On Rue Tatin alumna, Jennifer Worick, writer,blogger, and now wonderful apple cook after her experience at the Apples and More class last fall, asked if I’d publish this note, as a testament to her current On Rue Tatin and apple nostalgia. It’s been a year since she was here. Thank you for this, Jennifer, and I know you’ll be back soon.
I arrived in Normandy on a dark Sunday evening and was immediately whisked into the glow of On Rue Tatin. Warm lighting, an inviting kitchen filled with people, interesting conversation, and appetizers.
Susan offered me the Crème a la Moutarde. With only two ingredients—crème fraîche and Dijon mustard—this whipped dip danced on my palate, along with all the fresh vegetables (and apples) I dunked in it. The evening just got better as we sat down with wine, always wine, to a glorious welcome feast in a dining room warmed by a fireplace and hospitality.
It set the tone for an unforgettable, bucket listy week filled with apples, among other ingredients. My fellow students and I fell into a happy routine: gathering around a breakfast table crowded with runny European yogurt, fresh pots of coffee and tea, homemade jam, honey, and pastries. While we were still slumbering in our beds dreaming of wine and paté, Susan was visiting a different bakery each day to bring us a variety of traditional French pastries. Pain au chocolat that shattered to reveal perfect bitter chocolate, brioche that was a revelation to my sad American-deprived palette, and everything in between. Gluten-free gave way to a flour free-for-all. When in France, after all…
The cooking was divided into two sessions each day. After breakfast we’d gather in the sunny, spacious kitchen to work on our lunch menu. Susan had already prepared our mise en place, so we could focus on cooking and technique rather than gathering and measuring. From washing salad properly and making several perfect vinaigrettes to learning to core, peel, and do just about everything with apples, to fileting mackerel and breaking down a rabbit (skinned already, thank God), we learned how to sauté, caramelize, taste and adjust, braise and make pastry. After cooking for several hours, we sat down to the fruits (and vegetables and meat and breads) of our labors. Clinking wine glasses, we tucked into dishes both simple and complex and marveled at our new ability to bring such flavors to the plate.
After an afternoon break to nap, write, or meander around Louviers, we gathered again in the now-spotless kitchen to do it all over again, bigger and better for dinner. Apples were the theme and we made apple flavored with Calvados, tasted so many apple varieties my head was spinning, baked giddy, glorious desserts such as Tarte Tatin and Apple Charlotte, and roasted duck breast with Pommeau (apple sherry). My favorite experience was cooking all afternoon for Susan’s monthly wine club, French friends who gather On Rue Tatin for a blind tasting of wines selected by Hervé, who owns a successful wine shop on Honfleur. I understood maybe one in 10 words, drawing on my six years of high school and college French and you know what? Maybe it was the wine, but communication flowed as easily as the Bordeaux.
Then there were field trips. To deepen our experience, Susan took us to a local market to soak up the atmosphere and pick unfamiliar ingredients to cook with (hello, black radish!). We visited Baptiste’s farm, marveling at the innovative techniques he develops to grow the best produce in Normandy. We meandered through an apple orchard at a Calvados producer, smelling the crisp fall air and looking at the blend of old and new technology, not to mention dusty aged bottles of the apple brandy. We traveled through tiny Norman hamlets, seemingly untouched by time except for WWI memorials ringed by gas canisters, before arriving at the seaside town of Honfleur for lunch. My heart hurts as my mind remembers the taste, smell, sight, sounds and profound feeling of my week On Rue Tatin.
This is my long-winded way of saying, run, run, run (metaphorically speaking; a plane would probably be a better idea) to Susan and On Rue Tatin this fall for an experience of a lifetime. Every sense will be cared for.