C’est bien fait pour ta pomme!

Early into my stay in the Dordogne, I made it a goal to find the best produce at Périgueux’s bi-weekly market.  An easy task, as nearly all of it is very, very good.  But when it came to apples, I found that they fell into two categories: the Ariane and every other apple harvested in the country.  This little apple is leaps and bounds ahead of all the others I found down by Saint-Front.  Sweet and crunchy and tart, I bought kilos each week for snacking, for breakfast, and for tricking Phillip into making pies for me (the guilt always tasted buttery and delicious).

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A close cousin to the prolific and inexpensive pâtisserie staple, the chausson aux pommes, a big slice of apple pie fait maison often accompanied my dinner, my lunch, my breakfast, or replaced my meal entirely.  A pie-chart depicting the amount of pie I ate relative to all other foods would be horribly revealing.

Indulging in weekly homemade apple pies (though maybe if it’s weekly, it doesn’t really count as indulging) was a multi-step process.  Finding the perfect apple for pie was a piece of cake.  But, as is the case for most French apartments, ours did not come equipped with an oven.  We found one being sold second-hand at a tabac in the tiny town of Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, just outside of Périgueux, and once we had convinced the woman there that she had indeed listed her oven online (“Un four?  Comment?  A vendre?  Non. Ici?  Non. Non. Ah mais si.”), we waddled out with an appliance at least two times as powerful as an Easy-Bake Oven.

However the biggest sacrifice was Phillip’s, who toted his huge cast iron pan all the way from Seattle (some would say unnecessarily…) for the purposes of both baking and cooking.  A madman or a genius…the proof is in the pie!

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On a whim, one afternoon Rosie and I tried our hand at what we thought was just a slightly dumbed-down French version, the tarte tatin.  Originally made by mistake, we figured that this was a baking project that even we couldn’t fail (profiteroles on the other hand, euhh).  Even at the most anxiety-filled moment – the flip!, we managed to not mess anything up and our tarte tatin turned out perfectly upside down and buttery-appley-sugary.  Not quite on par with the demoiselles Tatin, but one day…

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How appropriate that this is the only joke I know in French:

Quel est le gâteau le plus mystérieux ?

La tarte tatinnnn !

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Receso a Pamplona

Pamplona is a small town, but there are lots of cute streets for aimless wandering. That’s exactly how we learned our way around town and how we found the best places to have a snack.  Here are two of our favorites!

Pastas Beatriz: the best sweets in Pamplona!  When we arrived, there was a line of locals out the door, ordering sweets by the kilo.  They were all especially fond of garrotes de chocolate and de crema – flaky pastries wrapped around dark, rich chocolate or sweet, smooth cream.  They were shoveled off of the baking tray into our box, still warm and melting in our mouths.  I can remember the taste now, and also the bellyache afterwards (dulce, dulce)…but if you’re in town, you should absolutely make a stop at Beatriz.

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Café Iruña: Impossible to miss in Plaza del Castillo, we both agreed that this was among the most beautiful of cafés we had ever seen.  Decorated intricately, with embossed wallpaper and sculpted wooden ceilings, we imagined it looking much the same when it opened in 1888 as well as in the early 1920s, when Ernest Hemingway was a frequent patron there.  In fact, much of “The Sun Also Rises” was written here!  The coffee was lovely, and their pintxos were cheap and abundant, but the best thing was to just sit and read, sit and write, and sit and observe.  It was our first stop in Pamplona, as well as our last before returning to France.  Dreaming of going back there now…

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Click above for a panorama!

A study in sweets, pt. 5

My roommate, Britland, and I have a list on our fridge of all the important things we’d like to do before we graduate.  Naturally, it’s written on pink paper with a kitten sitting in an equally pink high-heeled shoe at the top.  We’ve been crossing things off the list, little by little (to be expanded upon later), and got around to checking off a very important milestone today…Trophy Cupcakes!

How I went three whole years without trying one, I’ll never know!  For me, a chocolate peanut butter cupcake, and for Britland, a salted caramel cupcake.  We collapsed on the couch in sugar comas, both very pleased (so delicious! the cupcakes!) and very disappointed with ourselves (so achy! our stomachs!).  But, we knew well our fate before we took our first bites.  And that knowledge certainly won’t be enough to keep up from stopping by another one or two times in the next couple of months!

Crêpes

Nadine and I opted for a dessert-first kind of dinner.  Maybe lacking in nutrition, but one hundred percent French!  We opted for a crêpe mix, and as punishment, the box patronized us…instructions were given in the first person singular, which was actually quite odd.  “Je laisse dorer l’autre face [de la crêpe].  Je garnis selon mes envies et je déguste ! / I allow the other side of the crêpe to turn golden-brown.  Then I decorate according to my own tastes and enjoy!”  Well, yes of course I’ll only put the kinds of things I want to eat on my crêpe!  Of course!  How silly…

By the time the batter was almost out, we were feeling a bit impatient (or were we?  the box didn’t tell us if we were or weren’t…), so Nadine poured the rest of the mix into the skillet and created what I think we called Big McCrêpe!  Then she forced me to take it.  I obliged, of course, but it was no easy task to tame ce monstre de crêpe!

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Big McCrêpe (American) and Petit Saint-Crêpe (French).

A study in sweets, pt. 3

It’s time for more pretty French sweets!  This week’s installment features fresh raspberries!  But you’ll have to make it through the pyramidal wrappings first…

Inside you’ll find une charlotte aux framboises!  Biscuits à la cuillère surround a center of chilled raspberry mousse.  The raspberries on top are best eaten one by one, until your fingertips are red (especially if you haven’t any utensils and are sitting on the grass, like I was!).

Delicious!  And all the more sweet after having finished a language acquisition exam!

Handheld Barcelona

Barcelona was all too good at shoving treats in my hands periodically throughout the days – good thing I’ve got two!

Raspberry Pineapple juice from La Boqueria.

Caffè and stracciatella gelato in La Ribera district.

Cacaolat – anytime, anywhere.

An apple tart filled with cream in Barceloneta.

Pastelería española

I’ll admit.  I’m completely spoiled in France when it comes to pastries.  But, being a considerate person of infinite curiosity, I was more than willing to give Spanish pastries a try.  So here are a few pictures of my conquests!

Then one morning I picked up this cinnamon sugary-looking treat.

But looks can be deceiving.  I took a bite, hoping for something sweet and nutty, but instead, tasted nothing but…pork.  Qué?  Yes, that’s right, pork!  How odd!  At first my parents didn’t believe me, but my dad took a bite and concluded, “yep, that’s chitterlings.”  Oh, as if it being pork wasn’t bad enough.  Sprinkled atop my breakfast and scratching down my throat, were “chitterlings.”  I put my knife and fork down, and didn’t pick them back up again until dinner.  Eurgh…

A study in sweets, pt. 2

Though it has been a long time since my first study in sweets, hopefully this international edition does not disappoint!  These dulces were from Horno San Buenaventura, though unfortunately, I never learned their names, as I ordered them by desperately pointing.  Sí, sí, sí!

The plan was to each choose a pastry and then share.  I chose the pink one, and it was wonderful, though they all were, really.  Much different than the sweets I’m used to in France (I’m spoiled), but a lot of fun to eat on the steps of the Archivo General de Indias on a sunny day!

La Côte sauvage, pt.2

Third on the list was Guérande.  I visited its cité médiévale, which really offered everything that I could have wanted a cité médiévale to offer – cobblestones, beautiful ironwork and crêpes (au sucre, au chocolat et au caramel à la fleur de sel).  Lovely.

But I think I was most excited about visiting La Brière, a national park with its characteristic thatched roofs and green, green marshland.  On this trip, I only was able to visit Bréca, but as La Brière is so close by, I think come springtime I’d like to make another trip back to see more!  I can even rent a bike from Saint-Nazaire or Penhoët and go from there!

Vi har det svårt här i Sverige

The last thing that I need to be doing is taking new pictures when I have hundreds still to post here, but a quick trip to Ikea proved to be rather inspirational…or at least it inspired me to buy lots of Swedish snacks.

Things like…moose pasta!  Whole-wheat moose-shaped pasta, I just cannot resist.

And cloudberry jam!  I first tried cloudberries in Sweden last year (as it’s one of the few places both cold and dry enough to grow them) and was really excited to find this on the shelf.

And a huge box of oat cookies!  And now I can say “kakor havreflarn” in so many languages!  What an educational purchase!  Javisst!

I am proud (yes, really) to say that I snatched up the very last bag of Ahlgrens bilar. And I know that people tend to use silly action verbs like “snatched” to convince themselves that they’re an interesting and dynamic writer, even though “snatching” is not really an action that many people actually perform, but I can assure you that when I saw that sole bag of bilar sitting there in the Ikea market, I snatched it up.

I’m really quite defensive, aren’t I?