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Big Cheese in a Little French Village

October 23, 2016 @ 9:13 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Mont d’Or – golden, glorious cheese

Next month a soft celebration will happen in France.  Mais oui – this is the only time of year the remarkable Mont d’Or cheese (Golden Peak – also called Vacherin Mont d’Or ) is available.  For those who lament the onset of cooler weather, many balance their feelings by embracing autumn with a quick trip to their favorite cheese shop.  Alas, they have awaited this treasure for several months – a small AOC “Mont D’or”, carefully belted with spruce bark that is only available from September to April.

Renowned for the luxurious taste and treasured tradition, the cheese enjoys a storied history and even represents a center of contention.  While summer hikers thread their way across the Jura mountains, local farmers herd their cows up to the grassy pastures.  The summer grazing leads to considerable milk production and – voila! – ultimately to large wheels of Gruyère de Comté.  Why?  Milk can spoil.  Until I read the story, I hadn’t thought about trying to transport that volume of milk down the mountains.  The large cheese wheels are the answer.

French cheese

Stunning mountain views from Le Mont Dore

In the autumn and winter, though, the cows laze in warm barns in the valley, fed on dried mountain grasses.  Milk production drops off, and smaller cheeses are created.  A handful of producers deliver the raw milk to a select group of affineurs (finishers), who then refine the cheese, according to strict AOC standards.  There’s Edy and Jean-Pierre, René and Serge – to name a few of these distinguished cheese artisans.  And each will tell you their favorite uses of the cheese – cold or warm (but of course – fondue!), over potatoes, in a Cordon Bleu dish or stuffed in avocados.

Need I even suggest, if you are in France between November and April, you stop by the fromagerie to request Mont d’Or?  Bon Appetit!
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Museum Gifts from France

October 19, 2016 @ 3:10 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Paris France art

Along the Seine – Paris original watercolor

Hard to believe that the holidays … and gift giving season … once again have arrived. And I plead guilty to my dual nature in fully applauding ABC News’ “Made in America” segments, while I search through for ‘just the right’ gift from France for my loved ones. No apologies here, as I support job-creating American enterprises as well as artisan-supporting French products.

If French-themed art appeals to you, I invite you to browse our original watercolors, where a variety of colorful and whimsical paintings evoke French scenes.  I also recommend a delightful shopping site for those unable to comb the shops of French villages and cities for holiday gifts.  The Boutiques de musées offers a wide variety of French-oriented products directly from the many national museums they represent.  Whether your budget is large or small, you can find a simple magnet or an elaborate piece of jewelry that reproduces some of the finest art in the world.

Sculpture of Etienne Meurice The Bather of Falconet Paris Museum

The Bather of Falconet – reproduction of Étienne Meurice sculpture

How about a refined replica of “The Bather of Falconet” by Étienne Meurice?  Exquisite choices range from handsome coffee-table art books to an enchanting fresco reproduction of Raphael’s “La Belle Jardiniére” or a set of Arabesque dessert plates.

Children are not forgotten in the boutique offerings either with a variety of calendars, puzzles, model kits and books – even an “Animals of the World” game for the entire family.

Family game from Boutiques de musees France

Family game from the Boutique

Closer to home and without the burden of international postage, My French Neighbor offers an enticing selection of home decor and bath items, as well as a wonderful selection of gourmet foods.  Whether you shop abroad or in your local or on-line French shop, we hope you round out your Christmas list with memorable gifts that embrace the spirit of France.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved


Dining with Friends in Paris

August 26, 2016 @ 3:30 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Personal preparation of mojitos

Back in 2005, we enjoyed the trip of a lifetime, one that we will forever be grateful to have experienced.  After spending a few weeks in Paris, we raced westward through the countryside on the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux for the deuxième étage (the second stage) of our adventure.  The sky was gray, the fields gold, stripped of their wheat and strewn with newly-rolled haystacks.

Our life in Paris and environs has been plentiful, filled with friends, new experiences, everyday chores and an unending newness to each day.  Last night, we hosted our friends at Aux Trois Oliviers, a bright, down-to-earth but tasteful avant-garde restaurant near Palais Royale.  Voila, one Olivier tells us.  We must begin with the best Mojito in Paris.  A Cuban drink, it is.  We watch, as he places fresh mint and lime wedges in small glasses, then crushes them with a pestle.  Rum and champagne come next…

Leo’s fish is a work of art, complete with head.  Philippe and I have our pots of stew, full of aromas and each steaming pot enough for four.  Mine is a Provençal dish a bit like bœuf bourguignon.  Once again I notice that you bring the ‘party’ with you … or not.  In this warm intimate restaurant, the couple next to us sat like stones, neither smiling, talking nor even eating their dinners.  We bantered with our hosts and felt very much at home, as if indeed, we were guests at the family table.

Poisson Aux Trois Oliviers

And that is a lesson that returns to us over and over again, at home and abroad.  Take your joy with you and spread it around.  We’ve seen many beautiful sights, but it is the people we meet that add the authentic dimension to our travel.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift


Rouen – Where the Seine is “Main Street”

August 23, 2016 @ 12:40 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Cafés in Rouen’s historic town centre – ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Normandie/J-C Demais

Rouen lures visitors with a mix of joy and sorrow, architectural heritage, art, museums and compelling cuisine. Just 70 miles northwest of Paris, Rouen gives off a contemporary hum in the midst of spectacular Gothic designs and enchanting timbered houses.

Wander through the popular port city on the Seine, and you’ll discover decades-old evidence of the pounding Rouen suffered during World War II. Though we preferred to stay a few days, Rouen makes an easy day trip from Paris – just an hour by the A13 highway or from the Paris-Saint Lazare train station.

Forgive my always diving into food, but it IS France! This capitol of Normandy boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants, distinct regional fare (with a bow to Canard a la Rouennaise on most menus), creamy fish stews, lovely local cheeses and the popular Calvados apple cider. We particularly relished our meal at Les Maraîchers – one of the oldest on the Place du Vieux Marche, where the market gardeners sold their vegetables. It is a delightfully warm, old-style bistro, a mix of old posters and family photos, decorated pitchers and aged mirrors.

The Rouen Cathedral was a natural starting point for us. Claude Monet’s renowned paintings featured the cathedral façade that is particularly famous for the highest spire in France. Over time, the Allied bombings and fierce storms caused significant damage, but the Gothic cathedral is still among the most beautiful in France. Some 13th-century windows are still decorated with the special cobalt blue known as “the blue from Chartres”.  Our next stop was Saint-Ouen, the Gothic Benedictine abbey where Joan of Arc was sentenced to death in 1431, and even larger than the Rouen cathedral.

Rouen’s hand-made pottery from 18th century to today – © ATOUT FRANCE/Hervé Le Gac

Time for art with a wonderful visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts, featuring exceptional 15th to 20th century works of art from Rubens, Caravaggio, Poussin, Corot and an entire area devoted to the works of Géricault. Several of Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces of the Rouen Cathedral were on display.

Local color and personality always appeal to us, so we wandered along “Little Venice” – Rue Eau de Robec – so named by Flaubert for the small stream that runs through the archways and street. A tiny side street, it was the perfect spot for a quiet glass of wine and a little exploration of the antique shops. In fact, I was able to satisfy my love of pottery, as so many wonderful old plates were available.

It was simply wonderful to absorb the many flavors of Rouen – the riverside and orange-tinted dusk, the ancient churches and transparent skies. In fact, as much as any feature of Rouen, it is the mystical, changing light of the city that has attracted painters, writers and visitors… like us!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift