Shopping, Eating and Exploring

Come along with me and discover some off-the beaten paths in Southwest France

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of Summer Antique Shows

August is winding down, and there are two antique shows I will be showing at before heading to France for Fall buying. The first one is this Sunday in Healdsburg, California. My booth is right on Healdsburg Ave, space A. No admission charge, and Healdsburg is a great town to wander around. Set-up starts at 5:30 am. Nice thing about Healdsburg is the dog gets to come. Sally is very friendly and always ready to say hello to shoppers. She loved attending the Nippomo Antique Show in April.

First Sunday in September is the 6th, and that means Alameda Point. Booth G-8. I get there at 5am, admission is at 6am, closes at 3pm.

We spent last weekend in Columbus, Ohio for a family wedding. Bride just opened her fourth restaurant. Her mom, (my cousin) did the decorating in all four spots with a combination of Ohio memorabilia, chalk ware, vintage lighting and textiles. Each place is unique. When you are in Columbus, make sure you try Betty's, Surly Girl Saloon, Tip Top, and Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace. Food is fresh, comforting, and innovative.

There is still some time to come along with me to France this Fall. I will be there through the end of October. Weather is great, cepes, foie gras, chestnuts and borreau are all in season. Anyone know what borreau is?

Friday, August 7, 2009

How Julia Childs Taught Me How to Cook

I was 9 years old when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, and I wasn't even born when work start on the book. On my first job out of college, I was exposed to a blinding assortment of cheeses, wines, and gourmet foods. Everyone I worked with had done a semester in France, and were part of what was the new "food" thing that was starting in California. I was bitten by the bug and told my boss I wanted to take some cooking lessons.

"Do you know who Julia Childs is?" I didn't. She told me to get the book, work my way through it, and come back when I was done and we would talk. Sound familiar? I went over to the used book store in Walnut Creek and paid $11 for a copy.

I didn't just work through it, I learned how to cook. I had never even seen a souffle before I attempted the chocolate souffle. Julia, through painstaking detail, took me through it, step by step. She even anticipated difficulties before they happened. I learned technique, how to shop, plan a menu, make a sauce and keep a sense of humor from this amazing woman and her book.

Twenty years later, and fully ensconced in the specialty food business, I was able to meet Julia on several occasions. One time, she handed me her keys to get something out of the car...the key chain was a lucite one that said JOOOOLIA.

Today I say the new movie Julie&Julia. I was glad to see the tenderness portrayed between Julia and her husband, Paul. She was certainly the butter on his bread. Without his support and love, that masterpiece of a book wouldn't have been written.

The book she wrote with her nephew, My Life in France, is such a wonderful read, not only for foodies, but anyone who has connected with another place in the world, far from home, that also becomes home.

So, tonight, I raise my glass, once again, to Julia Child, who taught me how to cook and inspires me every day. Salut!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fruits of My Labors

My first excuse for buying a home in France was that I loved to cook and it was so frustrating to go to markets, see all the wonderful food and then be forced to leave empty handed. Hard to cook in a hotel room. I needed a French kitchen!

While I still spend a lot of time in the kitchen in France, the majority of my time is combing the flea markets, vide greniers, and brocantes for things to bring home to sell. I have good trips, and occasional trips where I felt prices were too high, dealers inflexible (when the going gets tough, the French dealers tend to raise prices) weather was too challenging. This last Spring, the stars were all in was reasonable, a weak dollar had made some kind of comeback, and dealers were relived to see any buyers.

The Southwest doesn't have the dearth of markets like Provence and Paris, but we have much lower prices. I can never count on finding something specific, but I can count on finding something interesting. This last trip I found a huge lot of NOS (that would be new, old, stock) of frames for cameos, all different, all a lovely yellow gold material. These are from the 1800's, in perfect condition, waiting for the creative jewelry artisan to turn them into something special.

I also have a nice collection of old transferware plates in lots of different colors; green, red, blue and lavendar. Transferware became popluar in the 19th century as the middle class grew. The new middle class couldn't afford handpainted china, so this method was devised to "transfer" the decoration on to pieces to stimulate a handpainted look. I love it when all the colors are mixed, but a lot of people seek out just one color.

Linens, did anyone ask about linens? I sometimes wish that my sewing machine didn't intimidate me so much. The handloomed textiles, the toile, the charming vintage prints! Ah the things I wish I could make with those! I buy them anyway, so I have a ever changing stock for shows.

Speaking of shows....this weekend is Alameda Point Antiques Fair. I am in Booth G8. Fair runs from 6am till 3pm. Come by and say hello. I will also be doing the antique show in beautiful Healdsburg, California on August 30th.