Monday, September 15, 2014

Festival de la Tomate - Chateau de la Bourdaisiere

During July while painting French tomatoes nonstop for the August Sketch Letter I had my eye on the  prize.

A visit to the annual Festival de la Tomate held the second weekend in September at chateau de la Bourdaisiere in the Loire Vallée.

Yesterday I joined a journalists group visiting the tomato fete. Just a short 55-minute TGV train ride from Paris.

This year's fete had a tie-in theme appropriately with Disney's Ratatouille.

We entered the chateau now a lovely three-star 32-room hotel for our tomato fete introduction.

Country luxury hotels are, thank goodness, short on the Marie-Antoinette syndrome that's taken over too many Paris hotels. The chateau particularly has a feeling of a cabinet of curiosities - very intriguing.

The owner of the chateau, Prince Louis Albert de Broglie informally joined us to explain the details of his great endeavor - preserving over 640 heritage tomatoes and developing biodiversity farms that can feed up to 50 families.

We set off to see the property, visiting farms and cultivation plots, the Prince leading the way and proudly explaining the progress they've made. The gardens were designated a national tomato conservatory in 1998.

Tomatoes everywhere and simply magnificent.

Purveyors displayed the many varieties.

The Prince shares his just-picked bounty with us. Sweet as honey.

Not just tomatoes are cultivated at the chateau, but more than 240 varieties of rare Dahlias are grown by resident expert, Mme. Martine de Roquefeuil/a>.

A sea of exquisite specimens in the gardens and inside the hotel.

Time to taste those tomatoes.

A 4-course meal was served every dish tomato-influenced.

Firstly a plate of the most divine tomato varieties with a light balsamic dressing. 

The main plat was roti de porc au Romarin and of course Ratatouille, that famous Provençal stew of summer vegetables, plus a savory tomato flan and tomato bread.

To follow a fine chevre of the Loire Vallée, St. Maure, served with delicious tomato jam made at the chateau.

Naturally I raced off to buy a jar only to find another jar of tomato  jam waiting in our goodie bags at departure. Can one ever have too much tomato jam? Two bottles should keep me going until next September's Festival de la Tomate hopefully.

The affable Prince joined us at lunch. He could not be more relaxed or charming.

Naturally I gave him my August Tomato Sketch Letter but I forgot to take a picture of him holding it unfortunately. It's not everyday you get to give a prince your artwork...

There were tents selling wonderful country-made items: pain d'epice, nougats, gardening tools, gardening books, plants, holistic creams for the event. And the chateau has fabulous gift shops with many designs from Le Prince Jardinier, the mark of the chateau, including the Prince's own vest design in Bordeaux velvet.

I regret not picking up a bar or two of his tomato soap. The tomato bath salts looked enticing though to have a bathtub in tiny Paris apartments is a luxury not many can boast of.

The Prince took over Deyrolle on 46, rue du Bac and breathed new life into it. When there was a fire in 2008 he rallyed artists and others to contribute to an auction that rebuilt and repaired the devastating damage. Deyrolle is a must-visit when you come to Paris. A step back in time to a magical  world.

The trip to the Festival de la Tomate was magical indeed. I felt all green and ecological afterwards. Bear came along bien sur and plans to return next year. Meanwhile this upcoming weekend is Jours de Patrimoine, so the chateau will be open and free to the public - a truly lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon exploring the gardens and supping on a tomato lunch non?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Le Royal Monceau Noel

Dear PBers, another petit taste of Paris for you. This time Christmas preview tasting at Hotel Royal Monceau - Raffles Avenue Hoche 75008 More Xmas in September. Who knew?

I feel quite comfortable at the Royal Monceau. There was a design brunch for bloggers on Tuesday. The atmosphere is relaxed luxury with loads of artistic designer details. Art where ever you look.

While the hotel is cool and cutting edge it's not intimidating. Or too, too blindingly glitzy like some new kids on the block. PBers ask which is my fav hotel. It's easy to to say this one.

Evidently I'm not alone loving the Royal Monceau...ahem.

Beyonce and Jay-Z were in town for their ON THE RUN sold-out concert at le Stade de France. They fav this the Monceau too.
Here making a very private entrance.

I didn't wait to catch a glimpse of B/J-Z. I did see a few of their entourage inside. Brüche de Noëls were calling my name.

Pierre Hermé creates a special collection of desserts for the hotel. Bùche Chloe - an intense combination of chocolat Manjari, mousse au chocolat a la framboise (raspberries ).

Bûche Infiniment Vanille. I'm crazy for anything vanilla since I moved to Paris.

The buche were sitting on an aromatic bed of criss-crossed vanilla beans. Where can I buy this perfume?

Bûche de Noël can be savory too.

Executive chef Laurent André created the Ruby for the Monceau's Christmas dinner. A graphic combination of foie gras, pistachio, raspberries sitting on a crust of pain d'epice.

Light and lovely.

To go with the bûche, a perfectly aged Port chosen by MOF sommelier Peyronder. I don't usually drink but there are times one must make an exception no? Fabulous is the vertict.

In fact I'm thinking of taking up drinking so I can visit all the terrific hotel bars in Paris like the Raffles bar. A 'Shirley Temple' is not going to cut it.

I did down a glass of 'red fruits' juice. So pretty...

More of the Christmas menu starting in November 29th at the hotel.

And continuing after New Years. Chef Rispoli from Il Carpaccio
makes individual pasta for us.

The hotel has an in house epicerie with a collection of yummy gourmet gifts.

I'm in love with this tea cup. At the preview gifts from the art book store in the lobby, La Librairie des Arts.

La Librairie des Arts has fabulous mix of art books and artworks to browse and inspire.

How about art classes for guest kiddies in the Atelier Jeff Koons pour les enfants? They can paint miniature 'Nanas'! A big Niki de St. Phalle exhibit is opening next week at Grand Palais. don't worry you'll see it on PB soon.

I learned a hard leçon yesterday. 
Eat dessert first. 
After tasting the savory choices on the Monceau's Christmas menu, Pierre Hermé's Bûche Mandarine was gone gone gone. 
Course if you want to fit into your lavender tights and tutu like the Frenchy in my entryway yesterday, maybe it's a good thing to pass up a dessert or two or ten.
If you'd like a petit taste of Paris in your very own mailbox do look at my Sketch Letters on Etsy
And don't miss out on Christmas din at The Royal Monceau if you happen to be in town for the hols. Simply divine dear PBers.
Now I'm ON THE RUN to the Loire to taste like 600 tomatoes at La Fete de La Tomate at chateau Bourdaisiere.
Stay tuned.