaux, which is also nearby, only allows you to visit a reproduction.) To imagine human beings created works of art of such finesse 15,000 years ago is a profoundly moving experience. Also we had a very good lunch (venison) in between.

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Sarlat

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Ginny suggested I pass along a note on Dordogne, which is so rife with English residents that it’s called Dordogneshire! I can well understand why the Brits like it here. The towns are quaint, the weather clement (raining but in the 40s), and the food outstanding. Michelle has been force-feeding me like a goose. Magret de canard for lunch with cepes from her property and homemade foie gras. Ellie is asleep by the fire (above). This morning I went to the market in Sarlat and will post on my frenchmarketguide blog. After lunch a petite sieste. Tomorrow the painted caves–the real ones, not the Lascaux reproduction.

Ellie the Truffle Hound–not

So this morning I let Ellie sniff a truffle and then gave her a piece of cheese. Then we set her off into the oak grove where the truffles grow. She could not have cared less. She was much more interested in the scents of deer, wild boar and other critters that visit the property.

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Michelle (my hostess) and I then set off for nearby Sarlat to a restaurant school restaurant, where we were joined by friends Marie-Claire and Maurice. The lunch was excellent and inexpensive; the service (student servers) not so much.

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After lunch, we picked up Ellie. Maurice drove us to some of the major sights nearby. A hilltop town (Domme), some castles on the Dordogne river, including one where Josephine Baker lived.

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We returned to Michelle’s house where Maurice cooked a truffle omelette and Michelle offered a classic Bordeaux. Quite an eventful day.

Driving to Dordogne

Why are all my misadventures car-related? Fortunately, no damage involved, except to my nerves. The GPS somehow got the idea in its head that I wanted the scenic route into Dordogne. What should have been a 3-hour drive turned into a 5-hour marathon on narrow, twisty roads that became even narrower and more twisty, and culminated in an off-road adventure on a rutted dirt path. Too much adventure.
Compensated when I finally arrived at Michelle’s house near Sarlat, where I was greeted with a fine Scotch accompanied by buttered toasts with truffles she had dug up on her property. Tomorrow we’ll see if Ellie has the nose to be a truffle hound.
Sorry to hear about the wind-chill advisories in New York. I imagine Boston and New Haven are even worse. Glad not to be there.