Saturday, February 27, 2010
Back on our first tour in May, the quintet had our debut lunch together at La Terrasse, in the village of Grezels, a bend of the Lot away from Puy l'Évèque. It was a wonderful and leisurely meal spanning hours, putting us all on notice that this was not going to be a typical jazz gig.
The husband and wife owners of La Terrasse are also its only employees. You don't order off a menu. Instead, you eat whatever is on for the day: every diner will enjoy the same fare, the same courses, delivered to the table on platters "family style," as we say around here.
For our February return to the Quercy, Gretchen brought us back to La Terrasse. This time we knew what to expect: as soon as the tureen of soup arrived at the table, several folks said in near unison "Oh yeah, remember this?!" And when the soup was nearly finished, a few around the table engaged in the medieval Quercy practice of le chabrol: splashing some wine into our bowls and slurping up every last drop of wine and soup...
As before, we left stuffed. I could have made my entire meal off of just the wonderfully varied cheese course and would've considered myself a lucky man -- but we also had the soup and duck and salad and dessert and lots of Cahors wine, of course.
As we were leaving, I thought to myself "I could REALLY get used to this. Especially if I could buy some looser pants..."
Tom, Fritz, & Gretchen
Grezels in winter
After our May tour last year, I picked up Michael S. Sanders' From Here You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant, at Gretchen's enthusiastic recommendation.
Knowing nothing about the book, I expected something along the lines of a Quercy-centric version of Peter Mayle's Provence books: a diverting light read about the occasionally infuriating but always charming French, their glorious cuisine and their enviable lifestyle.
Sanders' book is nothing like A Year In Provence. Instead, it's a deep and beautifully written account of how a small French town is changing and adjusting, to the degree it can, to modern developments: its young people are abandoning village life and agricultural work, seeking careers in far-away cities instead, while occasionally clueless foreigners are moving in, attracted by a lifestyle their very presence is threatening.
These changes are recounted over the backdrop of one year at La Récréation, an important (and glorious!) restaurant in Les Arques. (I've written a bit about our lunch there, here and here.)
From Here You Can't See Paris covers the history of French village life, offers an unflinching look at how foie gras is made, describes the unexpectedly cutthroat world of the truffle auction, and the occasional tension between natives and ex-pats -- all while detailing the prosaic behind-the-scenes planning and preparation that lead to a magical meal at a French restaurant.
And, with all that, I've barely scratched the surface of what's in the book! I loved the book and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone with an interest in food, restaurants, or French culture...
Sunday, February 21, 2010
When the Blue Lake Faculty Quintet played last May in Figeac, representatives from the Altitude Jazz Festival heard the group and invited us to perform in February 2010 in their home base of Briancon. We were to play the closing concert of the festival, wrapping up a two-week series of performances that included Jerry Bergonzi(!!), Kirk Lightsey, and Uri Caine.
Gretchen used the Altitude gig to anchor a weeklong blitzkrieg of a tour that would begin on familiar turf at the Hotel Henry in Puy l'Evèque and la Balène in Figeac, caravan 10 hours westward up into the French Alps for gigs in the Briancon area, then cross into Italy for a Valentine's Day performance at the beautiful Torino Jazz Club.
We were now touring under the streamlined moniker "Blue Lake Jazz 5" -- streamlined to fit our new promotional poster, above. I took the opportunity for the new poster to use a shot where Matt's head was attached to his actual body (for the summer concert at the camp, I'd grafted his head onto the previous bassist's body, below, for the program. Looked just fine, not creepy at all, unless you knew the hideous secret...), and to replace the dorky shots of me and Steve with less dorky shots.
(Left to right: Not Matt, Matt.)
I REALLY like the Eiffel Tower! (But there's no "deeper meaning" to my interest in it. So leave me alone.)
I didn't modify the colors in the above shot (or any of these shots, for that matter) -- this really is what it looked like on a late May Parisian evening that progressed *gorgeously* from pink to purple to deep blue...