Tales from
the Loir

A Weekly Column

February 19, 2003 - Return to France

When I left three months ago, it never occurred to me that I would feel any trepidation about returning to France but the thought of losing all the little conveniences of America are weighing on my mind. There will be no more delivery pizza, no more mid-night runs to the grocery store to buy sushi and no more anything after seven-thirty. All conversations will require higher stress levels and tense mental searches to express the simplest ideas. All this concern is probably just the result of our fatigue. We are very tired. The extra leg from Paris to Nice makes this return trip harder that usual.

Fortunately, our friends Fred and Claire-Lise are picking us up at the airport and bringing two cars to carry all of luggage. I am too tired to converse with Fred who speaks only French. His conversations are usually non-stop word games. I am thankful that he notices my fatigue and insists on driving. His concern for my fatigue quickly ends as we leave the parking lot. I tell him that our bags are heavy because I have them filled with my new books. He nods his head in agreement and says "Oui, cinq cents grams." I am tired but a red flag goes up. "Cinq cents grams?" As usual I can't figure out what he is talking about so he explains. Livre is the French word for book. Livre is also the old French word for pound and a pound is five hundred grams. This is a typical conversation with Fred and it reminds me of the language inconvenience that I was dreading.

After a three-hour nap my attitude about returning to France is changing. Fred and Claire-Lise have returned to take us out to dinner. For some reason I had completely forgotten about French cuisine. I quickly add it to my list of positives for returning to France. We drive to the small village of Biot and find a table at La Pierre A Four Restaurant. We are in the heart of Provence but the food here is traditional French cooking. Fred hands me the wine list because he knows that I write about wine sometimes. What he doesn't know is that my reputation is more for volume than quality. Nevertheless, I expertly examine the wine list and my heart warms a bit for France as I read the words Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Cote du Rhone, Chinon and Bourgeuil. We order aperitifs and I finally decide on a local red wine from the Roquebrune region.

I examine the menu and decide that the eighteen-dollar formula called la Chapelle Saint Julien looks edible. The first choice for an entrée (starter) reads:

La tentation du berger et ses toasts au chèvre tiède, légèrement vinaigrée à la framboise et huile de noix.

My lips curl up slightly in a grin at the pleasure of reading this poetry but I decide on the second choice:

Le fameux gâteau de pommes de terre a la crème fraîche et a la ciboulette.

Aprille chooses La Cassolette de moules de bouchot à la crème et au curry and, fortunately, she can't eat it all. We exchange plates and I discover that the moules have a fresh spicy flavor despite the creamy curry sauce. The chef shows us that the moules are cooked on a bed of pine needles and that gives this dish its unique flavor.

For the plat principal I have La marmite de la pêche sauce safranée, which is fish filets bathed in a light cream sauce. Aprille has Les médaillons d'agneau rôtis a la crème d'ail au romarin. Aprille is not giving up any more plates but I do get a taste. Although the theme of this restaurant is traditional French cuisine, the use of local herbs and spices gives the food a provençal flavor.

For dessert I have La coupe de glace nappée de chocolat chaud.
Aprille has Les poires pochées au vin et a la cannelle, glace vanillée.

As I sip my expresso with two lumps of sugar and a chocolate wafer, I wonder why I ever had any doubts about coming back to France.

Note: Biot is a small medieval village near Antibes and the Cote d'Azur. The La Pierre A Four Restaurant has been owned and operated by Monsieur and Madame Portelli for the last eighteen years at 15, route de Valbonne, 06410 Biot, France. For reservations call 04 93 65 60 00.

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November 6, 2002 - Impressions of America
October 9, 2002 - William of Orange

October 2, 2002 - Catacombs of Paris

September 25, 2002 - Suburbs of Paris
September 18, 2002 - Saint James

September 11, 2002 - Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle

July 10, 2002 - Flintstones, meet the Flintstones

July 3, 2002 - Bugs

June 26, 2002 - Summer

June 19, 2002 - French Property News

June 5, 2002 - Emmanuel de Broglie

April 24, 2002 - Election Day in Saint Rimay

April 17, 2002 -Surprise Review

April 3, 2002 - Spring in Lavardin
March 20, 2002 - Guest Columnist /Furman Magazine/ John Roberts
March 13, 2002 - Tête de Veau
March 6, 2002 - Table Etiquette
February 27, 2002 - A Country Boy Can Survive
February 20, 2002 - Driving in France
February 13, 2002 - The Circus
February 6, 2002 - History of France
January 30, 2002 - THE BEST I EVER HAD
January 23, 2002 - Miranda This
January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview
January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine
January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin
December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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