A quick update

November 7, 2016

A few photos of the transformation in the stables.  We’re already daydreaming about possible concerts, dining opportunities …. who knows!!







Armageddon at les Sarziers

October 26, 2016
Peaceful les Sarziers

Peaceful les Sarziers

We were expecting a hectic October and my goodness we have not been disappointed!

The month kicked off with a great Walksweek.  We hosted a lovely couple from Canada who were lucky with wonderful autumn weather and  enjoyed glorious walking, a trip on the vélorail, picnicking by the Doux and a special peep into the wine making in progress in the Morlanche cellars.

They could hardly have imagined what was about to unfold as soon as they had left!

The peaceful courtyard

The peaceful courtyard

We had carefully scheduled three successive professional renovation jobs, on the kitchen and the stable, but first we needed to take care of all the preparation.

We started by getting stuck in to clearing centuries of junk, beams, stones, straw and unmentionables out of the stable prior to the laying of a concrete floor.




By which time the courtyard looked like this:


Next we attacked the kitchen.

The kitchen as you may know it

The kitchen as you may know it

We have decided that we are tired of living in a museum: the soot of ages has to go from the ceiling and the fireplace needs to be plastered.  Inspired by the results in Patricia’s amazing renovation project at her chateau of Hautségur, we decided to go for Aérogommage, a less aggressive technique than sand blasting.  It uses much finer particles and much more air, at lower pressure, so the result is spectacular, as you can see from Patricia’s blog.  But of course there is also a fantastic amount of fine dust, so everything had to be cleared out or protected.



Then everything started to happen at once.  It began to rain – just what the construction team had been waiting for – and they went into action in the stable …..


whilst Emmanuelle and Philippe got to work on the beams.



By the end of the day the courtyard looked like this,


but the ceiling was starting to look good!


The next day . . . wow!



Interlude ….


The builders disappeared, as builders do (the sun had come out again) and it was time for Daniel to plaster the fireplace.  Unfortunately we have no pictures of him at work, but once again he did a fabulous job.  We chose this family firm from Lamastre to plaster the inside of the house 25 years ago because, given their Italian family name, Avandetto, we were sure they would do a good job!  The business was begun by Daniel’s grandfather, who came to the Ardèche in the 1920’s, to get away from the ascendency of Mussolini’s fascists in his native Turin, where the family had been bronze workers, specialised in creating equestrian statues of the Savoy monarchs to adorn the city’s squares.


What a difference!

Then the heavens opened and the heavies were back!






After days of rock breaking and jack hammering, finally everything was ready for La Toupie ….


which arrived at 7 sharp this morning.



It took until around 10.30 to get the floor laid and the guys are coming back intermittently throughout the day to “passer l’helicoptère” or surfacing machine.


We still have a way to go, but we’re getting there!  And meanwhile the trees are into full autumn swing and the countryside is beautiful.



Le Morlanche Nouveau

October 13, 2016

Day one

Things have been pretty hectic around here recently and the news is stacking up, but it’s time to backtrack a little and tell you about the exciting new developments at Morlanche.

We are so thrilled to have Brice and Lisa as our neighbours.  Since Brice’s grandparents moved to sheltered accommodation eight years ago their house has been empty and things haven’t felt the same.  We bought our house from them and we have developed a close attachment to the family, so when, after the old couple had passed away, Brice decided to move to Morlanche and to revive the vineyard and traditional wine making activity we could not have been more delighted.

the vineyard

They have been here for just over a year and in that time so much has been achieved.  Brice has completed a course in winemaking and vineyard management and Lisa has done an incredible job renovating the house and getting an amazing vegetable garden going.  Together they have been systematically rejuvenating and encouraging the vineyard, using natural methods and a minimum of chemicals and their efforts were rewarded with a bumper crop of excellent quality Gamay when the time came round for the vendange.

The weather had been warm and sunny, the grapes were testing well for a projected alcohol content of 13% when Brice made a snap decision and called the vendange for Saturday 24th.  A small band of family, friends and neighbours spent a hot but very cheerful day harvesting what turned out to be just under 500 kg of grapes.

However, what made this vendange really special is that, for the first time in 40 years, the grapes weren’t sold on to a local wine maker, but taken to the vast cellars under the house to be trodden, before being poured into the vat to start their journey towards becoming the cuvée Morlanche 2016.

The pictures tell their own story:

the vendange arrives in the cellar

the vendange arrives in the cellar

and is carefully weighed

and is carefully weighed.

Treading the grapes

Treading is next – a messy business!

Into the vat

Into the vat . . .

and the adventure begins!

and the adventure begins!

There’s still a long way to go and constant monitoring, testing … and tasting are required.

Measuring the alcohol level

Measuring the alcohol level

checking the vat

checking the vat


tasting . . .

But the old cellars are once again filled with the wonderful aroma of fermenting grapes – Brice says that you can even smell it in the kitchen – and the centuries’ old tradition of wine making at Morlanche lives again!

la cave

It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz n’Cakes

September 19, 2016


The little dog is Philibert Froidevaux who we purchased (or was he a free gift?) about 25 years ago at the Arlebosc bakery together with a baguette.  As we did not know what to do with him, we stuck him into a small hole in the outside wall by the house steps.  A few days ago a guest asked me “Did you notice there is a dog in the wall?”


This gave me the idea to make him the star of my first Jazz video clip based on last weeks Jazz n’Cakes concert.  After a quarter of a century being rained on, he still looks the part!

So here is the link              It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz aux Sarziers

Kate is working on a Rhone Cruise so it is up to me to keep you informed about our last event at Les Sarziers.  Jazz n’Cakes was a great success, with over 70 people attending and no cake crumb left at the end of the evening.  Here are a few pictures …


Baking started three days before the concert and by Saturday afternoon the “n’cakes” part of the evening was ready.



The barn had to be cleared and the seating to be set up and an hour before the concert – between a bite to eat, getting the drinks ready (and washing the hair) we moved the piano from the sitting room to the barn (Thank you Brice).


… and then the show started

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The night was beautifully warm and many stayed until ’round Midnight.

PS.       Don’t forget to watch Philibert in his star role.


September 10th

September 6, 2016


We did promise that we’d get off the subject of food, so apologies for the cake element in this post!

This is going to be a great evening, with François and Linda Gallix and Markus playing a relaxed selection of numbers from the 20’s to the 50’s.

The concert will be in the barn and after the music people are invited to stay on and sample a selection of typically English cakes in the kitchen.  There should be something to please everyone!

Lemon Meringue Pie … suite et fin

August 31, 2016

Markus points out that all the last few posts have been to do with food, so a change of subject is coming soon!

But meanwhile some pictures of the very convivial Sunday morning event at Kaopa.

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message


A very high standard of entries

A very high standard of entries

The judges are ready

The judges are ready

Serious concentration required

Serious concentration required

At times it was hard to keep up!

Yum! All delicious!

Yum! All delicious!

Winners of the Citron d'Or, Argent and Bronze

Christine, Sandie and Nathalie, Winners of the Citron d’Or, Argent and Bronze

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Paloma's had enough!

Paloma’s had enough!

Markus in his monochrome finery

Markus in his monochrome finery

The judge’s decision is final

August 26, 2016

Concours Tarte au Citron meringuéeet Tenue Monochrome

The ever inventive Laurent from Kaopa is holding a lemon meringue pie competition on Sunday.

The idea arose at a party to which we had been asked to bring desserts.  He was singing the praises of his partner’s tarte au citron meringuée.  Discussion ensued – I find the French have peculiar notions about pastry and tend to mke things too sweet for my taste – and the result was the competition.  I am now rather taken aback to have been asked to be one of the judges.  Laurent says its OK for me to participate as well and that we will be blindfolded, relying solely on our taste buds and palate, but still I feel that this is a bit irregular.

My mother, amongst her many other accomplishments, was a judge for the WI – I still have her badges and certificates – and I remember spending mornings with her amid the cool grassy smells of a marquee set up in the grounds of some stately home, assessing faultless ranks of victoria sponges, cottage loaves, apple pies and jars of jam and preserves.

IMG_1528 (2)

They all had to be tasted and graded.   Tiny slices were cut out of the cakes, spoonfuls of jelly, lemon curd and chutney had to be sampled (too many entries in the pickles class was something she found extremely trying!) and the loaves were cut open to check for any backsliding in the kneading process.

It so happens that my friend Jane has recently been very successful with her redcurrant jelly at the local show and it brought it all back to me.

At such events there are strict rules about general appearance, presentation and colour as well as texture, fluffiness/crunchiness/density and so on, depending on the item.  Labels have to be attached at the approved height and imposed recipes scrupulously adhered to.

judge's comments

A Dorset friend who regularly enters items in the Briantspuddle Summer Show (I am not making this up) takes particular exception to the little notes that the judges leave with their comments, in what he calls their nasty cramped writing.  He usually carries all before him with his marmalade but there was an occasion when the jar (or was it the Gentleman’s Class Fruit Cake?) came off the back of his motorbike and arrived looking somewhat dinged in.

The Kaopa event is sure to altogether less stressful and formalised.  I think it’s largely going to be an occasion to eat lots of lemon meringue pie and drink delicious coffee.

dsc_0562a_slice_lmp_watermarked1 (800x531)

PS  Attentive readers will have noticed that we all are to wear une tenue monochrome.  Markus has dyed a whole outfit kingfisher blue, in which he will certainly cut a dash.  Photos to follow.

D’la salade trois fois par jour

August 14, 2016

salad 0 title 1

Ma Rosalie, titipanpan, elle est malade, Elle est malade, titipanpan, du mal d’amour.

Pour la guérir, titipanpan, faut d’la salade, De la salade, titipanpan, trois fois par jour.

This silly little children’s song, which continues merrily on, with several changes of rythm and theme, has been running through our heads as we contemplate our unusually successful vegetable garden.

After a wet May and June and a month of July with weekly thunderstorms,  the vegetables look promising these days.  But we are confronted with the usual gardener’s conundrum.  Why does everything grow at the same speed and is ready to be eaten the same day?  Even with successive sowing the cucumbers, courgettes and the green beans are all ready to be picked at the same time.

But by far the worst in the category of “We want to be picked – eat us  NOW otherwise we’ll sulk and bolt” are the salads.

First they behave nicely ...

First they behave nicely …

Then they look pretty ...

Then they look pretty …

Then they go wild ...

Then they go wild …

Then ther is no stopping them ...

Then there is no stopping them …

salad 7

Now for the serious part – the answers to last week’s quiz.  Thanks to those of you who took part!

  • Pissenlit (dandelion) salad
  • Pieds et paquets – a provençal speciality made with sheep’s feet and stuffed sheep’s tripe.
  • Sometimes euphemistically called roupettes de coq, these are exactly what they say on the tin – or more usually the jar.
  • Alouettes sans tête,  literally larks without their heads, are actually a provençal version of beef olives.
  • Tête de Moine or Monk’s Head is a cheese from the Swiss Jura but very much appreciated in France.
  • Paris Brest is a choux pastry ring, split and filled with confectioner’s custard.  It was created in 1910, in the shape of a wheel, to celebrate the Paris-Brest-Paris cycle race.  (Well done Hazwool!)

Not what they seem

August 5, 2016

It’s that time of year when many of us are sitting under sun umbrellas doing crosswords and word games so here’s a little quiz.

But first the context.  We have always been amused by the fact that a particular type of large saucisson from Lyon is blandly – and officially  – called un jésus.


It reminds me that in my family a boiled suet pudding was irreverently known as Boiled Baby or, if accompanied by golden syrup, Putty and Varnish.

So we put together an imaginary menu for a “holy dinner”.

After a few slices of the aforementioned jésus with a glass of Dom Pérignon, the meal would start with Coquilles St Jacques.  The main course would be Filets de St Pierre, Sauce Cardinale.  To follow, a selection of cheeses, including St Nectaire, Pont l’Evèque and of course our local St Félicien, and for dessert, a choice between a Religieuse, Sacristan or Jésuite.



To drink, a light St Amour Beaujolais could go well with the fish and a Châteauneuf du Pape with the cheese, then maybe a nip of Chartreuse or Bénédictine with coffee.

Now here’s another menu made up of of everyday French dishes and specialities.  Your task is to identify them.  Hint: they all have misleading or obscure names but one really is what it says on the tin!

Answers next time.

  • wet the bed salad
  • feet and parcels
  • cockerel testicles
  • headless birds
  • a man of god (with his head!)
  • a dessert which sounds like a train journey.


crossword in the garden



Photos:  http://www.chretiensaujourdhui.com


Canti Sognanti at les Sarziers

July 23, 2016

Giulia and Elida

The evening was an enchantment, as we knew it would be.

The weather was perfect; a delightful collection of people gathered and enjoyed an apéritif in the garden, a delicious ‘auberge espagnole’ dinner and dessert in the calabert after the concert.

For those of you who were not able to join us, and for those who did, Markus has put together a short video which gives a flavour of the magical voices of Canti Sognanti and their wonderful performance at les Sarziers.

Markus really does not have the right software for this kind of thing, so he’s not entirely pleased with the result, but he’s done a pretty good job all the same.  (Be sure to have the volume right up and headphones or speakers!)

Many thanks to Manu for the sound recording, and the photo.

And to Catherine, Elida and Giulia: Grazie mille!

Here’s the link


%d bloggers like this: