Notes from Rabbit Hill | SUNDAY BROCANTES
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“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 
 ~ Virginia Woolf

I sat down to begin this letter over two weeks ago.  I am content to continue it now as things slowly resume to our known but changed 'normal' in France.  Originally it was my intent to write about the Manger Workshop within days of returning so that it was still fresh, but what has surprised me is the enormous impact attending the workshop has made to not only the way that I cook, but also our home life and most significantly big plans that I have for the future ... which you will read about below.

But first, some of you might be asking - "What is a Manger Workshop?" and may not know who the host Mimi Thorisson is .... I learned about Mimi about three years ago when I started reading her food & lifestyle blog 'Manger' ... I invite you to take a look and I am certain that you will be as smitten as I was.  Needless to say, when a friend brought up the idea of attending one of Mimi's workshop in Medoc, in the Bordeaux region -- I jumped on it.  I didn't have a plan on how I could do it, the financial means to do it -- or any clue how I would get there (which turned out to be 3 trains and a taxi -- the first of which I missed and caused a two hour delay...) My point is, and what I hope to inspire -- is just do it! 

You have heard me say this many times.  If you don't take a leap to do something -- you will miss out on the most significant opportunities of your life -- and I truly believe without risk and adventure and living outside of your personal comfort, you may never reach the potential of who you are meant to be.

There it is.  I have said it.... again. 
...  I hope you enjoy this blog-letter dedicated to all things foodie--and the lovely Mimi Thorrison of Manger -- and thank you for taking the time to share a moment of life at Rabbit Hill -- I sincerely love having you come along.
I made it no secret that I didn't love the travel part to get down to Medoc from Normandy.  Although I do love train travel most of the time, I think that I was a tiny bit anxious about the workshop so that made me tense about the train situation with four train stations and switches involved.  Then of course I missed the first train as 'my driver' (a-hem ... who shall remain nameless but is French and lives with me ...) brought me to the wrong station in Paris to start my journey. 

After about 6 hours on the roads and tracks, I arrived finally to meet up with my two friends who came in from the US the week before and check in to the fabulous Chateau Ormes de Pez around 7:30PM and we made it just in time to our dinner reservation at Le Café Lavinal au village de Bages in Pauillac.  The food was delicious and the service was kind and attentive.  I was happy to tuck into bed back at the chateau at the end of this long day full of anticipation for the next two days.

A little snafu was that we weren't exactly told what time we would meet the next day, so we arrived at Mimi's and Oddur's home at 10:30AM.  We all seemed to arrive at the same time (thankfully) and we joined a sweet couple from Sweden and three very lovely gals from Norway, making our group a total of eight.

We donned aprons and began planning what we would cook for lunch and dinner which included endive tartlets and a favorite that I have cooked many times 'Chou Farci' which is cabbage stuffed with pork and meat (from Mimi's cookbook).  We also made a little walnut cake that was simple and delicious.  None of the food was pretentious or intended to be... quite the opposite. For dinner we were planning 'Magret' duck breast from Mimi's book (another frequently cooked favorite in our home) and what made it special was the final step was to 'smoke' the cooked breast over grape vines in an open fireplace.  We had a potimarron 'squash soup' with it and decadent meringues for desert... all of this with wine.  Lots of wine.  Did I mention wine?  Oddur, Mimi's husband, is the wine expert and shared an amazing selection of both reds and whites from Bordeaux.

Continuing with food, the second day's plan included artichoke souffle for lunch and for dinner pigeon with Calvados cream sauce and chicken with cabbage for those who didn't care for pigeon (moi! but I did try it!) and poached pears for desert.  We also had oysters that were cooked with foie-gras and Sauternes ... my mouth waters recollecting these amazing dishes.

The food was outstanding.  Of course it was!  But I have to tell you it was about EVERYTHING during those two days that made the experience such a dream.  I honestly was in 'pinch-me' mode most of the time.  As much as I enjoyed the cooking which Mimi so eloquently demonstrated and executed with a little help from all of us... it was the moments when I sat back and just listened to the conversations and chatter, and laughter ... there were serious discussions about food and wine, markets and sources and techniques but there was also just easy talking... and learning and inspiration.  Oh--and there was that one moment that I gasped (loudly) when Mimi starting talking about stuffing apples with goat-cheese.  Yes, I blew my casual cover-- I gasped and let the giddy show.  But that is how much I loved every minute of the workshop.

Because I know you are curious, a few words about Mimi's home.  It is exactly (or maybe even more) as charming as it is in photos.  Yes, the dogs are there (the fox terriers that Oddur raises). Actually they are sort of everywhere, and lucky that they are as well behaved as they are cute.

Every room, and there are three 'dining rooms' and two kitchens on the main floor, is styled -- but not styled.  It is clear when you are in their home that they live this way, because having beautiful abundance and simplicity IS their style and their lifestyle.  Tables overflow with seasonal vegetables, shelves look like epiceries, side tables display vintage bottles of whiskey and cognac ...

It is the kind of home that I truly believe is always full; full of people, warmth, good food, chatter... children's voices and the occasional barking terrier.  (Perhaps not just occasional).  I am betting that outside of workshops, and dinner pop-ups... locals pop-in or distant friends arrive filling the house even more.

I am not sure if you can tell, but it's hard to wrap this post up. Would you believe that weeks later I still think about it?  I came home so inspired to do so many things and we joke that the workshop was even more expensive than just the tuition and travel alone as it has caused me to want to finally replace my beloved classic Kitchen Aid mixer that I had to sell when we moved to France, consider a bigger dining table (or two!) and visit our local quincaillerie to buy pots and molds and cookware....

But even more than that -- it was the final push to do something I have been dreaming about and planning... and dreaming about ... and planning some more.

I hope you read on to see what it is ...

But first, just in case they read this -- a deep and heart & soul-felt MERCI to Mimi (and Oddur -- bien sur!) for opening their home and sharing their passions for a few days.  I feel a little emotional as I write that -- because truly, it was a huge gift to me and to those that are able to have the experience that they so generously provide.

Announcing -- Cooking at Rabbit Hill! ... Foodie Workshops 2016

I can't tell you exactly when I started dreaming about doing cooking and lifestyle workshops.  For the past five years we have been hosting local tours with the emphasis of vintage and antique shopping.  We have worked with professionals in the trade as well as groups of participants; bloggers, shop owners and those who just love vintage and touring Normandy and in some of the tours we included a visit, lunch or aperitif at Rabbit Hill.  For me, and also I believe for the participants -- it was a highlight of our time with them.

You might already know that I am a passionate foodie, who loves going to the local markets and shops to find inspiration to feed the people that I love.  Since moving to France I have become enamored with the local produce markets, the epiceries and the fresh vendors that we have access to on a daily basis.  I have also come to know and love the French philosophy of buying fresh foods with the intention of immediate use rather than buying huge quantities of food to stock-pile in the pantry or fridge.

My vision for the workshops has always been to share the authentic French country cooking, lifestyle and traditions and not only that, but to teach and share in a way that inspires partipants to learn these essential elements of the French life and to transfer and apply these ideas within their own homes.

A workshop might begin with a visit to a local produce and goods market where we will browse and select ingredients for a traditional relaxed French lunch at Rabbit Hill.  We can chat about ideas and plan the menu together.  After lunch we might visit my favorite epicerie and kitchen wares shop or you are free to explore our town or nearby villages.  We will resume cooking in the early evening and begin dinner with a casual wine-tasting.

On the following day or days, in addition, we might go to a local brocante or flea market to search for culinary inspired vintage items and antiques; linens, table settings, bistro porcelain and ironstone, flatware ...

Each workshop will be unique in it's own way and definitely defined by the season.  I will be offering two-day weekend workshops throughout the year beginning in February of 2016 and also offering four-day workshops for larger groups in the summer and fall.

I am so very excited to be planning Rabbit Hill 'Foodie Workshops'!

Dates will be released soon along with reservation information, etc.  I hope you can add a workshop at Rabbit Hill to your 2016 calendar

To 'mes amis Americains'  a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING'  to you and yours ...

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing in life at Rabbit Hill.  I probably do not express often enough how much I enjoy the friendships and connections that I am able to make while doing what I love and living in a place that I am passionate about.

I feel like there is so much around the corner ... new projects and aspirations to share.  I realize that none of it is possible without the amazing people I have in my life....

I thank YOU for your support which comes in the form of a note or message, a comment or a 'thumbs-up' ... I am grateful.

M  E R C I.
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