What to serve our Guests? (and "Bob's Your Uncle" in French)

Le vin sobre la ciotat wine shop
The sign says “Open.” Coucou from La Ciotat. If you are visiting our city, why not stop into Jean-Marc's wineshop? Call ahead and he will be happy to see you at Le Vin Sobre  Bar à Vin.

TODAY'S PHRASE: "Le tour est joué"

    : that's all there is to it, and Bob's your uncle

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to listen

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Wednesday we entertained guests from Oregon and Wyoming. Audrey, from Portland, and her beau, Grant, joined us here at home for le déjeuner sur la terrasse. Planning for a meal still doesn't come naturally for me, so after a flurry of possible eats whirled through my mind like the autumn leaves outside our window, I put a stop to le délire and phoned my sister.

As soon as Heidi picked up, I rattled off my progress. "So I've made salmon, and then today I made pois chiches...and tomorrow I'll make la tarte aux tomates...

"Wait--did you say you made salmon yesterday?"
"Yep."
"But when are your guests coming?"
"Tomorrow." 

The long silence that followed made me defensive. "It's totally okay to make salmon a day-and-a-half before serving. It's just m-a-r-i-n-a-t-i-n-g!" I said, to sound fancy. While there is nothing sophistiqué about how I organize for guests nowadays, it's steps above what it was years ago, as a newlywed and clueless hostess. Back then, I would struggle through everything on the same day: drag our toddlers to the supermarket for dinner ingredients, hurry home to unpack groceries and clean the house. After chasing kids all day, I would prepare a multi-course meal for our invités, including the les amuse-bouches, l'entrée, le plat, la salade, le fromage, le dessert. It was exhausting. I was bad at it. My nerves were shot. No wonder I drank!

But back to the present: Wednesday's lunch went so smoothly it's a wonder I continue to shy away from inviting. When I stop to remember that serving others is an opportunity for growth, this new perspective is energizing. As my sister often reminds me: people are just happy to be there. Serve some good wine!

Jean-Marc popped the cork on a bottle of Pinot Noir from Domaine de La Mongestine, where our son is sales manager. "This is the best wine!" our guests said, raving about it. Oh really, but how was the salmon? you may be wondering....

Eh bien, we hadn't gotten to it yet. Our little festin began with some delicious pâté forrestière compliments of Audrey. Now, in all fairness (here begins a little side note to my sister...) how come Audrey can walk one hour to our house, under the midday sun--with pâte tucked inside her purse--but I can't serve Monday’s salmon on mercredi?). I'll leave you to chew on that.

Audrey's pâté from Carrefour was delicious. Next we had petits toasts de tapenade à la truffe, alongside some Italian green olives from La Maddalena. Miam, miam! And finally, slices of la tarte aux tomates, some chick peas, and du saumon au poireau now filled our plates. As we ate, we were eager to learn more about peaceful and beautiful Wyoming, from Grant, and Audrey gave us tips on how to get along in Portland in winter: "a jacuzzi and a fireplace are your best friends," I believe she said (or was Audrey talking about Wyoming and the minus 20 degree winters?). I was little distracted as a hostess, trying, as we ate, to control our erratic environment: les guêpes were busy hovering around la bouffe! As we swatted the winged interlopers I noticed the sun was now burning down on Audrey, but I didn't want to interrupt the conversation yet again. Thankfully Grant quickly solved the problem by offering his hat. 

Chapeau, Grant! I thought, to which Audrey added "Et Bob est ton oncle!"

Et Bob est ton oncle?...

Heu, that sounded familiar. Was that some sort of code? Such as, Beware of Kristi's salmon? With that, Audrey laughed (was she reading my thoughts?). "Bob's your uncle is even funnier in French," Audrey explained, "so I've been saying it that way lately." 

Ouf! So it wasn't the salmon. No, it could not have been. Because I ate that Monday Night Salmon all the way to Friday and, Bob's my uncle, it went down fine. And it looks like Grant and Audrey fared well, too, given they made it over to Jean-Marc's wineshop, the next day, to say goodbye before heading up the coast to Menton. 

And there you have it or, as Audrey says et Bob est ton oncle. Thank you for reading today’s gastronomic entry, and look for the link to the tomato tart (following the vocabulary section, below).

***

IN BOOK NEWS: Very happy to see Ann Mah's new novel about Jackie Kennedy is out. Click on the cover below to see the rave reviews, and to order a hard copy of Jaqueline in Paris...or read it immediately on Kindle.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
A few words below are highlighted; click on them for an interesting read
coucou = hi there
le tour est joué = that’s all there is to it, and Bob’s your uncle
le déjeuner
= lunch
la terrasse = porch
le délire = frenzy madness
l’invité(e) = guest
le pois chiche = chick pea, garbanzo bean
la tarte aux tomates = tomato tart
les amuse-bouches = nibbles
l'entrée = first course
le plat principal = main course
la salade = green salad
le fromage = cheese
le dessert = dessert
le festin = feast
le pâté forrestière = mushroom pâté
Carrefour = a popular French supermarket
le mercredi = Wednesday
miam! = yum!
la guêpe = wasp
la bouffe = slang for “food, grub, nosh”
Chapeau! = well done! Bravo!
heu! = hmm!
Et Bob est ton oncle = that’s all there is to it
ouf = phew


Read the Story Archives for photos, soundfiles, and more:
1. Recipe for the easy, delicious, 4-ingredient French tomato tart
2. Sobriety does not equal Foolproof Entertaining

Jean-marc kristi audrey grantJean-Marc, Kristi, Audrey, and Grant

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Name your favorite drink + What does the French “bredouille” mean in English? (Hint: it doesn't mean 'tipsy')

Jean-Marc at Le Vin Sobre wine shop epicerie in La Ciotat France
If you were to visit Jean-Marc's wine shop, what would you buy? Tell us your favorite wine, drink, or boisson in the comments section. It could make for a lively thread!

Today's Word: bredouille

    : empty-handed, unsuccessful

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear today's word + a dozen more vocabulary words. Next, scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your comprehension.

Sound File, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
"A Surprise Visit"

Following Sunday’s grasse matinée, I felt lazy and tempted to skip church. Maybe I could go with Jean-Marc to his wine shop instead? It would only be for 3 hours, given the store’s open from 10-1 le dimanche. And it would give us some time together. Allez! On y va!

Setting my coat and purse on the tasting table at Le Vin Sobre, I turned to peruse the small épicerie fine when I heard my husband say the very thing I was thinking: Help tidy the tea section? 

Compte sur moi!”

After the teas were neatly line up I began to clean the glass windows behind which Jean-Marc stocks les produits fraisla poutargue, la pata negra, les boquerones, les fromages… A woman, her young son and their spirited cocker spaniel blew into the boutique along with a few fall leaves. “Bonjour Monsieur. Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc?”

After Jean-Marc had rung up his first sale of the day and the trio had left, he shut the cash drawer with a flourish. “Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille.” 

Bredouille? That sounds like a cool word . Répète-le.

“J’ai dit, ‘comme ça on ne rentrera pas bredouille’.”

Ah! Now I wasn't leaving ‘empty-handed’ either! I was going home with a new expression to share with readers!”

Ah, quand on parle du loup! Just then, two Francophiles from Boise, Idaho walked in... Susan introduced herself as a reader of my blog. She and Larry were leaving their rental in Cassis, and heading north to the quaint village of Sablet. What a chance meeting this was on the very day I was ditching church.

“C’est une double coïncidence,” Jean-Marc smiled, “because we don’t always open on Sundays.” With that, on a fait connaissance. I leave you, dear reader, with a snapshot of our chanceux encounter. And a warm remerciement to Susan and Larry, for all the wine you purchased. Là c’est certain, on ne rentrera pas bredouille! 



***
Post note: I was going to use the phrase “speak of the devil” to segue into the final part of the story about when my readers appeared. But then, yikes! I didn’t want to inadvertently refer to “readers” (or to Susan and Larry) as les diables! That’s when I learned the popular idiom: Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue (when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail). It means when you speak of someone they will appear). 

A Wine Odyssey...
This fall marks the 2-year anniversary of Jean-Marc's wine shop. Bravo, Chief Grape! My husband has come a very long way in his wine journey. Read about the ups and downs in our memoir, The Lost Gardens. 

Jean-marc wine odyssey
2007 at our first vineyard, "Chief Grape," who records all sound files for this blog. Merci, Chief!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

la grasse matinée = to sleep in
le dimanche = Sunday
Allez! On y va! = come on, let’s go!
l’épicerie fine = delicatessen
Compte sur moi! = count on me!
les produits frais (m) = fresh food, refrigerated foods
la poutargue = a culinary specialty of Martigues, known elsewhere as “bottarga” (salted, cured fish roe)
la pata negra (“patte noir”) = Iberian ham
les boquerones = anchovies
le fromage = cheese
Bonjour Monsieur, Auriez-vous un Chenin Blanc = hello sir. Do you have a Chenin Blanc
Comme ça on ne sera pas bredouille = now we won’t be going home empty-handed
Quand on parle du loup, on en voit sa queue = when you speak of the wolf, you'll see his tail. 
C’est une double coïncidence = it’s doubly coincidental
on a fait connaissance  = we got to know each other
chanceux (chanceuse) = lucky
le remerciement = thank-you

6609ADBC-2EAB-4234-BF6F-AA1A38A8724A
Kristi, Larry, Susan, and Chief Grape

Bon weekend à tous. Don't forget to list your favorite wine or boisson in the comments, below. Merci! 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


etre rouge comme une tomate

Tomato Red (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken in Nyons, land of the olives and more!


être rouge comme une tomate

    : to be as red as a tomato (avoir honte, to be embarrassed)

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

After writing about Harvester Lou, yesterday, I received a bucket of fan mèl for the blue-eyed bachelor. One of the lettres d'admirateurs came from a self-defined "matchmaker", or entremetteuse, living near the Spanish border. Suzanne Dunaway is the author of Rome at Home. While Suzanne cooks up possible connections for Lou, she leaves us with a timely recipe for tomato soup. 
 
 
IMG_3483-1

Roast Tomato Soup and Parmesan Crisps

Slice 5 large ripe tomatoes in 1/2 slices and roast them in a 200°C (390°F) oven, sprinkled with olive oil, a little salt and a few cloves of garlic. When they have lost most of their juice and are beginning to brown, take them out. In a large soup pot, saute 1 large sweet onion, chopped coarse (NOT chopped "coarsely"!!!) in 1/2 cup olive oil, and when it is starting to brown, add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes together and add 4-6 cups chicken broth. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or so, then puree it with one of those magic French wands that can smooth out anything or in the bowl of a robot coupe. Put this mixture through a sieve into another pot and add 1 cup of cream. I know this is tedious, but the soup is divine and perfect for impressing special dinner guests! To make the chips, stir together 1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and 1 tablespoon flour. Make little piles of the mixture on a cookie sheet, flattening them slightly with your fingers. Place in a 200°C (390°F) oven for 10 minutes, watching to make sure they do not burn. These are great even without soup.
 
 ***
Le Coin Commentaires
Merci beaucoup, Suzanne, for this timely recette.  To leave a comment for the cook, click here.
 

 

DSC_0088

Smokey's dear friend in Belgium, Carol, writes: J'adore le portrait de Smokey... paré d'un délicieux sautoir en rubis signé "Tomatellato" ! (en référence aux fabuleux bijoux de la marque Pomellato).

DSC_0093

What else to do with tomatoes? Share your ideas and recipes here, in the comments box.

Shopping:
Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

In Music: The Singing Nun by Soeur Sourire

Green tomato soap

 

Green Tomato Soap from France

 

Tomato print
Vintage French Print for your kitchen or office or...

Hand blender
One of those "magic French wands". Order here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety