Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How green is my Lecrin valley....a pre-Easter lunch


I thought you would like to share this peaceful pre-Easter lunch we had last sunday with friends at Marianne and Thierry's house. This happy couple is Belgian and very very much into food. They live in the Lecrin valley in the south of Granada and restored a lovely finca and opened a few bungalows for summer rentals. I met Marianne some time ago at Gym's art classes where she made very delicate clay sculptures. I knew she was a talented sculptor but what I didn't know is that she and her husband Thierry are divine cooks ! They recently started to host private lunch or dinner parties and elaborate a monthly menu based on the seasonal products as the whole food comes from their own garden and the meat is locally produced. Everything from the delicious tapas served as an apéritif to the dessert is entirely homemade. The surroundings are peaceful and quiet and the ambiance is relaxed...well...just the Andalusian way.

After nibbling on tapas of homemade terrine and herbs tortilla, our menu comprised : calçots with its special Romescu sauce made with almonds, lamb from the Segura mountains served with roasted potatoes and strawberry and raspberry bavarois.

Now, of course I can hear you ask...what on earth are calçots ? Calçots are a special type of onion, very popular in Catalonia. To me they look and taste more or less like young leeks. This is how Marianne and Thierry prepared them. Wrapped in newspaper sheets, they cooked very slowly on ambers between two clay tiles.
After a while, the outer envelope of the calçots is burnt and they're ready to be eaten. When Thierry opened the newspaper, I laughed because he used some French paper to wrap the onions. Very convenient to catch up with the news even if the papers are dated.
Mmm... Monchéri is not a calçot expert but you get more or less the idea. The inner green onion is meant to be pulled out and then dipped in the sauce. It has to be hot too to be fully enjoyed.
I loved how the lamb was cooked with plenty of garlic. We all had very generous portions and there was still some left was for a second helping
But for me, I could have eaten two or three of these raspberry and strawberry bavarois....So delicious...Marianne didn't have enough strawberries in her garden so she mixed them with frozen raspberries she kept from last year.

We just received the menu for April...sounds promising... I guess you will read more about Marianne et Thierry's fabulous cooking more often on this blog...
And this cute little one below is very lucky indeed to have found such a good home !



if you're in the area and would like to book lunch or dinner at Marianne and Thierry's
you can email them at capithierry@gmail.com

Monday, March 29, 2010

I would love to blog but I can't !

My lovelies, I just want to say hello and wish you a good monday. Blogger is having some problems I think and I've been trying to upload the pics of my monday post.....but to no avail...!
I will leave it for today and be back tomorrow...It's nearly dinner time here and Monchéri said he would cook some chuletas so this is an offer I can't refuse....
Hasta mañana amigos !

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fragrant jasmine....my favorite scent...

The kitchen smelled like jasmine this afternoon.
When I work at home all day, there's nothing more enjoyable than stepping out quickly in the evening to get some bread, wine or flowers. Here the shops are opened until 9pm. Yesterday, after working indoors all day on a new project, at 8pm, it was time to get some fresh air and see the world. Buying flowers in the evening is one of my favorite things : their freshness makes me feel like the day is starting again. There are two flower shops in the village and luckily, one is very close to the house. I bought some white carnations with a bunch of baby's breath and green foliage and also, I couldn't resist to take this beautiful jasmine plant with me. It's already quite tall and has myriads of flowers. Jasmine is one of my favorite scents. So much so that I placed it in the living room then in the kitchen so its scent would follow me everywhere in the house. Tomorrow morning only, I will put it in its designated place in the patio. Hopefully, the sun will kiss it gently and make it grow beautifully.

Another nice flower I had the pleasure to receive is the Beautiful Blogger award from Penny of PK Studios some weeks ago.
My blog is by principle (and mostly laziness) award-free but I thought for once, I would breach my my own rules and step out of my mutism.
So the rules of the game are : Tell 7 things about you.
Here we go....

1) My childhood memories are very sweet. My two sisters and I were born and raised in the south of France, in Aix-en-Provence. The collines de Provence (hills of Provence) were close to paradise to me. Also, my mom used to make cute little dresses for my sisters and me. I can still remember some of them ! particularly a summer dress with a lovely cherry print

2) Sorry, childhood again....I feel too emotional about the places I cherished in my childhood. Going back to Aix-en-Provence in a way implies some sort of suffering because of nostalgia. One Christmas, not long ago, my younger sister gave me a box of calissons, this exquisite sweet which is made in Provence. I just had one bite and started to cry. We used to have them every sunday after church in our childhood. It's my madeleine de Proust.

3) In fact, I seem to fall in love strongly with places. I was an English student and spent one year in Ireland after my 2nd year. I loved it so much that for me, it was the place where I would spend, part of my life, no doubt. Then I went back to France then spent one year at the University of Virginia and again thought I'd spent part of my life in the States. But I came back to France.

4) I also fall in love with languages. Well some more than others. German was my second language and I wasn't too keen on it but I studied Latin for 6 years and adored it ! I'm a bit old fashioned in terms of education and think Latin is important.

5) I love Andalusia but miss Paris from time to time...especially to keep up with the movies, exhibitions and the cakes of course...One thing I'm quite chauvinistic about is French pastry! I even made a special pillar covered with names of French pastries : puits d'amour, (well of love), poire Belle Hélène, sabayon, millefeuilles, charlotte, tropézienne, opéra, napolitain, bavarois....These are names which sing !

6) I wonder if perfectionism is really a quality. I'm a perfectionist and it actually makes me act stupid at times. But I try to work on it. I'll just tell you this funny story when I started to exhibit my handmade stationary for the first time at Scènes d'Intérieur, at the Maison & Objet show in Paris, in the mid 90s. There is this journalist from Marie-Claire Maison who obviously likes my work and asks me how about having a 10 page article about my work, the workshop, the house, me, my cat, bla bla...Instead of saying yes, I would be delighted, I visualize the total mess of the workshop, the general mess of the house and I say no, I don't think the place is good enough and that I'm not ready! She walks away surely thinking I'm completely stupid.
But don't worry, this was when I was young and stupid. Time has passed and I realized that my perfectionism was strongly linked to a lack of confidence.

7) all in all, love is THE THING. Yes, this I'm sure about !

I hope you didn't feel asleep with all my bla bla...

Now, the rules of the game are to pass on this award to 10 bloggers. So I'm very happy to pass this award to some blogger friends I discovered more or less recently

1) Theresa from Art's the answer - I just love the topics of her posts...and she's captivating

2) Don from Ffocuss - a superb photographer which combines his pics with subtle quotes

3) David from Global Around Town - for his refreshing cultural posts and sense of humor - my favorite Epicurian

4) Michael from Oia Santorini - the Aegan sea has never been more beautiful and Oia found its poet

5) Mel from Rêverie - she adds this very special sweetness and she's a wonderful person !

6) Gym from The Sandpit Club - her short anecdotes are very addictive. She's also my friend and neighbor and can tell you, she's great !

7) Agneta from Wabi & Sabi - her imagery is always beautiful and so is she

8) Susanna from Tres cosas hermosas - always interesting, very lively and she's the only Spanish girl I know who speaks fluently English and Chinese

9) Kristin from A Page of Inspiration - her blog is really a page of inspiration for me - also she loves Nice which is one of my favorite places

10) Ry from Sotto Il Monte Vineyards - I love her ambiance and her little peregrinations


******


I resumed my series of simple romantic breakfasts on my other blog Un mariage au soleil. Go and have a look here....

Have a wonderful week end !

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The little white village

I'm going back to Salobreña on the coast this coming saturday. It's only midweek and because I have some boring administrative matters to deal with these days, I'm really looking forward to the week end !
A few years ago, this coast was covered with sugar cane fields as Salobreña possessed one of the last sugar cane factories in Spain.
I so hope my roof terrace will look like this one in summer !

Monday, March 22, 2010

Andalusian roof....my inspiration today

After having slept so many hours over the week end, I feel in much better shape, so much so to have enough energy to write a trilingual post...Well this is exceptional, I guess the upcoming spring is inspiring me !

Tras haber dormido tantas horas durante el fin de semana, me siento mucho mejor y con tanta energía que hoy decidi escribir un post trilingual...pero es excepcional y creo que debo esa energìa a la primavera que por fin llega a nuestra puerta.

Après avoir dormi presque tout le week end, je me sens tellement en forme que j'ai décidé de commencer la semaine par un post trilingue...Oui...mais c'est vraiment exceptionnel...c'est le printemps qui m'inspire !


I went up to the roof terrace during midday and stayed there for a while. Daydreaming is my forte today. I look at the old tiles without seeing their defects. I see an harmonious mosaic of brown and yellow tones. Oh and also... I have visions of Oliver Martinez hopping on tiled roofs in The Horseman on the Roof.

Subi a la terraza al mediodia y me quede allí por un momento. Hoy me gusta soñar de dia. Miro a las tejas antiguas sin ver a sus defectos....Solo veo un mosaico harmonioso de tonos marrones y amarillos. Oh...y tambien, tengo visiones de Oliver Martinez saltando sobre los tejados en El Húsar en el Tejado.


Je suis montée sur la terrasse et suis restée là un moment, à rêver...aujourd'hui c'est la rêverie qui l'emporte sur l'action. J'observe les vieilles tuiles sans voir leurs défauts. Je ne vois qu'une mosaïque harmonieuse dans des teintes de brun et jaune orangé. Oh...et puis bien sûr, dans ma tête, défilent des images du Hussard sur le toit.

What I love are the green herbs which grow between the tiles. This is life. This is spring.

Lo que mas me gusta son las hierbas que crecen entre las tejas. Es vida. Es primavera.

Ce que j'aime par-dessus tout, ce sont les herbes qui poussent entre les tuiles. Comme la vie. Comme le printemps.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Monchéri's birthday

When I settled in Andalusia a few years ago, I would never guess that Spain would give me the most wonderful gift in my life ever : my darling boyfriend born and bred in Andalusia and whom, my friends could tell you, I just simply adore !! What could I say ? Of course, love has its mysterious ways and when I met him for the first time, I knew it was him and that was it. Monchéri makes me laugh. I call him my personal clown because he's shy with other persons. He's my best friend. He's generous, witty, romantic, sexy...and I stop here otherwise I could go on forever !
Monchéri likes to cultivate his Latino-fierce look but he's a tender one inside

Before we met, he had a classical style....since then, he grew slightly exuberant
He loves to cook and finds pastry making the best therapy for stress
I always remind with tenderness what he told me on our second encounter. That being together recalled him of his childhood when cousins would come over and at night time, nobody wanted to sleep because they had so much to talk about. I found that so cute !
It's been 5 years, we've been together now and I love him more always....At times, we even talk about what it will be like when we're old. Well despite, time and old age, I hope to spend many more sunny days with Monchéri !
We had planned to go for a romantic picnic tomorrow but alas the weather is grayish again and on top of that, I have a nasty horrible cold which really nails me down to bed. So, I'm afraid it will be a birthday picnic in bed !

Have a wonderful week end !

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Homework

Today is my home-work day with sewing and painting in the agenda. I had bought meters of a very cheap toile de Jouy at fabric shop Tramas in Granada and I'm now trying to finish some chair covers. Well until now, I've made two and need to make two more. If only, I could find the tidbit missing on my sewing machine....it would be a great help. In the end, I had to make them by hand...slowly but surely...
It's not a very elaborate toile de Jouy but it's cotton and I especially like the hot air balloon pattern. I like its soft color and super price (6€ the meter in 280cm wide !).
I was also about to tackle some painting on my new lamp (bought at Gym's shop) but I think it will wait this week end ! I'm curious to know what you think about the rusty parts. Gym would leave it as it is. More romantic and authentic, she says. On my part, I would just add a touch of gold here and there. Mmmm... I'm not sure...What do you think ?
I'm now going to relax with a cup of tea and leafing through Owen Jones' wonderful Grammar of Ornament which Gym lent me last sunday. I love it ! It contains about a hundred illustrated plates of every possible classical design : Roman, Egyptian, Indian, Greek, Moorish etc...Great source of inspiration.




Tramas

Calle San Anton
Granada

Monday, March 15, 2010

Glimpses of a simple sunday Andalusian lunch

Outside, the weather was sunny and a bit chilly. Inside, a sumptuous salad was waiting. My darling Gym treated us to a very cool and delicious lunch yesterday. Our new friend Martin prepared it all and I'm sorry my batteries went kaputt when the homemade smoked salmon made its apparition on the table. I wish I could tell you the recipe, but I'm afraid some details escaped me ! But I can tell you, it was absolutely delicious.
We had cheap Spanish cava (the equivalent of champagne) but like we say in France, when the company is merry, champagne is always good even if its cheap.

While waiting for the food to be ready, we nibbled on little goat cheese and walnut canapés under Frieda's benevolent eye.
I think sunday lunches with friends are the best. We always part, making the promise that we must do it at least once a month and luckily we almost never fail. It also gives another color to mondays !

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank you for being there....


My lovelies, I didn't mean to stay away from you for so long but as you might have guessed, life took over and work kept me busy these last few days. I thought I would share my big news with you. Do you remember, I told you last summer some people approached me and ask if I could plan their wedding in Andalusia ? Well at that time, I wasn't too sure and declined the offer. But then the idea of being a wedding planner in the region I fell in love with, became really attractive to me, although it can be quite a daunting task. I started another blog Un mariage au soleil (a wedding in the sun) - which some of you already know - while still working on the website. With the precious help of Monchéri, I gathered zillions information about suppliers, religious ceremonies, musicians and what not in our area. Having already worked for wedding planners in Paris as a designer, I knew more or less what the job implied. But I still spent numerous hours on Internet reading blogs of American wedding planners which honestly are the best to me and learning from them. And then, it happened. Before Christmas, I received an email from a French couple saying they want to get married in Granada. We exchanged regular emails and they flew over from Paris last week and we met. My first professional appointment as a wedding planner ! As you can imagine, I was impossibly nervous. I assailed myself with questions : am I wearing the right clothes ? do I know enough, what if I can't answer a question ? and so on...The day before their arrival, I left a little welcome package at their hotel and on d-day I picked up the couple at their hotel and we went for lunch in one of the most typical restaurants in Granada. The days after, we went visiting venues. They were absolutely charming and now with a big smile I can tell you that it went really well (meaning I think they will trust me to be their wedding planner). It is a bit early to say anything yet because the wedding will be in 2011 but it looks definitely promising.
I wanted to share this news with you because in a way I owe it to you. It suddenly dawned on me that in my moments of lack of confidence, before meeting my clients, I remembered some of the lovely and sincerely encouraging comments you wrote on the first post of my wedding blog. It was just a very quick flash or rather something like a misty cloud of love. You, my lovely blogging friends sent me these warm and precious waves of love and support. In those moments of doubt, your encouraging words were suspended in the air like little bubbles of love.
For this, I want to thank you and I want to hug you all in my arms !!
I especially want to thank my faithful blogging friends who always make me smile and always inspire me : Mélanie, Catherine, Melissa, Linda, Cherry Blossom Girl, Joyful, Susanna, Christina, Judith, Michael, David, Agneta, Vicki, Sarah, Elizabeth, Constance, Nathalie, Relyn, Se'lah, Lynne, Yoli, Cynthia, Gillian, Dutchbaby, Caroline, Maria Cecilia, Ry, Linda at lime in the coconut, Des.
I also take this opportunity to welcome my new followers. Thank you for being part of My Castle in Spain !


I wish you all a wonderful week end !

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stylish Spanish crisps

The Gourmet shop of El Corte Inglès in Granada is always filled with little temptations for me. I find this crisps packaging delightfully girly. Now I can match my crisps bag with my lilac handbag and necklace. That's what I call eating crisps in style....

San Nicasio
is a Spanish company specialized in snacks and established in the province of Cordoba. Its manager Rafael del Rosal won two consecutive gold medals in the Brussels World Selection of Quality in 2008 and 2009. Not only these crisps are made with Spanish non-transgenic potatoes but they are also fried in one of the best Andalusian olive oils (with the Priego de Cordoba's guarantee of origin and quality) and are salted with Himalayan pink salt. And last but not least, a slow frying method is used at a low temperature to prevent the formation of undesirable substances. Cool crisps, I tell you !
Have a wonderful week end !



Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meet Martin the tailor....

Tailors are rare nowadays, except may be on Savile Row in London. A decade ago, sastres (tailors) could still be found in Granada and sadly there are only two left today. Every time, I pass by their shop, I so want to push the door and ask them if they would let me take some pictures of their workshop and talk about their trade. In the meantime, let me introduce you to Martin the tailor, whom we met last saturday at my dear friend Gym's birthday dinner party. Martin is Dutch and lives on the coast in Salobreña where he established his workshop a little while ago. We had a very interesting conversation about bespoke tailoring and what it can mean to a person. Martin has a blog and here is what he says about his work in a post humorously titled Consummate professionalism or professional idiot ?
.....No matter how much money you make, no matter how famous your clients may be, when you're in a line of work such as tailoring, inevitably people will tell you that the world has changed, and people no longer are willing to pay such amounts for a suit. Some are a bit less straightforward and ask how can one survive as an independent and slightly eccentric tailor: I wish I could tell them but I can't: All I know is that it works, there are actually people left on this planet, who value beauty and quality, and who are willing to pay for it....
(to read more go here)

Well...Monchéri is dreaming of a redingote and me of the suit and coat worn by Kim Novak in Vertigo...Hum....now the question is : dear Martin, can we pay you by installments ?

pic from Martin's blog

Monday, March 1, 2010

Parador San Francisco in Granada

This is the place I would like to live in, at least a few months to fill my days with such inspiring beauty. Alas, the parador is not a cheap hotel but believe me, just one night would suffice for me. Last saturday, I could only take photos of the patios and the gardens, as I need to meet the manager of the hotel during the week so that he can show me the dining room and lounges. I'm sure it will be a wonderful venue for small celebrations.



This former convent built in the XVth century is actually very romantic. It was a promise made by Catholic King Fernando and Queen Isabel to build a convent for the Franciscan order once they put an end to nearly seven centuries of Moorish domination in Spain in january 1492. The convent was built on the site of a former Nazari palace, with gardens and baths, surely the property of a Nazari prince. The Franciscans settled there in 1495 and a chapel was placed in what had been the center of the Moorish house.

You can have a drink at the hotel's café and stroll in its splendid gardens facing the refreshing scenery of the Alhambra.



Blissful isn't it ?
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