Originally from Yorkshire I've lived and worked in Spain, France, Mexico and Switzerland, now based in southern Alsace. Author of 9 books, the latest about Switzerland's finest farmhouse cheeses. I freelance for anyone who'll buy my stuff (FT Weekend, Decanter, France Mag, Culture Cheese Mag et al) plus I give cooking workshops and lead bespoke vineyard tours in Alsace and Baden (just across the Rhine).
ARGENTINA DIARY, 7th-26th March 2015, by Monty Style
Day 1 – Buenos Aires arrival
Street view outside MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
Endless flat grasslands below the 777 which floats motionless down to Ezeiza airport. After 13-and-a-bit hours’ flight we’re perfectly on time. Punctual and comfortable seats, but service- and meal-wise British Airways is not competitive at all. Dishwater coffee reminiscent of the UK 20 years ago.
Elegant all glass airport buildings. Simple immigration then formal-looking scanners gobble up and spew out all items of luggage. Nobody collects the customs declaration I carefully filled in.
Buenos Aires is at first sight an ecologist’s dream: fresh green plane trees line the streets, cedars adorn the many parks which, viewed from our taxi, are clean, cars are compact and traffic is unhectic, the sky is blue and unpolluted. Continue reading →
Whether you’re shivering out there in New York, Maine or Ontario, or huddled under a European canopy of endless grey, now’s the time to consider a short break in Seville. You can tank up on tapas and winter sunshine, stroll the street beneath impossibly blue skies and catch a glimpse of those famous oranges, still dripping from the trees in the gardens of the Alcázar. And if you can’t get down there, you can always dream…of tapas, mainly. Continue reading →
“Shock is the reaction of some people…who learn that real French people living in France eat hamburgers” wrote Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961. Not any more. Burgers are big hereabouts – according to a recent article in Business Insider, France is McDonald’s “most profitable country outside the US. Sales were up 4.8% through the first seven months of the year, and CEO Jean-Pierre Petit, who is rounding his 10th year as McDonald’s France’s CEO, has said 2014 will be its greatest absolute sales year ever. In 2013 sales reached 4.46 billion euros.” Continue reading →
Tartare of home-smoked salmon, salad and frites – A Table chez Marie’s yummy take on fish ‘n chips
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, there are loads of modest eateries in our frontier country of the Sundgau/Alsace and a handful of more ambitious ones farther afield, but all too few that occupy the middle ground – the kind that serve mildly aspirational food at approachable prices.
A Table chez Marie in Hagenthal-le-Bas is out there in that underpopulated middle ground. Though the restaurant’s address is Hagenthal-le-Bas, it’s actually about halfway between the village and Hegenheim. Remember the Hotel Jenny? The hotel no longer runs its own restaurant and has rented out the kitchen and dining rooms to the eponymous Marie, who in another life worked at the Au Violon brasserie in Basel. Continue reading →
[A shorter version of this article appeared in FT Weekend, 14th February 2015]
The diocesan bishop of Saint-Claude in France’s Jura region stands facing his flock, which is packed sardine-style into the tiny twelfth-century church of Montigny-les-Arsures. Arrayed in a semi-circle behind him are members of the honourable company of Les Ambassadeurs des Vins Jaunes, resplendent in primrose-yellow robes and floppy fur-edged hats. In front of the altar sits a small wine barrel, awaiting benediction.
After a spirited sermon in which he draws elegant parallels between the qualities needed to make good wine and those required of a fine upstanding Christian, the bishop blesses the barrel. It is then hoisted onto the shoulders of some strapping young vignerons and carried through the streets to the chateau of Montigny, where beneath fluttering snowflakes a huge crowd huddled under hoods and umbrellas listens – with only occasional heckling – to a series of lengthy speeches. Finally the barrel is ceremonially broached, the wine bursts forth, glasses are waved wildly in the air and the festival is declared open. Continue reading →
Around here in Basel, Alsace and Baden, Fasnacht or carnaval or Fasching (it all depends which country you’re in) is a big deal. You can tell carnival’s in the air when the houses sprout jolly carnivalesque figures on their roofs, and those gorgeous sugar-dusted, deep-fried wonders called Fasnachtskiechli or merveilles de Carnaval start popping up in the shops. Continue reading →
My bread and pastry workshop scheduled for Friday 13th February (my lucky day?) turned out to be such a hit that I’ve scheduled a second session, on Friday 20th February. Let me know if you’d like to join us. We’ll start at 9.30 and finish at 1.30 on both days, and here’s how we’ll do it: Bread dough can take any amount of pummelling, but pastry needs a light touch. In this workshop we’ll turn our hand[s] to both. First we’ll make bread dough and leave it to rise. Then we’ll get busy on shortcrust/pie crust and turn it into a range of pies and parcels. Finally we’ll shape and bake our daily bread. Lunch will be pastry-based goodies and there’ll be a home-baked loaf for all to take home.
If you’d asked anyone about France’s Jura region and its wines a couple of decades ago, chances are you’d have received a blank stare. A few enlightened souls might have muttered something about vin jaune, or dredged up memories of faded signs for Henri Maire’s vin fou, affixed to the sides of dilapidated barns in the remoter parts of rural France.
Fast-forward twenty years and the name Jura is on many lips. The wines are enjoying cult status on both sides of the Atlantic – marginally more so in the US than in the UK. Wine educator Wink Lorch, with impeccable timing, recently devoted a whole book to them entitled Jura Wine, which has received critical acclaim. Continue reading →
A good toad-in-the-hole is perfect comfort food for the depths of winter. A soothing dish of sausages baked in batter — the same as for Yorkshire puddings — it’s a distant cousin of pigs in a blanket, only that the sausages, instead of being tightly swathed in a blanket of pastry, are reclining in a delicious duvet of batter, which billows up agreeably around them. Get the full story here, on Zester Daily.
When I’m faced with the choice of whether to eat in or out, it’s usually eating in that wins. I love poring over books, planning a meal (maybe testing out something for an upcoming workshop), buying it (especially if this includes a visit to Saint Louis or Loerrach market), cooking it up in my azure-blue Alsace kitchen and enjoying it in the comfort of my own home – with wines selected from our own cellar. I even have a SO who takes care of the bits of washing up that won’t go in the dishwasher. What’s not to like? Continue reading →