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Foodie Heaven

Georges Blanc: Man, Village or Empire?

It isn’t just a restaurant – it’s an entire gourmet village. Chefs with tall white toques hustle across the narrow streets of Vonnas, a tiny French town famous for one thing only: the empire of world-renowned Chef Georges Blanc. They carry hot trays and fresh produce from one kitchen to another because Chef Blanc has…

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Christiane Brioude, the Chef Who Wouldn’t Quit

When Christiane Brioude was told she was seriously ill and no longer be able to work, she became so angry she started a new restaurant and wrote a cookbook. This may have saved her life. “After generations of restaurateurs in the family, I wasn’t about to quit.” It all started with her great-great-grandmother Adeline, back…

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Lou Pisadou: How Some French Traditions Aren’t Old at All

When I think of French tradition, I usually think of something ancient, quaint, inherited from past generations. But a tradition that only dates back to 1994? Impossible. Yet that’s exactly what happened with Lou Pisadou, a sweet chestnut cake that is now the pride of patissiers all over the Ardèche, that mountainous province of south-central…

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Lake Geneva Fera, or the Fish With No (English) Name

It’s called féra in France and lavaret in Switzerland, which vaguely translates into whitefish. But in English? No idea, so here’s what it looks like. On the French shore (the lake is two-thirds Swiss, one-third French) of Lake Geneva féra, along with perch and trout, are mainstays, providing a livelihood to the 48 professional fishermen who still…

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The Best Bottled Water? Just Ask a Water Taster

I’ve been busy tasting the water equivalent of grand crus (the highest wine classification). I’m not a drinker so I miss out on the perpetual wine tastings my friends enjoy – pouring the liquid gently, swirling it in a glass, checking the film on top, smelling it, examining its clarity and transparency, running it across…

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Blown Away by Bilbao, Spain

Not many years ago Bilbao, Spain was the heartland of the Basque independence movement, a no-go zone where few outsiders dared to venture. ETA, the independence movement, killed hundreds of people in its fight for a Basque homeland and was particularly active under the authoritarian Franco regime. But when Franco died the Basque country was…

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Chef Arzu: A Thoroughly Modern Istambullu Woman

Arzu Gurdamar isn’t just any Istanbul woman. In a traditional and increasingly conservative society she is part of what seems a modern minority: a woman going her own way. And not just any way. After 12 years securing tenders for a shipping company and traveling the world, she left it all and opened her own…

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Istanbul Tours for the Culturally Curious Foodie

Any breakfast that involves cheese, olives and rose jam is worth discussing for a moment, especially if it’s in the middle of a fishing market selling rope by the kilo and wire by weight. In a tiny eatery – the Mutfak Dili ev Yemekleri – deep in the market’s centuries-old streets, an Armenian couple prepares…

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A Taste of Old Madrid

I grew up in Madrid in the 1960s and 70s and then, as now, life often revolved around food. This visit would last just a few hours on a Sunday between flights so I’d have to be quick but I visit Madrid whenever I can. It is a stunning city, but it also represents more…

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