Friday night we gathered at Le Volant, a Basque restaurant in the fifteenth arrondissement not too far from the Eiffel Tower. Jack from Trufflepig arranged the fête, which began with drinks and copious charcuterie. Cathy welcomed everyone and introduced me, and I croaked out something incoherent about how happy and grateful I was for the experiences of the week. There was much chatter and merriment, and eventually we sat down to dinner.
I was delighted to finally meet Emma, who is every bit as insane as her blog would have you believe. I made sure to send her lots of pictures of taxidermied animals in the weeks leading up to the trip so she would like me. We made plans to collaborate on a perfume called Existential Dread™, which will smell like money and come in a bottle shaped like Munch’s The Scream. The lovely and talented Rosa (who joined Jack and me for dinner earlier in the trip) also came, and I met some other members of the expat blogger world including Stephanie and Alison from LaMomParis and Heena, who is studying pastry and plans to open a pâtisserie in Bombay when she’s finished.
Here’s Jack, who could not have been nicer, and who is getting married in just a couple of days. I wish him a fabulous wedding, and many years of marital bliss. The trip was flawlessly organized and he provided dozens of restaurant recommendations. I need to go back to Paris again soon just to eat at more of them.
As part of the prize, Florence Castarède gave me a bottle of their Armagnac from my birth year: a marvelous gift, and one that I intend to savor. Ariane Daguin, founder of D’Artagnan, was also there, and she was delighted to have offered discounts to all the competitors over the course of the year.
Kate Hill was an incredibly warm, generous, and knowledgable host for the Gascon portion of the trip. She drove, guided, fed, and educated me during four full days of bespoke culinary exploration. I will spend months processing all that I saw and learned. Anyone interested in Southwestern French cuisine should go spend some time with Kate at Camont and soak up some of her expertise and joie de vivre. She will change the way you cook.
And finally, none of this would have happened if it were not for Cathy Barrow. Besides co-conspiring with Kim to create the whole contest, she landed the sponsors and wrangled the whole thing into one perfect package. The trip was brilliantly conceived, flawlessly executed, and an absolute joy from beginning to end. It’s fitting that she has parlayed the publicity surrounding this contest into a burgeoning career as a writer; her savvy is formidable and I look forward to seeing what great things she accomplishes. She is also a tattoo artist.
Thanks to everyone who had a hand in making this possible, and thanks to all of you for voting for me and reading about it. I’ll probably have more to say about the trip in future posts, but normal programming is set to resume tomorrow.