Homemade Mayonnaise: A Toast to the Salad Days of Summer

Aaaaaaagh!  Summer is nearly over. But Labor Day picnics, the swan song of summer, will soon be here. What better way to celebrate the transition to fall than creamy, satisfying potato and pasta salads to complement the hot stuff coming off the grill? How to make those salads amazing, surprising, (and satisfying)? Use real homemade… Continue reading Homemade Mayonnaise: A Toast to the Salad Days of Summer

La Vie du Château—Cooking in France with Mary

Last summer a few friends rented a farmhouse on the grounds of Château de la Barbée in France’s Loire Valley. I joined them as the unofficial chef, preparing most of our dinners during our two-week stay. One day the proprietress of the chateau asked if I would like to cook dinner with her. (Never, ever pass… Continue reading La Vie du Château—Cooking in France with Mary

In France, the Best Food is Found at Home: New York Times

In France, the best food in found at home.

Don’t take my word for it. I have the weight of The New York Times on my side. In today’s Travel section, Ann Mah writes in “Tasting France Through 5 Signature Dishes” about the regional cooking of France. She believes, as I do, that the best dishes are found not in Parisian restaurants, but in the home. She quotes John Baxter, an Australian writer and author of The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France, who notes that many Parisian restaurants use frozen or industrially prepared ingredients. In his opinion:

In the provinces, the food is made with local ingredients and it’s labor intensive—all the things restaurants don’t want. This is one reason why people should and do eat outside of Paris.”

Perfect Meal John Baxter

Enjoying the food prepared at home is one of the things most people miss when they travel to France on vacation. The markets are filled with beautiful produce, the freshest of meats and fish, piles of breads and cheeses, and herbs, olives, and regional specialties. In the Dordogne there is duck confit, in the Loire Valley, charcuteries and rillettes, and in the Drome, just north of Provence, there is Nyons and its olives.


There are many cooking schools in the French countryside, where you can learn to make traditional French food. But few offer the opportunity to experience home cooking—at home. Last summer I met an American woman who has been living in France for more than 30 years. She and her husband own a chateau in the Pays de la Loire. We were renting their farmhouse.

Notre cottage

After a few glasses of wine one evening we invited them to dinner at our/their farmhouse (I cook nearly every dinner when we go to France—go figure). Mary suggested that we cook together. After a successful Coq au Vin and Mousse au Chocolat we began to explore the idea of opening a cooking vacation program in their chateau, where people could stay and cook and eat and see the local sites.

We worked on this idea throughout the winter and voila, La Vie du Chateau was born. I will write more about this venture in future posts, but you can take a virtual tour now at www.lavieduchateau.com. It’s the next best thing to being there, but being there is better.

La Vie home page horiz (1003x481)

P.S.  If you book a program at La Vie du Chateau this year you’ll receive a 15% discount if you mention No No Julia. My friends and followers should get some reward, don’t you agree?

It’s Three Kings Day: Time for Fèves

This might be my dentist’s favorite among the blogs I’ve written because today’s post is about a tiny porcelain object that is buried in a cake, designed to break a tooth. It’s called a fève, which means fava bean in French. January 6th, 12 days after Christmas, is celebrated as the day the Three Kings,… Continue reading It’s Three Kings Day: Time for Fèves