This weekend was spent in Vermont, the place I love the most, cherish and call home despite the contradicting reality of the rental property my name is on does indeed reside in Brooklyn, NY. Someday Vermont will once again be my full time home, but for now it will just have to do as my weekend elopement from the city.
As the train proceeds along the Hudson, closer and closer to where this rental agreement is located, I am reflecting on the lovely time we had in Vermont. The Green Mountains are well known for their winter time splendor.A place where many city folk flock in hopes of a quintessential winter wonderland, filled with skis and ski boots, snowshoes and wool hats. Although winter is spectacular and for a very long time has been my favorite season, the summer in Vermont is just as enchanting. Rivers and lakes alike beg you to dip your toe,and a slower, more thoughtful life expands your horizons and suddenly an afternoon spent by the lake becomes all your heart desires (of course great company truly is the key,but this can be done alone too!)
Our dear friends invited us to their lakefront property for an afternoon of snacks and drinks. I rolled over yesterday morning asking… what is the best dessert to accompany snacks by the lake? There really isn’t a wrong answer, however my matter of fact mountain man spewed, “lemon meringue or key lime pie” as if he had anticipated the question coming from my mouth long before the question evolved. Smart, and matter o’ fact.
So key lime pie it was. And the only reason necessary was that he suggested and I don’t usually get suggestions so I wanted to reward such good behavior. That and key lime pie is dreadfully easy! I am alarmed how cost effective it is and how delicious. So here is my painless recipe:
Ingredients: -3 cans of sweetened condensed milk -¾ cup fresh squeezed lime juice -2 tbsp of fresh lime zest -1 cup of sour cream -2 sleeves of graham crackers -1.5 sticks of butter (melted) -¼ cup of granulated sugar
crush the graham crackers (by hand is fine) & add in the melted butter & sugar
Pack the slightly sandy mix into the pie tin firmly & place in the freezer
In a bowl mix together the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and lime juice stirring in 1 tablespoon of lime zest until all ingredients are combined
After the graham crust has frozen a bit, pour in the key-lime mixture
Bake @ 350 for 5-8 minutes, until the pie jiggles only a little when shaken. Put in the freezer for 30 or the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Enjoy with some homemade whipped cream and more key lime zest to garnish
(This makes 2 pies for shallow pie dishes or one pie for a deep pie dish)
(Please read the previous post- Manger Workshop- Remembering a Beginning to understand this one fully)
The Summer abundance workshop seems to be quite a hit, I have learned that this one is and has been the quick fill out of all the workshops for Mimi & Oddur Thorisson.
Our ‘Playing Restauranteur’ workshop was special, a new workshop but not a new concept. If you have followed Mimi’s blog or maybe read her cookbooks cover to cover you may know that her family presented the town of Medoc with a “Pop- up” a few years ago. They opened the many rooms of their home and transformed it to the ultimate French Bistro experience. Suddenly we were in the big leagues.
Oddur and Mimi separated us into two groups halfway through the second day, Team Lunch vs. Team Dinner. We then brainstormed what we would be presenting, how we would be presenting it, and which lovely sequence of rooms would we covet as our ‘French Bistro’. I was Team lunch. So I will focus on the epic course of events we took to make sure our meal was special, after all we were nearing the end of our great Mimi expedition. It needed to be epic, St. Yzans Style.
The lunch went like this…
We wanted a uniform… but that’s tres dificil to coordinate when traveling as strangers. So we fashioned ourselves in Oddur Couture as I like to put it. Soon he flew down the stairs with 6 chambray denim shirts. We looked Magnifique. It sold our unity!
First we served oysters and Champagne in the garden to get the pallet moving
We had the most appropriate music setting the mood of our French Bistrot. I used the Manger Workshop Playlist you can find on Spotify (It has become a close friend and first thing I turn to when prepping my meals)
We then brought our guests into the Green Room, a room where we had not yet dined for the workshop.
Roberta, a graduate of the International Butler Academy in Holland taught us how to serve, how to approach our guests, how to set the table. Serve left, clear right. Under her tutelage we turned our French Bistro Lunch into an extraordinary experience with seasoned staff.
Cool gazpacho took the helb as we sailed into the afternoon. Refreshing and lovely it truly took the summer solstice lunch to the next level, reminding us all just how much we missed tomatoes.
Next course was Asparagus a La Bismark… a favourite of Lady Bismark
Soon to follow was our Quaile stuffed with Foi gras. Served atop the wild asparagus.
Our desert was Crème Caramel, with the crunchy caramelized top we truly blew away our guests. Lastly we brought out Espresso with an extra piece of caramel candy to close the lunch.
We wobbled out to our guests once the espresso had been served. Mimi devoted an entire section of her latest book to ‘staff meals’ and although our staff meal was a bit more extravagant than they typically are (i.e., we feasted just as much as our guests did… wine pairings and all, immediately after each course was served). We grew just as most groups would, closer together laughing at the silly mess ups and enjoying each moment for what it was. We all agreed we would absolutely do it again. This was the first ‘playing restaurateur’ workshop, and if they present another, I advise you take it! It means more cooking time with Mimi & Oddur, more jokes and games. More secrets disclosed of the home, more moments to learn from.
Now this post has become quite long, as one usually does when chatting about St.Yzans Style and all things Mimi Thorisson. I came to Medoc as a fan and left with many friends. The Voyage to Mimi was well worth every minute of travel, every dollar saved, and every indulgence taken. Cheers Dear Reader, I hope you are inspired to bring a little Mimi into your life.
There isnt much else to say following the first post. One can go on and on about such lovely times but I feel strongly that less is more. Afterall, I want this amazing family to have more business, I cant give everything away, where would your mind then wander Dear Reader?
These photos capture much of the second day… A garden party & splitting up into teams for the final day in Medoc, our restauranteur challenge. Please read the other two posts regarding my time with the Thorissons & my reflections to get a good feel for the expierience. Now, feast your eyes!
I had the most lovely time. I truly wish everyone I love gets to expierience something of this excitement. Heart is so full!
Ahh yes, I will try my best by remembering a beginning.
It’s beautiful arriving upon a moment that you have been looking forward to for so long. The experience feels slightly just slightly out of body. I have been awaiting this experience for a few years, reading every post, and every page that Mimi has shared with the world of food. As each moment pulled me closer to the workshop, I plowed through obstacles, small ones, but obstacles nonetheless that challenge one whilst traveling alone (maybe they happen just as often while with someone, but having the crutch of a companion makes the obstacles seem smaller, more mundane). I think I might cover my thoughts on that topic once I get finished with this one.
I arrived at the Chateau le Ormes de Pres with a happy excitement, driving around the little village 100 times attempting to find the entrance. It’s amazing how well you know a place once you leave, laughing at the moments of complete ignorance that plagued the beginning of your trip.
That night I gave myself a tour of Saint Estephe. If I’m being honest, I was trying to find a place to eat, as well as keep myself busy until night fell. It stays light quite late in Europe. I was puzzled. The area looked abandoned. Moving from one village to the next I was perplexed to find NOTHING. No store of any type, modern conveniences aside. A few locals here and there (even more perplexing, was where did these few people eat! What did they do! How did they survive? Who were they?!) I found more tractors than people.
My fellow workshop attendee, Roberta (and soon to be fast best friend) hopped in the Peugot and got moving, over the hills and around the bends to St. Yzans De Medoc, Mimi’s village. It looks a bit like the others; a church with an impressive steeple, small roads, and stone homes built closely, one abandoned chateau after another. But Mimi’s home is glorious. the smooth fox terriers greet you with anticipation, and you realize there is life to this village after all.
Walking into her home… through what looks like a side door, you land in the La Boucherie. Instead of the traditional boucherie (butcher room) where meat is the main attraction, this one houses heaps and heaps of vegetables. Mimi’s husband Oddur, mentioned on our last day that they surround themselves with an abundance of produce for two reasons, 1) we fuel ourselves with it, we do it for us first, our family and 2) it creates moments that represent our family, when a photographer or journalist pops by we are never scrambling, this is our life and this is what it always looks like (I’m paraphrasing obviously).
The many photos that represent their family & lifestyle through the years are the raw truth. This family is just as fantastic as your wildest dreams imagined it to be. Soon you walk into the “Big Harvest room,” then the “Green Dining Room” and then to where the heart beats – her kitchen. Each room is adorned with copper pots; antique this and that, hardwood floors meet tile. Your eyes don’t stop moving, there are moments where you feel small and there are moments where you feel like you’ve left the century you came from. The home is bigger than you think, and I mean that in many ways, she holds history and that beauty exposes itself in every corner.
This world they live in is a fairytale. Oddur said it simply, they want to be together as much as possible, and live that way. So they do, and they do everything they can to hold on to this lifestyle.
I soon found myself falling a little in love with this life. The home being wedged between vineyards and abandoned chateaus begins to feel more charming than inconvenient.
So for those of you who are thinking about attending this workshop, I recommend you hop on the opportunity. Of course there is no end date in site but this beautiful family has to live! And I’m sure there will be less and less workshops as the years progress, their adventures are growing as I type. But for now…snatch it up while you can, the experience is that of a fairytale.
Some folks wrote to me asking if the trip was worth it. As I said, this trip exceeded my wildest dreams. The drive to Medoc, the adventure of traveling alone in Europe, renting a car and navigating the vineyards with little to no service was all worth it. However, the workshop itself was magic. Mimi says to make this home yours, relax and enjoy yourself over the next three days. Once you do just that, the workshop transports you, it pauses time. The simple techniques you glean from Mimi as she glides around the kitchen, you could not possibly put a price on. The quality of produce and drink make you amp up your standards for your own kitchen, brainstorming how you can replicate in your everyday usual before you even leave Medoc.
You don’t drink? No problem, there is no pressure to consume any alcohol, cooking with drink, now that’s a must! If you do love wine, Oddur will be sure to help keep your glass full with the most delectable bottles. Mimi herself prefers not to have a glass until the evening, so if you are at all worried I guarantee the pressure is off! The cooking alone is intoxicating and smiles never ever left my face. I go back to those three days often in the short time since I’ve left, truly a Red Letter triage of days.