Every now and then I receive a wonderful email that makes my heart skip a beat. Over the past month, three of them came my way - and one of them involves you!
The first one occurred as a result of an online search. Scott and I were in the midst of planning a trip to Provence, and I was looking for an interesting culinary adventure we could include in our itinerary. I scoured various sites that offered cooking classes in Provence, but nothing really piqued my interest.
Then, duh... I remembered Barbara Schurenberg, a blogging friend I've known for years. Well, let me clarify, when I say "known", I hadn't ever actually met Barbara in person, but rather, we've known each other virtually (via the blogosphere). Barbara blogs from Provence and I've always thought that her little corner of France had to be one of the most charming places on earth. I also recalled that Barbara has a cooking school she runs out of her home, so I decided to look into it a bit more.
When I googled "Cuisine de Provence"(the name of Barbara's school), the first thing I ran into was the Trip Advisor website; fifty-three 5-star reviews, wow! Everyone seemed to love, not only the culinary classes, but Barbara and her husband, Robert. I also learned that "Cuisine de Provence" is recommended by Rick Steves in his famous travel book, Provence and the French Riviera. An endorsement from Rick Steves and all the positive reviews on Trip Advisor clued me in that, an experience with Barbara would be a winner!
I quickly sent out an email inquiring if she would consider doing a class for us, and hoped her schedule would be open. It wasn't long before I saw a return correspondence from Cuisine de Provence. Barbara wrote back explaining that, though she generally concluded her classes each year at the end of October, she would be happy to do a class for Scott and I in November. Woohoo!
The second exciting email came just a week before we left on our trip. KitchenAid allowed Barbara and I to try out their new Magnetic Drive Torrent Blender, in conjunction with our class. When I wrote Barbara to let her know, she was thrilled. I love how she described KitchenAid's reputation in France. "KitchenAid is known around here as the "Mercedes" of kitchen gadgets, the very best that is." That's exactly the way I think about KitchenAid, so Barbara and I are definitely on the same page!
I'll save the third exciting email for the end of this post (It has to do with you, so be sure to keep reading!) but first, I want to share a bit of our delightful day with Barbara at Cuisine de Provence.
Scott and I were up early the morning of our class. It was a two hour drive to Barbara's home in Vaison la Romaine from Apt, where we had rented an apartment for the week. With the help of my trusty iPhone, we navigated our way through the heart of Provence to our destination. On arrival, we were greeted warmly by Barbara. How fun it is to actually meet someone you've "known" virtually for years! I sensed a kindred spirit immediately and, within a short time, felt we had been real life friends for a long time.
After introducing us to her husband Robert, Barbara handed us aprons and a packet with five recipes she had planned for our class. First on the list was a classic Provencal Tapanade Noire (a recipe she was able to procure from a 5-star restaurant in her area and one I'll be sharing in a future post). The other recipes included Mini Onion and Goat Cheese Tarte Tatins, Veloute de Butternut, Seiches a la Nicoise, and a quintessential French dessert, Raspberry Clafoutis.
The exciting box from KitchenAid had arrived the day prior to our arrival and it was fun to see it in a place of honor in the Cuisine de Provence kitchen. Wow, what a sleek, gorgeous and well thought out machine!
We played with it for a while, getting familiar with how it works, and then got busy cooking in the charming Cuisine de Provence kitchen.
Throughout the morning, Barbara shared cooking tips, as well as lots of information on French culinary techniques and local ingredients.
We picked herbs from her garden to make homemade Herbes de Provence!
And learned about harvesting olives and pressing olive oil in Provence. .
Barbara pointed out wild thyme and rosemary poking right out of the stone wall bordering one side of her property.
It was a wonderful morning and the new blender was a huge hit. We used it for the Veloute de Butternut (roasted butternut squash soup) as well as the batter for the Raspberry Clafoutis. It works effortlessly and clean-up is super easy.
The Magnetic Drive Torrent Blender is an amazing machine with a two horsepower motor, preset programs, and the ability to sense the contents in order to maintain an optimal speed to blend the ingredients. For example, if you're making a smoothie, the blender will start slowly as it chops up delicate soft fruit, like strawberries, then speed up for a couple of seconds. It switches off when it’s finished and beeps to let you know it's done.
For our soup, we just added the roasted ingredients, pushed the button and the blender did it's thing! When the the soup was perfectly pureed, the blender turned itself off. Talk about service with a smile - but we were the ones smiling!
After a fun morning of cooking, Barbara prepared a lovely table on their sunny outdoor patio. Shortly after we sat down to enjoy the wonderful lunch, her husband, Robert took a taste of the butternut soup. "It's different!", he said, without hesitation. "No, it's the same recipe.", was Barbara's reply. "This soup is like silk.", retorted Robert. "Ah ha, then it's the blender!", Barbara responded with a smile.
If you ever have the opportunity to travel to southern France, be sure to contact Barbara and arrange a day at Cuisine de Provence. Her classes fill up quickly, so sign up as early as possible. Spending time in Barbara's beautiful home is a wonderful way to get a glimpse life in France, and the recipes you'll take home with you will help to recreate your stay in Provence long after your trip is over. The experience includes a three or four course lunch with Provencal wine and the lovely company of Barbara and Robert.
Ready for the good news? The third email I received was from the wonderful folks at KitchenAid USA with an offer for a giveaway. Yup, the amazing Magnetic Drive Torrent Blender for one fortunate Café reader!
How do you enter the drawing for the KitchenAid Magnetic Drive Torrent™ Blender? Super simple – you have three different entry options (or you can enter three times by choosing all of the options). You can:
- Follow The Café on Pinterest and let us know in a comment below.
- Subscribe to The Café email list and let us know in a comment below.
- Pop over to the KitchenAid USA website and check out the Magnetic Drive Torrent™ Blender. Then come back and leave a comment on our blog below letting us know which of the three colors you would choose for your kitchen.
In order for your entries to be counted, be sure you go through the Rafflecopter box below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
P. S. We're back in London now with family, but we'll be sharing one more Provence post before we close the book on our fall trip to France - our Home Away From Home in Provence. It will include practical, economical and safety travel tips we've gleaned.
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