Last month we were invited to a curated medieval dinner and art event entitled "Alchemica " that took place in the enchanted gallery and artist residency called Le Porte Peinte in Noyers-sur-Serein, France. Without question, we said yes. I was so excited and curious to find out exactly what a medieval era inspired dinner would be like. It all started when I was put in touch with Australian artist-in-residence, Emma Hellowell. She was responsible for finding the talented chef Ollie Timberlake and together they created the menu for the first installment of the private TABLE dinner series at LPP. The dinner was paired with Emma's photography exhibition opening reception, featuring rich, dark images of wild berries that emerge out from a black velvety background. The berries look soft, the colors are deep and intoxicating. Just like the meal to follow.

The fairytale like view from one of the five bedrooms at Le Porte Peinte
Upon entering the dining room portion of the gallery, I felt the entire modern world drift away and I was transported to another time. Candles illuminated the evening and an ambient sound piece Adrian made for the event quietly played behind the warm chatter among friendly strangers. No cell phones, no rush.

Emma Hellowell next to her photographs, Chef Ollie Timberlake joining us at the end of the evening

Emma Hellowell's work next to an installation of foraged fruit and branches
Emma explained, "the food for Alchemica has all been sourced locally. Its a rustic mix of ingredients that have been either gathered in the wild or grown/raised by organic producers. The colors, flavors and some techniques have been inspired by medieval cooking but with a modern slant. Ollie has been living in Burgundy for years and sources the most amazing produce and wines, usually through family, friends or trusted farmers. She is dedicated to organic and seasonal produce. Before living in France she completed her chefs training in England and always brings an extra spice or twist from her traditional Jamaican heritage."

The Porte Peinte's building dates back to the 15th century and was built in a medieval/early-Renaissance half-timbered style. It has been transformed lovingly by the owners Michelle and Oreste, who have painstakingly restored it by hand and have put new life into the building to create the gallery and artist residence it is today. I am proud to be among the group of artists that participated in LPP's inaugural show in 2011, Californoyers.

I like to imagine the many meals, parties, conversations and stories that have taken place inside this magical structure. I'm sure there are some good dramatic events in it's history. Speaking of drama, a bizarre Duran Duran music video was shot in this village for their song 'New Moon on Monday'. We also featured Noyers in the "No Reservations" episode on Burgundy that we coordinated for Anthony Bourdain and his team which you can watch here.

 The lovely Michelle of LPP, Emma chatting with bespectacled Oreste, the other half of LPP

During the art reception we drank a delicious cidre chaud, hot apple cider infused with églantine, pepper, vanilla and honey and ate h'ors d'oeuvres made with little pieces of mackerel wrapped in mustard leaves.

Foraged chestnuts roasted in butter and sage... so earthy sweet and delicious
Marinated raw salmon with beets, nasturtium, and cucumber with lemon confit and a wild apple verjus. 
One of the best Salmon dishes I've ever tasted.
She paired this with a cote d'Auxerre red with notes of cherries and forest strawberries
One of the most important aspects to medieval cuisine was the use of color. In many cases, recipes featured a prominent color in the title and in the dish. White sauces were considered very regal, and the use of almonds ( and almond milk) were a popular choice with meat, which is what chef Ollie did with her rabbit course. We really appreciated her take on medieval dishes and loved her delicate use of medieval spices and herbs. She made a ginger chutney and put jars of it on the table along with little bowls with mounds of colorful powdery spices like paprika. I felt like we were on an elegant ship sailing through the spice trade era. Not only were we experiencing a mind blowing meal, but all our our senses were activated at the table. Sounds of Adrian's piece, smells of the spices and food, warmth from the huge fireplace, and of course the festive goodness from the wines she paired with each course.
homemade buckwheat loaves
Rabbit in a white sauce made with purréed almonds and pink peppercorns. 
This was also served with fava beans stewed with winter vegetables and a black trumpet mushroom confit.
The wine with this course was a Irancy les Cailles 2009,
"rich in tannins, a violet color purple, this wine owes its strong personality to it's noble Caesar grape"
After the main course, and before dessert, a platter of local cheeses was passed from guest to guest. With the cheeses there was a duo of wild apple and plum 'fromage', a rich fruit compote.

Silky custard with saffron, salted rose and honey tart, and stuffed apples wrapped and baked in red cabbage leaves. I still dream of that salted rose and honey tart!
Gold dust on the pastry leaf detail was a nod to the use of gold leaf on pies in medieval cooking
At the very end of this magical dinner, we were served something so extroadinary with our end -of-dinner coffee.  Candied rosebuds. Rose petals were often used to color foods and sauces in medieval cooking, but chef Ollie took this meal to a truly one of a kind level by candying entire roses and serving them with a ginger infused coffee syrup served in tiny shot glasses. A very pleasant surprise. Wow. I've never had this style of cooking before and can't wait to discover more of it. Hopefully inside that candlelit room at Le Porte Peinte.

Le Porte Peinte next to the arched entrance into the village
LPP has five bedrooms for artists in residence, creative retreats, and short-stays. There are studio spaces for artists in residence and there's a gallery that is 160 square meters. In the warmer months, one could work outside in the charming courtyard which is adjacent to more studio spaces that surround the courtyard garden. The sky is the limit at LPP.

For more info you can email LPP: info@laportepeinte.com or call: +33(0)386750511


Steel cut Irish Oatmeal with a knob of butter, dried apricots, brown sugar, nutmeg, a little maple syrup, pinch of good salt, and a drizzle of cream. Yes!

Here we have another guest post from my sister, Simone Rubi, who you may remember from her beautiful series from Belize and other delights here in Trail of Crumbs. Enjoy!

The Fall season is always a little tardy in Los Angeles. I've been welcoming it without reservation every morning, in soft clothes, and with a heart-y bowl of steel cut Irish oatmeal. I love the version they have over at Café Stella in the Silverlake neighborhood. They bring the accroutrements in little vessels on a wooden slab. It's cool. Here are two options that I've been into lately (see photos) and the basic oatmeal recipe to start with.

Here's a list of things that go great on oatmeal:

- brown sugar (coconut sugar is delicious and carmel-y too)
- agave or maple syrup
- jam (homemade, from a pal is best!)
- sautéed fruit with brown sugar and butter (apples, bananas, pears...)
- dried fruit like apricots, cherries, cranberries, currants, raisins
- fresh berries
- toasted coconut flakes
- toasted and salted pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds
- walnuts
- dash of nutmeg, cardamom or cinnamon
- a knob of good butter or coconut butter
- fleur de sel (good salt)
- a drizzle of cream (or half and half).

My recipe:
Serves 2
Time 30 min.


-4 cups water
-1 cup steel cut Irish oats
-2 pinches salt
-any of the above toppings

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup of oats. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Bring the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes for chewy oatmeal and 30 minutes for creamier oatmeal. Add more water if it gets too thick. Add 2 pinches salt and a dash of nutmeg (or cinnamon or cardamom)... now add whatever else you like from the list above!

In this version:  Sautéed apples (in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pinch of salt), agave syrup,
more cinnamon, knob of butter, and a drizzle of cream

post and photos: Simone Rubi


Trompette de la Mort, Black Trumpet mushrooms
I can't think of anything I like more than foraging for wild mushrooms. I officially have the 'fever'. We recently went to one of our favorite french villages, Noyers-sur-Serein, and heard from our trusty friend Oreste, of Le Porte Peinte,  that black trumpet mushrooms were plentiful.  He drew us a map, which Adrian entered into the rental car's gps, to the Forêt d'Hervaux, a forest favored by locals for mushroom hunting... and not socializing. We hoped to find enough to invent something delicious for dinner. Sure enough, as soon as our eyes focused on the little black velvety flower-like horns, the fever kicked in. They were scattered everywhere underneath the autumnal leaf carpet. I did a jig like a crazy person.

Adrian and little Anton in the Forêt d'Hervaux
Before hearing the news of the black trumpets, we had stopped by David's farm stand, which he sets up every Saturday morning in the center of the village. David is an ex-computer programmer who left it all behind to cultivate several plots of organic veggies around Noyers. He is super nice and wears a lot of heavy metal t-shirts. We picked out a beautiful butternut squash which soon became Butternut Squash Dauphinois with Trompette de la Mort, trumpet of death (!), mushrooms. Despite their name, they have an incredibly alive and rich taste. They smell like black truffles combined with chanterelles and have a smokey and slightly sweet flavor.

The filtered sunlight came through the tree canopy and down onto the little trumpets singing from the soil
With Thanksgiving in the US around the corner, why not make this as a nice earthy addition the traditional family feast? I'm going to make it for our Thanksgiving which we will be celebrating at a friend's lovely home in Noyers this year. We've got family members coming in from Switzerland and ex-patriot American friends joining in that live in Paris and beyond. Can't wait.

Peeled and seeded Butternut squash turned into 1/4 inch crescent slices
A buttered baking dish with a swirl of cream and some chopped garlic and shallots
The cleaned Trumpets sautéing in butter and a sprinkle of salt
The first layer of squash with a quarter of the mushrooms scattered on top...
Ready for the oven with the last layer of squash, cream, mushrooms, salt, pepper and a few knobs of butter. This is France.



1 medium sized Butternut Squash
1 1/2 - 2 cups heavy cream ( enough to cover each layer of squash )
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 large chopped shallots
4 cups black trumpet mushrooms (or any other forest mushroom) 
4 Tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté the mushrooms in 1 TBSP of butter and a large pinch of salt. Cook until they are nicely wilted and the water has released out of the mushrooms and cooks off. They should be moist, but not watery. About 5-8 minutes at medium-high heat. Put them in a bowl and set aside. Here is a little tip: When cleaning these guys, make sure you cut them in half in case there are little slugs hanging out in there. I found 3 in my bundle.

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop all the seeds out. Cut each half again lengthwise, quartering the squash. Slice the squash into 1/4 inch crescent pieces. Put in a bowl and set aside.

Grease the inside of your baking dish (mine was about 13 inches wide) generously using 1-2 TBSP of butter, then sprinkle a bit of the chopped garlic and shallots on top of the butter. Pour a swirl of cream over the the entire bottom of the dish.

Now let the layering begin! Start with a single layer of squash, then about a quarter of the mushrooms, a good swirl ( about 1/4 cup) of the cream, a bit of the garlic and shallots, and finally a hefty pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Repeat this layering process until you run out of ingredients. Portion out each ingredient per layer, with my size dish, I ended up with 4 layers. You will have some odd shaped slices of squash, just puzzle them together the best you can in order to have them sit very close together. 

You will run out of the garlic and shallots before you are finished, and that's fine. Add it to just 2 of the layers, You don't want to overwhelm the dish with garlic flavor.

Once you are finished layering, drop the remaining butter in little clumps on the top and you are good to go. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. The top should be a little golden brown when done. As it cools a little, the cream with thicken into a very flavorful sauce that gathers at the bottom. Make sure you serve it with each portion. It's so, so, so good. You might catch a sneaky someone dipping a hunk of bread in that sauce later.

To all my readers and friends from the US... HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING! If you want my all time best family recipe for gravy, go here. It really is loved by all. What's for dessert you ask? We have featured two incredible pumpkin pie recipes on here too... one from the inspiring Leela Cyd of Tea Cup Tea


I love the Fall season... here are photos from a Milanese farmer's market and also Milan's premier food hall, Peck Market. Cook something earthy and warm using your favorite Italian recipes with people you love. Happy Autumn!


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