Sunday December 16th: Ice Skating outdoors in St. Tropez; Beef Stew

Life is very quiet around here these days entertainment-wise, so anything offering a diversion is a big attraction. Thus, the outdoor ice skating rink at the Place des Lices in St. Tropez draws quite a crowd. We went today with our friends Frank ad Anita and their kids. We arrived right after 2PM when the rink opened. France is so clockwork this way – nothing, other than bars and restaurants and those modern hyper marches, seems to be open between 12:30 and 2:00 because that is lunch time. Public life begins again at 2 PM. When we arrived there were very few people on the ice, but by the time we left around 4:00, it was very crowded with teenagers, most of the girls paired off holding hands as they skated. The smaller kiddy ice rink was jam packed. The boys and I got out on the ice and got our fill of skating. I think Jordan and Justin both had the most fun pushing Roc, our friend’s two year old boy, around the kiddy rink in a sled-like chair. The boys got cotton candy, or ‘Barbe a Papa’ (Papa’s beard – I can see how this description works) as a treat. We have had two great days of weather after the storm, and the boys ended skating just in their t-shirts.

Our friends came back to our house and we had beef stew that I made for dinner. I must say, it came out really well. Gigi and I have tried on two previous occasions to make beef stew, with mixed results. The main problem has been the beef cut we purchased, ‘poitrine de boeuf.’ It looks like stew meat, but turns out to be incredibly chewy and not good at all. Trying to figure out the names of beef cuts turns out to be quite challenging, and we don’t use the local butcher stores because their meat prices are so high, so we have not gotten expert advice. I got on the internet to research this problem, and found that stew meats are either the shoulder or rump of the steer. When I next visited the hypermarche (hyper-super-market) I found ‘pave of rumsteak.’ Hey, ‘rumsteak’ is pretty close to ‘rumpsteak’, so I bought it, and it turned out to be a very nice cut of meat for stew. I also used our oven like a crock pot and cooked the meat at around 80 degrees Celsius for 4 hours. That, too, helped the stew. We accompanied the stew with a very hearty red wine, a Marselan from Mas de Valeriole near Arles I bought when we stayed there. I never heard of Marselan grapes, and neither had my French friend Frank, but the wine tasted very similar to a California wine, very robust and slightly tongue-numbing.

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