In honor of Bastille Day, let me share with your a quick and easy appetizer that we enjoyed on a recent road trip through France. It was Ed’s favorite on the plate of amuse-bouches that began our meal on an adventurous evening when we trusted our GPS to find a restaurant for us. Not to worry, I don’t think you can get a bad meal in France. You’ll get very expensive meals in Paris, but we were just outside of Langeais along the Loire river.
The next day, July 4th, we were seeing friends who have a home in the area. Our friend Bill and Ed flew together 30 years ago. Bill’s wife, Anne is French, and they are in the process of restoring an old limestone house that will become their full-time home when they’re both retired. We popped in on them just after they’d arrived from the US for their annual vacation in France. It’s a different and richer experience to visit a foreign country when you’re with locals. You get a feel for how people really live rather than the top tourist attractions.
We went to Bill and Anne’s for lunch which in true European fashion turned into leisurely meal that goes on for hours. It didn’t truly end until 6 PM when the guys went next door to watch the World Cup quarter-final match with France and the Netherlands. I kept Anne company while she was cleaning up the kitchen; I really did offer to help, but the kitchen is tiny and a second person would have just been underfoot.
Shortly after the clean up was over, our football fans returned and we sat down to eat again. That evening, our hosts took us to see Mille Feux (1000 lights) in the gardens of Chateau Villandry, the grounds were lit with more than 2,000 candles. Anne told me that there are so many miles of boxwood plants in the garden that the staff of 32 full-time gardeners is able to trim them only once per year. They looked perfect the night we were there. The courtyard offered games of skill for visitors, a concert at the lake and at 11 PM, a fireworks display that was so close, I almost pulled out my sunglasses. It was so special for us to be with American friends on the 4th of July and to see fireworks with them in France of all places.
I knew the French weren’t celebrating our independence day. When I asked Anne what the occasion was, she said that it was in anticipation of July 14th — that many chateaux were spreading our the celebrations, so that people could attend more than one event. It was a really special time, one that we’ll always remember.
When we returned to our Bed and Breakfast, the owner asked how our day had been. We said that we had eaten all day long. He didn’t seem surprised and said, “of course, you’re in France!” He told us that you know you’re in France when your meal time conversation is about the next meal.
To make your next meal memorable, here’s our new favorite little nibble that uses only three ingredients!
- frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- olives, any variety, pitted
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Cut the pastry into rectangles just big enough to wrap around your olives
- Wrap the olives and pinch the pastry to seal the sides
- Sprinkle with paprika
- Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffy and brown