December 31, 2007

Spicy Peanut Butter Roasted Chicken

Me. Honey, I picked up a chicken at the market today and was thinking of roasting it with some Indian spices. Does that sound OK?

Him. How about making a Peanut Butter Roast Chicken? You could pack some peanut butter and chiles under the skin and roast it that way.

why not?

I love the flavor combination of chicken and peanut butter and often make an amazing, spicy chicken stew from Ghana called Nketia Fla. So a roasted chicken with peanut butter and spices sounded absolutely perfect!

I just had to come up with the right mixture to spread over the chicken. I fiddled around with a few ingredients and made a spicy paste that browned up nicely and kept the chicken moist and succulent.

a note: When I made this, I mixed up the peanut butter paste to taste, not with measuring spoons, so the measurements are approximate. Also, different brands of peanut butter have different textures.

Spicy Peanut Butter Roasted Chicken

3 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper - or more if you like it hotter (you could also use chopped, fresh chili pepper)
3 green onions
1 whole (3-4 pound) chicken
1 inch piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
a handful of cilantro

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together the soy sauce, peanut butter, rice vinegar, cayenne pepper and one of the green onions, minced. Make sure the mixture is a sticky paste, add more peanut butter if necessary. The paste should be a nice balance of sweet, salty and spicy.
Gently loosen the skin of the chicken and spread half of the paste between the skin and the meat. Rub the rest of the paste all over the chicken.
Cut the remaining two green onions into 2 inch pieces, peel and chop the ginger and mince the garlic. Stuff these three ingredients with the cilantro into the chicken cavity.
Roast the chicken breast side down in a roasting pan for about 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and flip the chicken breast side up. Baste with any juices that have accumulated in the pan.
Roast for another 30-40 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160-165 degrees and the juices runs clear. If they are tinged with red, roast for another 5 minutes and check again.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes, tented with foil.
Carve and serve. Pin It

Photo du Jour - Spicy!

A colorful array of spices at les Halles. Pin It

December 30, 2007

Photo du Jour

The sunset was brilliant the night before last. Why do my photos never seem to capture their beauty? Pin It

December 29, 2007

Decadence and Hedonism

Well, the year is winding down and coming to a close. You know what that means...
Only a couple more days of hedonism and decadence before those awful, guilt ridden New Year's resolutions (that are usually forgotten and discarded by the middle of February) are made.
I mean really, if you want to change something about yourself or your life, why not just DO IT? Why do you have to wait for January 1?
Just a thought.

So here's to not making resolutions!
Santé! Pin It

Photo du Jour

Our little cutie, Speck. Pin It

December 28, 2007

La Fête du Fromage

Caruchon, a slender Bûchette de Lure and a little Bouton de Culotte

Our most recent cheese tasting adventures led us to a triangle of Caruchon, a slender Bûchette de Lure and a little, squat Bouton de Culotte.

The Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy is home to the goats that produce the little rounds called Boutonde Culotte (literally, Trouser Button). This cheese is sometimes made from half goat, half cow's milk or entirely unpasteurized cow's milk, but the one we tasted was all unpasteurized goat's milk.
The best time to eat the Bouton is from December to March, when its exterior has a pale, yellow cast and the interior is slightly dry and crumbly. Its mild, sweet flavor tickles your tongue, making the Bouton a delightful cheese to serve as an apéritif with a glass of white Bourgogne Aligoté.

The long, slender
chette de Lure is another fromage de chèvre fermier. Also called chette de Chèvre, this tender, little ingot was unfortunately pretty tasteless. It might redeem itself when added to a salad or a gratin. I believe this cheese comes from the Lure mountains in Provence.

Finally, a large piece of Caruchon. This is a pure, lush sheep's milk cheese that is produced in the picturesque Aveyron département, home to the famous Roquefort. It has a mild and tangy flavor with a dense, creamy texture that can really ooze once the cheese matures. This was a pleasant, "friendly'' cheese. 

Pour yourself a glass of fruity Beaujolais with Caruchon.

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Photo du Jour - Fromage

A beautiful, perfectly ripe Chaource that we enjoyed on Christmas. Pin It

December 27, 2007

Photo du Jour

Les volets bleus. Pin It

December 26, 2007

Photo du Jour

Bite sized goat cheese and herb calissons. Pin It

December 24, 2007

I Love Christmas In France!

It's all about the food, family and friends. I love it!

There were hordes of people doing their food shopping at les Halles in Narbonne this morning and they were all in a good mood. Everyone. The shoppers and the salespeople. It was wonderful!

a little something to start with

un mélange

main course

the cheese course

don't forget the dessert

all presided over by one of Santa's elves and his reindeer Pin It

December 23, 2007

Warmest Wishes and Many Thanks

A sincere note of thanks to all of my readers and friends. I enjoy and appreciate your comments, thoughts, recommendations and stories. Please keep them coming!

It has been a great year, despite the $/€ debacle. We're still here! And hanging on!

My husband got his own radio show and I snagged a paid writing gig. (which may not be around for much longer...more on that later...if it ends as suddenly as it started, there is always something new to take its place)

On a personal note: to my family and close friends, thank you for all of your love and support. And to my wonderful husband who tirelessly pursued Compaq in France for three weeks to get my laptop repaired - You are the best husband! Ti Amo!

Wishing you all the best that the season has to offer. Thanks again!

Joyeuses Fêtes!

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Photo du Jour - Love That Cheese

Last weekend's long Sunday lunch's cheese platter.

Mimolette - Orange chunk
Chèvre Frais - Pyramid in the middle
Bleu d'Auvergne - Piece on the left
Pérail des Alizers - The two joined rounds on the bottom
Unknown - Bright orange at top of platter. I didn't buy them, so I can't remember! Maybe a Chaumes? Pin It

December 22, 2007

Zuppa Con Polpette

When on earth did I start making so much soup? I swear we must eat soup at least four or five times a week in the autumn and winter. Maybe because the bread in France just cries out for a steaming bowl? Or maybe because living in these cold, non-centrally heated, stone houses make our bodies cry out for a steaming bowl? Most likely the latter.

Corn Chowder, Scallop Chowder, le Puy Lentil, Sweet Potato and Carrot with Chile Oil, Black Bean, Curried Cauliflower, Bean With Bacon, Chicken Noodle, Minestrone, Pozole, Avgolemono, Mushroom Barley and good ol' Whatever Vegetables I Have in the House soup. I continue to find new, fabulous recipes.
Like this one...Zuppa con Polpette.

are meatballs. Plain and simple. These little polpette are made as the stock comes to a simmer, then gently lowered in to cook with the carrots. The Parmesan adds a nice nuttiness and the carrots are sweet and tender.

Zuppa Con Polpette

1 thick slice white bread
1/2 cup milk
6 cups beef stock or chicken stock
1 cup orzo or other small pasta
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 cup onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
3 carrots, diced
1/4 cup Italian parsley, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Soak the bread in the milk for about 4 or 5 minutes, until soggy.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta until done. Drain and rinse and drain again.

In another pot, heat the stock to simmering.
Add the carrots and cook about 5 minutes.
Squeeze the bread to get out any excess milk and combine with the meat, onion, garlic, half the cheese and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Shape into little, 1-inch meatballs.

Gently lower the meatballs into the stock and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
Add the pasta and simmer for 2 more minutes.

Adjust seasoning and sprinkle each serving with remaining Parmesan.
serves 4

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Photo du Jour

Trees reflected in the Canal du Midi. Pin It

December 21, 2007

Photo du Jour

One of the desserts we had in Milan. A moist cake with hazelnut cream and chopped hazelnuts. It was amazing!
Anyone know what it is called? Pin It

December 20, 2007

Celebrating Sangria?

Today is National Sangria Day.

Why in December? Why not in July or August, when we crave cold, refreshing drinks like this?

So I have to wonder, when is National Hot Toddy Day* or National Milk Punch Day? In June?


Here is the sangria recipe I make. In the summer, mind you.

2 large juice oranges, washed, one sliced into ¼ inch rounds and one for juice
1 large lemon, washed and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 bottle inexpensive, fruity, medium bodied red wine

Put sliced orange, lemon and the sugar into a large pitcher.
Smash gently to release the fruit's juices and to completely dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the orange juice, Triple Sec or Cointreau and the wine.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Just before serving, add 6-10 ice cubes and stir briefly.
Serves 4

* OK I looked...National Hot Toddy Day is January 11. There is no National Milk Punch Day. Pin It

Photo du Jour

The beautiful village of Minerve.
My friend Michael was reading a novel recently that featured Minerve. The name triggered something so he sent me an email asking if it was close to where we live. Yes, just five minutes up the hill from our village! Pin It

December 19, 2007

Photo du Jour

Happiness is a warm engine on a cold day. Pin It

December 18, 2007

La Fête du Fromage - Cheesemakers Need Your Help

Today, la Fête du Fromage will not be about French cheese, rather, about cheesemakers in America.

This morning I came across some sad and devastating flood stories from several small, cheesemaker's farms in Washington State and Oregon.
Many suffered damage to their homes and property, lost entire barns and sadly, livestock.

Fortunately, there are many ways we can help them put their lives back together.
* DeLaurenti's in Seattle is collecting funds for affected cheesemakers at the registers. DeLaurenti's will match all funds collected.

* Madison Market in Seattle is collecting funds at their registers for farms identified as needing support by Washington Tilth.

* Olympia Food Coop in Olympia, Washington has started a Farm Relief Fund that will benefit farmers and cheesemakers that the coop supports. You can donate at checkouts at both locations.

* Olympia Farmer's Market fund benefits farmers who attend the market in Olympia, Washington. Donations accepted online.

* Seattle Neighborhood Farmer's Market Alliance Good Farmer Fund - these folks had the foresight to create an ongoing fund specifically designed to aid farmers in need. See their web site for details.

* Washington Farm Bureau Farm Relief Fund has already collected $35,000 for the benefit of Washington's farmers affected by the storms.

* Washington Tilth list of donation options including some you may not have thought of, like the American Red Cross.

Additionally, the folks at the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project are organizing a benefit, Cheese for a Good Cause, scheduled for Friday, February 1, 2008.

So, instead of spending money buying cheese this week, why not send some to help out these farmers? Pin It

Photo du Jour

A lion's head fountain in Carcassonne. I wish I knew how old it is. Pin It

December 17, 2007

Eat Christmas Cookies!

Susan from Food Blogga is hosting a worldwide Eat Christmas Cookies event. Check out the cookie map!

I'm submitting my old, tried and true, Peppery Chocolate Cookies recipe. I make these every year during the holidays to share with friends.
They're rich and spicy with a subtle hint of heat that is really quite irresistible.

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto some wax paper and use the paper to shape the dough into a cylinder about 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap up tightly, twisting the ends to seal and refrigerate for at least an hour. The dough can also be frozen up to three months.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut chilled dough into 1/4 inch thick slices. If it was previously frozen let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before slicing. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool a bit on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack.
Makes about two dozen. Pin It

Photo du Jour

The fig trees are stark and bare now. Pin It

December 16, 2007

Photo du Jour

Barrels as far as the eye can see...

Just think of all that wine to enjoy someday! Pin It

December 15, 2007

Photo du Jour

Chemin des Potences

Just around the corner from our house, this little road leads out of the village. It is the old route to the hill where they used to hang people.
Potences means gallows.

Creepy... Pin It

December 14, 2007

No Photo du Jour

My seven month old laptop has been sent out for repair. They say it will be back in a week.
However, this is France...and almost Christmas...then New Year's...

I've got my fingers crossed. Pin It

December 13, 2007

Photos du Jour -New Orleans

St. Louis Cathedral

50,000 frequent flyer miles is what it took to get me a free round trip ticket to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
I leave January 25.

Pirates Alley Pin It

December 12, 2007

Photos du Jour

The marble floor in the Duomo in Milan was just stunning! Pin It

December 11, 2007

La Fête du Fromage - Coulommiers

Take a nice hunk of Brie and intensify its flavor about five times and voilà, you've got yourself a ripe, robust piece of Coulommiers.

Known as the little brother of Brie, Coulommiers comes from a village of the same name in the Île-de-France region of northern France. The piece I bought was artisanal, but there are also fermier and industriel versions.
It was very ripe, thus the flavor was strong and rich, full of lightly sweet, mushroom and earthy flavors. We had to eat it quickly as its heady aroma was making it difficult to stay in the house!
We had a glass of sauvignon blanc with our piece of Coulommiers. A Côtes du Rhône would also be a good choice.

I highly recommend this cheese! If you can get a hold of some, especially a nice, ripe piece, you won't be disappointed.

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Photos du Jour - Tartiflette

One of my favorite winter dishes. Loaded with potatoes, bacon, onions and Reblochon cheese, how can you go wrong with such savory decadence???

Here's the recipe I use.

Dinner with our guests at Jean-Pierre and Agnès' house. They were kind enough (and brave enough) to invite all six of us Americans over for dinner. And they made Tartiflette! Pin It

December 10, 2007

Carte de Séjour Watch

Day 115!

This is getting ridiculous... Pin It

Photo du Jour

The tempting view from one of our café tables in Milan. Pin It

December 9, 2007

Photo du Jour

Chocolate olives.

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December 8, 2007

Pozole - A Rich Mexican Soup

About 12 years ago, a friend of mine who was born in Mexico and raised in Texas made me lunch. It was a rainy, winter day and she made Pozole, a dish that she grew up on, nothing special, just something to warm us on a cold, blustery day. Well, to me it was very special! Its rich, aromatic flavor left quite an impression. I knew that someday I would encounter this amazing dish once again...

I never did.
So finally, after all these years, I decided to make it myself.

The last time I was in the States I brought back some pozole, which are big, fat kernels of dried hominy that have been soaked in slaked lime to remove their hull and germ. I also picked up a couple of little cans of roasted, diced green chiles since fresh green chiles are often hard to come by here.

The soup called for both of my State-side purchases in addition to some boneless pork, onions, garlic and spices. Pozole was much simpler to make than I thought it would be, and the flavor was just as wonderful as I remembered!

serves 6

1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 green chiles, roasted, peeled and diced or 1 small can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
1 jalapeno, seeded, and finely diced
2 tablespoons oil or lard
2 cups dried hominy
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups chicken stock

Soak dried hominy in lightly salted water overnight.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Sauté the onions and garlic for about two minutes then add the meat to the pan and stir it around for another minute.
Add enough water to cover the meat with a least 2 inches and stir in the soaked and drained hominy, the salt, cumin, oregano, cloves, jalapeno and chiles.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and let simmer for 1 hour.
Remove the meat from the liquid. Remove excess fat and shred the meat into small pieces. Set aside.
Add chicken stock to replace liquid, if necessary. You'll want a brothy consistency.
Simmer for an additional hour.
Add the pork and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until hominy is thoroughly cooked.
Salt to taste.

Traditionally Pozole is accompanied by slices of radish, lemons or limes, sliced onions and chopped lettuce. I added some sliced carrots and sliced chiles.

Now the question is, can I find more hominy in France? Anyone know?

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Photo du Jour - Carcassonne

The exterior walls of la Cité, the old, fortified city of Carcassonne, on a cloudy day.

A 2006 report states that this medieval, walled city is the most visited site in France, even more popular than Mont Saint-Michel. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is absolutely heaving in the summertime with visitors from around the globe. The rest of the year it is crammed with school children and visitors from around the globe.
The walls in the photo are not actually medieval. La Cité was slated for demolition in the mid 1800's until a protest led by the town's mayor halted the plans for razing the structure. La Cité was classified a Historical Monument and an architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, restored the site, giving it the medieval appearance that visitors currently enjoy.

The ''new town'' of Carcassonne, population around 45,000, is adjacent to la Cité. Pin It

December 7, 2007

Four By Four Meme - All About Moi

I was tagged for this Four By Four Meme by the lovely Kate in Gascony about three weeks ago and am just now finding some time to sit and think about the questions and my answers.

I had to alter a couple of the questions a bit. Kate's What’s the 4 best and worst things about living on a boat? questions don't apply to my landlocked life, so I looked at Rosa's questions (who tagged Kate) and substituted one of hers.
Ok, here goes...

What four things do you love most about living in France?

1. The outdoor markets. I love them! I love getting to know the vendors, the bustle and sights and sounds. I love watching the markets change with the seasons.

2. The appreciation of food and wine.
3. There's always something new to experience
4. Discovering the beauty and charm of each new region and place that I visit in France

What four most memorable jobs you have had?

1. Taking care of the animals in a pet shop
2. An au pair near
3. A personal chef
4. Selling antiques at a shop in New Orleans

Four quirky things about the way I eat (and drink)

1. Leftover Thai green curry is one of my favorite breakfasts
2. I don't like sour cream or mayonnaise (unless it's homemade)
3. I like to put popcorn in a glass of milk, get it all soggy, then eat it with a spoon (my mom taught me this!)
4. When I go to the States I find that I like to eat chips and salsa. All. The. Time. It's weird!

What are your four favorite foods?

1. Oaxacan mole
2. New Orleans BBQ shrimp
3. Huckleberries
4. Thai curries

Four recipes you cook all the time?

1. pasta with amatriciana sauce
2. jambalaya
3. lemon tart
4. soups

Four people who I'd like to participate in this meme.

1. Robyn at Lick Your Own Bowl
2. Ms. Glaze in Paris
3. Nicole at Pinch My Salt
4. La Belette Rouge Pin It

Photo du Jour - Olives

The olive tasting bar at l'Oulibo, our local olive co-op. They offer amazing single varietal olive oils such as Lucques, Olivière and Picholine.
Most of our neighbors take their olives here for pressing.
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December 6, 2007

Photo du Jour

A demistasse of dense, rich espresso. I couldn't get enough of these in Milan! Pin It

December 5, 2007

La Fête du Fromage

Mothais sur Feuille

A great find this week at les Halles! The round cheese below, wrapped in a chestnut leaf, had almost disappeared until some small producers saved it from oblivion. It is called Mothais à la Feuille and with it we tasted some Fougerus and a nice slice of Abondance.

Mothais à la Feuille is a fermier, raw goat's milk cheese that is produced in the Deux-Sèvres region of western France. The woman at the Fromagerie told me that this cheese was almost "lost'' until some small producers began making it again. Losing this cheese would have been a very sad thing, because it was wonderful!
It had a creamy, light and airy texture with a delicate, mildly salty flavor. The chestnut leaf helps keep the cheese moist as well as adding a mild aroma. Luckily I bought it just at the end of its season. There will be no more Mothais until next May.
A dry white wine from Bordeaux would be a nice accompaniment.
(also called Mothais sur Feuille)

The Fougerus, also called Fougeru, is an artisanal, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese from the Île-de-France. It is a member of the Brie family of cheeses, originally produced solely for the family's consumption, but now produced commercially. The fern leaf is used both for decoration and to lightly infuse the rind with flavor. Fougerus' texture is like that of Brie, supple, soft and smooth. It has a strong flavor with hints of mushroom, and slightly salty, earthy and woodsy undertones. All and all, delicious!
Pour yourself a glass of Côtes du Jura or Côtes du Rhône to have with this cheese.

High in the mountains of the Haut-Savoie, three types of cattle graze on the lush, green grasses; the Montbéliard, the Tarine and the Abondance. The rich, raw milk from these cows is used to make the celebrated AOC cheese, Abondance. We loved its smooth, velvety texture and the nutty, grassy and divine flavor. Another great cheese!
An interesting bit of trivia - in the 14th century, the monks of l'Abbaye de Saint d'Abondance were the official suppliers of Savoyard cheeses for the Pope in Avignon.
Some white wine from the Savoie pairs perfectly with Abondance.

This week's Fête was wonderful indeed!

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Photo du Jour

Saturday afternoon in Narbonne. Where is everybody??? We went in for lunch and some window shopping and the city felt almost deserted! It was bizarre! Pin It

December 4, 2007

Photo du Jour - Toulouse

The Place du Capitole in Toulouse last week, on a beautiful, sunny and COLD afternoon. Toulouse is known as la Ville Rose due to the red bricks and tiles that give the city its warm, rosy glow. (although it didn't feel very warm that day!)

I was in Toulouse again this morning. Ron's flight left at 7:30 a.m. which meant we had to leave our house at 4:30 to get him to the airport by 6:00 for check-in. We got home around 8:00 and I fell back into bed where I remained until noon. I've had a cold for the last week and it has now moved down into my chest so, this to the doctor I go!

La Fête du Fromage has not been forgotten! It just may be a bit late this week. Pin It

December 3, 2007

Photo du Jour

The courtyard of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Pin It

December 2, 2007

Photo du Jour

When it is cold I make the boys wear their jackets.
I realize that it's probably pretty embarrassing for them around all the macho hunting dogs, but they love to walk and get cold so quickly! Pin It

December 1, 2007

Impressions of Milan

Almost everyone told me Milan was an industrial, ugly city that wasn't really worth the visit. I only received one positive recommendation from a friend.

Well, I loved it!

I don't know if I just love Italy in general, but I thought Milan was a bustling, vibrant city with a wonderful feel. Sure, it had some boring-looking areas, but the center is beautiful and I enjoyed the vibe of the place.

I thought the marble floors inside the Duomo were stunning

and the exterior was lacy and fragile looking

almost everywhere I looked there was beauty (and I'm not just talking about the men!)

Surprisingly the prices weren't as bad as I expected. Granted we didn't eat in fine dining establishments, nor in the Armani, Versace and Prada boutique area, but we ate in a restaurant or trattoria every day. The average price for the four of us, with a course or two each and some house wine and coffee, was around 60€. And the food was superb! Our cheapest meals were in a bar al panino and one night two of us went out for döner kebabs and a soda, which only cost 8€!

Another surprise was how nice and friendly everyone was. I think I'm so used to the brusque behavior from service people in France that I expect it now when I travel. How sad is that?

I traveled with three friends from New Orleans. Ron and another couple who became engaged while we were there. Congratulations you two!

we spent three hours sitting under the heaters in this outdoor café, watching the beautiful people

It rained the entire time we were there but it didn't ruin it for us. We had such a great time and I would be happy to visit again.
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