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

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