Now that we’ve followed a year in the life of Brit expats, Jane and Gary, at their southern France chambre d’hôte, let’s see how the season ends at Mas d’Augustine.
The September and October sunshine is glorious, with lovely warm afternoons and slightly chilly mornings – two of our favourite months of the year in France. The summer is officially over and our last really busy weekend was in early September, although we still had guests coming and going until the end of that month – but life is now a little slower, having made the decision to close at the end of September, a month earlier than usual.
What an amazing season. We are both exhausted but delighted with the business, which has significantly increased this year and, happily, gave us the chance to meet again so many returning guests who have become firm friends (this year almost 40% of our income came from returning guests and referrals).
The weather was unbelievably good from the beginning of May, since when we’ve had non-stop sunshine right through until the end of August, with the temperature constantly hitting 40C (104F) in the latter months. Fantastic for our guests, but not so good for maintaining a green and colourful garden and very testing when working in the kitchen! On one evening that I remember being particularly hot, by 11.30 p.m. I was so tired Gary sent me to bed and said he would take care of the guests and clear. I was just lying down with the air conditioning working full blast when the music started! I got up and looked out of our window – apparently, our wonderful multi-national diners wanted a music evening and so Gary played many well-known English songs and, despite the fact that no one spoke English, after a few tunes they were all singing at the tops of their voices, using salt and pepper pots as improvised microphones. So much for my early night, as this went on until 2.30 in the morning. There were some very sore heads in the morning…….
Gourmet Dining at Mas d’Augustine’s Southern France Chambre d’Hôte
I prepared an evening Table d’hȏtes or bistro menu every night for three weeks in July and it was 45C (113F) in the kitchen on many of those. We had fans working, trying to cool the kitchen down, but they had to be turned off when the soufflés came out of the oven or when plating up. Gary was exhausted running up and down the steps to the courtyard in this heat, but our guests were relaxed and happy dining by the pool.
I had some fun this season introducing some new recipes, the most successful of which was probably the flambéed chicken in a tarragon and cream sauce, served on a bed of crushed new potatoes and leeks with haricot beans and some sautéed chanterelles – it was very popular. However, I am not sure it was the most sensible dish for me to create when the temperature in the kitchen was already over 40C..……. I’ve included the recipe so you can try it at home, but hopefully when it’s cooler!
Behind the Scenes
We never seem to find the time to swim in the pool ourselves but, one very hot afternoon when Gary was walking back through the pool area with the clean laundry, to the amazement of all 10 guests (who were sitting/lying by the pool) he put down the laundry basket, took off his shoes and, fully clothed, walked into the pool and ducked under the water…… he then resurfaced, came out, put on his shoes, picked up the laundry and carried on as if nothing had happened. The fabled eccentric Englishman is now a definite reality to many nationalities!
This season we were lucky and met the first 3 couples who found our home via this Blog – two American couples travelling together and one Canadian couple, all of whom visited us in September. We hope they had a great time and enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them. We look forward to meeting the rest of you avid readers if you visit France!
Mas d’Augustine Flambéed Chicken
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp Seasoned plain flour
2 tbsp Olive oil
Knob of butter
4 Shallots, finely chopped
4 tbsp Brandy or cognac
300ml Chicken stock
16 Asparagus spears, halved (optional)
4 Rounded tbsp. crème fraiche
1 tbsp Chopped tarragon
- Dust the chicken with the flour.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large, wide pan with a lid, add the chicken, then sauté on all sides until slightly browned.
- Add the shallots, then sauté for about 2 mins until they start to soften, but not colour.
- Pour in the brandy, carefully ignite, then stand well back until the flames have died down.
- Stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat, cover, then cook for 15 mins until the chicken is tender.
- Add the asparagus (optional) to the sauce. Cover, then cook for 5 mins more until tender.
- Stir in the crème fraîche and tarragon and simmer gently.
- Season to taste and serve with a green vegetable and potato puree.
Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes, La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com
More Barefoot Blogger posts on Mas d’Augustine