At just twenty-one, the age when most people are starting to drink (well, legally at least), Victoria James became the country’s youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room.
It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud leader of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.
Exhilarating and inspiring, Wine Girl is the memoir of a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood on her own terms; an ethnography of the glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry; and above all, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.
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Richard Olney – responsible for the legendary Time-Life cooking series as well as other cooking classics such as his wonderful Simple French Food – moved to Provence in 1961 and had the good fortune to befriend Lulu and Lucien Peyraud, the owners of the noted Domaine Tempier vineyard in Provence, not far from Marseilles.
Lulu’s Provençal Table tantalizes the reader with Olney’s descriptions of the regional food served as the vineyard meals at the domaine. Then he lovingly transcribes Lulu’s recipes. She has an empathy with and understanding of Provençal ingredients that is inspirational. There is succulent Pot-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Black Olives served with Courgette Gratin, and Potato and Sorrel Gratin, delicious with just six ingredients. There are plenty of simple recipes, but the recipe for bouillabaisse is a fascinating 10 pages long.
Her 150 recipes read like a roll call of the best of Provence ̶ tapenade, anchoiade, brandade, pissaladière, bagna cauda, sardines grillées, bouillabaisse, bourride, daurade au fenouil, daube, gigot à la ficelle and ratatouille. Starting with aperitifs and amuse-gueule and finishing up with fruit desserts, hers is classic French country cooking, featuring everyday ingredients cooked with respect for their nature and flavour.
Having been described as ‘a gastronomic love poem to France’s most exhilarating region’, this is an essential book for any serious food lover’s library.
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