During our last stay in Paris, we visited the Marché aux Puces, Paris's most famous flea market located in the 18th arrondissement. There are 2,500 to 3,000 open stalls and shops selling everything from antiques to junk. It is a complex labyrinth between the stalls which ultimately leads you to a new discovery at each twist and turn. We spent hours just enjoying every single object that caught our eye, but nothing prepared us for the hidden treasure we came across among a grouping of framed drawings in an art dealer's stall. A sanguine chalk drawing study by Jules-Élie Delaunay not only caught our eyes, but it captured our hearts as well.
Jules-Élie Delaunay (1828-1891) was a French painter who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Some of his commissioned works include the three panels of Apollo, Orpheus, and Amphion at the Paris Opera House. He was a very accomplished and talented artist which is evident in this exquisite study we happened upon on that very cold Saturday morning in November 2007. Although she has left her beloved Paris origin behind, she is now part of our family, and we lovingly gaze upon her ethereal beauty morning, noon and night.
As you can imagine, my weekend was off-the-charts fantastic! I'm still in a state of culinary bliss! Sherry Page truly has to be one of the most generous, fun-loving, talented and enthusiastic chefs I've ever had the pleasure of knowing (and now, I can say, learning from).
The Napa Valley Culinary Getaway began Friday evening with a welcome dinner at Sherry's adorable cottage in Yountville. Every detail of the evening was divine - meeting the other happy attendees (there were only 7 of us because Sherry prefers intimate groups), the tour of Sherry's terraced garden of herbs, rhubarb, tomatoes, chard, peppers, figs, pomegranates, pears, and more, and dining al fresco underneath the rugged beauty of her walnut tree on a warm summer night. It's difficult for me to choose one favorite item from Sherry's 5-course dinner menu, so I'll share a few of my favorites: the Salad of Fresh White Corn, Sungold Tomatoes and Basil, the Roasted Chicken with Roasted Meyer Lemons, and the Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. Not to mention, she pairs each course with an exceptional wine. Are you drooling yet?
Saturday morning, we met at Silverado Vineyards for our hands-on cooking class. Of course, it wouldn't be right if a private winery tour wasn't part of the day, so this is how the sun-kissed morning began along with a glass of Sangiovese in our hands. After the very informative tour, Sherry gave us a class on sea salts which was so interesting and useful. She then passed out our personalized embroidered aprons (she doesn't miss a detail!), and we headed to the kitchen to begin preparing our multi-course lunch of Carmelized Dates with Roasted Almonds and Fleur de Sel, Figs stuffed with Fresh Chevre and Chopped Hazelnuts, Farmers Market Vegetable Paella, Filet of Beef Tenderlion Roast with Tattooed Yukon Gold Potatoes and Dressed Greens, and Balsamic Strawberries with Cracked Pepper and Creme Fraiche. Yes, this was our lunch! We prepared every course with our own hands along with the guidance of our gracious and very patient 'food mentor', Sherry; so when the time came for us to enjoy the 'fruits of our labor', we did so with much glee while dining on the outdoor terrace overlooking the vineyards. Two words: Culinary Heaven!
As a grand finale, on Sunday, we learned to make the glorious galettes I mentioned here, and we made blueberry, nectarine, and apple. (Oh my, look out friends and family, I see lots of these tasty tarts in your future!) After this cooking lesson, we all sat down to Sherry's delicious breakfast of grits with piave vecchio cheese, chicken and mango sausage, fresh seasonal fruit, Bouchon bread with strawberry rhubarb or blackberry preserves, and our fresh from the oven galettes. A very hearty and satisfying Sunday morning indulgence!
Hopefully, my words did this experience justice, for I highly recommend attending one of Sherry's Culinary Getaways. If you love good food, have the desire to learn to cook delicious dishes, and enjoy being taught by a very knowledgeable and fun person, then one of these getaways would be ideal for you. I'm already looking ahead to 2010 in hopes of attending one of the European Culinary Getaways in either Provence or Tuscany. And as a food lover's good fortune would have it, Sherry is also going to start offering one day classes in the Bay Area too! I urge you to sign up for her newletters here; I guarantee you will be just as excited as I am when they arrive in the inbox, for they are always filled with great recipes, reviews, culinary getaway updates, and seasonal tips. This weekend was the perfect combination of incredible food and wine, breathtaking vistas, great people, and extraordinary lessons to expand my culinary knowledge - all wonderful elements that helped to create a blissful memory I will cherish for a very long time.
Allow me to introduce my sweet little pug, Ashton. She entered my life on Valentine's Day 1997, and at 5 weeks old, she was small enough to carry in my coat pocket! Her gentle and cheerful disposition has been the highlight of my days. We take her everywhere with us (including Europe). In fact, she fell in love with Paris (did I mention she was extremely brilliant!?!) because she knew fresh croissants or pastries were around every corner - a pug's dream!
Her cute little face melts my heart daily, and I can't imagine not having her by my side morning, noon and night. She has never met a stranger and is adored by so many. Ashton is one-of-a-kind, and she truly is our beloved best friend.
One of my favorite things is to have fresh flowers by my bedside. It just makes waking up even more delightful when you open your eyes to see a beautiful gift of nature sharing its vibrant happiness with you. My flower of choice is the Tuberose. I can't get enough of their exquisite fragrance and all-white splendor!