A Happy New Year from La Rochelle & Île de Ré
What more could we have asked for than to fill E’s family home with our friends from Paris for the New Year holidays. Our closest friends had all been dotted around France with their families before joining us in our tiny little hamlet near La Rochelle for three days of laughter, eating and sleeping.
We’d spent New Year two years ago with the same set up. Everyone was to fill their car boots with festive treats and we’d lock ourselves away in the heart of the French countryside for 4 days. For anything we didn’t have, we’d drive over to Sugeres or La Rochelle, both with incredible daily markets. We could take day trips to Île de Ré, Sugeres and Île d’Olérons as we felt like it. E and I had been at the house a week already so had the set up sorted, and already guessed we definitely wouldn’t have enough oysters to last us even the first night.
So we sped off to Sugeres on the 29th, collected another 100 oysters and bags full of scallops, prawns and a whole bass for the first night. Our lunches turned into 5 hour extravaganzas, we’d all be in need of a siesta at 6pm only to be back by the fire for gin o’clock at 8pm. The boys would always be found shucking oysters in the kitchen, one for them, slurp, one for the plate, and so on.
Every evening it was such a joy to set the table with the family tableware, running into the dark garden to see what foliage we could pick to decorate the table setting. Muse the pup would often be found running around with linen napkins caught in her baby pup teeth, her favourite game.
The fireplace was our favourite place to be, metre long tree trunks were collected in turn from the outhouse to keep us warm, building the morning fire was the job of the first person to wake. Keeping the fire going all day ensured we didn’t all turn to ice blocks.
New Years Eve was our favourite day. We headed into La Rochelle to find our cote de boeuf, the integral part of the evening. The market was heaving, we pressed our way into the indoor market (it must have been -5 degrees outside) and wailed our arms around until we caught the attention of whomever we needed to buy from. Locals shared glasses of wine and trays of oysters in between market stands and we all had strict tasks of what to buy, more oysters, truffles for the mashed potatoes, more foie gras (really, more I thought?!). I was on Bûche de Noël duty (I gave myself that duty obviously). We also gave everyone the task of finding a small gift for 10€ for a bit of fun during our aperitif later that day.
Lunch at home turned into night and before we knew it we were clearing the lunch table to set up for dinner.
Now the rule in this house is if you can can cook it on the fire, you cook it on the fire. As the boys continued to slurp slurp shucking oysters in the kitchen we prepared the fire to cook two slabs of cote de boeuf each the size of the BFG’s hands. 8 minutes each side, leave to rest for 20 minutes, and voila. The French way. We were so caught up with our cheeseboard that we almost missed the stroke of midnight. Cue a thousand kisses and many bottles of bubbles opened, 2017 had arrived. Bonne année mes amis!!
LWSY January 2017