Monday, October 10, 2016

Chez Marius

Finding a favorite restaurant is always a pleasure; the joys of great atmosphere, professional service, and delectable food, combined in one place is as rare as winning the lottery. 

La Cantine de Marius is a winning jackpot, with a view of the Chateau from the terrace, efficient, knowledgeable service, and a chef who uses an array of fresh products in beautiful presentations. They could easily charge twice as much for their menu, but in keeping with what makes them remarkable, they keep their prices affordable enough so that you can go frequently enough to know everyone by name; on several occasions the clients had inside jokes with the servers, bantering as friends, breaking the invisible French wall of reserve between client and establishment.

Lunch menus range from 16,50 Euros to 21 Euros ($18-$23 USD), depending on whether you have 2 or 3 courses. Wine is a modest 5 Euros ($6 USD) per glass and delicious whether you choose a white or red.
 The interior is as comfortable as the terrace, even more so on hot muggy days or cold chilly nights.
The first course on the lunch menu was a light salad of shrimp and grapefruit in a citrus vinaigrette that was as refreshing to eat at it was to look at on my plate.
 Another appetizer was a variation on the same theme, with avocado replacing the grapefruit.
Dinner service began with an amuses bouche, or tempting taste offered for the table. One night it was a creamy velouté of zucchini; even though we were a table of three, they gave us four, and we fought over who got the extra one:)
The fried smelt and calamari appetizer was plenty to share or even make as a course if you are not too hungry. The homemade tarragon mayonnaise was a nice side, even though the appetizer was good with just lemon and salt. At only 8 Euros ($9 USD), it was a bargain for the skilled light touch of the chef and the generous quantity.
 They do slight variations on classics, like this beef tartare with a basil pesto.
One night the special was filet of bar with a side of confit leeks for under 20 Euros ($22 USD) that was as expertly cooked and seasoned as a plate twice the price elsewhere.
Lunch menu portions are a bit smaller, but equally satisfying, with fish like Merlu on a bed of polenta.
We ordered their meringue and fruit dessert along with the chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream for dessert (sorry the pictures did not come out), and they gave us this chestnut tiramisu for dessert, just because three people shouldn't have to share 2 desserts! All were fine endings to our meal and range from 6-8 Euros each ($7-9 USD).
 No meal is complete in France without a café
 sipped with a view of a chateau :)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Summer Wedding in Provence

Romance in France is part of the culture and I can think of few things as romantic as a wedding. The daughter of a friend recently got married in Provence and I was honored to be among the guests invited to their week-end celebration. 

In France the civil ceremony is the legally binding one, but most people opt for both a civil ceremony at City Hall and a religious one in a church which usually includes two days of festivities. Today's pictorial post covers the days before, during, and after the ceremony, so enjoy the celebration:)

The venue for the celebration was a large private property which sleeps 30, a large patio,

 a vineyard behind the parking area,
 and a "water spot" technically not a legal pool :)
The couple's friends stayed on the property while everyone else rented other accommodations. Our lovely rented home included an outdoor patio under vines,
 and very treacherous old stone steps (where I fell)!
The day before the ceremony we wanted to do some test shots and two of the groomsmen obligingly stood in as body doubles for the bride and groom:)
 The ceremony inside a medieval church ended with a shower of rose petals,
 and the couple drove off to the reception property in an electric jeep.
Champagne, wine, and cocktails awaited, along with eight tables of hors d'oeuvres.
 As night fell, we walked over to a large tent for our dinner.
 Several courses and drinks later, speeches and toasts
led to dancing the night away.

The next day was the more casual celebration where nearly everyone enjoyed the "water spot".
 I had not brought a bathing suit and was about to jump in clothed, but the bride lent me a bikini :)
Brunch was buffet style, with self serve coffee, tea, juice, 
 cheese, and of course rosé.
By the time all 200 guests had left, we still had to put away the furniture, collect the trash, and take all the empty bottles to the recycling center. Apparently the caterer said those tasks were not included in the $$$$$ contract.....everyone pitched in and we got it all sorted in the end.
I split the 12 hour drive back with the bride's father, but we did take a lunch break on the way back to enjoy the view at a rest stop :)

Monday, September 5, 2016

St. Remi in Reims

The Abbey of St. Remi is less well known than the Notre Dame Cathedral, but definitely merits a visit if you are going to Reims for more than a few hours. Although it's not in the center of town, it is an easy bus ride away and if you have good walking shoes, easily reached on foot from downtown.

The remains of St. Remi are here along with several other dignitaries.
 This is the left side of the tomb,
 this is the right side of the tomb,
 and this is the view above the tomb.

The peaceful beauty of this abbey is evident the moment you enter, but there is a reminder on the ground :)