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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

Voici, a fresh and stormproof New Year's slurp!
2017 Turned out to be some year indeed!
Simultaneously stunning beautiful and terrifyingly ugly, scorching hot and ice-cold, laid-back and insanely busy, but we made it through to the other side. Somehow!

Allez, on y va!

In this Slurp!
The wall



Summer stretched out like a lazy cat and eventually slipped into a gentle autumn, almost unnoticed.
In the sun-drenched vineyards we harvested the grapes and made them into wine.


Neighbour Jean-Claude took his retirement and offered us his vineyard for a, what he called 'prix de voisin'.


According to an ancient winemaker custom Jean-Claude left us a lucky bunch. He assured us that this would guarantee a rich harvest in the coming year.


Wine year 2017 was done and dusted: the wine was safely in the barrels, the wine press stored away and the winegrower-mobile settling down to its well-earned rest in its winter home.


A few final dinners out of doors, and then it got cold.


The animals of field and forest blended in with mother nature, and so did we.


While the frost got ready to take the vineyard into her icy embrace, we traveled to the Low Countries. We had to make an appearance in the fearsome talkshow called Pauw. We mustered all our courage and scrambled to survive Pauw's razor sharp interrogation about our cookbook Chateau Cooking.


Beaten but not broken we fled, as quick as our wheels could carry us, to a certain Mediterranean country, where we could regroup ourselves and get on with the preparations for a new television series of Gort Crosses Borders.



Upon our return we found the vineyard in the tightly frozen grip of winter.
The vines stretched their branches stiffly upwards.


Nothing stirred, no birdsong, not even the chirping of a single cricket, nor the peaceful sound of softly rustling leaves. All was silent and white. But our Lucky Bunch was unharmed.


We set to work and pruned shoot after shoot. As we worked we heard the prawn fishermen down the bottom of the hill haul their nets from the Dordogne.


Inside, by the fire place, neighbour Jean-Claude poured himself a glass of wine and let his sheep take care of the pruning.


The sun kissed the snowdrops (in French perce-neige, 'pierce the snow') awake and inaudibly tingling their bells with joy, they pierced the earth to let their fragile flowers bloom.


The cold passed and flowers adorned the vineyard.


And the optimistic winegrower and his lover set out to fill number one of 365 blank pages.

The wall


A 13th century wine castle is a rich possession indeed. No wonder the winegrower enjoys surveying the vistas overlooking the surrounding fields and country.


This from his position of security knowing that his sovereignty is secured by meters high castle walls.
So far so good.


Until a section of that castle wall suddenly comes crashing down and forms a messy heap on the path below.


In the winegrower's mind black trolls enact a victory dance:
How many hairs of my head
How many ribs from my ribcage
How many arms and legs
How many bottles of wine
Is this little wall going to cost me?


This time the quote of contractor Jean-Flotte arrives surprisingly quickly...


Because spring is still an ice age away, we treat you to a secret restaurant tip from spring 2013.

A leisurely Sunday afternoon in the French countryside


As the ancient Chinese proverb goes: If you want to find the river, you must go where others turn back. Heed this advice and keep driving for another mile when you come to the 'end of river' sign.
Take a right turn at the semi concealed entrance to a narrow country lane. Forge on until the power cabled disappear and the internet connection fails.


The sat-nav feels that her umbilical cord is being cut. In a state of alarm she summons you to turn back immediately. And sure enough, a little further on you'll pass menacing signs: "Dead end". "Private property". "No entry".
Ignore these and keep going.


A while later you'll be surprised to find a couple of erratically parked cars by the roadside. Around the bend the outline of the Restaurant With No Name comes into view.


The restaurant is not much more than a shack by the side of the Dordogne.
It's warm and quiet. Alongside the lush green riverbanks the sandy water slowly makes its way to the sea.
A couple of little boats are bobbing about, anchored to the ramshackle jetty. Every once in a while a little shrimp boat sails silently by.


The surroundings are idyllic and, as far as the menu goes, nothing much seems astray either. However the winegrower, who has close evolutionary links with the the creatures of field and forest, instinctively knows something is amiss. As he walks to his chosen seat, the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Ill at ease he sits down at the table. His back against the wall, all senses alert. What is going on here?


But before the agriculturalist gets a chance to organise his thoughts, a shadow falls across the table. A colossal figure looms over him and, in a brusque tone of voice, commands him to place his order.


But the rosé is perfectly chilled, nice and juicy and comes from a local winemaker.


The 'salade basquaise' too, is richly endowed. The winegrower loosens the belt of his suspicion a notch. Could it be that everything is ok after all?


This dish is called 'friture'. It consists of a plate of tiny crispy deep fried fish that should be eaten whole. Eyes, teeth, brains, bones and all.


The winegrower's lover struggles somewhat with this elementary form of fish consumption. Consequently she puts off the moment of ingestion a little. This avoidant behaviour leads to all sorts of quasi-whimsical creative outbursts.


When the main course is served, the winegrower suddenly jolts upright as if stung by a wasp. Finally he's got it figured out. Everyone here has their eyes concealed by a black bar!


At that very moment a tremor ripples through the visiting public. Heads are bent chastely over plates, glances explicitly cast away from the entrance. Reptiles scurry to safety.
A whispered 'The Eel!' Can be heard. 'The Eel has just come in!'


A mismatched company takes a seat at a table. The gent at the top of the table we identify as Jaques Rescine, aka The Eel. An oft-convicted criminal, renowned for his many bold jailbreaks.
'That man wears his watch in a funny place, doesn't he?' the wide-eyed winegrower's lover coos.
'No honey,' the winegrower mutters. 'That's not a watch.'


No internet, no prying eyes. A free-haven. Impossible to track down for the outside world.
Ah, the food is good here. The sweet taste of freedom.
'Glorious', thinks The Eel, 'a free Sunday afternoon in the French countryside...'



Want to go there yourself? You'll have to search. 'On the bank' and 'the river', are the only scant instructions to help you find the Restaurant With No Name.
When you ring the number listed, you'll hear a message telling you that this number is no longer in service.
But if you do manage to find this restaurant, you'll have a fantastic experience either way, whether you'll be joined by The Eel or not.



You can find Château la Tulipe de la Garde Bordeaux Superieur at Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Cliquez ici for more information.

Extremely tasty Bordeaux.
Now at Sainsbury's, only £ 9.

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