Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine Weekend in the Country of Love

Since buying our car last Monday we had managed (up until last weekend) to do nothing but use to to shop. Not for expensive stuff, mind you. We were more interested in comparing our local grocery stores to the others we had heard of from students with cars. Yes, we are domesticated dorks/foodies. Our first outing was to the Auchan on the north of the city, which was a disappointment. It was old and dirty and honestly, the prices didn't seem that different. From our little excursion, however, we did ascertain that they have a wonderful selection of Belgian beers by the bottle, cheap nori for sushi making and...wait for it, RAW SHRIMP. Since moving to France, we have not once been able to find raw shrimp. It's odd, back in the US, people argue (mainly in food sections of newspapers) that the FDA stifles us too much with mandatory milk and cheese pasteurization. They argue in France, they obviously trust their residents to make their own food related decisions, which is true in the dairy department. However, it has become strangely apparent that the French government, while very lenient in their milk laws, does not trust the French people to cook their own crustaceans. I don't even know that we used shrimp all that often back home but believe me, I noticed when I couldn't attain the raw form (cooked shrimp are all over, and they are cooked perfectly, I might add). So, knowing we wouldn't be up that way for awhile, we grabbed a bag of shrimp which we used to make a yummy shrimp scampi on Thursday night.

Friday afternoon we made another trip to the E. Leclerk near Janice and Jeremy's apartment. To say the least, it is now our favorite hypermarché (French for supermarket). It's very large and nice...oh, and the fish section doesn't smell like old fish (unlike Cora). And as the icing on the cake, they seem to have a good many wines in our low price range in their absolutely immense wine section.

After another enjoyable afternoon in the grocery store, we were invited up to Leah and Kyle's apartment to partake in some delicious southern fare. Kyle made us a batch of cheesy grits (well, it was really polenta, but it's not easy locating southern food supplies in rural France) topped off with sausage and peppers. It was delicious in all of it's cheezy, buttery goodness and I hope, will inspire us to delve into the world of cornmeal mash. And after dinner, we enjoyed some yummy stewed apples and conversation.

On Saturday we set off on our first real (mini) car trip with Lune Rousse, which is what the French call the April Moon. We wanted to keep in the astronomical genre for the car's name since my Saab back home is StellaLuna, and since rousse is what one would call a redhead, it seemed fitting. We do have a long break coming up at the end of this week, so with that in mind, we decided to just make a short day trip up to explore the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (meaning it is ruled by a Grand Duke). After reading a bit, we decided to pick an old castle to go to, then wing it from there. The first castle was a bit of a disappointment but with the help of our trusty gps, we found another that was much more interesting, although closed (what did we expect on a Saturday afternoon?). On our way to the 3rd castle, we went through a town that hosts the home of the Grand Duke. The house and grounds were insanely huge and we managed to get a few drive-by pictures before parking for some better views. Michael walked up to the gate in order to take a picture when a grumpy looking security guard (as if there are any other kinds of security guards) poked his head through the blinds of the guardhouse, knocked on the window, and very sternly waved his finger at us. So instead of taking a picture there, we moved around the exterior until we found a good shot of the mansion without a nearby guardhouse (shown on the right).

After stopping at one final castle, which was by far the most impressive, we decided that if we spent much more time driving through the beautiful Luxembourg countryside, we would lose any chance at getting to the grocery store before they closed until Monday. Again, with the help of our gps, we found yet another E.Leclerk in a northern suburb of Metz and as if this is even possible, this one was bigger than the first! We stocked up for that night and Valentine's day and headed home for pizza and a Chimay beer tasting.

Valentine's day was a lovely and relaxing day in for us in the kitchen (what else is new?). We started our feast with some escargot and then Michael surprised me with  a jar of foie gras entier (meaning the liver is kept intact rather than ground up as we had before) and a bottle of Sauternes which is what you apparently have to drink with foie gras. It is quite expensive to buy in the states so why not try it here where is not cheap, but not going to break the bank. For our  main course we put a couple of quail on the rotisserie with cumin and orange juice and made some delicious garlic mashed potatoes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last year). We had a rosé Crémant de Borgogne (pink for Valentine's day) which is a sparkling wine with our dinner and for dessert, we made an easy chocolate whiskey bundt cake. I will leave you with my favorite picture of the weekend, my wonderful husband (wearing his shirt -- I steal it all the time).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So here's what went down

Josyane, the ever helpful Acedemic Director over at GTL took us car shopping last friday. Being a Renault woman herself, she took us to a large Renault dealership only to find that all of the salesmen were in a meeting for an undisclosed amount of time, so we picked up and moved on to the Renault garage just down the road from GTL which happened to have this nice little twingo.

After the requisite questioning and test drive we decided that although the twingo is a little nicer and newer than we had expected to end up with, it will be much safer to travel around europe in. Unfortunately, there were still 2 bits of scheduled maintainence that needed to be done to it, so we weren't able to buy the car that day...which is where the Peugeot comes in.

After picking out our car, we walked up to the Saturn store, not looking for more cars but for a GPS (Saturn has electronics stores over here) and like every time we walk through the Metzanine shopping center, we had to stop in the kitchen store. We had been looking for a wet salt grinder over here, since you can buy wet salt for euro pennies over here. As luck would have it, we found this Peugeot to match our salt and pepper set at home for 1/2 price, which explains how we managed to pick out a Renault but buy a Peugeot.

 So after a long weekend of waiting, and scrounging with acquiring proof of insurance back in the stated (thanks moms and dads!), we finally walked over the the garage yesterday to buy and drive away with our new car. Our first "trip" was back to the Saturn store to buy a GPS (a necessity with all the roundabouts in France) and a cassette tape adapter so that we can plug our iPods into the radio. Then later last night we went for a nice 1.5 hour drive though the tiny villages that surround Metz. We couldn't see much but the brilliantly lit churches that frost the skyline of each little town, but it was so enjoyable to be out on the road again.  I hadn't realized just how much I missed driving down the road, singing at the top of my lungs without a thought on just how much my next-door-neighbors can hear.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Here's a Riddle for You

Today we went car shopping (yay!), we decided on a Renault but bought a Peugeot. Can anyone figure out how we managed that? I'll clarify on Monday.