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The Kasbah Chronicles

COUSCOUS, TAGINES AND ART

My wish for you for 2018:
A year filled with crimson sunrises, such as this glorious sunrise in Vista, captured from our rooftop terrace.

 

To art lovers and couscous aficionados:
Thank you so much for remaining on the The Kasbah Chronicles email list. It never occurred to me, when I began to write it in December 2007, that so many of you would remain faithful readers 10 years on. Merci, and Thank you all.
I LOVE GETTING YOUR FEEDBACK!

Contents:
Niki de St Phalle exhibit in Escondido (CA)
Presentation to the Culinary Historians of San Diego

As I mentioned in previous Chronicles, I am now a docent at the Escondido Center for the Arts (http://artcenter.org) which is proud to present an exhibit featuring 50 works by internationally renowned Franco-American artist and sculptor Niki de St Phalle (http://nikidesaintphalle.org) Some of you may have noticed one of her “nanas” jutting out of the fountain adjoining the Pompidou Center in Paris. The Pompidou has nothing on Escondido however! See how fortunate are we:
(https://timesofsandiego.com/arts/ Serpent Tree) etc. . .  by Niki de Saint Phalle (http://www.escondido.org/queen-califias-magical-circle.aspx)
Niki lived in La Jolla, CA (la “Riviera” américaine) during the latter part of her life and left an kaleidoscopic legacy of private and public works to the county of San Diego. Escondido is fortunate to shelter the only public “garden” she created in the United States: Queen Califia’s Magical Circle (behind Kit Carson Park in Escondido, CA, open special hours only) now a destination for art lovers from around the world.
(http://Niki Charitable Art Foundation)
The show lasts from January 12 to March 4, 2018. A Public Opening Reception will take place on Friday, January 12, 2018 from 6:00-7:30 PM.  Fee: $10 non-members includes light bites and a no-host bar.
(http://artcenter.org/event/opening-niki-de-saint-phalle-mythical-california)

Visite en français: Pourquoi pas?
Amis et amies francophones, professeurs de francais, etudiants et francophiles, je serai ravie de vous faire faire une visite guidee DE GROUPE en langue française.
Teachers and students of French, French conversation classes, or private French conversation groups, why not view the exhibit with a French-speaking guide? I would be delighted to oblige. GROUPS ONLY. Reservation required. Contact:
Kirsten Barrientes
Arts Education Program Supervisor
California Center for the Arts, Escondido
kbarrientes@artcenter.org
Tel: (760) 839-4176

MOROCCO ON THE MENU
JOIN ME Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 10:30AM

and the Culinary Historians of San Diego
(https://www.culinaryhistoriansofsandiego.com/public-meetings.html)
for Couscous and Tagines: a History,
Neil Morgan Auditorium of San Diego’s
Central Library (accessible by trolley)
330 Park Boulevard, SD
Free and open to the public
Couscous happens to be my FAVORITE comfort food.
which I covered in my  book,
Couscous: Fresh and Flavorful (Chronicle Books)
I hope to see you at one of the events

The weather is topsy-turvy and so is the world.
Let’s hope it’ll turn back upright in 2018.
PS: Overheard during our daily walk at Oceanside (CA) Harbor
“Every year, I stress about it and I don’t know why. . . “

My advice:
Don’t stress
But if you must
at least KNOW THE REASON WHY!!

I am still picking the most luscious tomatoes of the year.
My poor plants do not know anymore what season it is.
December 30th crop

Bismillah, Bon Appétit,
and
Bonne Année!
Kitty

After December 8’s Lilac Fires: safe, with tomatoes

December 9, 2017

I couldn’t wait until the next Kasbah Chronicles to show off my December bounty.

We are experiencing a lull during the Lilac Fire, 5 miles away,  in North San Diego County. A faint smell of smoke lingered in the air this morning, but look at what I found among my tomatoes bushes. The sweetest tomatoes of the season, dry-farmed (I stopped the water 2 weeks ago in anticipation of their demise.) But no! These gorgeous ruby globes chose to outdo themselves . .

 

The Kasbah Chronicles

The Kasbah Chronicles
Another sad good bye
this time to our sweet Olive McMorse.

View this email in your browser

This has been a summer of good-byes. Thank you to those who honored my mother’s memory last month.

Olive left us on the first day of Fall. She was a rescue dog and the best scottie we ever owned (we have had four.)

CONTENTS
Musings
The last of my Paris discoveries
Restaurants of Nantucket and MONTANA
Literary tours of Paris
Tagine of Shrimp in Chermoula
NEW  Yves St Laurent Museum in Marrakech
News of Morocco and beyond
Les Galeries Lafayette
Yves St Laurent Villa

OVERHEARD


 KITTY IS headed FOR NEW YORK in October. Any suggestions for food and favorite markets, please share!

Need a gift?
Send me an email, and I’ll sign and send one of my books. Free shipping in the US for one book before November 15th. Mint Tea and Minarets, A Biblical Feast, and Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion.

Time to downsize: I am selling a Victorian style living room, a queen size brass bed and much more. I can send you pictures if you are interested.


MUSINGS:

 
LET ME FIRST TAKE YOU BACK TO PARIS:
I promised to share more of my Paris adventures (3 editions of the Kasbah Chronicles on the subject is enough!) I told you about the historic Les Passages de Paris a couple of months ago. And about my reunions with childhood friends from Morocco, in Caen, Nice, and Toulouse. Yet I had more rediscoveries in store upon my return to Paris. No Louvre! No Musée d’Orsay!! Unfortunately no time to go to Giverny. With a bus ride through the streets of Paris as a fun substitute, I was on the road to the road to the Galeries Lafayette, France’s version of Sack’s Fifth (and a branch at the Morocco Mall in Casablanca.) The Galeries is a bit like Macy’s in New York: rendez-vous for the world . . .  with a section called “les must-have” AND across the street from the art deco main store, one solely dedicated to kitchen and home. https://www.galerieslafayette.com/c/maison-cuisine+et+arts+de+la+table-arts+de+la+table I lost my mind among the THREE floors offering sushi bar, Vietnamese bistro, a Moroccan-style spice market, pâtisserie, chocolatier, boulangerie, fromages, and table ware to die for:

A spice market to emulate one in Fez:
 

 

Flor de Jamaica! HIbiscus tea.
The very same we find in Mexican supermarkets.
(See my recipe in Edible Flowers)
Rose petals

Salts of various colors

 
Oh non! A Michelin starred chef wants to give up his stars!
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/world/europe/sebastien-bras-michelin-star.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feurope&_r=0
 And these refugee chefs are cooking to build a new life (bien sûr!)
https://www.buzzfeed.com/kassycho/uber-den-tellerrand?
 
Where do you go to have tea and pastries in Paris on a Sunday afternoon? At La Grande Mosquée de Paris (tucked away in a corner of the Latin Quarter (http://parisianavores.paris/un-gouter-au-cafe-d-la-mosquee-de-paris/,) a short distance from the  of natural history museum. Inside the (extremely) crowded atrium, a fountain gurgles, as do conversations rising from dozens of multi-lingual patrons seated around the café tables. Order a glass of steaming mint tea, a Moroccan gazelle horn, shop at the “souk”, or  people watch a crowd as colorful as the mosque’s zillige mosaics.


If you have time, follow Lisa Pasold on one of her literary tours, www.Improbablewalks.com in French or English. This writer, journalist, literary storyteller, and comedian grew up in Montreal but has made Paris her home for years. This engagingly tall and exuberant “amazonne” bills herself as a literary storyteller, and takes you on literary tours of Paris. Tell her I said BONJOUR!! E-mail: improbablewalks@gmail.com

More Paris stores:
Monoprix: This sort of JC Penney’s style store is full of wonderful surprises and great prices. Check out the paper goods, the umbrellas, and the food displays.
Darty: I made their iPhone experts  my friends when I went back 3 times to cry on their shoulder to help me comprehend my cell phone. I almost threw mine in the Seine. . . but Darty saved me.
LE CREUSET IS GOING CHINOIS!!!  Sales people have to speak Chinese and French in many department stores.

France is the top travel destination in the world! I can vouch for that after witnessing the anthills of visitors at the Louvre and Notre Dame. https://france-amerique.com/fr/deserving-tourists/?ct=t%28FA_Hebdo_du_10_août_2017%29

This is the result: Encore une fois l’Amerique a la rescousse! Notre Dame is crumbling. America to the rescue please.
https://france-amerique.com/fr/notre-dame-des-americains/?ct=t(FA_Hebdo_du_7_septembre_2017)
 
Restaurant recommendation: Le Reminet (www.lereminet.fr) sits a few steps from the incontournableShakespeare and Co. bookstore across the river from Notre Dame on the Left bank. This isn’t a bookstore, it is a windmill! One can hardly catch glimpse of the shelves over the heads of visitors from the four corners of the universe. Oh, for such incessant foot traffic at indie bookstore in the US.

FIN of my PARIS experiences!

favorite sign 1

and 2
  In  Paris you live on love and fresh water

And in Morocco you live on
Shrimp tagine with chermoula sauce
Sorry, no photo, I ate it!

You can probably relate: You peruse the meat aisle, nothing appeals to you, or, like me, you are bored with the usual cuts. So I look to seafood. I purchase fresh, unshelled shrimp ( or firm fish), make a court-bouillon of water or broth, bay leaf, white wine, or fines herbes. Bring this to a boil. Cook the shrimp (shells on) for 3 minutes. Drain them (reserving the broth), shell them, and RETURN the shells to the broth for about 20 mns. (I make this a day or two ahead). You can of course, freeze a court bouillon. Great broth for paella.

Prepare the chermoula :

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
15 fresh parsley sprigs, minced
10 fresh cilantro sprigs, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
If ripe tomatoes are not available, use a good brand of canned, diced tomatoes (S and W is my favorite.) Make the chermoula, and reheat the shrimp in the sauce for 3 or 4 minutes. Serve over rice or couscous. . .  or simply with bread. VOILA. Dinner is ready.
 
News of Morocco and beyond:
If you read the last Kasbah Chronicles, you may have noted that Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, is a fan of museums, and has opened a slew of them around the country. The latest, and probably flashiest, is Pierre Bergé’s gift to the people of Marrakech, the fabled villa of his former partner, Yves St Laurent.
 http://madame.lefigaro.fr/evasion/voyage-dans-les-annees-marrakech-dans-les-pas-pierre-berge-et-yves-saint-laurent-120917-134027
 Christophe Martin, the designer of the St Laurent updated villa and gardens, happens to be our neighbor at Dar Zitoun, in Azemmour.
I have not visited the St Laurent villa itself (always off limits), but I have frequented the gardens since childhood. My father knew Jacques Majorelle (the original owner and a noted orientalist painter), and every Xmas, he used to rent Majorelle’s gardens, a tangle of exotic plants, water features and secrets hideaways. My brother and I would host the American children whose parents were stationed on the nearby American airbase at Ben Guerir (where I got to see my first B-52 bomber.) The base has long been turned over to the Moroccan military, but, in my time, we couldn’t wait to gain access to the chicken in a basket and corn flakes!
The Jardins Majorelle bring to mind a smaller version of the Huntington in San Marino (CA) but don’t expect to see any original Majorelle paintings there . . . those are kept under lock and key I am sure, in various collections and palaces, in Morocco and France. And another Moroccan museum of note:

The Moroccan Jewish Museum was established in Casablanca in 1997. It is the only museum devoted to Judaism in the Arab world.
 
From museums to movies:  Too hip and chichi for words . . . Morocco’s Ouallywood, Ouarzazate, the desert oasis where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, now awash in movie studios, golf courses, and kasbahs built on demand: http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/September-2017/Morocco-s-Cinema-City

Though I complain about the tyranny of social media, it is always fun to reconnect electronically. Linked In recently nformed me that Stella Fong, a longtime friend who lives in Billings (MT) writes a beautiful blog and hosts a radio show. If you head to BIG SKY country, listen to her on http://ypradio.org/programs/flavors-under-big-sky. And if you land on the opposite coast, in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and region, catch up on local events with my friend, MaryLynn’s, website, http://www.capecodrestaurants.com/

OVERHEARD on the streets of New York (where else?) A friend of mine, very youthful still, is walking down the street: A man coming from the opposite direction looks at her and exclaims: “WOW! You still have a nice face!!” That’s NY for you.

I AM HEADED TO THE BIG APPLE 
to proclaim my gratitude to the

T


This has been a summer of good-byes. Thank you to those who honored my mother’s memory last month.

Olive left us on the first day of Fall. She was a rescue dog and the best scottie we ever owned (we have had four.)

CONTENTS
Musings
The last of my Paris discoveries
Restaurants of Nantucket and MONTANA
Literary tours of Paris
Tagine of Shrimp in Chermoula
NEW  Yves St Laurent Museum in Marrakech
News of Morocco and beyond
Les Galeries Lafayette
Yves St Laurent Villa

OVERHEARD


 KITTY IS headed FOR NEW YORK in October. Any suggestions for food and favorite markets, please share!

Need a gift?
Send me an email, and I’ll sign and send one of my books. Free shipping in the US for one book before November 15th. Mint Tea and Minarets, A Biblical Feast, and Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion.

Time to downsize: I am selling a Victorian style living room, a queen size brass bed and much more. I can send you pictures if you are interested.


MUSINGS:

 
LET ME FIRST TAKE YOU BACK TO PARIS:
I promised to share more of my Paris adventures (3 editions of the Kasbah Chronicles on the subject is enough!) I told you about the historic Les Passages de Paris a couple of months ago. And about my reunions with childhood friends from Morocco, in Caen, Nice, and Toulouse. Yet I had more rediscoveries in store upon my return to Paris. No Louvre! No Musée d’Orsay!! Unfortunately no time to go to Giverny. With a bus ride through the streets of Paris as a fun substitute, I was on the road to the road to the Galeries Lafayette, France’s version of Sack’s Fifth (and a branch at the Morocco Mall in Casablanca.) The Galeries is a bit like Macy’s in New York: rendez-vous for the world . . .  with a section called “les must-have” AND across the street from the art deco main store, one solely dedicated to kitchen and home. https://www.galerieslafayette.com/c/maison-cuisine+et+arts+de+la+table-arts+de+la+table I lost my mind among the THREE floors offering sushi bar, Vietnamese bistro, a Moroccan-style spice market, pâtisserie, chocolatier, boulangerie, fromages, and table ware to die for:

A spice market to emulate one in Fez:
 

 

Flor de Jamaica! HIbiscus tea.
The very same we find in Mexican supermarkets.
(See my recipe in Edible Flowers)
Rose petals

Salts of various colors

 
Oh non! A Michelin starred chef wants to give up his stars!
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/world/europe/sebastien-bras-michelin-star.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feurope&_r=0
 And these refugee chefs are cooking to build a new life (bien sûr!)
https://www.buzzfeed.com/kassycho/uber-den-tellerrand?
 
Where do you go to have tea and pastries in Paris on a Sunday afternoon? At La Grande Mosquée de Paris (tucked away in a corner of the Latin Quarter (http://parisianavores.paris/un-gouter-au-cafe-d-la-mosquee-de-paris/,) a short distance from the  of natural history museum. Inside the (extremely) crowded atrium, a fountain gurgles, as do conversations rising from dozens of multi-lingual patrons seated around the café tables. Order a glass of steaming mint tea, a Moroccan gazelle horn, shop at the “souk”, or  people watch a crowd as colorful as the mosque’s zillige mosaics.


If you have time, follow Lisa Pasold on one of her literary tours, www.Improbablewalks.com in French or English. This writer, journalist, literary storyteller, and comedian grew up in Montreal but has made Paris her home for years. This engagingly tall and exuberant “amazonne” bills herself as a literary storyteller, and takes you on literary tours of Paris. Tell her I said BONJOUR!! E-mail: improbablewalks@gmail.com

More Paris stores:
Monoprix: This sort of JC Penney’s style store is full of wonderful surprises and great prices. Check out the paper goods, the umbrellas, and the food displays.
Darty: I made their iPhone experts  my friends when I went back 3 times to cry on their shoulder to help me comprehend my cell phone. I almost threw mine in the Seine. . . but Darty saved me.
LE CREUSET IS GOING CHINOIS!!!  Sales people have to speak Chinese and French in many department stores.

France is the top travel destination in the world! I can vouch for that after witnessing the anthills of visitors at the Louvre and Notre Dame. https://france-amerique.com/fr/deserving-tourists/?ct=t%28FA_Hebdo_du_10_août_2017%29

This is the result: Encore une fois l’Amerique a la rescousse! Notre Dame is crumbling. America to the rescue please.
https://france-amerique.com/fr/notre-dame-des-americains/?ct=t(FA_Hebdo_du_7_septembre_2017)
 
Restaurant recommendation: Le Reminet (www.lereminet.fr) sits a few steps from the incontournableShakespeare and Co. bookstore across the river from Notre Dame on the Left bank. This isn’t a bookstore, it is a windmill! One can hardly catch glimpse of the shelves over the heads of visitors from the four corners of the universe. Oh, for such incessant foot traffic at indie bookstore in the US.

FIN of my PARIS experiences!

favorite sign 1

and 2
  In  Paris you live on love and fresh water

And in Morocco you live on
Shrimp tagine with chermoula sauce
Sorry, no photo, I ate it!

You can probably relate: You peruse the meat aisle, nothing appeals to you, or, like me, you are bored with the usual cuts. So I look to seafood. I purchase fresh, unshelled shrimp ( or firm fish), make a court-bouillon of water or broth, bay leaf, white wine, or fines herbes. Bring this to a boil. Cook the shrimp (shells on) for 3 minutes. Drain them (reserving the broth), shell them, and RETURN the shells to the broth for about 20 mns. (I make this a day or two ahead). You can of course, freeze a court bouillon. Great broth for paella.

Prepare the chermoula :

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
15 fresh parsley sprigs, minced
10 fresh cilantro sprigs, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
If ripe tomatoes are not available, use a good brand of canned, diced tomatoes (S and W is my favorite.) Make the chermoula, and reheat the shrimp in the sauce for 3 or 4 minutes. Serve over rice or couscous. . .  or simply with bread. VOILA. Dinner is ready.
 
News of Morocco and beyond:
If you read the last Kasbah Chronicles, you may have noted that Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, is a fan of museums, and has opened a slew of them around the country. The latest, and probably flashiest, is Pierre Bergé’s gift to the people of Marrakech, the fabled villa of his former partner, Yves St Laurent.
 http://madame.lefigaro.fr/evasion/voyage-dans-les-annees-marrakech-dans-les-pas-pierre-berge-et-yves-saint-laurent-120917-134027
 Christophe Martin, the designer of the St Laurent updated villa and gardens, happens to be our neighbor at Dar Zitoun, in Azemmour.
I have not visited the St Laurent villa itself (always off limits), but I have frequented the gardens since childhood. My father knew Jacques Majorelle (the original owner and a noted orientalist painter), and every Xmas, he used to rent Majorelle’s gardens, a tangle of exotic plants, water features and secrets hideaways. My brother and I would host the American children whose parents were stationed on the nearby American airbase at Ben Guerir (where I got to see my first B-52 bomber.) The base has long been turned over to the Moroccan military, but, in my time, we couldn’t wait to gain access to the chicken in a basket and corn flakes!
The Jardins Majorelle bring to mind a smaller version of the Huntington in San Marino (CA) but don’t expect to see any original Majorelle paintings there . . . those are kept under lock and key I am sure, in various collections and palaces, in Morocco and France. And another Moroccan museum of note:

The Moroccan Jewish Museum was established in Casablanca in 1997. It is the only museum devoted to Judaism in the Arab world.
 
From museums to movies:  Too hip and chichi for words . . . Morocco’s Ouallywood, Ouarzazate, the desert oasis where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, now awash in movie studios, golf courses, and kasbahs built on demand: http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/September-2017/Morocco-s-Cinema-City

Though I complain about the tyranny of social media, it is always fun to reconnect electronically. Linked In recently nformed me that Stella Fong, a longtime friend who lives in Billings (MT) writes a beautiful blog and hosts a radio show. If you head to BIG SKY country, listen to her on http://ypradio.org/programs/flavors-under-big-sky. And if you land on the opposite coast, in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and region, catch up on local events with my friend, MaryLynn’s, website, http://www.capecodrestaurants.com/

OVERHEARD on the streets of New York (where else?) A friend of mine, very youthful still, is walking down the street: A man coming from the opposite direction looks at her and exclaims: “WOW! You still have a nice face!!” That’s NY for you.

I AM HEADED TO THE BIG APPLE 
to proclaim my gratitude to the
STATUE OF LIBERTY!

( She tugs at my heartstrings each time I land at Kennedy airport. There she is in all her glory, assuring me that I am back in America.)

As always,
Bismillah and Bon Appetit,
Kitty

New museum openings in Morocco 2017

New museum openings in Morocco: So many it makes my head spin.
http://aujourdhui.ma/uculture
Les musées enrichiront le paysage culturel après la réouverture du Musée de la Kasbah des cultures méditerranéennes de Tanger et le Musée de l’histoire et des civilisations de Rabat. . . . nous allons réouvrir au plus tard début septembre le Musée national de la céramique à Safi puis deux mois après le Musée national du tapis à Dar Si Essaid à Marrakech», says Mehdi Qotbi, président de la Fondation nationale des musées du Royaume (FNM).

Le musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech will open on October 19th, a few days after the one in Paris.

http://telquel.ma/2017/07/14/robe-mondrian-marrakech-inaugurer-musee-yves-saint-laurent_1554098?utm_source=Newsletter_

http://telquel.ma/2017/07/09/route-festivals-du-mois-juillet_1553170
Morocco, land of festivals

LUCKY KIDS!
http://telquel.ma/2017/07/03/douze-etudiants-marocains-nasa-space-camp-2017_
Twelve young Moroccans got to attend the annual NASA Space Camp in Alabama.
Douze lycéens marocains âgés de 15 à 18 ans participent, du 1er au 11 juillet à Huntsville en Alabama, au Space Camp (le Camp de l’Espace),

Patissier extraordinaire,  THE KING of MACARONS, Pierre Hermé, known as le “Picasso de la pâtisserie” ou le “Dior du dessert” opens his new store at La Mamounia . . .  (macarons are those ubiquitous colorful little disks)
http://telquel.ma/2017/08/22/pierre-herme-le-meilleur-patissier-du-monde-prend-les-renes-de-la-patisserie-de-la-mamounia_1558414?

At the movies:
A Moroccan-American makes movies in New Orleans:
http://aujourdhui.ma/culture/cinema/qanir-represente-le-maroc-au-festival-new-orleans-film

 

The Kasbah Chronicles August 2017

Musings:

Everyone wins in Toulouse!
Cruising the Canal du Midi
Invasion of the Ripe Tomatoes
Recipe
Presentations
News of Morocco and beyond
Links of interest
North San Diego County discoveries
Kitty contributes to The Vista Press
A French wedding menu

Kitty is selling: Moroccan items
Three piece 1930s-style, carved oak, vintage living room set

My last Chronicles described my travels to France in April to reconnect with childhood friends from Casablanca. We met up in Paris (1st part), Vienna, and Nice. Next in store is TOULOUSE. ( I have so much more to say about Paris, that Ill devote my next Chronicles to the rest of my Parisian interlude)

 

Dateline TOULOUSE:
Liz was the friend I reconnected with in what the French call “La Ville Rose” so named for its abundance of red brick buildings (in Morocco, we call Marrakech “The Pink City” as well).

Liz and I both attended the lycée in Casablanca, and she hosted the very LAST party I attended before I set off for Tangier with my mother and brother in August 1964 to catch the boat that would bring us to the US.

A few decades later, my friend was waiting for me at the charming Blagnac airport, all smiles, and looking much as I remembered her (and she immediately whisked me off to a bakery to sample fenétra, a special bread. What a friend!

Many of my lycée classmates headed to Toulouse to go to university. Fifty years on, I wished I had gone to visit them at the time. Students make up 1/10th of the population in this town of 900,000 inhabitants.

Toulouse, aka (as well) la Cité des Violettes, straddles two major waterways: the wide river Garonne, one of France’s longest. When the sun is out, hundreds of étudiants sun themselves on its grassy banks. And the placid, 17th century, man-made Canal du Midi, that stretches between the Garonne and the Mediterranean to the west and the Gironde estuary near Bordeaux. More important for gourmets, is the fact that Toulouse is the navel of the universe for cassoulet, and for foie gras, which I sampled in numerous iterations over three days —— along with Liz’s home-made cassoulet, stuffed with the region’s famed saucisses.

But first things first: We hot-footed it out of the spotless metro the next morning, onto Toulouse’s wide Alléees Jean Jaurès in the centre ville, near Les Américains, a café bistrot ideal for people watching. Liz was on a mission: to reach le marché Cristal on the Blvd de Strasbourg before closing time. For a list, seehttp://www.toulouseinfos.fr/pratique/decouverte-de-toulouse/9264-marches-toulouse.html)

I tried not to trip as I craned my neck to look up at the handsome brick buildings along the tree-lined boulevard. In minutes, we were engulfed in the colorful sounds of the daily marché .Asperges! Tomates! Champignons! Poulet de Ferme! And some Moroccan: Labès, madame! Many vendors hailed from North Africa. Slightly breathless, and loaded down with a cabas (bag) filled with produce, we took a seat at a table outside the Rose de Tunis café, a few blocks away. Nothing like a glass of piping-hot mint tea and a honey pastry to set you back on the right track.

Thus fortified, we boarded the free shuttle that crisscrosses downtown,along the narrow streets,  lined with universities and historic sights: the imposing fifth century basilique Sainte Marie de Toulouse or Notre Dame La Daurade, with its black Madonna; the Gothic style Couvent des Jacobins started in 1230, with its palm-tree shaped pillars. We got off at the Office du Tourisme in the Donjon du Capitole, which borders the football field-size Place du Capitole not far from the 4th century Eglise St Pierre des Cuisines. The cuisine refers to the Latin “coquinis” or food stalls that once occupied the neighborhood. St Pierre des Cuisines is the oldest church in Southwest France — there you have it, even saints think about food.

A few zigs and a zag later, we reached the banks of the Garonne. On this glorious day, students were out en masse, sunning themselves on the lawn, or dangling their feet above the water. Liz had more for me to see. She had me cuddle up to the statue of local songwriter Claude Nougaro, one of my teenage heartthrob.

My friend needed a ripe wheel of Brie, and knew we would find the perfect fromage at SENA FROMAGER, across the street from the Marché des Carmes, the historic covered market. SENA has been in business for 6 generations. Indeed, the young vendor behind the counter was busy upholding tradition, and handing out samples. http://www.senafromager.com/contact.html.

Liz had promised me an unforgettable lunch, and she delivered once again. The airy and wide-open La Cantine de l’Opera lies on the Allées Jean-Jaurès, near Place du Capitole. Chef Stéphane’s seasonal menu changes daily and encompasses all of Toulouse’s gastronomic riches, from foie gras de canard and cassoulet toulousain aux haricots tarbais (bien sur) to Jambon Noir and Tartare de Boeuf. http://lesjardinsdelopera.fr/la-carte-de-la-cantine. You can’t miss the big green frog that decorates the entrance.

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We needed to make one more stop before taking the metro home — at the Terre de Pastel (www.terredepastel.com) a charming magasin that sells everything related to the violet, L’Or Bleu de Toulouse (the Blue Gold of Toulouse) the city’s symbol, imported centuries ago from the palace of the Sultan of Constantinople. I purchased tins of candied violets, the same delicate treats that I once received from my French grandmother.

My friend had saved the best (among the best) for last: a day’s cruise on the Canal du Midi. Her friend Bruno’s flat-bottomed péniche is the classic way to explore one of France’s most scenic waterways. I was living a dream, navigating the canal at 3 miles an hour, keeping pace with the cyclists waving from the shore, and gliding under the dappled shade of an arch of centuries old plane trees. Liz had planned lunch along the canal, near the lock at the Ecluse du Castanet (http://www.l-ecluse-de-castanet.fr). I stepped out of my dream into a postcard: a flower-filled chalet, once the home of the lock keeper, now a restaurant on the water. My Salade Océane would have fed four. Did I mention more foie gras? And scallops in garlic butter? I waddled back onto the péniche, and let the lapping of the water induce a gluttony-induced nap.

For the best couscous in Toulouse:
http://www.lexpress.fr/recherche?q=couscous+toulouse

ww.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/restaurant/toulouse-a-la-pente-douce-hamid-miss-atteint-des-sommets_1897702.html

One of the peculiarities of this man-made ribbon of water is that the CANAL flows OVER the freeway . . . What a way to escape the busy traffic below.

I am already plotting to return to La Ville Rose.

 

RECIPE OF THE MOMENT
Tomates, tomatoes, pomodori, matisha=BLISS this month

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My current favorite:

Soft White Bread (forgive me)
Goat Cheese
Sliced, sun-kissed tomato right off the vine
Lemon pepper