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Posts tagged ‘France’

Support Lupiac, the Birthplace of D’Artagnan

Lupiac is home to a new equestrian statue of our hero D’Artagnan. Help this little town in Southwest France raise enough money to beautify their central square where the statue resides.

Click through to the campaign and scroll past the French for the English language version … and then contribute to this good cause. Your tax deductible donation will help Mayor Veronique Thieux turn an asphalt square into a beautiful gathering place, and a fitting home for the statue.Capture

Where is Lupiac?

Lupiac is a small town of only about 300 people in the Gers department of Southwest France, just a few miles down the road from Auch, Ariane’s hometown and the capital of Gascony.

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Lupiac is best known as the birthplace of the real life D’Artagnan. Charles de Batz de Castelmore, lord of La Plagne, count d’Artagnan, was born about 1613 and left Lupiac when he was only 17 to join the king’s army: the musketeers. He was an inspiration to Alexandre Dumas, who included him in his famous tale The Three Musketeers, which is probably why the whole world knows his name all these years later.

Ariane, Father, D'Artagnan Statue

Ariane and Andre Daguin with the statue of D’Artagnan in Auch, France.

The Legacy of D’Artagnan

D’Artagnan continues to be an inspiration to those from his region, including Ariane. In 1985 she named her company after him, hoping to impart some of the brashness, bravery and panache that D’Artagnan embodied. And it meant she could always wear a plume in her hat.

As an example of the devotion shown to our hero, Lupiac comes alive each August with a D’Artagnan festival. Hundreds of costumed people recreate a fair as it would have been during D’Artagnan’s era, with swordplay, horses, music and craftsmen.

Learn more about Lupiac and plan your visit to one of the loveliest corners of France.

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Link to the crowdfunding campaign here, and give whatever you can. By contributing you become part of the legacy and history of D’Artagnan. All for one, and one for all! Tous pour un, un pour tous! 

It’s Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day! Bonne fête! Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! 

What is the holiday all about? It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14 during the bloody revolution of 1789 – the one where all the aristocrats lost their heads.

Get the history here – and see how the French celebrate their day of independence.

At D’Artagnan, Bastille Day means pétanque, Pastis and lamb merguez sausage. Read on to see how Ariane celebrates Bastille Day.

A French classic: lamb merguez sausage dressed with mustard

A French classic: lamb merguez sausage dressed with mustard

Read more

Is Your Olive Oil the Real Thing?

You may have read about the olive oil scandals in recent years.  If not, you better sit down.

Even if labeled so, EVOO is not always extra virgin, and sometimes it’s not even olive oil. Adulterated with cheap canola or sunflower oil, many of the widely-available brands are simply not the real thing. And worse, the criminal world has gotten involved in the olive oil business, which was reported by CBS News 60 Minutes.

Tom Mueller wrote a whole book on the subject, in which he reveals that 70% of extra virgin olive oil sold is not what it claims to be. Authentic EVOO takes a lot of time, labor and money to make properly, and it’s quicker, cheaper and easier to fake it. His website has fascinating information about olive oil, if you want to learn more. 

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How to tell if your olive oil is the real deal:

Even experts can have a hard time discerning the difference. But here are a few things you can check.

Is your olive oil in a clear glass bottle?

Not a good sign. When exposed to light and heat, olive oil degrades fast. Look for dark glass bottles which protect the olive oil from going rancid.

Is your olive oil from a small producer or a massive conglomerate?

Small producers are a better choice when seeking quality olive oil, but they are harder to find, and you will pay more.

Does your olive oil have an expiration date?

Olive oil should be consumed within two years of bottling for best flavor and quality. Olive oil is a lipid, and can go rancid.

Does your olive oil solidify at cold temperatures?

Put your EVOO in the refrigerator and see if it becomes thick and cloudy. If not, then you have a fake.

Will your olive oil burn?

EVOO should be flammable enough to keep an oil lamp burning. Although this and the fridge test are not foolproof, they are good indicators of authenticity.

Know your maker

And one of the best ways to know that your EVOO is real is to source from a small grower and mill that you know –  like we do with our Reserve Jean Reno olive oil. It is made in the Maussane-les-Alpilles region of Provence in France, which is historically known for olive oil. It’s also right in Jean’s backyard.

Jean Reno signs bottles of his olive oil in Ariane's office.

Jean Reno signs bottles of his olive oil in Ariane’s office.

Check the Chicago Tribune article on how to buy olive oil, in which Chef Carrie Nahabedian, of Naha and Brindille restaurants in Chicago, recommends our Reserve Jean Reno Olive Oil. Thanks for the shout out, Chef Carrie!

Did you know? There are over 700 different types of olives that make thousands of types of oils around the world! Look for what types of olives are used in your favorite oils. Get to know their flavor notes, and pair oils with food. Think of them as you would grape varietals of your favorite wines.

Shop dartagnan.com – the only place in the United State to purchase Jean Reno’s favorite olive oils.

Taste of France

For those who attended Taste of France in Bryant Park last weekend, you already know what a blast the event was. Any of you who missed it should join us next year!

This short video interview with Ariane posted at The Daily Meal gives a good overview of the event, as does our highlights album below (full album can be seen on our Facebook page).  Vive la France!

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Second Annual Taste of France in NYC

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The world’s largest event dedicated to France will be taking place at Bryant Park in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 28 – Sunday, Sept. 29. Of course D’Artagnan will be there serving food and working with the cadre of chefs involved.

There will be food, wine, music, fashion, chef demos, literary figures, a French bulldog contest, fun for the kids, prizes and much, much more…we hope to see you there!

Learn about Taste of France here and visit the Facebook page for details about specific events. Follow the Twitter hashtag #TasteofFrance.

Taste of France at NASDAQ

Ariane and others involved in Taste of France rang the opening bell at NASDAQ on 9/19. Click photo to watch the video.

Summer in Gascony with Ariane

A message from Ariane–

It is always a joy to return to my country – Gascony—for any length of time. This summer, I spent 3 weeks there with my family and friends. We rented a rambling old farm house with a swimming pool and we relaxed into the pace of South West France. Which can actually be pretty brisk!

Summer is dedicated to food and music festivals in Gascony, so there was plenty to do.  There is the Tempo Latino festival in Vic-Fezensac and the Jazz Festival in Marciac, where Wynton Marsalis always appears. We went to Cuivr’enfoliz, a brass band music festival in Fleurance, which featured 12 brass bands, including some all-girl bands.

Not far from there is the lovely town of Barran, a bastide, or medieval fortified village. If you are lucky enough to visit Barran, you can’t miss the famous church, the 13th century Collégiale Saint Jean-Baptiste. Its spire is helical, or spiraled. In the middle ages, artisans learned their trade by apprenticing with masters and then proved their skill by producing a masterpiece of their own. This church is one of those masterpieces—and a real challenge of symmetry.

Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Armagnac. Maybe it’s a bit chauvinistic, but I truly love the fiery intensity. And, no, Cognac is not the same –I won’t drink it!  And in a region known for Armagnac, the ancient city of Éauze is the capital of Armagnac. So, after a day of visiting my good friends Armagnac makers at Domaine de Lagajan, then saying Hello to the Grassa family at Tariquet, we gathered for dinner at a long table under the ivy awning for a well needed solid ration. After the late dinner, we sat at “the loft,” in the middle of the main square to sip more Armagnacs. Their outside cart alone stocks 53 varieties.  A “normal” tasting is about 6, but we had to try 14 types, could not decide which ones were better than the others, and have no idea how we got home.

At Domaine Lagajan, under the direction of George, the father, the whole family makes Armagnac the old way, with a continuous still over a wood fire that must be tended for the entire week that it takes to distill pure spirits. The fire under the beautiful copper alambic is a convenient place for the workers to make their lunch while they babysit.

A hallmark of Armagnac production is la part de anges, or the angel’s share, which is the percentage of alcohol that evaporates from the casks, every year. These vapors create a black fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis ) that you’ll see thriving on the alcohol fumes on the walls of the distillery and aging rooms. One can see it on the outside of the building, which is a telltale sign that some Armagnac casks are aging inside.

George accumulated, over the years, a huge collection dedicated to the old ways—farm equipment from the Middle Ages and other instruments we have forgotten how to use. I liked the painting of D’Artagnan at the entrance, hanging above a few swords and a plumed hat.

At Vic-Fezensac, where Tempo Latino is held, we encountered a flock of geese outside the tourism office. We thought they were looking for Youri Buenaventura, who was performing that evening, until we saw the gooseherd with his dog. On their way to the foie gras market, maybe?

Farming is an important part of life in Gascony, but raising bulls for bullfights is pretty unique. Jean-Louis Darré, a man whose entire life and passion is about breeding these fierce animals, invited us to look at them up close, in his ranch near Mirande. The bulls were magnificent to see… from a distance. We couldn’t get too close. Though, apparently when they are in a group, the bulls remain calm, we took no chances.

We also became friendly with a neighbor near the vacation home in Marambat who raises bees. He has 12 hives and how he removes the honey is amazing! It is a little bit stressing but totally amazing to be surrounded by bees with their gentle buzzing, and the smell of the summer fields and fresh country air. He tends to his 3 organic potagers, (kitchen gardens), one of which is regularly stomped by a family of wild boar, and about 2 dozen hens. Like most people in Gascony, surviving and even striving on his own food production is just a way of life.2013-07-22 12.23.54 YES

Ah, the food. It’s all fresh, locally grown on family farms, and every time you eat, you are experiencing the honest flavors of the land. The only time you rely on “foreign” ingredients, is to take inspiration from neighboring Spain, like the day we made a huge paella outdoors, with incredible seafood: langoustines and mussels, and chicken, rice and plenty of chicken stock.

For outdoor grilling, we used the bottom of an old wine press and made pork ribs the country way. The marinade was piment d’Espelette, olive oil, wild oregano we picked ourselves on the roadside and fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. No BBQ sauce needed!

When I go home I am reminded of the importance of food raised the right way. Growing up in a place dedicated to food – from the hotel kitchen of my father to the surrounding farms and vineyards—taught me so much. Here in my adopted home, I try to bring that sensibility about food to my American friends.  Spending time in Gascony reminds me of this mission and inspires me.

It is a region of France less traveled than others, and it is raw and beautiful, full of character and wonder. If you can, go to Gascony. You will see a side of France you might not expect, and you will eat well, I promise.

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Armchair Traveler: Gascony

We love Michael Ruhlman’s writing, whether it’s in a cookbook, his blog or even twitter. But this article in the July issue of Conde Nast Traveler about his culinary pilgrimage to Gascony is enough to make the stomach rumble. It’s possible that we are a little biased; Ariane is quoted in the article, and of course, she is Gascon to the bone.

Settle in and give Michael your undivided attention for a little while. You will be rewarded with an appreciation for Gascony; the people, the beauty of the countryside, the way that agriculture and food are intertwined, and the intense devotion to eating, drinking and living well.

Plus, you will get a sense of the ethos that built D’Artagnan, as Ariane has worked for 28 years to bring these sensibilities to the culinary scene in the United States.

Breakfast at the Kitchen at Camont. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

You may want to pour yourself a glass of wine (or Armagnac) to sip while you find out why ancient Gascony is France’s new foodie destination. And then book your trip. It’s that inspiring.

The rolling hills of Gascony, France. Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler