Chef Fabien Beaufour visits Primland

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final platted product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

The stars always shine brighter at Primland 

I was honored with a seat at Primland’s chef’s table this weekend. As a regular guest at this unique, ultra-luxurious 12,000 acre resort, I have dined with many of the great chefs that have called this kitchen home over the past several years. But, this was a very special chef’s table. Chef Fabien Beaufour is the executive chef at the sister resort, Domaine des Etangs in Massignac, France. He was invited to showcase his formidable skills for a select few members of the Primland Resort. True to the nature of this exclusive membership, seats at this table were not available to the general public.

Domaine des Etangs, an 11th-century castle within the pristine, remote Charente Limousine region of France. Formerly, a retreat for the Primat family, the castle has been thoroughly transformed to exceed the standards of the most discerning travelers while remaining true to the vision of the property, as a natural preserve. It is this harmony between old and new, that is the foundation of the property, and it is carried out through every detail in an effort to bring about balance and wellness for its guests. I had the pleasure to meet with Chef Beaufour in the spa the day after this amazing meal. A spa lover himself, Chef Beaufour shared with me his belief that most great spas also have incredible food. He believes that mind and body must be nourished properly to achieve balance in life. His goal is to create an optimal state of wellbeing for the guest. He does this by managing the entire process from farm to table. Organic food grown on property is respectfully managed in a way that does not harm the land while keeping an eye on the long-term health of this pristine 2,400 acre preserve. It is this deep respect for balance that guides him in planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preparation of his dishes.

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final plated product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

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Lobster cappucino and cauliflower bavaroise paired with
2012 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
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River trout, braised artichoke with coconut paired with
2014 Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rielsling Spatlese trocken
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Foie gras parfait, tangerine and toast, on the menu at Domaine des Etangs
2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie
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Smoked carrots, tabbouleh with ginger
1983 Ch. Cantemerle
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Roasted lobster with butternut and lemon verbena sabayon
2011 PaulPernot Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Folatieres
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Venison saddle, pears and black trumpet mushroom
2010 Mullineux Schist Syrah (en magnum)
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Classic Grand Marnier souffle paired with
Grand Marnier

 

Guests of Domaine des Etangs are invited to explore the gardens, pick produce that is pleasing to them, and bring it in to Chef Beaufour to prepare for them. It is this connection with nature that also feeds the soul and achieves the desired state of wellbeing and balance.

 

 

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I look forward to my visit to Domaine des Etangs later this year. To learn more about my time at Primland you might enjoy these posts: Inspired Mountain Magic   Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling    How to make a gingerbread treehouse

 

I was a guest of Primland for this special dinner. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

 

 

How to make a gingerbread treehouse

Gingerbread houses are a labor of love. I am a huge fan of baking, so when my friend, Beth, offered to teach me how to bake and build a gingerbread house, I was thrilled. I knew it would be a challenge, but I had no idea how much actually goes into building such a magical project. I learned a lot from my friend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Golden Eagle Treehouse at Primland Resort
Golden Eagle Treehouse at Primland Resort

Meadows of Dan, Virginia

A meditation in gingerbread

Gingerbread houses are a labor of love. I am a huge fan of baking, so when my friend, Beth, offered to teach me how to bake and build a gingerbread house, I was thrilled. I knew it would be a challenge, but I had no idea how much actually goes into building such a magical project. I learned a lot from my friend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Keep Scale in mind. I opted to build what I thought would be a pretty simple pattern for a cute little treehouse. If you want to spend more time decorating than baking, keep it simple.

IMG_9030Have a plan. Ginger bread house patterns can be copied and cut out from templates in books. My friend uses one or two different templates and makes the same couple of houses every year but decorates them differently. I however was not thrilled with my choice of standard home (nothing normal for me!), so naturally I had to make my own template. This adds a considerable amount of time to the project, but hey, why not? When you invest this much time is baking and building, you better love what you are going to make. I actually drew my plan out a couple of times to get the proper scale I was looking for.

IMG_9017I wanted to create a natural-looking house that is a copy of an actual treehouse that I have stayed in many times. When picking a design, be sure to think out about how you want the gingerbread to look. Will this be a candy-crusted house with lots of frosting to simulate snow? Do you want something that looks like a fairy tale house? What color do you want the house? Will you actually be able to see the cookie part, or will it be coated with frosting or other decorations? I knew my house would be rustic and not covered in frosting. I actually made a second batch of dough as the first batch was too dark. I was making a treehouse, so dark brown did not cut it. Light and dark corn syrup can be mixed to get the right color. If going for a brick look, red food coloring could also be used.

IMG_9025Consider your base. Will you need to move this once it is built? I knew I was going to travel with mine in a car, so I chose a thick piece of wood. I inverted a foam cooler on top of the wood to simulate the edge of the mountain just like the real treehouse. Other options could be a cutting board, foam core, or even a table-top piece of glass. To make a gingerbread house really pop, the setting is almost as important as the house. Will you want a yard? Trees? Fences? All of these little touches can really make a house really special. These also take time so consider your available time when picking the scene.

Structural supports are important considerations. How heavy will the roof be if it is coated with frosting and candy? There are many cute ideas to cover a roof. Candies, cereal, frosting, cookies, and fondant are all great choices. If a slab of gingerbread will be coated with frosting and cookies or candies, the thickness of the slab needs to be considered not only to hold the sugary roofing material, but also the walls need to be able to support the weight. There are several tricks to hold together walls. I used royal icing and allowed the pieces to dry together over night before adding additional decorations, and in my case, that was frosting with Cinnamon Toast Crunch to simulate shake shingles.

Dry time is not exciting, but very important and should be considered in the overall project plan. Also, the actual cookie dough should be made ahead of the day of baking to allow it to cool in the refrigerator. It is important to work with cool dough when rolling out the dough and cutting the pattern. I used an additional day to let the cookie pattern pieces completely cool and dry out.

IMG_9159Did you say Dremel? I had no idea that you could cut cookies without them crumbling with a Dremel tool. This can be done only after a day or two of leaving the cookies to air out. This tool worked great to help make the roof and walls have the proper angles needed. Trimming warm cookies with a sharp knife, right out of the oven, is also a good options. Rounded cookies don’t stick together with frosting as well as straight edged cookies. Thankfully, Beth had the Dremel with a wheel blade, which was perfect for cutting the cookies.

IMG_9203I used a shoe box to hold the walls at angles, and set the roof overnight with royal icing. Once the frosting was hard the next day, I was able to put the house together. If you are planning to do a more advanced project with cutaways and a decorated interior, some of these walls may have decorations on them. I chose to have windows made of melted Life Savers, and I used the royal icing to glue those in before adding the roof. Attaching the house to the base with icing also helps keep the house from sliding if you will be transporting it, even if it is just to another room. Make considerations for lighting. Will you add a battery-operated tea candle like I did to have the house glow? Keep this in mind when cutting doors and windows.

IMG_9188Now, the most fun part. With a collection of candies I had purchased from both specialty candy stores and craft stores, I had what I needed on hand. I did the candy shopping the same day I drew out my blueprint and templates. Royal icing can be made thick and then thinned out with water for various applications. Thick frosting for the wall and roof joints, thin icing for decorating the yard. I had several batches of white icing, then thinned it out and added food coloring for different applications. I made grey icing with McCormick’s black food coloring to cover the entire cooler where I didn’t use other colors like green and brown. I did not want my joints to show with white as I knew the house would not be covered in candy, so I tinted the icing the same color as my gingerbread. It was easy to use this tinted spackle to even out walls or the base.

Since I was going for a natural-looking treehouse, I needed to have a tree or several trees and bushes around the house to create a natural setting. I thought I would use actual greens and some fake greens. Since this was a winter scene, I chose to use grape stems. I trimmed the stems in the shape of bushes, then dipped them in milk chocolate to simulate leafless bushes. For the tree, I used pipe cleaners and wrapped the tree with fondant. This was the hardest part of the project and it definitely could use a lot of improvement. It was my first time working with fondant (maybe my last, LOL). The deck and supports for the treehouse were made of pretzels.

The more details the better when it comes to gingerbread houses. The treehouse I made has a hiking trail in the woods just under it, so I used gold covered chocolate rocks to simulate the path. I also purchased little chocolate rocks and I made large boulders out of dates. The front side of the treehouse is facing the 4th green of the gorgeous Highland golf course. I took the liberty of removing one of the sand traps as I am a golfer and I hate that particular trap! For the putting surface of the green, I used green tinted icing, thinned out then sanded the green with tinted green sugar. I used coconut dyed green and chopped to simulate the second cut of the  putting green. I toasted coconut to simulate the fescue that is light brown on the golf course this time of year.

Attention to  the smallest details is what makes a gingerbread house magical. I loved the process of thinking through the project, spending time with my friend, and making my gingerbread home with with a loving intention. I knew I would be taking it to the actual resort for Christmas. I have spent many holidays at this resort, and the staff always spoils me rotten when I visit. I wanted to return some love during my Christmas stay. They are working hard though out holiday season, so I wanted to show them my appreciation!

 

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I do not have any agreements with Primland. I am a regular guest and I consider this resort my second home. This is my life.

 

 

 

Primland Lobster with Lemon-Herb Butter

Lobster with Lemon-herbed butter
Lobster with Lemon-herbed butter

A recipe from the kitchens of Primland Resort

Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Courtesy of Executive Chef Gunnar Thompson

Boiled Lobster with Lemon-Herb Butter

Serves 4

 

 

2 each 1.5 lb lobsters

Compound Lemon-Herb Butter:

1/2 lb butter, softened

Zest of 1 lemon

3 tbl chopped, mixed herbs (parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, basil, or a selection of your favorites)

Stir together butter, lemon zest and herbs. Bring 2 gallons of water to boil, add 4 tbl salt.

Add lobsters and cook for 11-13 minutes. Remove lobsters to a platter and serve accompanied with personal dishes of soft lemon-herb butter. Crck the claws and tail before serving, but leave in the shell.

Class notes: Try to pick female lobsters as they are sweeter. They have much smaller, daintier legs than male lobsters. Do not over cook.

Lemon-Herbed Butter
Lemon-Herbed Butter
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Chef Thompson teaches us how to pick female lobsters

Primland Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Spinach and Horseradish Crust

Chef Thompson tops salmon with sautéed spinach
Chef Thompson tops salmon with sautéed spinach

A recipe from the kitchens of Primland Resort

Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Courtesy of Executive Chef Gunnar Thompson

Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Spinach and Horseradish Crust

Serves 4

4 filets of Salmon, skinned and bones removed

Spinach and Horseradish Crust:

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbl butter

1 shallot, minced

5oz. spinach

1 tbl prepared horseradish

1/4 cup cream

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with oil. Season salmon filets with salt and pepper. Place in baking dish.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add butter and once it foams, add shallots and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add Spinach and stir to wilt. Add cream and horseradish. Cook to glaze spinach. Remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and Worcestershire to taste.

Top each salmon filet with the spinach. Place in oven and bake until fish is cooked and flakes easily with a fork or temperature of 135 degrees. Plate each portion and serve with a lemon wedge.

Salmon with horseradish crusted spinach and fingerling potatos
Salmon with horseradish crusted spinach and fingerling potatos

Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce

Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce
Primland Shrimp and Grits with Low Country Sauce

A recipe from the kitchens of Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Courtesy of Executive Chef Gunnar Thompson

I had the pleasure of learning to cook seafood with Chef Gunnar Thompson at a wellness cooking class this spring at Primland. He was kind enough to share his recipe with me knowing I would share.

Shrimp and Grits with Low Country sauce and Stoneground Grits

Serves 6

Low Country Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup mixed bell peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 3 tbl ham, diced
  • 1 cloved garlic, minced
  • 3 tbl butter
  • 2tbl tomato paste
  • 3/4 tbl Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup cream

Stoneground Grits:

  • 1 cup Course stoneground grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 36 large to medium shrimp, peeled, and devained
  • 2 tbl canola oil

Bring water and milk to a boil in a heavy pot to start the grits. Add grits and stir, reduce heat to very low immediately. Cook, stirring often, until grits are soft and all liquid has been absorbed. Add butter, cheese and season with salt. Set in a warm place. Prepare the low country sauce as the grits are cooking.

Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add butter, ham and vegetables. Cook until softened about five minutes. Add tomato paste and Cajun seasoning, cook for one minute. Add shrimp stock and cream. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt.

Heat a very large skillet over medium high heat. Add Canola oil. Season shrimp with salt. Place shrimp in pan. Cook shrimp for one minute and flip over. Add low country sauce and simmer until shrimp is from, pink, and cooked.

Place grits in each bowl and top with six shrimp and spoon sauce over.

My class notes; Buy the best large stoneground grits you can find. It will make all the difference in this recipe. Also buy shrimp with the shells and make your own stock as he directed in our wellness cooking class.