This year Davey Doughan, celebrity master chef and entertainer, was going to come from the cold North, in this case Finland, with his lovely wife Elsa and cook our traditional New Year's meal for us and a handful of friends. But in contrast with previous years, our friends the Froidures offered to hold the event in their castle.
Their castle which is pretty close to our house, is a true castle with 17 bedrooms, several living rooms and fireplaces. In other words, the prefect setting for a stylish new year celebration.
This is what their castle looks like during the summer:
Together with Davey, we had decided on a Caribbean theme, meaning the food would have a Caribbean "flavor", and people would dress up in style. And of course the music would be Caribbean.
Davey put up this menu for the evening:
The Jerk chicken and pork were put in a marinade three days in advance, while most of the preparations and pre-cooking were done the day before (starting at 6 in the morning, ending late at night). Both myself and Benoit Duboc worked as slaves sous-chefs, working for The General... Davey.
When we arrived (early) for the cooking preparations, the house was nice and warm (which is not an easy task for a big castle).
Christine had done her magic, and decorated the whole in a tasteful Caribbean decor. Shells on the tables were a nice touch.
All the fireplaces were on, with plenty of wood, and the wood burning central heating was on full blast. In fact towards the end of the evening we had to open a few doors since it had become very hot.
The Jerk chicken and pork chops were pre-cooked on the open fire by Davey. They got a nice color, and then would later on be further cooked in the oven.
It was a smokey job...
Benoit and myself helped out as much as we could in the kitchen, often making an assembly line to prepare the dishes. In total there were 20 people to be fed.
As starters we had a lot of food, enough to make people no longer hungry. Tons of scallops (Coquilles St. Jacques) were fried and then sprinkled with a nice sauce made out of several spices and maple sirup. Here is Benoit frying the scallops.
Here is the group photo of everyone dressed up. The gentleman in the right (blue shirt) sitting is the master of the house, Benoit Froidure, and he had fallen off the roof a few days ago, broke his hips and had a hip replacement last week. So he sat there and later had to retire since he was in pain. Not a nice way to start the new year for him.
All appetizers and starters were a hit. The figures had received a fair portion of spice before being rolled in bacon, and the potatoes had been hollowed out and received a very nice pea pesto garnished with Parmesan cheese. Yummy.
Everyone did what they could in the costume department, and the whole was very colorful.
Talk about coconuts ... did you see the coconuts on her? (I've always wanted to say that without feeling sexist).
In the mean time, the three of us kept on cooking. Eventually the whole main meal was laid out on the table since it was going to be self-service.
From left to right, the flat bread, the Jerk chicken and some of the roasted veggies.
The citrus shrimp, the salsa and veggies.
People went quite when they started eating. That's usually a good sign... ;-)
My plate, as usual, was overflowing with everything. Pork chops, chicken, shrimp... you name it..
Here is Trish and Davey.
Then it was midnight, and time to sing the traditional new year eve's song for the anglo-saxons of this world:
After the meal, and after we had toasted for the new year, Nadine (a Turk living in Belgium) brought these incredible sweets.
While everyone was enjoying the champagne, the songs started (the EuroSong Sing Contest have got nothing on us).
VIDEO: Christina, a woman for Belgium sings a medieval Flemish song
Time for reflection??
VIDEO: Ximena from Chile sings an English song.
VIDEO: Marie-Anne, mistress of the house, from Belgium sings an African song in Lidjana (?).
VIDEO: Elsa, Finnish and Davey, Irish, sing this Finnish song.
VIDEO: Trish and Davey, Irish, and Remy, French, sing an Irish song.
VIDEO: Davey, and Irishman sings a Gaelic song.
Then Francois-Xavier, the eldest son of the Froidures, took the emergency flares from the sailboat and put up a fireworks display.
You'd think we were in the some nasty riots.... with a press photographer escaping with his life...
And that was it for the party.
I decided to do a "selfie"... whish you all a great New year 2014; health, wealth and the time to enjoy them.
In the 25 years we've lived here, it's the first time we've had a true snow blizzard. Strange....
Saturday started out fantastic, 16°C, sun and we had a nice walk around the village with the dogs; It was beautiful weather, and we enjoyed it. That evening on TV, the warned people that the hot air we were enjoying was going to hit polar air early Monday morning and get steadily worse.
Monday morning Trish had to go to Yvetot to catch the train back to Paris, and already there was a lot of snow on the ground, and much more of the white stuff falling. We saw one car in the ditch, but managed to make the 20 minute journey in 35 minutes. After dropping Trish off, I headed back, but the roads had gotten much worse. 4 other cars were in the ditch, and the radio was saying that several major roads were closed, including one I had to take. So I stopped and put on snow chains, and headed up a treacherous hill, finally making it home at 1 1/2 hours.
During the evening the blizzard hit, and hit very hard. It was difficult to sleep and keep the house warm. Outside the wind chill hit -15°C and the wind was blowing at 100 kph.
Early in the morning when I came down to the kitchen, I couldn't see anything outside:
I had to let (more throw) the dogs out the window to let them do their thing while I tried opening the main entrance door (the veranda door did not move an inch). You can see why:
The other side of the entrance was as bad
The gates were totally snowed under, even in the dark I could see that. Now way that I was leaving today....
When daylight arrived, I started making a few more photos from inside. Here's the view from the veranda:
On the side of the house, at the "small gate", snow was also blocking the gate:
The garden has several snow drifts, making it fun for the dogs
This is the "cottage"
Beemer is a snow dog (Benji being a Scottish shepherd does pretty well as well), and as a Canadian shepherd she thrives in the snow, and it's difficult to get her out:
From the rear window I saw the snowmageddon had hit the rest of the village :
There's a car there somewhere.... can you see it?
I decided to brave the ice cold elements and dug myself out of the small gate. Here's the small road next to our house:
The "main" road was totally not useable
Here's our neighbor with the disappearing car
Snow was almost 2 meters high in certain spots
Towards the center of the village, one of the trees had blown over onto the road
And this is the field next to our house
Only madmen and photographers go out in the weather.
As usual we were spoiled with Davey and Elsa coming to France to help us celebrate the New Year 2013 in style. Davey is a top chef and entertainer, and he was coming with Elsa to cook for 22 people (initially 24 but some good friends could not make it due to illness, but they were in our minds).
We decided before the festivities would start to treat Davey and Elsa to a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Le Havre called Jean-Luc Taratin were we ate until be had to be rolled out of the restaurant:
The theme of the evening was RUSSIA, since the food that was going to be cooked was Russian based. Everyone was asked to wear something red, and name tags were printed with the Russian communist sickle and the word "COMRADE"....
After that, the following day, Davey started cooking for 3 solid days, preparing all the food. He had brought with him from Finland (where he lives) 3 kilos of reindeer. If you didn't get your Christmas presents, now you know why...
In between all other sorts of preparations, Davey made the dough for the Pelminis, stuffed with a sort of meatball and the deep frozen (which is the way you need to cook them).
Davey even made all the breads used at the party, including a yummy potato bread.
Our first guest arrived, Jeannine, who stayed with us as well. Davey was dressed in a special t-shirt sent to us by our absent friends.
The veranda was decorated and the central "drinks" table had a Russian display.
Here's another view of the table.
The first guest arrived in the pissing rain, which was fun for parking cars outside in the grass (we did need to push out a few cars who got stuck in the mud).
Mother & son....
Drinks and Scandinavian canapes (with a bread made by Davey and fresh smoked salmon) were served in the house, but the food was going to be served in our adjacent cottage were Christine, Elsa and Trish had spent many hours redecorating using red and white colors as main colors.
A lot of work went into the decorations....
The menu was:
Bortsch (very fresh and tasty)
Small homemade Blinis with the Chef's delicatessens served with ice cold real Russian vodka
Pelmini done Siberian style
Reindeer stew with mashed potatoes, Lapland style
White chocolate with strawberries A la Romanov served with a Cloudberry liqueur
Here Davey is making the Blinis.
The Blini served with three types of delicatessen
The Pelminis served with a pepper sauce.
Everyone was greatly enjoying themselves, even so much that wine ended up on the walls...
The reindeer stew on the bed of mashed potatoes.
At midnight, the traditional well wishes and kisses...
Then Davey started burning the sugar on top of the desert.
This is what the delicious desert looked like.
And since Davey is Irish, but lives in Finland, and since he also entertains, he started his singing. Too bad the rest did not dare sing as well, but who can compete with that voice.
Here are two videos of Davey singing in different languages.
After the "American" day in Cany-Barville, it was time for the evening entertainment (see previous article).
In the community hall of Cany, some 500 people gathered for an evening of food, music, dance and entertainment, and lots of fun. Everything was done with an American theme, and people were asked to dress up as much as possible in American style.
The hall was divided into two parts, and in the middle was the dance floor.
At the entrances were a bunch of Indians and cowboys, dressed to kill...
Two bars at either ends of the hall served all the drinks you wanted.
The kitchen was in full swing, with an army of volunteers, mostly the local shopkeepers, helping out.
The local constabulary..
Some of the food was served, some you had to get it yourself.
During the meal, a music band played American style music.
Most of the time people danced; jigs, line dancing and rock.
Meanwhile, outside in the camping area, the settlers and Indians had gathered for their own party..
Pretty surreal image, taken in the pitch dark. A corvette and tents..
People were enjoying the show..
They were sad when it was over, daylight was already coming, and the show as over for another year.
This year (or rather last year 2011), we decided not to give a New Year's party, partially because we were tired, and also because our good friends Davey & Elsa were not available (they were having fun in Indonesia).
So instead we got invited by our friends the Froidures to spend the evening and early morning in their lovely castle close-by. This is what their castle looks like (in the summer):
They had kindly allowed us to invite other friends, under the motto "the more the merrier", so we ended up coming with 10 people. Another good idea they had, was that each couple would bring the "aperitifs" (the nibbles), meaning we had several large platters of nice food on the table, each made to different taste and material.
It was colorful, and very tasty.
The party ended at around 5 AM, while dinner ended at 2 AM. We were all so absorbed eating and talking, that we forgot about the time.
Anyway, here are some photos of the start of the evening. After that, I left my camera alone, so no more photos...
Our good friend Jeannine from Normandy, who had moved down South (to an area called Les Landes), turned 65, and as most people do, threw a party. So on December 17th, some 80 people gathered at a village "party hall" to celebrate her birthday.
People came from all over France including Normandy, and a big gathering from her friends of her adopted region of Les Landes.
Below you'll find 83 photos and several videos in between the photos. If you follow the story line, when you come to a video, it'll be a summary of the above photos, but in video style. The videos were made with my Apple iPhone, so don't expect high quality.
Some of the photos were taken with my iPhone, and an application that made them look "old".
Meet & Greet
The evening started at the village community hall with Jeannine greeting all visitors, and where drinks and little bites to eat were served.
In the beginning, it was quiet and empty, but someone has to be first, right?
The kitchen of the community hall was ready and stacked with the food for the evening.
A look in the freezer section and we even saw three deers, which were not meant for the party, but from a hunter who had shot them earlier.
Jeannine did her hostess thing to perfection, greeting each guest individually and spending some time with them.
Everyone loves Jeannine, and they showed it.
The party was animated by a great guitarist who played many songs to liven the mood.
There was an open bar, and most known drinks were served by an army of volunteers.
Here is Jeannine (left) with two of her Normandy friends.
Jeannine is known as "Cerise" which means "Cherry", so most decoration were centered around the "Cherry" theme.
She was the star of the evening, and at times there were more photographers than when Angelina Jolie appears in the Cannes Film Festival..
A lot of "cheers" were done during the evening.
In the mean time, at the children's table, the kids kept themselves busy.
The DJ and MC of the evening was Christian, the Mayor of the village in which Jeannine lives.
The handbag collection...
The tables were ready for the dinner.
Everyone to the tables
The youngest girls had the honor of serving us oldies.
The first course was a soup which is famous locally. It's a hot broth full of vegetables and duck.
The first course was enjoyed immensely by all, and many went for seconds, and even thirds.
The Song & Dance
The area we were in, Les Landes, is part of the Basque area, and you will have seen it before, many people wear the red scarf around their neck (often the shirt is white, and they are then chased by bulls).
Everyone at the party was given a red scarf, and the evening song and dance started with all holding their red scarves in the air, moving them around while singing local songs.
One person didn't get it...
While we were all eating, the guitarist played his tunes.
The 2nd course was Foie Gras de Canard (duck liver pate) made by Jeannine herself, and it was excellent.
During the meal, some of her friends read out a poem dedicated to Jeannine. A lot of tears flowed.
The guy on Jeannine's left (right on the photo) is here son, Manu.
In between courses, there was even time for a short dance, mother and son.
During the meal, Jeannine was asked to come to the stage, and receive her many gifts.
The village Mayor MC'd the event.
... helped by the many children
In the meantime, many volunteers were helping in the kitchen preparing the main course, a local speciality of pork and beans.
Many people helped serving the main course, including Jeannine's grandchild, Mathieu.
Fun & Games
It was time for some fun & games, and one of them consisted of several people sitting on the floor, and passing people over on their heads and arms, or at least they tried.
This was followed by a Conga (snake), with most people joining in...
Mean while, the dessert was ready to go to the tables..
Several people had a birthday around the date (including yours truly), and were not forgotten by Jeannine. We were all gathered up front, and a gift was given, and a special birthday cake for each person had been made.
Her son received a beautifully handmade mosaic table that she had handcrafted herself.
The party ended at 5 AM in the morning, and at 2 PM on Sunday, everyone reconvened and started the party all over again, including the food. It's a great way of finishing the leftovers, and taking care of any hangover.
By: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
I've had to change the commenting system on this site. I was using the one that came with the software package, but everyday I got a couple of 100's of spam, so I decided to let the professional handle it...
From now on, comments are handled by Facebook. If you don't have a Facebook account, you can still comment by signing in on one of their partner account (like Yahoo or Hotmail and others, more to come).
It means less work for me, but unfortunately, it means all previous comments are lost. Sorry...
We had received from our good friends Christophe & Sylvie, for our wedding anniversary, an invite to eat at one of the best restaurants in Normandy, the "Le Bec au Cauchois" headed by top chef Pierre Caillet.
We used the invite for my pre-birthday dinner, and headed up to the restaurant (close to Valmont) on Saturday. To our surprise, the invite included that the meal would be held in the kitchen of the restaurant itself!
Here you can see Trish sitting at the table. You can't get any closer to a restaurant kitchen unless you do the cooking yourself. The chef, Pierre, came and welcomed us, and said we could ask any question at any time about what he and his staff were doing, and about the ingredients. You couldn't ask for more...
This is the view from our table. There's only one, and it sits two people.
After some hors-d'oeuvre (filled pastries), we had a mouth-watering water crescent and cheese pre-starter.
From our table you could see all the cooks and helpers busy preparing meals for a sold-out restaurant.
Trish & I had a "cube" of Foie Gras filled with apple (Cubisme de Foie Gras confit aux Pommes, Gelée au Pommeau), on a bed of apple gelatine. The Foie was excellent, and the presentation second to none.
After that we got a "Royale d'Huitre de St Vaast, Ecume de Granny et Noisettes fraiches", which is an oyster, with on top, a very light and delicious apple foam.
Since we are in the kitchen, the chef allowed us to taste many of the dishes. This, though not its normally presentation, since it's "only" a taste, is lobster on a bed of vegetables (I can't remember which kind). Fantastic taste.
All the time, we were busy observing the chefs preparing many meals, one after the other. Pots and pans were on many stoves, getting ready for the next meal.
You could clearly see all the hard and precise work needed to bring the many meals on time to the tables.
The meals made colorful photos...
At all times, there were some 3 to 4 out of the 6 chefs and assistants working in the well designed and modern kitchen.
This was my main course, "Lievre a la Royale, Racine au Jus et Poire Naschi", a hare stewed in its jus and foie gras and pears. It had an incredible game-like taste, and the pears set off the taste nicely. On the left you see crushed truffles. Scrumptious and superb.
Desert was an Chocolate Eclair with nuts (the three things on top are honey roasted nuts). A prefect desert for a perfect meal.
We had a fantastic time, since you get to see a lot of the preparation, and our taste buds had a field day. It's a restaurant you definitely have to go to if you're ever in France, even if you have to make a long detour (they do have several rooms for you to stay in).
Trish and I had never had a true Thanksgiving Dinner before, and since Daniel & Ximena where in France in between their trip from Chile to the United Arab Emirates, and Carl & Judy Chaffee had offered to come over from their house in Burgundy to cook a real American Thanksgiving turkey, all we could do was offer our house for the feast.
Carl had flown in from the USA a few days beforehand with a real American turkey hidden in his suitcase.
In the afternoon of Saturday 26 November, the dinner table was set, including pilgrim hats and even an Indian hair-band, including feathers.
Judy had spent the Friday and Saturday cooking all sorts of American dishes for the dinner.
Late in the afternoon, everything was falling into place, and the house smelled strongly of turkey and other good food.
The turkey had been in the over for hours beforehand, with continuous basting.
The table was ready, the candles lit.
At 7 PM, the guests arrived and were greeted with champagne. Daniel & Ximena, Aude & Benoit, Remy & Jutta, Alain & Isabelle, Carl & Judy and Trish and me.
Carl had made an appetizer of an andive leaf, with fresh crab and strong wasabi.
By 8 PM, the turkey was ready. It was delicious, soft and moist, with a great taste.
Carl played the daddy, and cut the turkey.
On the plate was sweet potato with marshmallow, mashed potatoes, buttered corn, cranberry with orange, cranberry jelly, stuffing, garlic carrots
For all guests, this was a first, and all enjoyed the meal enormously. It was very tasty and harmonious.
A lot of lively conversation was being held by all, while enjoying the bountiful and great meal.
Most people went for seconds, and believe it or not, but the turkey was totally stripped of all meat.
Dessert was pecan pie, pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream.
The evening was a success, and everyone enjoyed the meal tremendously.