Halloween in France

With Halloween rapidly approaching, window displays are changing and suddenly the patisseries are looking very orange. 
Halloween window, Cannes

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween as I particularly dislike dressing up however as I’m not in the States, the pressure is off and apparently Halloween in Valbonne is a special night and something to look forward to.

Toadstools and pumpkins
Still French deliciousness
As it’s now quite cold in the South of France, it promises to be a chilly evening out in the square. Despite now embarking on the pre-Christmas diet, there might need to be a necessary hot chocolate to keep the chill away.

Cans in Cannes

As it’s now too expensive to fly back to London due to the school holidays, I’m still suffering in the South of France! 

Job interviews continue and with two phone calls scheduled with New York, hurricane-permitting, I’m keeping myself busy by continuing the ever-lasting kitchen installation, the third trip to IKEA as we keep discovering that we’re missing essential parts and have more cupboard doors than we need (must learn French) and then there are the sardine shops.

Sardines galore

As a packaging designer, I am a sucker for a nice label and definitely judge a book by its cover. Spending Saturday afternoon shopping in Cannes, the discovery of a sardine shop with shelves and shelves of beautifully packaged sardines inspired me with the bright colours and bold graphics. 

Sardine salad?
Stacks of sardines
Box ‘o Sardines 
One of my favourites

With lovely gift sets of sardines for everyone, that’s Christmas sorted!

The Imitation-Breville Challenge… Part Three

Viva Mexico!

And so the competition continued with Letad rising to the challenge with Mexican night. That’s right, Fajitas in France, a bold move indeed. All went well however there was a minor issue with sub standard ingredients. Let’s just say that tortillas in France aren’t quite the same as tortillas in Mexico!

Letad’s Fajita Night

Still, the Imitation-Breville soldiered on valiantly and a delicious plate of vegetables with an excellent guacamole combining lime, cilantro or coriander depending on where one is from, chili and avocado brought a taste of Mexico to the little house above the Boulangerie.

Flavours of Mexico in France

The Imitation-Breville is now looking a little worse for wear and sadly might have to retire from the competition as I’m starting to worry about levels of bacteria and certain death. We’ve definitely squeezed 19 euros out of it and it’s been an inspirational week of cooking.

As the kitchen isn’t likely to be operational this week, it looks like it might be time to break down and buy the Cusinart grill anyway. Hurray!

Bob a job

I can’t say much as nothing’s definite and I’m still in limbo but things might be starting to move. 

After three interviews, I had a very promising phone call yesterday with a discussion about a newly created position. 

Liaising between the US and UK, the position would take advantage of my specific skills and utilize my years of living in the States and sounds absolutely perfect. It’s a permanent position which is surprising as I was interviewing for a one year maternity cover contract but somewhere along the way it sounds like I might have actually said the right thing.

And so now I’m waiting to talk to Head Office in New York. 
Curiouser and curiouser…

The Imitation-Breville Challenge… Part Two

And so the competition continues although at the moment I’m competing against myself as Letad was busy painting the kitchen and it didn’t really seem fair to make him cook dinner as well. 

Now I’ve embraced the Imitation-Breville, the possibilities are endless and I’m getting quite creative. Last night’s creation for example, a delicious meal of couscous with mixed vegetables topped with wilted spinach and salmon with pesto.

Action shot, spinach and couscous. 
Ready to eat

My biggest challenge is how to cook eggs. I have an idea and think I can pull off scrambled eggs but don’t want to get too confident in case it all goes horribly wrong. More to come I’m sure.

Loving the Imitation Breville!

The Imitation-Breville Challenge… Part One

As the kitchen is still an empty shell albeit a freshly painted empty shell, the cooking challenge continues and last night’s dinner is currently leading the competition, if I say so myself.

I should point out that the Breville sandwich maker is actually not a Breville at all, just a cheap imitation bought at a Carrefour superstore for 19 euros. It broke immediately so the handle doesn’t close and needs to be held shut with one hand therefore upping the challenge considerably.

As we only have one working plug near the table the imitation Breville perched precariously on top of the rubbish bin.

A work in progress

I am nothing if not competitive so the last night’s entry for the Imitation-Breville challenge consisted of crispy garlic croutons topped with caramelised garlic, roasted red pepper with chili and spring onions, prosciuttowrapped green beans topped with crumbled feta, a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Last night’s submission 

The vote was unanimous and so the challenge is on. There might even be a lovely Cuisinart grill as a prize for the winner so it’s salmon tonight…

I wonder who the winner will be?

One man’s crap…

After lunch we headed off in search of brocante and saw a sign to a vides-grenier which is basically a car boot sale near Antibes (http://vide-greniers.org). At first it looked like the same old clothes, chipped pottery and old shoes but suddenly Letad spotted a stall selling furniture and there, lurking in the background were some lovely big mirrors.

One thing the French do well are big gilt mirrors and we’d been keeping an eye open while perusing the piles of less desirable crap.

And so, as luck would have it, the prices were good and we really felt we got a bargain… 25 euros for a massive mirror which will fit nicely in the soon-to-be-finished kitchen/living/dining room. And of course, there was another big mirror which could be painted, so we bought that too.

Hmm, a convertible Mini can be useful

Wandering on, we came across a lovely big bottle of green glass. Used for storing wine, there are a lot of these around but this one was particularly nice and as I have an ongoing passion for glass, it was impossible not to buy it (a mere 18 euros) but given it’s enormous size, it certainly won’t be fitting in my suitcase so is destined to live in my French home.

The big green bottle

We drove home carefully with two enormous mirrors threatening to decapitate us at any minute, luckily no damage was done and we all made it home in one piece.

Threatening death

And then I washed the enormous and very fabulous glass ball in the bath which was quite a challenge in itself but job done, it looked amazing. 

Shown at actual size

Bargain shopping!

Brunch et Brocante

Sunday and what a good idea to head off for lunch along the Bord de Mer between Juan Les Pins and Antibes. The French don’t seem to do brunch (quoi?) and so strangely in the country of omelettes, I’ve struggled to find eggs.

As the kitchen is currently an empty shell, we made do with a bowl of muesli and headed off in search of something more delicious. Letad had a place in mind, Royal Beach, a restaurant on a private beach on Cap d’Antibes which looked lovely but sadly wasn’t open (such a tease) and so instead we crossed over the road and went to their other restaurant, Cafe Royal. www.hotelroyal-antibes.com

Royal Beach
Sadly not open

We sat at a lovely outdoor table, the weather slightly cooler and with a view of the azure blue for which the coast is named, we ordered the antipasto to share. 

Outdoor deck, Cafe Royal

Four bowls of deliciousness arrived, potatoes with artichoke and parmesan; roasted red and yellow peppers; prosciutto and balsamic pickled onions (yum) and tomato with fresh buffalo mozzarella. We followed it with a shared bowl of gnocchi with smoked salmon and washed the whole lot down with a crisp, cool glass of pinot grigio.

The bar, Cafe Royal

And then we set off in search of brocante which is really another name for second hand crap!

The Ensuite Kitchen

Back to France after a very brief sojourn in London.

Excellent news, the kitchen is progressing fabulously, there are new walls which are actually straight and hurray, new lights have been installed which are a massive improvement.

For the next week or so though, we’re camping and have turned the bathroom into an ensuite kitchen which is very convenient although washing up in the bathroom sink followed by tooth brushing adds a certain je ne sais pas quoi and probably isn’t exactly hygienic.

This week we’ve been living on tuna sandwiches. Luckily I make a pretty good tuna sandwich, if I say so myself, and the avocado sandwiches are quite delicious too so we’re surviving quite well. Let’s just say it’s all about the mustard and how lucky to have toothbrushes handy if needed in a hurry.

And so on Thursday, having had lunch, done the washing up in the bathroom and followed up on work stuff, I headed off to Antibes to meet up with a new friend from my French class. We met near the old town (la vieille ville) and while I’d forgotten my way around, all was well. Conversation alas wasn’t in French but a very fun conversation nonetheless.

Heading back to Valbonne I encountered un bouchon (a traffic jam) and entertained myself for a while with my playlist for fourteen year olds. I’m not sure the French drivers appreciated my dancing and singing at the wheel but I was having fun. 

And so back to Valbonne where plans for the weekend include breakfast in the bathroom, painting the kitchen (hopefully) and perusing local brocante (antique) markets as we’re in the mood to nest. 

Bon week-end!

London for Lunch

How decadent to go to London for lunch! 

Well, not really, I had meetings and went to Brand Licensing Europe (BLE to those in the trade) to see what’s what in the world of licensing. While there I met up with my former boss and we headed off to have lunch in central London before it started to rain, at Sketch (www.sketch.uk.com)

Sketch is about as different to an LA restaurant as you can get. Dark red walls, rich fabrics, an eclectic atmosphere and refreshingly for London, no need to book.

Inside the parlour

I played it safe with a salad and a cold glass of wine while my former boss went for the Sketch Club sandwich. I was intrigued as it combined Serrano ham, Emmenthal cheese, Thai mayonnaise mixed with Paris ham and shrimp, sweet and sour coriander onions and red beetroot jelly… what? Are they insane?

Branded in jelly
The verdict? Not surprisingly, “Interesting”. The food was average in my opinion however the location, ambience and atmosphere were all good and definitely worth a repeat visit.

We left just as it started chucking it down with rain. From glorious sunshine to a sudden drenching. My hair started to curl as I jumped on the tube and headed to St Pancras.

Back on ThamesLink and off to Gatwick for my second trip to France in a week where serious progress had been made on the kitchen in a day. 

I’m starting to get kitchen envy!