Canelé: The Caramelized, Custardy, Cookie/Cake of Bordeaux

Canele picture with title reading The Canele Chronicle

Macarons are all the rage in Paris and New York and have become the icon of French pastries. But I am voting for the long-standing iconic pastry of Bordeaux, the canelé.

This now fancy, indeed “haute” pastry began as a thrifty, simple way to use up left-over ingredients in order to feed the poor.

The canelé owes it’s beginnings to the nuns of the Miséricorde convent. They would send novices to the docks to sweep up flour that had spilled out of bags as they were being unloaded from the boats. To this recovered flour they added egg yolks, a leftover from the many vintners who used the egg whites to clarify their wines.

These original pastries, called canelas or camelions, didn’t look like what we see today. The dough was wrapped around sticks, fried and then sold to raise the money needed to feed the poor. According to some records, they were favorites at the court of Louis XIII, whose wife, St. Jeanne de France, founded the convent.

After the revolution and the closing of the convent, the recipe was kept alive by various families in Bordeaux. Finally, in the beginning of the 20th century, a Bordeaux baker revived and improved the recipe by adding rum and vanilla. He also used a moule à cannelures, a fluted mold to bake his masterpieces.

And now to the question of spelling: is it canelé or cannelé? According to my sources, it is only one ‘n’. The use of ‘nn’ fell out of favor in 1985.





Remembering Paris


Our hearts and thoughts flew across the Atlantic on November 13th when Paris fell under attack. We know how they are feeling and understand the frisson of fear that follows us when we start to resume our regular routines.

And we also know that we cannot stop traveling. To Paris. To Italy. To Spain. To New York, Charleston or Sonoma. We cannot stop experiencing the history, food, people of other cultures, countries and cities.

As I watched the news coming from Paris, I was reminded of my last trip there this past March. I stayed in the area where the attacks took place. When I returned, I raved to friends and colleagues about the vibrancy of the area, the narrow, lively streets, the friendly people and the history of the area.

I will stay there again. I will walk around the Place de la Republique and over to the Canal St.Martin. I will walk down to Rue de Rivoli and cross the Seine by way of the Pont Neuf. This bridge, the oldest in Paris, was the place to be when it was built. All Paris would parade across the bridge, talking time to sit on the benches to watch the boats or the passing parade of people. I will do the same. I will take the time to pause, watch the river, feel the heart of Paris.

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.” E. Hemingway.

Yes, Ernest, Paris IS always worth it.     ~Debra Fioritto

Sparkling wine and Pébradous


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pebradous cookies from Limoux France

You could say the area around Limoux sparkles. It claims to be the birthplace of sparkling wine and three different types are produced here.

Up first is the Blanquette de Limoux, made primarily from the local mauzac grape. The AOC requires that the blanquette must contain at least 90% mauzac, and then may be blended with chenin blanc or chardonaay.

Next up, the Crémant de Limoux. The crémant contains at least 90% of both chenin blanc and chardonnay. Mauzac and pinot noir can be added to this blend.

And finally the Limoux Méthode Ancestrale. This, as the title implies, is made with 100% mauzac that must all be harvested by hand.

And, to accompany the tastings be sure to try another local specialty, Pébradous de Limoux. These small, twisted, golden, cake-like cookies seasoned with a pop of pepper make a perfect counter-point to the sparkling wines. We found ours at the local bakery, Pujola-Serrat on rue des Augustins.  ~DF

A magic moment at Musée Petiet in Limoux, France


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Painting of les blanchisseuses from the Musee Petiet in Limoux France

Les Blanchisseuses, Musée Petiet, Limoux France

About 30 minutes outside of Carcassonne, the well-preserved medieval town of Limoux may be best known for it’s sparkling wine and three-month long carnival celebration. But in the heart of the town at the small, local musuem, I re-discovered my sense of wonder and awe.

Museums, think Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, can be overwhelming. Stop in one room, walls covered with paintings and you feel almost assaulted by the beauty. Without a plan or deep knowledge of art, the colors begin to just swirl around uncomprehendingly and you make a beeline for the door to try another time.

The Musée Petiet in Limoux gives you an opposite experience. It’s small and specializes in local, (unkown at least to me) artists. There are no crowds nor are the walls loaded with pictures. But since I didn’t know too much about any of these artists or time periods, i found myself walking quickly through the rooms. Until…

…I saw the painting pictured above. I walked over to look a bit closer at the painting and noticed a few colorful notebooks piled up on the table that was pushed up against the wall underneath the canvas.

I picked up a notebook and began to read the handwritten French. It was a story. A story about the girl who is whispering in one of the other girls ears. The writer identified the girl as his great grandmother. And he began to tell her story. She didn’t get to go to school but had started work when she was 11. She had to work hard to help her family because her father had died in the war.

I picked up the next story, then the next. They all told a story of one of the girls in the painting, some happy, some sad, some so very normal. As i read the stories, I started to look closer at that painting. Each time it changed just slightly as the women in it came alive through the stories in the notebooks.

An hour later, i returned to the front desk and asked about the stories. The young woman at the desk explained that they had all been written by the 10-and 11-year olds at the local school. They had come to visit the museum and the teacher had asked them to think about the painting, to look closely at the women and to imagine what their lives might have been like. Then write about their lives.  They all succeeded fabulously.

I would have liked to visit that school and thanked the students and the teacher. Never again, will i skim through a museum on auto-pilot. Those 10-and 11-year old students gave me back my sense of wonder and curiosity. Merci.  ~DF

Bountiful, Bewildering and Beguiling Bordeaux

If you find the region and the wines of Bordeaux bewildering, here is a fascinating way to enhance your knowledge. We can personally attest to an unforgettable experience with Bernard Magrez, who has created a luxurious way to discover the wonderful world of Bordeaux wines. Owner of 28 vineyards around the world, Monsieur Magrez invites you to appreciate the local appellations and the variedterroir of this region…and offers a refined and intimate experience at three of his prestigious properties in the area.   

Bordeaux vineyard

Bordeaux vineyard

Upon your arrival in Bordeaux, your chauffeur is waiting for you with the Rolls Royce Phantom. Marc caters to your every whim – if you have a question he doesn’t know, he discreetly makes a phone call until he finds the answer! He takes you to each of the chateaux, where a cellar master awaits to give you a private tour of the vat rooms and cellars. He’ll explain the complexities of the Bordeaux appellations and the art of wine making, followed by a tasting of the finest vintages.

You may stay at the chateau of your choice, where a butler welcomes you with an aperitif. Be treated to a dinner of regional specialties prepared for you by Chef Jerome, served on Hermes porcelain. Each course is accompanied by the perfect Bordeaux wine. Ready to get started? Here is a brief description of each of the chateaux.

At the heart of Mr. Magrez’ estates is Chateau Pape Clément, his flagship Bordeaux property, located in the Pessac Leognan area. The vineyards, first planted by Pope Clément V, the pope who moved the papacy to Avignon in 1309, produce a Grand Cru Classé de Graves.

Chateau Pape Clément

Chateau Pape Clément

The ornately decorated chateau, built in 1250, maintains a religious theme with clothing of the pope, a collection of artwork and decorative objects which adorn the rooms.
No visit to Bordeaux is complete without discovering St. Emilion. The wine from Mr. Magrez’ estate, Chateau Fombrauge, is a St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé. Music is the theme at this former 16th- century monastery, specifically around the personally-owned Stradivarius violin. The chaffeur, Marc will drive you to the village of St. Emilion for a private guided of tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

St. Emilion (photo courtesy of Anne Lanta)

St. Emilion (photo courtesy of Anne Lanta)

Finally, explore the Médoc appellation at Chateau Le Tour Carnet, whose tour or tower dates from 1120. This estate, once owned by the family of French philosopher, Montaigne, is one of the oldest in the area. Literature is the dominant theme at the chateau and the decorations will transport you back into the Middle Ages, with canopied beds and views of the moat from the mullioned windows.

la tour carnet

After experiencing one of these exceptional chateaux, you’ll come away with a deeper knowledge of Bordeaux wines and understand why so many wine lovers are so passionate about them. For a tailor-made visit, call 888 345 3005 or email us at to arrange your luxury journey.

All the right ingredients for ~ Dishing up Languedoc

Join us on a sensory celebration of gastronomic treasures, cultural traditions, sun-dappled vineyards near the sea…with a delicious side of ancient history

8 days 7 nights
May 18-25, 2014
Priced from $3500 pp based on double occupancy

Get a fresh perspective on France! Languedoc Roussillon is a region of a thousand and one subtly different landscapes, atmospheres and aromas. Historically, culturally and gastronomically this authentic culinary adventure is a feast for your senses. Taste the local wine of an exciting hotbed of innovative winemaking. Relish local products at their very source. Taste oysters washed down by Picpoul de Pinet. Toast to the Lost Generation as you sample one of their favorite drinks, a quintessential French luxury, Noilly Prat. Satisfy your sight-seeing cravings by exploring Roman ruins along ancient roads. Discover the oldest salt marsh in the Mediterranean and float along the canals of the Venice of France. La piéce de résistance? Learn how to create, cook and indulge in regional specialties with a talented chef at a 2-star Michelin restaurant!

Day 1 Sunday, May 18, 2014


Arrive in Montpellier and check into your hotel. Unwind a bit before discovering your surroundings with a private guided tour. From the Place de la Comédie to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, take advantage of your time in Montpellier to gaze at its dazzling architecture with your guide. Listen to a violinist explain the crafting of his violins, followed by a demonstration of his music. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel with your French Food and Travel expert and guide, Debra. Then sleep deeply in your comfortable room, dreaming of what’s to come. Hotel in Montpellier

Day 2 Monday May 19, 2014

After a delicious breakfast at your hotel, boat along the canals of the Venice of France, Sête, one of the largest fishing, cargo and yachting ports on the Mediterranean sea. Well-known for its Italian style cuisine, learn about all the ingredients that make this city special and why Sête has been a source of inspiration for artists like Paul Valery and Georges Brassens. Stroll through the covered market of Les Halles, filled with local fare such as tielle, rouille and macaronade. After lunch, an exclusive visit to Noilly Prat, to see where the famous Vermouth is produced. It is world famous thanks to fans like Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart. Then off to visit the Marseillan mussel and oyster beds. The water here (Etang du Thau) is the most important shellfish farming center in the Mediterranean and the leading producer of mussels in France. For a great finish to the day, savor a dinner of oysters and local wine at the seaside.  Hotel in Montpellier

Day 3 Tuesday May 20, 2014

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before we head to the breathtaking site on the banks of the river Herault, Saint Guilhem le Desert. In a wild and beautiful setting the 9th century abbey is a magnificent example of early Romanesque architecture. It’s here that many stop along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostelle. After lunch spend time in a vineyard, followed by a taste of the locally produced wine with the vintner. Back in Montpellier, the rest of the evening is yours to enjoy shopping and dinner – Your hotel is connected to a mall with plenty of shops!  Hotel in Montpellier

Day 4 Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Breakfast at your hotel and then it’s time for a train ride through the great marshes of the Camargue. The long beaches of fine sand are a paradise for bird and pink flamingos, wild horses and bulls. This is also where in-the-know gourmands find their famous fleur de sel de Camargue, the salt that adds a delightful crunch to any dish. Salt from the Camargue makes a thoughtful and easy to carry gift to bring home. But it’s not just the salt…the Camargue produces almost all the French rice grown for home consumption. Next, explore the port town of Aigues Mortes. Built in 13th century, the town is enclosed by a wall a mile long dotted with ten defensive towers. After lunch, shop at the Maison des Vins et des Produits du Gard , full of local products…as our feast for the senses continues before heading to Vergeze, home to Perrier. Learn about the history of the little green bottle with a visit to the factory and the spring. Tonight, feast on the sumptuous 2-star cuisine of Chef Nutile at our hotel.  in Collias.

Day 5 Thursday, May 22, 2014


Breakfast at your hotel. Enjoy a leisurely morning at the hotel and spa before a private tour of the famous Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.. After lunch visit Uzès, known as the “first dukedom in France,” Uzès boasts charming streets and alleyways around the duke’s castle. Meet a winemaker at his vineyard and taste his wines before some free time for shopping and dinner in town.

Day 6 Friday, May 23, 2014


Put your apron on — it’s time to cook! Before getting your hands in the “pie” the chef will give you a private tour of his kitchen garden, called a potager in French. Learn how to create some of the local cuisine and then enjoy your own cooking. Appetites satisfied, head to the “Rome of France,” Nimes. Although famous for its ancient past, Nimes is also a very contemporary town. Enjoy the contrast between the Roman monuments and the modern architectural concepts of Norman Foster and Philippe Starck.Hotel in Nimes

Day 7 Saturday May 24, 2014

Our culinary feast continues! After breakfast at your hotel, discover the secret of the truffle with a private visit and explanation of truffle hunting from Michel. Visit a local vintner and taste his wine. Back in Nimes, enjoy time for shopping and packing up your bags before a sumptuous farewell feast together to celebrate our time together.

Day 8 Sunday May 25, 2014
Breakfast at your hotel. Transfer to Avignon

Fully Escorted Tour includes:
• 3 nights in Montpellier in luxury hotel
• 2 nights in Collias in boutique hotel
• 2 nights in Nimes in luxury hotel
• Breakfast daily
• 5 Lunches
• 4 Dinners (One in 2 star Michelin restaurant)
• 1 cooking class with a Michelin starred chef
• Market and kitchen garden visits
• Wine and vermouth tastings
• Vineyard visits
• Oyster and truffle tastings
• Mineral water tastings
• Canal boat excursion
• Visits to artisanal shops and factories
• Guided walking tours
• Services of a culinary expert and guide the entire time
• Entrance fees according to the program
• Transfers
• Transport in executive coach

Contact Tour de Forks today for more information
1 212 327 3424

Carcassonne ~ Medieval Fortified Beauty


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The citadel of Carcassonne looks like a medieval film set. The spectacular walled town is one of France’s most famous national monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  240Carcassonne-N241B_focus_events

Originally a Roman settlement, then a medieval walled town, Carcassonne was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and restored in the 19th century by Viollet le Duc. The River Aude and the Canal du Midi separate the citadel from the lower town.

What to see in Carcassonne :

In the medieval citadel: the Narbonne Gate, which defended the entrance to the fortified town; the Trésau tower; the ‘lists’ – large open spaces where tournaments and jousts were once held; the 12th century Count’s Castle; the Aude Gate; the 11th and 14th century basilica of Saint Nazaire and Saint Celse; the La Vade Tower; the old town where local craftsmen still practice traditional crafts.

In the lower town: the old bridge – ‘Pont Vieux’ – over the river Aude; Murat’s town house, decorated with tapestries; the Museum of Fine Arts and Municipal Library; the 18th century Neptune’s Fountain in the Place Carnot; the Gothic St Michael’s cathedral, Saint Vincent’s church; the 13th century Carmelite chapel. Also see the ‘Maison des Mémoires’ – one of the fabulous old houses known as ‘hôtels’ – which was once the home of the poet, Joë Bousquet, and now houses a center of Cathar studies and the old city archives.

From Sud de France

Lunel in Languedoc Roussillon ~ A Cheerful Market


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From Sud de France:


Is it the charm of the market buildings’ architecture, all iron, glass, and brick, in the 1900s style of Baltard’s Paris Halles? Is it the peaceful atmosphere of the narrow streets of the old town? Or the good cheer of the inhabitants, who are known, poetically, as ‘pescalunes’ (‘moonfishers’ in Occitan)? The famed Lunel market is unique in its region, not because of its size, but because of its good-humored spirit, its character of a village untouched by time, and the quality of its products as well. This magnificent red brick and blue metalwork building, bearing the city’s arms over its entrance, is one of the last of its kind. Its enclosed area creates a proximity between merchant and customer, inviting you to chat with the proud producers about their wine, honey, and olive oil. On the colorful, fragrant stands are piled pyramids of fruits and vegetables, a whole world of cheese, meat, and charcuterie, fowl and eggs, anchovies and other treasures of the sea. You crowd around the buvette counter to savor a petit noir coffee in the morning, and, in the evening, at the hour of the aperitif, a muscat – de Lunel, of course!
• Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Les Halles, Cours Gabriel-Péri, Lunel.

Sète ~ A Quality Market in the “Venice of France”


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From Sud de France:

On the ‘singular island’, you go to the market for provender and people, not for the architecture. The 1970s-era market building with its three-story parking garage is not attractively laid out.  But who cares? Hearty company and quality produce are what you come for. The butcher is organic, the fruit and vegetable stalls are as beautifully arranged as those of Barcelona, and the fish sellers display tuna and sardines freshly caught by local fishermen.

sete 240x245-Halles-poissons-N131_large
People come from Montpellier and even Marseille to buy their fish fresh from one of the five market sellers, or oysters and mussels from the Étang de Thau! So wander around the 75 stalls: fruits and vegetables, fancy groceries, Cianni’s classic tielles (seafood pasties), cheese, the pasta and Italian products of Sète’s transalpine immigration – and much more. But there is also the authentic atmosphere of the bistros where Sète’s residents come to drink coffee, read the paper, or take an aperitif. Some settle in for a full lunch at the dining stalls, with their convivial and genuine local fare.
• Every day, 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Les halles, boulevard Gambetta, Sète.

Nimes ~ Market time!


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From Sud de France:


For 132 years Nîmes’ market halls have maintained tradition and a typically southern vivacity. Jokes fly, recipes are exchanged, there’s no end to the backchat, all in an atmosphere of high good humor. Remodeled in the early 1980s, the buildings are rather dark, but are brightened on the weekend with a lively crowd that comes to shop the 75 stands for petit pâté nîmois (a veal and pork pasty), fruits and vegetables, cheese, fish, olives, olive oil, and much more. So many tastes and aromas make the market a hive of food workers. These colorful, noisy, appealing halls are famed for their products’ high quality. The restaurant Halles Auberge is the locals’ go-to destination for a real, hearty lunch. In short, the essence of unconquerable Nîmes, the heart of the old town.

• Monday through Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; Sunday, 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Les halles, rue du Général-Perrier, Nîmes.