While I love the pace of a vibrant city like Paris, I’m a New England girl at heart. As such, there’s nothing like a big green vista or a vast ocean to make me feel at home.
On my latest trip abroad – which started off with a bang last week at the lovely Chateau de Raissac (more to come on that later) – I’m scheming up several more excursions beyond the fairest city to see the landscapes of Normandy and explore the farms and vineyards of Provence. While bopping across the country, I’m hoping to make a short jaunt to visit a new virtual friend, Kate. We met on Twitter, but I already feel like we’re best friends.
This lovely lady is also American but, unlike me, she’s not the forever-tourist longing to feel at home abroad. Kate Hill is completely at home on a gorgeous 18th-century, 2-acre farm in Gascony, a region about four hours by train from Paris that she calls “the kitchen of France,” due to its long growing season, ripe land and access to loads of water.
And what is Gascony specifically known for? Oh, just true farm-to-table cooking! You know farm-to-table; it’s the food movement that was way famous over in the European countryside for a few millenia before we Americans decided it was chic a few years ago.
Seriously: Gascony is legendary for pillars of French cuisine like ripe produce, fresh herbs, foie gras, truffles, wine, and the regional delight known as Armagnac.
And Kate should know. She’s a farmer, cookbook author, professional cook, photographer and teacher who liaises with local butchers, bakers and Armagnac-makers in an effort to highlight only the best for her clients. She’s been published in top tier publications like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and The New York Times. She’s also a real sweetheart.
Are you (like me) looking for a total immersion? I’m hoping to visit Kate for a tiny lunch feast, but my real dream is to spend up to a week (or three) with her learning true Gascon cookery. In a 5-day program alone, I’d learn about the art of butchery and charcuterie, preparing cassoulet and coq au vin and baking traditional baguettes.
Are you looking for an overnight trip from Paris? If you only have a day or weekend, Kate can customize a program just for your group, which will include visiting the best local purveyors (also known as “her friends”) and cooking up a feast together from your finds. Afterward, retreat to your farm-style room to sleep it off and re-energize (for a good night’s sleep and energy) for more eating the next day. You’ll leave with a true understanding of how it all works – from growing, to shopping, to cooking.
Are you a professional or budding food blogger, stylist or photographer? Then put her Natural Light, Natural Food weekend class on your wish list. It’s also on my list, perhaps for a big birthday some year soon. (Yes, my wish list is damn long. My poor, poor husband, eh?)
Whichever class you opt for, you’ll be in good company, as Kate has hosted top food stylists, budding cheese makers and even top cookbook publishers. She’s totally the real deal.
Kate can be reached online at her website, via email at [email protected] or via phone at (33) 05 53 47 56 29. Mention Maggie when you reach out, as she’d be so tickled to know her Twitter buddy sent you.