As if my trip couldn’t get any better after meeting Jill Colonna in Bordeaux, the next day, I met Karen Burns Booth from Lavender and Lovage! It was better than meeting a celebrity, because most celebrities can’t cook!
Disclosure: I was hosted by Karen as a friend. Unrelated to Karen, I received three Alex and Ani bangles from their company with no requirement to post about them.
Jill and I had left Bordeaux and were due to arrive at the Pons train station in Southwest France in the early afternoon where Karen and her husband would meet us. However, Jill and I were blethering (talking) so much, we almost missed our stop at Pons. It was partially our fault, but the other issue was the announcer’s pronunciation of “PONS”. It sounded nothing like Pons! Even Jill agreed, and she speaks French fluently. Moving towards the doors as quickly as possible, we stumbled off the train with our luggage, lacking the quintessential grace that one would hope permeates anyone visiting France.
Karen and her husband didn’t seem to mind that we initially presented ourselves as bumbling clods, and after hugs and kisses were exchanged, we hopped into their car. Karen told us that she needed to do some food shopping, so off we went to the Super U grocery store. (I cannot tell you how exciting it is for me to go to grocery shopping in another country, and France?! I was beside myself!)
It didn’t take very long for Jill and me to realize that Karen was a bundle of fun and we were totally letting her into our club! We pretended to pilfer bottles of wine and fenced with baguettes; I kid you not! Here’s proof~
Karen did eventually do her shopping, although it was a special kind of torture for me not to be able to buy anything due to traveling and my lack of a real suitcase. My favorite Bon Maman biscuits were only €1.19 as opposed to $9.58 on Amazon! Oh, just look at that wine aisle (mind you, that wasn’t the entire section)!
Much to my chagrin, we left Super U and were driving to Karen’s B & B with her husband, Malcolm, as our chauffeur, when Karen queried, “How about a little “pinot” degustation at the chateau?” First of all, the way I’ve written “pinot” is what I heard (or should I say, how I translated what was said), however it was actually “pineau”. Secondly, “at the chateau” was a key part of the phrase that made Jill and me just a wee bit giddy! We looked at each other in the back seat and exchanged the same look that said it all, “Is this for real?”
Malcolm was quite content to take us to the chateau, so yes–it was really happening! A few minutes later, we drove down a long lane, and arrived at Château Guynot (pronounced “ghee-no”), and headed straight for the tasting room.
I had never heard of “pineau” wine before, but after trying it, I was a fan. It’s similar in taste to Italian “vino passito”, however, not in how it is made. Pineau is a sweet, fortified wine and mostly enjoyed as an aperitif.
Our lovely hostess, Sandrine, talked to us about the wines then began pouring, starting with the white, younger pineau: Ambiance, moving to the older Tradition and ending with the darkest, oldest and most full-bodied, Grand Tradition Pineau.
I honestly enjoyed every single bottle (not that I had a bottle of each). Unfortunately, Chateau Guynot pineaus and cognacs are not available for sale in the US. This was extremely sad news, since their wines have won many gold medals and other awards. The good part is you must go to France to taste them!
The pineau kept flowing and we kept tasting. Karen suggested some food pairings with the wines, which sounded wonderful (especially since Jill and I had forgotten to eat lunch)!
After we were finished tasting, Jill bought some wine and we took a little stroll to see the actual chateau, then we were off to Karen and Malcolm’s lovely home, which was nearby.
Jill and I immediately were smitten with Auberge de la Fontaine (Karen and Malcolm’s B & B) in the sleepy village of Montpellier-de-Medillan.
Karen explained that the original house had been extended to accommodate the original owner’s mistress (while his wife lived next door)! She showed us the original work on the exterior of the house which was meant to resemble shells, which it surely did. I discovered that Karen had quince, pear and olive trees, in addition to many other trees, and a lovely garden.
Karen then took us inside and gave us a choice of rooms as they have six bedrooms (which can sleep 10), but after seeing the Versailles Room, we decided we didn’t need to see the next one; it was just lovely!
Karen’s entire house was so tastefully decorated and welcoming. Her personality came through in her delightfully cheerful and cosy home: from the hats in the hallway to the caddy in the kitchen, her quaint and old-world knick-knacks all added to the charm!
It took us no time to don our aprons and get into Karen’s fabulous kitchen for our first cooking lesson. While Karen worked on the main dish, a wonderful pork and apple recipe which included a lovely bit of Calvados, Jill and I were instructed on how to make an appetizer each.
Jill made Karen’s Marinated English Goat’s Cheese with Garlic, Stem Ginger and Herbs, while I worked on putting the Bresaola, Arugula and Parmesan Appetizers together. Both recipes couldn’t have been simpler, but they tasted wonderful.
Jill stepped out to pick fresh herbs from Karen’s incredible garden, just outside her kitchen door.
Bresaola, Arugula and Parmesan Cheese Appetizers
recipe by Karen Burns Booth
- sliced bresaola
- parmesan cheese, shaved
- extra virgin olive oil
Jill’s appetizer turned out to be absolutely show-stopping! It looked so impressive, but Jill whipped it up in minutes! Couldn’t this just be the cover of a food magazine?
Karen’s pork came out of the oven smelling heavenly! She let it rest and mixed up a little sauce in the pan. She also cooked some green beans with lovage, and some lovely French potatoes to go with the pork.
Everything was ready and the plan was to eat outside, but Mother Nature had a different idea. I just took this photo and it began to rain! Doesn’t it look incredibly delicious? I can assure you–it was!
Karen made us a decadent dessert which included meringues and cream and we ate until we couldn’t take another bite. Everything was so good!
We all went to bed as there was more cooking lessons to be done the next day before Jill and I would have to leave for Paris. And this is what we woke up to–Karen was a wonderful hostess.
Karen gave us some time after breakfast to pack up and get our things together (Jill and I couldn’t believe our time was almost over with Karen; we were having so much fun)! Then, it was back into the kitchen to make a traditional bread from the Provence area called “fougasse” and a Cherry Tomato Clafoutis. Karen showed us the ropes.
Fougasse has a particular shape and has cuts throughout. It’s rather like a French focaccia. Karen had Jill and me choose from different cheeses and herbs, plus lardons to sprinkle generously over the top.
While the fougasse was baking, Karen showed us how to make her Cherry Tomato Clafoutis. It too, was quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. She made it with tomatoes from her garden. Look at these~
Now it was time for the clafoutis to go into the oven, and while it was baking, Karen pulled together a cheese plate. Are you hungry yet?
Once the clafoutis came out of the oven, it was time to eat. It turned out beautifully.
Karen’s food photography is what initially led me to her site. Her food styling is top notch, and this is also something she teaches during her classes. Here are two examples of her work.
Jill and I picked up some tips from Karen, and loved the fact that we were shooting photos on her famous wooden table. After our clafoutis picture taking session, we had a lovely lunch together, our reward for our efforts in the kitchen. How can anyone not love to cook? It’s just so much fun!
Jill and I also learned that Karen has her own “cooking idol”, my friend, Lotte Duncan!
We realized that we were running a bit late to go to the station, but had to get a shot of our three lovely birthstone bangles that were sent to us from one of my favorite companies, Alex and Ani. We now have a reminder of our wonderful time together in France.
Malcolm was a star and got us to the station with a few minutes to spare before the train arrived. I even managed to snap a beautiful shot of the sky and part of a sunflower field as we went zipping past.
We had just enough time to say our goodbyes and thank both Karen and Malcolm for the most brilliant and enjoyable stay before hopping on our train to Paris!
If you’d like to visit Auberge de la Fontaine and attend Karen’s wonderful cooking classes, you can contact her on her site. She has yet to update it with details regarding the cooking school, but pop her a message and she’ll give you all the information you’ll need.
You can also read Jill’s post and see her photos on her site, Mad About Macarons.
Chateau Guynot for Pineau and Cognac in France
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Disclosure: Karen invited me as a friend to stay with her, and there were no discussions regarding promotion of her cooking classes or B & B. I simply want to share my experience so that others may learn about what she has to offer. I was not compensated in anyway. I received three Alex and Ani bangles, but was not required to post anything in exchange. I used my bangle to take photos throughout Europe to share on social media. I am disclosing these statements in accordance with FTC regulations.