Category Archives: Entertaining

Barge trip in France with Friends

Carl and I have shared barge trips with friends before, but each trip brings new discovery. We gathered 10 friends months in advance to share a week long trip on the FRENCH COUNTRY WATERWAYS barge Nenuphar. We have cruised with other companies before, but nothing comes close to the experience offered by this company.

A little about our boat:    We had 6 large king size bedded rooms ensuite. The barge is very spacious with a nice outside deck where you will find your 12 lovely bikes stored, ready for your morning ride. The 6 crew members ar always ready to make sure your every wish is taken care of. Our amazing chef, Kim, prepared 3 wonderful meals using all the fresh ingredients purchased each day in the local villages.

We were met at a wonderful hotel in Paris, Hotel Regina, 2, place des Pyrqmides, across from the Louvre. The barge company offered us a special rate so it made the pick up very easy.  On Sunday early afternoon we were greeted by our guide and driver for the week, Charlie, with a large bus ready for the trip to our barge moored in the village of TANLAY.  We settled in, had a welcome dinner and got the details of our week ahead. We were cruising the Canal de Bourgogne, while the boat heads to the first in a series of 36 locks we got on our helmets and headed out along the path on our bikes. After lunch while the barge makes its way through the locks Charlie takes us to visit a great winery and we have our first introduction to Chablis wine. The wine maker explains the difference between Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chablis, offering tastings of both. Later over dinner we will share our first of many bottles of French Chablis and other regional wines. While we were learning about the wine and how the vineyards differ the barge was on its journey to the village of LEZINNES where we would moor for the evening.

The next morning some of us were up early for a hot air balloon ride across the fields while the sun was rising. The lovely quiet ride ended after about and hour we had a smooth landing, after a champagne toast we were back at the barge in time for breakfast.  Charlie was ready to take us to the village of Ancy-le Franc, we had time to wander this old village and learn about its history and visit the church that is the center of  every town.  Of course we were back at the barge in time for another great lunch and a bike ride to the medieval capital of lower Burgundy, AUXERRE.

It was now our third day on the barge and we are settled into the leisurely pace of canal living. Some of us walk from one of the lock houses to the next waiting for the barge to pick us up others take off on their morning bike ride to explore small villages along the way.  Then before lunch Charlie takes us on a walking tour to explore the village of NOYERS looking in the shops for our next treasure or sharing a cup of coffee in a local shop.  Later in the afternoon some of us go to CHATEAU OF ANCY-Le-FRANC, an amazing chateau owned by an American who is in the process of rebuilding the many gardens and restoring the chateau.  The boat will spend the night in the village of RAVIERES.

The next morning we went to visit an 18th century forge, FORGES de BUFFON. This area was a large producer of steel during the 18 hundreds because of the location next to 2 rivers and the canal there was water for power and easy access to shipping to Paris and other parts of France. The barge continued through the locks docking at MONTBARD for the evening. We had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at the famous 2 star restaurant, LE RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU in Saulieu. This lovely hotel and restaurant was about 45 minutes from MONTBARD, but Charlie was a great driver and after 4 hours of eating and drinking good wine we arrived back safe at the barge. 

  • Friday morning we were up early to go to the farmers market in Montbard to buy a few special things we wanted to have chef Kim prepare. We bought the sweet Tuscan melons that we never have in Seattle and huge white asparagus which Kim did a great job serving for lunch. We got on our bikes to make up for all the local pastry, cheeses and wines we had been eating, time to count steps. We met the barge several locks later and cruised to VANAREY-Les-LAUMES.  After our amazing lunch and the required afternoon cheese course Charlie took us to visit ABBAYE de FONTENAY.  That evening was a lovely captains dinner since we would all be going our separate ways in the morning.

The story would not be complete with out mentioning that each day after lunch we were served 3 different cheeses and the same following our amazing 3 course dinner with simple green salad. The introduction to all these cheeses was a wonderful education,  some that we knew and other that we had never tried, but look forward to finding at a local cheese shop later. I have to add a couple of my favorite cheeses were Fleur de Marquis, Brillat Savarin and a lovely Bleu de Causse, but with 36 cheeses served in a week it was hard to remember the wonderful flavors of each.

We can not say enough good about a week spent in slow motion cruising along the French Country side. French Country Waterway has several beautiful barges to choose from, whether you want to gather several couple or just join others go to their web site or call Effie at 1-800-222-1236 and they will send you a brochure.

Thank you to the great staff and all our friends for sharing a very special week.

Renee and Carl

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Chili Con Queso

When I was getting ready for the Super Bowl I started to dig though all my old recipes for this Chili Con Queso.  I called a chef friend,Corinne, to ask if she remembered the ingredients, since her version was always the best. Her answer was no she just said it changes every time. So with my scratched notes I set out to recreate my old go to version of Chili Con Queso.

Ingredients list

3/4 cup diced onions

1 package of Jimmy Dean Sausage

2 jalapeños roasted and peeled then diced

2 jalapeño fresh seeded and diced

3 cloves of garlic pressed

2 tlb. Butter

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups grated Colby or Monterey Jack cheese or combination of both

( 1/2 log of Velveeta dice,  if you do not want to use Velveeta you can add 1/2 cup of cream cheese and additional jack cheese)

2 tsp cumin

2 cups whole milk

1 4oz can of diced green chilies, drained

2 tlb Tabasco  or to taste 

1 10oz can of diced tomatoes with Mexican spices is good

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft then add garlic, jalapeños and sausage. Sauté until sausage I cooked and if there is extra fat drain off before adding cheese, milk, cumin. Stir over very low heat careful  not to let cheese burn. When cheese is melted add canned chilies, Tabasco and tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors. 

I made the dip early in the day and it reheated well. It also works in a fondue pot or electric pan that you can control the heat to very low tempeture. Serve with chips, salas and veggies for dipping.

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Swordfish with puttanesca sauce

I forget about swordfish and last night when I went to buy fish for dinner my fish guy said it was a perfect choice.  This recipe can also be used with Halibut, but the firmness of the swordfish is perfect.

Serves 6

6 tbsp of olive oil

6 swordfish steaks (about 5 to 6 oz. each and 1/2 inch thick) skin removed and salt and black pepper to taste

3 large cloves of garlic, fine mince

1/2 cup of thin sliced onion

4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chop 

1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped 

1/4 cup capers drained

3/4 cup oil cured black olives, pitted and chopped. You can use green olives if you would rather

3 cups of tomatoes, if you use fresh be sure to seed and chop. Using canned tomatoes, use whole tomatoes and crush them in your hand or chop. Drain and reserve liquid.

1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes or more to taste. 

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish 

4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper and add to skillet, flit once until brown and medium rare, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 

Return skillet to medium low heat. Add garlic, anchovies and onion cook until soft, about  3 minutes. Raise heat to medium add tomatoes, olives, Rosemary, capers, and reserved liquid. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, 8 minutes or so. 

Return swordfish to the pan and heat through add lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley. Divide fish between plates and cover with sauce. 

Love this with a small twist of pasta that you have dressed with olive oil. 

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Green Posole with ling cod

I love when my new Bon Appetite arrives each month. This week my magazine had a recipe that caught my eye, the head liner said The Perfect Hominy and one of the main ingredient was Tomatillos. Since the garden was drawing to a close and I had plenty of chilies and tomatillos I recreated the recipe last night. We loved it, with a few changes I will make the lovely light stew again and want to share it with all of you.

Green Posole with cod and cilantro

This recipe made enough for 4 as a main course or 6 as a smaller serving 

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 Serrano chile, thinly sliced

10 medium to large tomatillos, husks removed, stem end removed and chopped

1 cup of cilantro leaves and a few of the tender stems 

1  15 oz can of white hominy, drained 

 1. 8 oz bottle of clam juice

1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes:   A few radishes sliced thin , squeeze of fresh lime before serving and a few pieces of chopped cilantro. If you want more spice you can pass extra thinly sliced seranno chilies.
Heat oil in large pot, add shallots, garlic and half of sliced chili sauté over low heat until soft and fragrant.

Meanwhile, purée the tomatillos in a blender until smooth. If you have a vita mix this is the place to pull it out.  I suggest chopping the tomatillos into smaller pieces if you are using a regular  blender. 

Add half of tomatillo purée to shallots and heat stirring until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro to blender with remaining purée and blend to smooth liquid. Set aside

Now add hominy, water, clam juice to pot, lay the cod in broth and return to low simmer and gently cook until cod is opaque and begins to flake, about 8-10 minutes. Now add remaining puréed tomatillo and cilantro  and stir in gently breaking cod into large chunks. 

Divide stew between the bowls top with garnish, a squeeze of lime and pass chilies for those more daring.

Thank you to Bon Appetite for the basic recipe,it is wonderful with just a few changes I made. Their version was a little to spicy with more chilies and I added extra tomatillos for a more robust broth.

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Chilled Cucumber Soup

We have so many cucumbers in our garden and the weather in Seattle has been so warm, this soup was the perfect answer to my delema what to do for lunch. Buttermilk is an ingredient that often tends to turn people off, but in this soup it is a perfect partner to cool cucumbers. I like regular summer cucumbers better than the store bought English variety, the flesh offers much more flavor.

Makes 8 to 10 smaller servings

5 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded

2 tablespoons salt

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

6 to 8 green onions, coarsely chopped

5 tablespoons chopped chives

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish

4 cups buttermilk

1 cup sour cream (light or regular)

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh ground white pepper

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

Finely dice about 1/2 cup cucumbers, enough for garnish and set aside. Cut the rest of the cucumbers into one inch pieces, place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit in the sink for 30 minutes, this will draw out excess liquid, then rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Working in a few batches purée the cucumber pieces in a blender with onions, parsley, chives, dill, part of the buttermilk, sour cream and lemon juice, blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl add any extra buttermilk, sour cream and lemon juice stir to blend, season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, even better the next day.

To serve ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with finely diced reserved cucumbers, remaining dill and sliced radishes.

I love to serve in glass bowls, it is so pretty when brought to th table.

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Two nights in Rockaway Beach, Oregon 

I grew up in Portland, Oregon and spent many week-ends at the beaches of Oregon. It had been years since I had been back to visit the many memories of years past. After my sister passed away we promised to spread her ashes at the beach and organized a family trip. My mother is 89 and always loved Rockaway Beach, about 90 miles from Portland. After much planning 11 of us drove to Tillamook and then headed up the coast to Rockaway. The small beach town is located on a very long stretch of ocean front offering many hotel and rental properties. 

We chose to stay at The Surfside Resort about a mile north of downtown. They have 5 buildings, two of the buildings face the beach the others are set back. The resort offers pet friendly rooms with a small extra charge. We had suite rooms with two king beds, small kitchen, sitting room and several of our rooms had 2 baths. They have an indoor pool and easy access to the beach. 

The choice of places to eat is slim,  but one of the best meals was at The Beach Bite. They had some of the best clam chowder I have eaten. The salads were fresh and I had fish and chips that were well prepared. Earlier in the day we had eaten at their other restaurant called Dos Rocas Bar, good Mexican food with plenty of chips and salsa. 

Breakfast at The Cow Belle Cafe was a good place to start your day. The 3 egg omlete was enough to share, especially when the side of ham was as large as the plate. There are plenty of little shops to entertain the kids but nothing was better then when we bought big kites and headed back to the beach. This is a perfect place to share hours on the beach building sand castles and flying kites like in those years past.  


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A wedding in St. Tropez

Does anyone need a reason to go to St. Tropez? We were invited to attend the wedding of a friends sons in the village of Gassin. Gassin is a few miles from St. Tropez, perched on a hill top over looking the sea.  We drove from Nice about 2 hours and checked into a beautiful hotel called Villa Belrose, above St. Tropez. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and the wedding was not until Saturday, giving us time to spend in and around the area. There were several other friends from the Seattle area all joining in the festivities. After checking into the hotel and taking time to stand and look out over the amazing view, grab a light lunch at the pool and a little nap in the sun it was time to venture out with friends for the evening. 

We drove up to the village of Gassin where the wedding would take place in a couple of days. The village of Gassin consists of several simple outdoor restaurants, some beautiful homes perched on the hill side and the simple church that has been here for over 100 years.  We joined our friends for dinner at “Le Micorcoulier” where our hostes suggested a great bottle of Munity rose wine to start. Munity was first know for their Rose but now they are producing a white wine they call golden and a red wine all grown just down the hill from Gassin. Dinner was in true French fashion, several courses one being a large grilled fish served for two people, large enough for 4. Dinner lasted 4 hours finished with several desserts, including a sorbet with lemon Chello poured over the top.

The next morning after coffee on the terrace we headed into St. Tropez to shop and wander the docks looking at all the huge boats docked with their crew standing guard. We bought great linen shirts for the men and hats for the girls. The girls  had a lunch on the beach at a private club called The Pearl.  While the boys played Bolle in the city park and drank beer we drank rose on the beach and enjoyed the cool breeze across the sand. 

We all retuned to the hotel for a nap by the pool under blue umbrellas and a chance to clean up before returning to town for a late dinner. The row along the dock, Quai Jean Jaures,  

 is packed with great restaurants that come alive in the evening. We chose a place dock side called “Le Guielier”, a very lively place serving amazing seafood and whole fish to share, prepared on the grill or baked in a salt crust. Around 11:30 the discos begin to come to life and the people watching can’t be missed. 

Saturday we got up early to have time at the huge market, everything from paella, fresh fruits, jewelry at every level and clothes for everyone in the family at every price point. Before attending the wedding that afternoon we returned to Gassin for a light shared lunch in the village, we stopped next to th church at a little place called “Bella Visto” simple menu, but fresh items and plenty of shaved fresh black truffles. The wedding was in the local traditions of France followed by a reception that lasted into the morning hours. We went back to the hotel before the younger  guests hit the pool around 3 am. 

Loved every minute of the week-end and hated to leave on Sunday morning, back for a flight to Paris. We spent  the night at the airport Sheraton  in Paris so we could catch the morning direct flight to Seattle. Of course we took the train into Paris for dinner at “Chez Julien”‘.  we were seated outside so we could watch all the people going past. The weather in Paris has been very warm and this restaurant offers many tables outside for dinner. The white asparagus salad was a perfect way to end a great trip to France! 

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