May 27, 2007 - Alone in Normandy, Louviers, On Rue Tatin

After breakfast of a quick yogurt and coffee near the hotel, I set out to deliver my husband to the airport. Here's a tip for you - make sure you know which terminal your airline flies from at CDG in Paris because if you miss it the first time it takes 15 minutes driving in circles to find it again!

I was so sad to see my husband leave and be alone in France - for my next solo travels, I'll be certain to travel alone first and have my husband meet me for the second half. I drove from CDG to Louviers, and uneventful drive along the highways outside of Paris. Once in Louviers I had to call the hotel to get directions. The woman spoke no English and the man was willing to speak to me in Italian, but my brain wouldn't make the adjustment after 10 days hearing French.

It never occurred to me that nothing would be open in Louviers on Sunday at lunch time, so on the advice of the cooking school instructor I drove to Acquigny, a tiny town a couple miles away with an old chateau and for some reason several high end restaurants. I stepped into La Table du Bearnais and found it full of families having Sunday dinner, so I dined alone at a table for 5 that was set with roses tucked into the napkins.

Creme Brulee l'Aliyette - in between an onion custard and a creamy soup, served with salad and 3 slices of meat that I think is a type of bacon

Filet de Bar - sea bass gorgeously presented skin side up (I just can't get into the skin!) with garlic mustard sauce made with vermouth, risotto served in a tiny ring of zucchini slices, small mushrooms, a piping of potatoes Dauphinois, and peas.

Delice de D'Artagnan - specialty dessert of the house, an orange flavored mousse with creme brulee style caramelized sugar on top, served with caramel sauce and ice cream flavored with baking spices.

The poor woman serving be must have thought I was a reporter with all of the notes I was taking, so she kept bringing me menus and other information about dining in Normandy, and was distressed I didn't eat everything.

I returned to my hotel and zonked for a little while in front of CNN (did you know they get new news only every 3-4 days?) then had a brisk walk about town for a half hour to revive myself before heading to On Rue Tatin for the opening dinner for our cooking class which consisted of myself, Sue (retired, her husband Doug would join just for the meals), Vicki (from CA, her husband would meet her to go to Bordeaux at the end of class, and Silvestro (an Italian-American who now lives in Lecce, Puglia and runs a cooking school there called The Awaiting Table). Everyone seemed to get along and we were all excited for the week.

Susan Herrman Loomis author of French Farmhouse Cooking and the memoir On Rue Tatin, opened the school a few years ago in her home in Louviers, a 500 year old former convent. Here's the big spread from the first night:

Orange Wine Aperitif (excellent, recipe in her cookbook)
Olive & Parmigiano Sweet and Savory Crackers
Fresh Spring Pea Soup with just a touch of cream
Roast Guinea Hen with Citrus served with roasted new potatoes and roasted garlic
Salad du Jardin with walnut vinaigrette (the first of many flavored oils we would try)
Artisinal Cheeses from Normandy (at this point I was totally into the swing of having cheese after most dinners)
Rhubarb Tart with sliced strawberries that had been cooked in butter.

Dinner conversation was lively - the wine industry, changes in the cookbook publishing world, Susan getting divorced, and the food we were eating. Time for bed - first lesson at 10am the next day!

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