What a Good Way of Life!
For our mise en place, we crafted a week-long menu of exceptional food and wine, sought out the dedicated artisans who keep France’s culinary traditions alive, and drove down every tree-lined road in the Lèze valley.
These ingredients are all so welcomingly familiar to me, and yet I am still taken aback by the final effect, as was the case when I led our Foodie’s Field Trip to France this past month. As our envoyés journeyed with us from Toulouse to the Ariège, I was enchanted all over again with the rolling hills in lush shades of green.
It reaffirmed that Les Remparts was the perfect setting for our accommodations. Imagine: an imposing 13th-century fortified stone house, luxuriously restored, providing all the modern comforts while retaining a feel of the medieval.
During our stay, we met Chef Jean-François Martin at his restaurant, l’Auberge de Fountescut for four cooking classes. In typical Jean-François fashion, he had re-arranged his professional kitchen to make room for plenty of hands-on activities. His 30+ years culinary experience and calm demeanor would make the most gauche person feel at ease while handling sharp knives, live lobster, and even a delicate miroir aux fraises.
Incredible food expertly paired with wonderful wines – what more could you ask for? How about this level of attention at all courses and meals, all week long? Il n’y a qu’à demander! A spontaneous zest of convivialité was added as our envoyés relaxed in the enjoyable company of Jean-François, our invaluable helpers, and various artisan producers.
By the second meal (featuring a gallo-roman inspired salade de mulet à l’hypotrimma paired with a Gaillac blanc sec), we’d already run out of adjectives – both in French and in English – to compliment Jean-François.
On our last day with Jean-François at l’Auberge de Fountescut, there was a general reluctance to admit that we would be leaving all of this behind. That afternoon as we lingered on the terrace, having just indulged in a croustade aux pommes, the table fell silent for a moment. Then, one of our envoyés gave a satisfied sigh and exclaimed: “What a good way of life!”.
To say the least, Jean-François and I are looking forward to our next Foodie’s Field Trip to France in October 2013.
Stay tuned for more on the passionate local artisans who live like peasants… and eat like kings!
Special thanks go to videographer-photographer Loïc Marchand who captured the essence of Jean-François’s art when words couldn’t.