30 Candles, 30 Desserts!

30 Candles, 30 Desserts!

30 dessertsmore desserts

Last week Stephanie turned 30 & her statement/wish was : 30 candles, 30 desserts! About 50 people gathered at a rented “Gîte Rural Municipal” —that is a self catering cottage— in Aventignan, a small village of 135 dwellers in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The birthday girl had handled announcements, decorations, games & music. Christine, the mother & also my brother’s companion, who was a restaurant owner and cook for many years, handled all the shopping & cooking with the skilled assistance of her older daughter, Magali. Before getting into the dessert list let me give you the menu of the prandium.

The gathering started around noon with a 2 hours “apéritif” (that is cocktail hour), where mini patés en croûte, slices of dry salami, Spanish ham, peanuts, dried corn kernels and olives accompanied a stiff fruit punch and an equally stiff sangria. The cocktails were the mischievous oeuvre of Magali.

I was really happy to go help in the kitchen in order to avoid getting plastered before sitting at the table! I helped slice the delicious “Terrine de Foie Gras” that Christine had made from scratch a few days before & I dressed the mixed green. At 2:30 pm a cute thank you speech by the birthday girl gave us permission to dive into our foie gras plate. This was paired with a Tariquet: première grives wine. I am not a big fan of sweet white wines in general, but I must say that I really enjoy this late grape from Gascony. This is what the producer has to say about it & I beleive it is available in the U.S:

Gascony, Bas-Armagnac Grown, produced and bottled by Domaine du Tariquet.

Gros Manseng and other late-harvest regional grape varieties

Serving suggestion:
Serve chilled, as an aperitif or with a meal. Excellent with foie gras, white meat or soft cheese.

Tasting notes:
Les premières grives, sheer pleasure!
In Gascony, the onset of winter heralds the arrival of the first thrushes (‘premières grives’), eager for their share of the season’s pickings. Harvested in late autumn, mature grapes packed with sweetness and pleasure produce an elegant wine, with fine typicity. Great fullness on the palate, with delicious tropical flavours, sustained by freshness. Balanced sweetness leads to fresh grapes on the finish – an instant delight.

Jean & Renée Peyrafitte
My parents: Jean Peyrafitte (87) Renée Peyrafitte (80)!

Now back to the kitchen to slice the rare roast beef while the rest of the crew was setting up gratins dauphinois & flan de courgettes (zucchini flan). All very tasty. A plate of generic cheese was passed on for the form but everyone was on their starting blocks to get to the dessert buffet. Even my dad who usually doesn’t eat dessert had 4 of them, 1 éclair au chocolat, 1 mousse au chocolat, a few spoons of crème Anglaise, a slice of Barroussaise. My mother refused to confess what she had.  I had 4 small servings: 1/2 chocolate éclair, a few spoons of crème Anglaise with a thin sliver of Kouggloff, ½ slice of tarte Barroussaise.
Does that say that abundance might leads to excess? Oui!

Stephanie, the birthday girl & Pierre Peyrafitte, my brother

This is the list of desserts and thank you Stephanie for inviting me and providing the list:

1.  Russe
2.  Millefeuille
3.  Eclairs au chocolat
4.  Banofee
5.  Baroussaise —my mother’s: puff pastry dough with almond flavored custard & meringue on  top
6.   Ile flottante
7.   Fromage blanc et ses coulis
8.   Salade de fruits frais
9.   Fondant au chocolat
10. Tiramisu fruits rouges
11.  Cake banane chocolat
12.  Croustade aux pommes
13.  Gratin de litchis
14.  Tarte aux pommes
15.  Mousse de framboises
16.  Cookies
17.  Mousse au chocolat
18.  Riz au lait au fraises Tagada
19.  Flan
20.  Gateau aux framboises
21.  Kougelholf
22.  Strussel
23.  Gâteau chocolat framboises
24.  Profiteroles
25.  Eclairs au café
26.  Panna cotta
27.  Millasette
28.  Nems aux framboises et chocolat blanc
29.  Tarte à la praline  rose
30.  Gratin d’ananas

And to conclude voilà les pictures of the event.

Pyrenean Piedmond

Pyrenean Piedmond


I am now in my birthland to gather more info on Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) whose father, Bernard Saint-Gaudens,  was born in the village of Aspet in 1816. I will not go into details about it now,  but briefly want to share yesterday’s photographs, impressions & menu.

I left Luchon —family hometown where I am based— around 9:30am, a lovely & very unusual cloud was ornamenting the mountain. It looked like a natural pre-Xmas decoration or rather like a true pagan one! I drove away from the high peaks towards the luscious Pyreneans piedmont. The cloudy skies cleared and revealed an intense deep blue that I have only seen here. I drove what I think is the exact same road Augustus Saint-Gaudens traveled in December 1897 to journey from his father’s birth village, Aspet, to Salies-du-Salat where the dad grew up from age 6 till around 16.  The distance between the villages is about 20 kilometers. Except for the asphalted road, the landscape remains identical to the one Augustus admired over 100 years ago. There were no other cars than mine for several miles, no modern constructions, the few farm houses looked over 100 years old and the stunning panorama of the high peaks in the background was certainly unchanged!


I arrived in Salies-du-Salat around 10:30 am. A phone call to an elder resident pointed me to Bernard Saint–Gaudens’ family house. Despite some remodeling, the shape of the house/street remains pretty much the same as they do on the picture Augustus Saint-Gaudens took in December 1897. In the background, and from far, the 11th century tower and the 14th century church ruins are also the same, except for the tree in front of the tower.


Seeing Bernard’s house in the sharp winter colors & the crisp, clear Pyrenean air left me exalted. I got back on the road to meet a long time friend for lunch at Auberge Beaurivage, an excellent Basque restaurant that I was very much looking forward to try —the chef is a true Basque man — as we are only 2 hours away from the Basque country. As time was limited we had the menu du jour, though chef Philippe Picabea offers a selection of original creations as well as traditional Basque dishes that people drive many miles for.


I had a very fresh, perfectly dressed & copious “salade composées” that included green beans, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, greens, plenty of onions & tomatoes. As an entrée my friend and her son had filet mignon with a Roquefort sauce. I had a pan-fried lemon sole with a moist and tasty potato & artichoke gratin. For dessert came a large rectangular plate that contained an espresso coffee surrounded by 4 mini desserts: a small cup of light rice pudding, a mini chocolate crème brûlée, a slice of cherry gateau basque, and a tiny cannellé. Price of the menu is €18. Totally worth it and compared to what I had so far on this trip this is rather cheap and one of my best meal. We had no wine as we both had to work in the afternoon. Voilà! Off again to the town of Saint-Gaudens for more work.

Fruit of the Grape & Fruit of Chance

Fruit of the Grape & Fruit of Chance


The story goes that  in the 16th century a wine maker poured —by accident— grape juice into a barrel that already contained Cognac. Few years later he needed the barrel and was agreeably surprised by the concoction et voilà! Pineau was born.  There is Pineau rouge and Pineau blanc, I prefer Pineau blanc.  It is a wonderful aperitif, though I didn’t spent enough time in the Charentes region to find out how popular it still is today.

Picture 2

Neither we got enough time to taste the escargots à la Charentaise. What we got to taste were delicious local oysters: the oysters Papin-Poget. These oysters are exactly the way I like them meaty but not too “fatty” —pas trop grasse— rich in liquid and a balanced taste.
I am quickly transiting through Paris before I head South to my homeland. I had very good  Egg Benedict & salmon for lunch at the Tourville and tonight it was  molto fun to watch the Rugby game  on T.V — even though the French team got crushed by the All Blacks (NZ).  Below a few pictures of Angoulême, the French capitol of Comic Books and the epitome of “Douce France” or Sweet France!

En Route!

En Route!

Fear Factor by Nicole Peyrafitte (Nov 3rd 2004)Fear Factor Nov. 3, 2004 painting by N.P
(part of the Angoulème performance)

I really miss writing the blog regularly but a couple of deadlines have kept me totally busy. One of them is the preparation of the performance with Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrafitte that will happen this coming Thursday in Angoulême (France). No Thanksgiving for us! We are off tomorrow and below is the info about the show in case you are around this area. This is my first trip to the Poitou-Charente region and I am looking forward to discover their food specialties and have some of the delicious Pineau des Charentes — a mix of wine and cognac. It will be my pleasure to report if I have any time to do so. But right after, I am off to the Pyrenees for more work on Augustus Saint Gaudens.  I am leaving you with a few posts from last year, and please do dig into the archives and the categories.

Cabbage: a Winner for the Winter! (I)

A Winner for the Winter (II) : Cabbage Roll

Preview Recording & Thanksgiving

Angoulême Performance

Thursday November 25th 2:30Pm
L’art, L’éducation et le politique
Colloque International, Angoulême
Salle Nemo

Description of the show:

A multimedia performance of texts, videos, music, paintings commenting the “years of lead” (2000-2008) in the USA  and examining the relation beetween art, politic & education.  Pierre Joris, Nicole Peyrafitte & Miles Joris-Peyrafitte propose individual and communal attempts at resisting & criticizing the “Pax Americana.”

Let’s go to Tottori!

Let’s go to Tottori!


It was great fun to be a guest at the Official Residence of the Consul General of Japan in NYC to celebrate the Capital of Japanese Food (self declared): the Tottori prefecture.  Under a grey and crying sky ready to fall on my head I was more than happy to take refuge in the Carrère & Hasting early 20th century building for a gastronomic & cultural escapade.  While being searched to the beat of light salsa music, the gaudy French Louis the something or other décor and the delicate Japanese paintings indicated a delightful  juxtaposition of cultures. I knew nothing about the Tottori region, but I’m ready to go visit! To quote Wikipedia:

Tottori PrefectureJapan (鳥取県, Tottori-ken?) is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūgoku region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Tottori. It is the least populous prefecture in Japan.

According to the brochures, the Tottori region offers an amazing variety of landscapes, natural resources & ancient cultures. From the legendary largest sand dunes of Japan, to the beauty of Mt Daisen, to the treasures of ancient Buddhist temples — and all this at the edge of Sea of Japan!

The short and convivial opening remarks by the consul & the governor were followed by an Ikizukuri demonstration/performance by master chefs from the Tottori region: Souichi Chikuma (executive chef at Ryokan Ohashi)  and Tetsuyoshi Hada (executive chef at Kouraku). Ikizukuri means “prepared live,” and is the preparation of sashimi from a living animal. In this case the fish was already dead. The master chef skillfully carved the flesh out without damaging the exterior appearance of the fish (that reminded me of the first time I had to debone a quail without breaking the skin, not easy!) The fish was then set on bamboo sticks and adorned with an Ikebana style flower arrangement. The flesh cut into bite size sashimi was laid on top of the fish. While chef Chikuma worked on the huge red sea bass, chef Hada turned a large daikon into lace. We were told that this type of arrangement is very costly and done only for special celebrations like weddings. 

daikonlace DSCN4815 DSCN4816

JapanOn the second floor Tottori products were displayed for sampling. Tottori’s water is renown throughout Japan for its purity and richness, thus the quality of the local rice, sake, tofu and other products. I tasted delicious sakes from different grades of polished rice, though I need a few more tastings before I can really appreciate the sake subtleties.  I was introduced to 20th century pear liquor and vinegar. They didn’t come from the same company but they were both interesting and I will certainly buy them when readily available. The 20th century pear grown in Tottori is the Nijisseiki variety; in Japanese Nijisseiki means “20th century”. I would assume that the link between the name and the date comes from the fact that the cultivar was created in Japan in1898.

Tottori Fish

One regret was not to get to try the star crab of Tottori, the Matsuba crab also called Queen crab or snow crab, it is a winter delicacy that was on display (frozen) but not for tasting. We got to try the delicious white squid served raw over a cup with a light broth; a most delicate colored trio of Aji —horse mackerel— wrapped in ribbons of radish, carrot and cucumber.
I cannot describe everything I ate as I am running out of time and I will conclude with Tofu Koubou Amedaki, a tofu doughnut! I was not going to try it, but being a fried dough fan I couldn’t resist and I am glad. It looks like a doughnut but tastes like a heavenly doughnut! Very soft inside, crunchy outside, not overly sweet & made with fresh soy milk.

Tottori came to me, now I need to go to Tottori!  And thank you Shigeko & Miguel from La Fuente Services & of course Chiaki!

squid sashimi DSCN4810 DSCN4819