Gisela Lowenstein: Food Travels in Italy and France

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My 2 days in Beaujolais, France have been an unforgettable experience full of culinary and gourmet treats! Having studied the art of cooking for many years, I always dreamt of dining at a three-star Michelin rated restaurant. Although one can find Michelin-rated restaurants around the world, the French experience is one that can’t be replicated.

For me, the lure of the French experience starts from the moment you enter the restaurant. Sitting at the table, I watched as the waiters moved around as though they are professional dancers; every move is performed with poise and grace. From the manor of which the food is placed and arranged on the auxiliary table, lined with silver trays and linen padding to the way the water is poured. The Sommelier does a magnificent job of using his knowledge and trained skills to recommend the perfect wine. He explains that it is essential to have the appropriate wine, otherwise the drink can over power the food and you won’t taste the intended flavors of the artistically perfected meal. We watched in awe as porcelain dishes arrived at the table and the waiters each lifted the silver lids off our plates at the same time in such a choreographed fashion. And in a split second, we are taken aback by the presentation of food that might as well be art. I can’t help but feel guilty for digging in to such a fine creation with my fork. The taste is one I knew I’d never forget but to savor the visual moment, I took a picture before it was gone.  To create such divine delicacies take time for the chefs to prepare. Hours of “mise en place,” a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as “everything in place,” as in set up to perfection.

Finally, my fork destroyed the presentation and a new sensation enters as the taste and flavors bring my senses into a new dimension! In hopes of recreating even the slightest version back home, I try to guess the ingredients and take note. This is a hobby of mine when I travel- to take the new tastes and cultural experiences with me everywhere I go in life, especially home. Although I know the food could never compare, I try my best to come up with my own versions to relive the masterpieces I experience abroad. Some of the dishes I will try to recreate at home are: Vanilla ice cream whipped with aged balsamic vinegar, chocolate mousse with grated ginger, grilled radicchio, risotto with balsamic vinegar and cherry tomatoes coated in caramel.

As I observed the staff’s calculated movements, I realized how they have mastered a system and couldn’t help but think of the product I created as that is based on a method of organization as well. The Glow System was created to make people’s lives easier by applying home organization strategies to one’s life to allow for more time to do what is truly meaningful. Although the restaurant service was diligent and impressive, I find it to also be a bit cold. The next day, when we arrived in Italy, I noticed that the servers exhibited a sense of warmth and energy that may not have been calculated and fine-tuned, but genuine and unique in comparison to anywhere else I have been.

After eating our way through France, the guilt started to settle in and we decided it was time to exercise. We went on a 10k bike ride up to a beautiful medieval town in Beaujolais called Oignt. Although we were exhausted, it was a wonderful workout and felt great! After burning off the calories from our previous extravagant meals, we were finally ready for another gourmet meal.

After I graduated from college, I studied the cookbooks of famed Chef Paul Bocuse. I was in awe of his master methods and the way he re-wrote the rules on combining ingredients. Since then, it has been a dream of mine to eat at one of his restaurants in hopes of meeting him and eating his creations first hand.

After consuming so much food, my husband begged me to take a night off from eating in hopes of alleviating the full feeling of all the heavy foods we have been eating for days, but I insisted we try Bocuse’s restaurant. I tried to convince my husband that if we dined at his restaurant he may be there but instead, my husband disagreed and was certain that Bocuse was rarely there. We drove almost an hour before we finally reached the restaurant and to my husband’s surprise, I spotted my culinary idol as we were walking in. Older yet still charming, there was Paul Bocuse, greeting each of his customers as they entered. My heart skipped a beat as though I was a teenager meeting Justin Bieber. After receiving our personal greeting from Bocuse, we spoke to him for a few minutes and he even took a picture with me.

A friend of mine who is a big art collector always says that cooking as art is an unfair concept as once the masterpiece is finished, it gets destroyed within minutes. Having experienced such culinary masterpieces throughout my own recent travels, I have come to understand that as certain pieces of art can touch one’s life and speak to them in a personal way, food can have a similar affect. It is the sensation of flavors and smells in addition to the combinations of colors and ingredients that boast more than an unforgettable presentation. The memory of the experience is something that will last in my memory a lifetime as it has truly sparked my inner creativity.

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