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Sunday, December 20, 2015

The French tradition of Foie Gràs for the Holidays

     If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you probably noticed the inspiration from my recent trip to France.  The experience has enlightened me beyond what I expected.  In preparing for my next trip (hopefully for the next holiday season), I am trying to keep the same pace I had whilst in that country, both activity and diet-wise.  It was incredible to me that after indulging as much as I did I returned home with 4 pounds less and a lot of gusto for life itself.

     This way the French have for living life to its fullest directed me to my next read, a book that I have been wanting to get my hands on for a few of months now, ever since I started following its author’s YouTube channel.  I am speaking about Lessons from Madame Chic – 20 stylish secrets I learned while living in Paris, by Jennifer L. Scott.

     Scott went to Paris as an exchange student in her early 20’s and stayed with whom she calls “Famille Chic” for 6 months.  During that time, she became a woman of sophistication and style.  It is true, Paris – and France in general – gives you that.  Art is everywhere in that city, and I’m not just speaking about museums.  The way ordinary people dress, conduct themselves, eat and approach life in general is a true inspiration that everyone else should follow.  Walking through the streets of Paris one feels the power of beauty on every level, from its buildings to the view of the Seine, and the shop windows of the food stores that look like jewelry stores.  The French truly know how to live life to its fullest and make every day living into an art form.

My copy of "Lessons...", all tagged to facilitate
easy reference.

     Lessons from Madame Chic is divided into 3 main sections, each containing several chapters:

  • Part 1: Diet and exercise
  • Part 2: Style and beauty
  • Part 3: How to live well
     Although for some the book will provide enlightment from one page to the next and one chapter to the other, I personally found the concepts in the last section about “joie de vivre” the most important and influential ones.  Things as simple as using your best china every day and not just for special occasions, dressing comfortably but presentably even when at home and valuing quality over quantity are quite a revelation for the consumerist society in which we live today.  Perhaps it comes from having lived through two world wars that left the country with a mentality of valuing the present and only producing its best, but if one truly thinks about it, it becomes quite obvious that the only intelligent way to live life is on this level.

     When I came from France, my luggage was at the maximum weight allowed for the plane before one must pay a penalty.  It was full of… you guessed it – food.  Not fresh food mind you (although I know people who bring certain items and I must confess, the concept intrigues me enough to further explore it), but quite a few cans of foie gras, condiments, books and different accoutrements all related to arts of the table.  I almost bought no clothes.

     There is nothing like a good foie gràs, paired with the correct glass of wine, that says one is truly enjoying the moment.  So for my birthday, which happens to coincide with the holiday season, that is exactly what I did.  I opened one of the cans I bought at Fauchon, that quintessentially high end gourmet store in Place de la Madeleine.  And nothing better than auspiciously sampling their luxurious goose foie gràs Alsatian style, I thought, in anticipation of next year’s trip to that region (and others.  Stay tuned!)

     The foie gràs from Strasbourg is not, I must say, like that of Périgord (I prefer the latter).  Still, goose foie gràs is goose foie gràs, and as a delicacy, it is one that I appreciate profoundly.  There is a certain kick in its flavour, albeit slight, which leaves a happy note on the tongue.  This demure sharpness makes it perfect to be paired with a glass of the classic Trimbach Gewűrtztraminer 2012.  The minerality of the wine, combined with a slight sweetness makes the foie gràs shine without overpowering it and its round, whole finish gives the proper closure for each bite.

     I chilled the foie gràs for 2 days in the coldest part of the fridge, and took it out about 15’ before serving.  I topped it with just a few grains of rose pepper and served it on rye toast.  I also had a canapé simply topped with crème fraîche and salmon roe.  The whole celebration was intimate, luxurious and delicious from the gastronomical standpoint.

     Keeping in mind Jennifer L. Scott’s adage in “Lessons from Madame Chic”, I used my best holiday china, showing Rudolph in the background, and laid the table with a red satin cloth.  The candle is Forest Herb, from a store called Terrain.  It gives a light scent of pines mixed with fresh herbs, subdued yet refreshing in the likes of a quiet pine forest.  

     Although my birthday dinner was intimate, it was undoubtedly chic, and it gave me a private feeling of luxury that I will cherish always and look forward too for more pleasurable moments.  And yes, Happy Christmas. 


  1. So charming ... and inspirational as well ... Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays Karina