Le Tour de France: Chess on Wheels

Whew!  I just finished the 9th stage of the Tour de Franceand really worked up a sweat.  Okay, maybe I didn’t literally ride 170 kilometers across the hills and mountains of Lorraine and Alsace. But I do speed along with them on my stationary bike.  Today I sprinted the last 15kms to the finish line.… Continue reading Le Tour de France: Chess on Wheels

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 Love Your Neighbor Day (or something like that)

Only in France. Only in France does it take an organized effort to get people to talk to one another. Today is “La Fête des Voisins,” National Neighbors Day, where people are encouraged to get to know their neighbors or, as is said in some New York neighborhoods, to “tawlk among yuhselves.” The official website… Continue reading It’s Love Your Neighbor Day (or something like that)

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

“A Table for Lunch? Non!”

“Bonjour Madame. Do you have a table for four people?” “Avez-vous un réservation?” Madame asked. “No” we replied as our eyes drifted over the room full of empty tables. “Ah, then I cannot help you. We have no tables available.” Perhaps it was because we arrived at the local top-rated restaurant breathless and sweaty, dressed in… Continue reading “A Table for Lunch? Non!”

Dijon, Capital of Burgundy (and Mustard)

I had not planned on writing about Dijon.  But I wanted to share the recipe for a mustard tart that I found while trying to figure out what to do with a large pot of seeded mustard I’d received as a gift from friends who had just been there.

Rich in history and well-preserved architecture, Dijon is the perfect day trip from Paris, which is only 200 miles, or an hour and a half by TGV, away.  The city of Dijon, capital of the Côte-d’Or département, lies at the head of Burgundy wine country. Best known to Americans as a mustard—think of those Grey-Poupon commercials—Dijon once was home to the powerful Dukes of Burgundy and a center of learning and culture.

Today it is a charming town with plenty to do in a day or two, like wine tasting and following the Owl’s Trail (Le Parcours de la Chouette), a walking tour that takes in the top 22 attractions in the city center.   A guide can be purchased at the Dijon Office de Tourisme for about four dollars.


Back to mustard. Dijon became recognized as a center of mustard production in the 13th century. In the mid-18th century Grey-Poupon was established with a unique recipe containing white wine.  Maille Mustard, which originated in Marseilles, was established in 1747 in Paris, and opened its first shop in Dijon a century later.  In 1937, Dijon mustard was granted an Appellation d’origine controlee.

The highlight of my trip more than a decade ago was a visit to the Maille mustard shop, seen here in ths video on YouTube, and dinner at a restaurant on one of the side streets where I had jambon persilliade for the first time. More about that in another blog.

Which brings me back, finally, to the reason for writing this one.  Dorie Greenspan, a James Beard-award-winning cookbook author who lives in France part of the year, recreated a recipe for a mustard tart she’d had for lunch at the home of friends who own a restaurant outside Dijon and published it in her cookbook Around the French Table.  Bon Appetit published the recipe in 2010 and I found it during a Google search for “mustard recipes.” I made it last summer and it climbed to the top of Most Favored Dishes. Its assertive mustard flavor makes it best suited as an appetizer or first course. I skipped making the crust and used a frozen whole wheat crust from Whole Foods, which was a perfect taste partner for the mustardy custard – sweet vs. tart and salty. My recipe, streamlined as much as possible, is here.

This is what Gerard’s Mustard Tart looks like when Bon Appetit does it.

Cropped Greenspan tart

And this is what it looks like when I make it. Not bad for a beginner. And just as tasty.

Mustard Tart
Mustard Tart

Off the Beaten Path

France is full of history, art, culture, gardens, beautiful fresh produce, stunning jewelry, couture, gorgeous women, charming men, postcard-worthy children, seaside resorts, Alpine adventure, war memorials, castle fortresses, lazy rivers, rivers with purpose, picturesque villages, pre-historic cave paintings, fields of lavender, ancient monasteries, grand cathedrals, small country churches, great bread, expensive wine, cheap wine (both… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path