In the land of foie gras, cheese, and red wine I was inspired by many things during our time in France! Traveling to France for our honeymoon was a dream of my husband and mine since we got engaged! I had been to Paris once when I was about 10 years old, and I have vivid memories of certain parts of the trip; however, I was too young to really take it all in. I do remember walking down the Champs-Elysees eating a baguette, having lunch at the fancy restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, drinking thick pudding-like hot chocolate, and drinking Orangina for the first time. Most obviously, I wasn’t a pastry chef the last time I traveled to France! While planning our trip I dreamed about some of the things that I expected to enjoy:
fresh croissants, baguettes with european butter, good espresso, & crepes.
We did enjoy our fair share of all of these things, but I was surprised to be inspired by so much more!
This shop specializes in spices, salts, oils, and spice blends from around the world inspired by Olivier Roellinger. The shop also has over a dozen varieties of vanilla from all over the world! When I reached the back of the tiny shop, I was welcomed by a table with glass cloches that I could lift to smell and experience the different aromas of each vanilla variety. With each smell I could imagine what recipe I would use it in; some beans were more fruity, others more floral, and some more nutty. Typically, I stick to my old stand-by of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla bean paste, but it was definitely inspiring to be surrounded by so many other options. I cannot wait to delve more into the subtleties of the vanilla bean.
Caneles & Wine
This is one of my favorite stories! My husband and I decided to plan a guided tour of the Chateaus in the Bordeaux wine region. We went to three top chateaus: Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac 1st GCC 1855; Chateau Leoville Poyferré, St Julien 2nd GCC 1855; Chateau Lascombes, Margaux 2nd GCC 1855. We had such a great time hearing about the history of the region, and seeing the grounds of many other Chateaus in addition to the ones that we toured. Our guide, Xavier, told us about how winemakers use egg whites to “fine” or filter sediments out of the wines, and he asked if we knew what the egg yolks were used for…I was shocked to find out that traditionally they are used for one of my favorite treats! Caneles! Caneles are a tiny little cakes made in copper molds with custard-like batter. They are baked at a high temperature, and the result is a caramelized, crisp outside and slightly gooey center. I never knew the historical significance of this pastry that I fell in love with at culinary school! Since they are a Bordeaux specialty, naturally I had to have more than one.
Red, White or Rosé
I like both red and white wine, and generally choose one or the other depending on the meal. My husband tends to prefer red… who knew rosé could be the perfect middle-ground? Especially in 100 degree weather, when drinking red wine is not really enjoyable. No matter how incredible the wine is, the heat negatively affects the experience. It is easy to find rosé wine on wine lists in France – typically from Provence – and it’s the perfect way to cool down and enjoy wine that’s typically drier than white.
In Paris and Bordeaux we decided to use Airbnb so that we could stay in apartments with kitchens, and this ended up being a great idea. In Paris, we went to the Marche Bastille and bought fresh produce, poultry, herbs, and bread to make Coq Au Vin for dinner. We also purchased strawberries and apricots to make jam to enjoy on the leftover baguette for breakfast! *Note to self: prices are per kilo, not pound – so when you ask for apricots, be prepared to carry around a rather huge bag of fruit for the rest of the day! We were naively excited that they were only 1Euro/kilo!*
Poached Eggs on EVERYTHING!
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner you can have a poached egg on your meal. They appeared on avocado toast for breakfast, crepes for lunch and in a salad with bacon for dinner! No complaints on that one! Just an observation of GENIUS.
As I continue to develop the menu and product lines for Vanillamore, I am always aware of what other stores are selling in their pastry cases, as well as what packaged products are available. I make notes of pricing, flavors, textures, and variety. It is always wonderful to see the classics in pastry shops, chocolate shops, and boulangeries, but it’s also fun to seek out what is different. I was so excited to find chocolate salami in several stores! At Vanillamore, we have created dessert charcuterie plates which feature chocolate salamis. I have seen them made in Spain, and expected to see them in France as well, but they are not popular yet in the United States – I hope to make them familiar to more people!
Endless fields of Lavender and Sunflowers
While driving from city to city in France, we fully expected to see vineyard after vineyard, however that was not the case. Of course, the vines are endless in the wine regions, but there is so much more to see in the French countryside! First we noticed fields after fields of wheat – which makes sense considering all of the bread that’s made throughout the country. We also saw many fields of lavender, which was also planted at many chateaus we passed, and was also sold at many of the markets we visited. The influence of this crop can be seen in many ways. Lavender is used for its aromatic and relaxation qualities in lotions, soaps, etc, it is used in Herbes de Provence which is used to season meats, poultry and vegetables, and it is also used to flavor many pastries including creme bruleé and shortbread cookies. Lastly, we were pleasantly shocked to see so many fields of sunflowers. After some research, I found out sunflowers grow throughout the south of France, and culinarily they are used for both their seeds and their oil.
And now, it’s time to let it all sink in and apply this inspiration for the Vanillamore philosophy!