Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lyon and The Bocuse D'Or

Arriving at the Giant Food Expo.

The Kitchens. Twelve Countries lined up to compete on Day 1, while the other twelve battled it out on Day 2.

Team Argentina.

Making Something Out of Sugar.

Kitchen Supplies Anyone? (At the Food Expo).

Pulling out all the stops. Go Canada!

Chef Ryan Stone's Poster.

Go Canada Go!

Can't remember what these were, but they sure do look pretty.

Chefs cooking up some tasty treats at the Food Expo.

Sipping Rhone Valley Wines at the Place des Vins.

Burgundy Wines at the Place des Vins.

Chef Ryan Stone and his Apprentice on the Big Screen.

The Swiss and their Horns. Notice the Giant Long Horn just above the Crowd.



Walking Around Lyon.

Nothing Like Colourful Flowers to Brighten up a Grey Day.

Le Bistrot de Lyon, Lyon.

Brasserie Leon de Lyon, Rue Pleney, Lyon.

Brasserie Leon de Lyon, Rue Pleney, Lyon.

Just Another Pretty Building.

Dinner at Le Muranie.

Fruit Chandelier inside Le Muranie.

A few days ago I met Dennis's mom, Lynda, in Lyon to cheer on Dennis's cousin, Ryan Stone, at the Bocuse d'Or competition. The Bocuse d'Or is said to be equivalent to the culinary olympics and is held in Lyon every two years. To reach the 2 day competition each chef must win a qualifying competition in their own country, and 24 winning countries make it to the final event. Each chef has 5 and a half hours to prepare one meat platter and one fish platter. The chefs received word last Febuary they would be cooking with saddle of lamb, which includes both sides of the loin with the backbones still attached, along with monkfish, Scottish brown crab and langoustine, which is similar to baby lobster.

Scandinavia stormed Lyon at the Bocuse d'Or. Paul Bocuse, chief of the old guard, pioneer of French Nouvelle Cuisine and now in his eighties, visibly flinched (of course this could have been humour), when he read the name of the winning country. Bronze to Gunnar Hvarnes of Norway, Silver to Tommy Myllymaki of Sweden and Gold to Kofoed Rasmus of Denmark. Ryan Stone and his apprentice finished 12th out of 24 countries, and they were disappointed. However, they did all this with very little funding, whilst cooking and acting as head chef at the West Coast Fishing Club on Langara Island in Haida Gwaii.

Lynda and I weren't the only Canadians cheering them on, most of Ryan's family and friends were also present, many of whom I had never met. They all came fully equipped: Canadian hockey jersey's with 'Stone' written on the back, blow-up red and white cheering batons (you bang them together and they make a terrible noise) and perhaps the most dreaded of all, the cow bell (and not just one or two, lots of them). I admired their spirit, but let me tell you it was certainly not my favourite thing in the world to hear on the bus on route to the competition site at 8:00am. Luckily one aunt was nice enough to pack along some Tylenol so I made sure to sit next to her.

The Canadians weren't the only one's who came armed and dangerous, each country had their own distinct obnoxious noise maker: the Swedes had air horns, the Danes had drums, and the Swiss had horns. Throw in 1200 hot sweaty stinky people screaming and banging away and this was enough to put me over the edge.

Luckily, I had one saving grace to rescue me from all the noise. The Bocuse d'Or was held in conjuction with the International Hotel and Catering Exhibition. So the chef competition was only a small part of a giant food and wine expo. I managed to escape for a few hours to check out The Place des Vins (the wine expo). The wines represented were from Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley. There were many producers present, each with their own little kiosk where you could chat and sample their wine. There was also a tasting room which had over 200 wines from the above mentioned areas, definitely a great place to escape to.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Toulouse for a Day


The Wine.

The Lunch. An Edible Present!

Place du Capitole. Toulouse was certainly a lively, young and vibrant city! It is home to the University of Toulouse which has the third largest studednt population in France after Lyon and Paris.

Place du Capitole. Toulouse is known as the Ville Rose (The Pink City), for its distinctive brick architecture.

Place du Capitole.

Place du Capitole.

Pink, Blue and Red.

Inside Betty

Yesterday, I traveled to Toulouse and back. No easy feat by any means considering it was about three hours each way by car. We don't exactly have the speediest car around, but it has become our little road warrior and always seems to get me there and back again without a hitch. Since it was going to be a bit of a journey I decided to bring Rypien along to act as co-pilot, but mostly to keep me company.

The whole purpose of my trip to Toulouse was to have lunch with the fabulous Thomas Cabrol, founder and owner of ProDégustation – a very succesful wine tasting company which can be found in all major centers and cities within France. I met him while doing my WSET Level 3 at VinÉcole in the Languedoc-Roussillon, we were the only two people in the class!

We had lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Le Nez Rouge (such a great name), which is owned by a lady who used to work for Thomas as a wine instructor. The restaurant was a tiny little wine and food bistro located on a small corner in the middle of the bustling city. They had a great wine list, as was to be expected, with a selection of over 200 wines, all French of course. Oddly enough, there wasn't one wine on the entire menu from the famous wine growing region of Bordeaux. How is this possible? Thomas was quick to inform me that the owner hates Bordeaux, hence its absence on the menu.
We decided on a fantastic 2007 bottle from Gevrey-Chambertin by Domaine Trapet Père et Fils (a.k.a. a red Burgundy. For those who may be a bit unfamiliar, any red wine from Burgundy is going to be a Pinot Noir). Lunch consisted of a mouth watering chorizo soup to start, followed by butternut squash and fish which came wrapped up like a present in clear cellophane. It was quite something. 10 out of 10 for presentation! And of course the food itself was nothing short of a gastronomic delight, every bite was to die for.

With my belly full of French goodness, I thought it would be a good idea to go walkabout and see a bit of the city. I decided to head for the Place du Capitole, the main square in the city and home to the Hôtel de Ville, the Théâtre du Capitole (opera house) and the Donjon du Capitole (the archives tower). The narrow brick paved streets were lined with some very cool shops, one of which Thomas made me swear that I would visit. It went a little something like this:

Thomas: “You like cheese?”
Me: “Yeeees”.
Thomas: “Than you MUST go to Betty”.
Me: “Betty?”
Thomas: “It is the best cheese shop in all of Southern France! The man who owns it is a Lactose Engineer!”

So, I went, I saw, I bought, and then ended up smelling like a stinky cheese shop for the three hour car ride home. Merde!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who are the Basques?

Poster on the side of a building in San Sebastian.

Basque Houses

Basque Houses

Basque Coutryside

San Sebastian, Spain

If any of you ever take a trip down to the Basque region of France (where we currently live), you will no longer feel like you are in France. Throughout my travels of this beautiful country I've come to notice that everything here is different, from the colours of the houses to the language they speak, to the food they eat and the wine they drink.

Straddling the border of southern France and northern Spain, the land of the Basques (called Euskal Herria in the Basque language) has long been home to a people who had no country of their own but have always viewed themselves as a nation. Their history pre-dates the Roman invasion of the region and has carried on to the present day, frequently earning them the label of one of the oldest peoples in Europe.

There have been claims that the Basques are the original Europeans, this is based largely on the grounds of Euskara, the Basque language, which appears to have no linguistic relative and is likely the oldest European language still spoken.Written Basque is as strange looking as the language is sounding, featuring an extraordinary number of x's and an apparent disregard for vowels.

The Basques seldom get good press – especially with regards to the current news items about ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, translated as Basque Homeland and Liberty) , the Basque nationalist group. For over thirty years, this group has been fighting Spain to win the independence of the Basque region, and killing some 800 people in the process.

Nevertheless, the Basques are without a doubt a distinctive and unique people who speak their own language, have their own radio stations and newspapers, have their own educational system, and continue to embrace a culture spanning thousands of years. But, perhaps the most remarkable fact about the Basques is that they still exist. Without a defined country and with no known related ethnic groups, the Basques seem to be a bit of a European anomaly.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walking on Sunshine

The last few days have been fantastic in terms of weather. It's been super sunny with temperatures hovering between 15 and 18 degrees. Certainly can't complain considering it's January and it's been dumping snow back home in Canada. These are just a couple of pics I took from our walks and runs around Lake Hossegor. Enjoy.