Well, the boeuf bourgignon will have to wait. It was 28° this weekend in the North of France, which meant everything we had planned (stew and home improvement) for this weekend would be postponed, and that we would be hitting the open road hard in search of the perfect, sunny corner of beach that was not too packed, not too loud, not too rocky. I’m not sure that we actually found it, but in our to total refusal to set foot in Deauville or Trouville where the crowds would certainly be atrocious, I think we did pretty good.
Our first stop was Pont-Audemer, which is not actually near the ocean but nestled among forests and along the Risle river, which leads to the sea. It was adorable and tiny, which meant that after a quick lunch and thirty minutes of walking, we had about seen it all and decided to continue our promenade.We set the GPS to Villerville, which seemed like a good compromise at it was right in between Honfleur (our final destination) and Trouville. The village itself was small and quaint, and it was quick and easy to find a parking space and head to the beach. After about three minutes, we were there. A stairway led down to the waterfront where the promenade was bordered with giant rocks and we could hear the water crashing upon them as we walked into the sun, towards the beach.
It was an interesting beach to say the least. Minuscule and absolutely covered with mussel shells, I made the mistake of taking my sandals off when I first saw the sand, only to have to slip them back on after a few steps. Parts of the beach were covered in galets* and large rocks, while a select strip of the coast was lined with perfect, white sand. We found a nice rock to sit down on while we took off our shoes and hiked up our clothes, and then spent a marvelous 30 minutes with our legs in the water, fishing for sea shells and absorbing the sun.
Once we’d had enough beach, we set out for Honfleur, one of my favorite little cities in France. It was nearing late afternoon when we arrived and began looking for a hotel. I made the mistake of turning down a 45€/night room because it was in an ugly chain hotel, and I was hoping for something more authentic. Honfleur is full of slate-sided houses and brightly painted buildings. I wanted something cute. But turns out, everyone in France was ready to take advantage of the last weekend of summer in October, and not one hotel had availability for us. By the time I begrudgingly moped back to the Etap Hotel, the one room they had left was already gone.
We had a great afternoon and night despite the fact that Jé couldn’t drink because he had to drive us home at the end of the evening. We wandered aimlessly around the city and window-shopped. We also did a lot of people watching.
The best part was that by dinner time, it was still warm enough to enjoy one last meal outside, on a terrace that wasn’t heated. We decided on the Vintage Café, which was fairly affordable for the location, and featured live music. They had a special fixed-price menu that evening that included champagne. We were sold. A goat cheese toast and tzatziki combo for our amuse-bouche, a lobster salad appetizer, a ribeye with maître d’hôtel butter and home-made fries and a pistachio mousse with a dark chocolate disk for dessert.
We left Honfleur at 11p.m. slightly disappointed that we wouldn’t be sleeping there and going out, but with nice full bellies and that wonderful tired feeling that only the sea air can create. There’s nothing like a day or a weekend on the coast to completely replenish yourself, and I’m sad to know that this may be the last one we’ll have that doesn’t involve coats and scarves for a very long time.
Today was spent catching up on our current home improvement project and enjoying a delicious and super easy meal: rosemary, verbena and garlic roasted chicken. Our verbena plant has virtually tripled in size since we planted it in the ground a few months ago, so I’ve been trying to find uses for its lemon-scented leaves, other than drying them and using them in infusions (which we will be doing!). I made a verbena pound cake that was delicious, but wanted to try it in savory cooking this time.
We had a small chicken, so I did a search for chicken + verbena. Nothing. So, I did a search for roasted chicken, and found that every other recipe called for stuffing the chicken with lemon wedges. So why not verbena? That is an excellent question, because it gave this roasted chicken just what it needed in added flavor, more discreet that lemon juice or peel.
Rosemary, verbena and garlic roasted chicken
1 whole chicken
2-3 T rosemary (I used fresh)
4-8 garlic cloves (depending on the size of your chicken and how much you LOVE garlic)
1-2 T fresh verbena (can be substituted with much less lemon zest)
3 T butter
1 T sea salt
Pepper to taste
Finely chop the rosemary, verbena and garlic. Mix the herbs and garlic with the butter, sea salt and pepper until it is fairly homogenous. Gently separate the skin from the flesh of your chicken, creating little pockets. Insert the mixture into these pockets and rub into the flesh of your chicken. Save a little of the mixture to put on top of your chicken before putting it in the oven so it will have nice, crispy skin. Cut up the onions and add them to your baking dish with a cup or so of water. White wine would be perfect here, but our sauce was very tasty using only water. Bake on high heat until cooked through and browned, turning and basting every so often. Enjoy!