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Christofle, Immersion into French art of living


Maison Christofle, an immersion in French art of living

Christofle is a French luxury House that, in the tradition of the French art of living, embodies the art of sharing. Through sharing – with family, with a loved one, with friends and relations – Christofle speaks to contemporary aesthetes, hedonists and globetrotters who know that beauty, elegance and refinement enhance the shared moments, making them even more powerful and precious.

The company was founded in 1830 by Charles Christofle. In 1842, he acquired the patents for silver and gold metal electroplating. More durable and less harmful than traditional techniques, electroplating and gilding made it possible to manufacture pieces on a massive scale. Christofle was the only patent holder in France for 15 years. This made Christofle a major player in the 19th century silver industry and an integral player in art of living today.
One of his first clients was none other than the French King, Louis-Philippe I. The King actually ordered a full service for the Chateau d’Eu in Normandy, a vacation spot for the French royal family.

Maison Christofle uses entirely handmade manufacturing. The precious trades of spinning, embossing, carving, engraving, perpetuated by its craftsmen immortalize the qualities of elegance and excellence. The know-how of its highly qualified craftsmen is transmitted from teacher to student thus constituting the living heritage of Christofle. True “Living Treasures”, the Master Goldsmiths are the guardians of the sustainability and quality of Christofle know-how.

In addition to its studio’s creations, Christofle collaborates with renowned designers and artists to produce ambitious pieces illustrating its vision of the art of sharing. Produced by the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsmen in France), these pieces – works by artists and designers, historical reprints and reproductions, and custom-made and exceptional commissions – are all crafted in the Christofle workshops in Normandy (France).

Present in 70 countries, the art of sharing by Christofle has spread worldwide but its know-how can only be observed in France.

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Top image: Know-how, matrix creation for stamping the cutlery©Koox productions
Side image: Eden Garden collection designed by Marcel Wanders for Christofle. ©LuxProd

Dijon Gingerbread

Time for Christmas dinner!
Savour our locally inspired – from Burgundy- selected recipe.

Dijon Gingerbread

To end our Christmas dinner with a sweet note, you will also find the recipe of the genuine Burgundian dessert: the famous gingerbread. It appeared in the 14th century in the Burgundian capital city Dijon and was appreciated by Henry IV. Indeed, the French king wrote a note in 1595, about the savoir-faire of Dijon pastry chefs. So, try the recipe, and feel as a king!

The tasting

Garnished with candied fruits, it is a tasty dessert and you will be delighted with its spicy flavors.
Without candied fruit, it can be enjoyed simply buttered at breakfast or tea time. It is also very common in France to use gingerbread as an accompaniment to savory dishes, especially the famous foie gras.
It is recommended to be patient before eating as it actually improves over the first 2-3 days.

• Honey 250g
• Flour 200g
• Baking powder 10g
• Brown sugar 50g
• Water 2 tablespoons
• Egg 1
• Salt 1 pinch
• Mixture of spices (cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg) 10g
• To decorate: candied fruits of your choice, star anise, cinnamon stick…

The recipe

> Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180°, thermostat 6-7).  Butter and flour your pan.
> In a large bowl, dissolve the honey in hot water.
> add flour, and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps
> add baking powder, brown sugar, egg and salt – whisk again
> add the spices
> Pour the batter into the prepared pan
> Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
> Remove from oven and let cool slightly before removing from the mould.

This cake will keep for about 2 weeks. It doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge. Just keep it in an airtight tin or wrapped in plastic.

Passages Secrets wishes you Bon appétit

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© Alain DOIRE / Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourisme

Roast capon with foie gras stuffing

Time for Christmas dinner!
Savour our locally inspired – from Burgundy- selected recipe.

With Christmas approching here is a great opportunity to reveal a culinary specialty traditionally served on this festive occasion.
The most important occasion in France, Christmas brings the whole family together for a warm and tasty dinner.
As the main French region for the production of exceptional poultry, its famous capon brings a bit of Burgundy to many French Christmas tables. Remembering its generous aroma and tasty roasted flavor from last year’s Christmas – I couldn’t help sharing the recipe with you.

Roast capon with foie gras stuffing

Ingredients – Servings: 8  
For a capon of at least 3kg

Stale bread 150 grams
Milk 20 cl
Finely chopped onions 125 grams
“Bayonne” type ham 150 grams
Sausage meat 150 grams
“Mi-cuit” foie gras 150 grams
White pudding (sausage) 2
Eggs 2
Oil 1 tablespoon
Butter 150 grams (50 g per kg of capon)
Armagnac (or Cognac) 2 tablespoons
Chopped parsley 1 tablespoon
Sugar 1 tablespoon

Preparation: 45min  –  Cooking: 4h20

  1. The stuffing:

> Wet the bread with the milk.
> chop the onions, and Sauté the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes.
> Take the rind off the ham and chop it coarsely.
> Take the skins off the white sausages and cut them into cubes.
> Also cut the foie gras into cubes.
> Squeeze the milk out of the bread and crumble it coarsely,
> Chop the parsley.
> Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with the sausage meat, the eggs, the Armagnac and the sugar.
> Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

  1. Roast capon

> Preheat the oven 400 F (220°C).
> Season the inside of the capon with salt and pepper.
> Fill the cavity of the capon with the stuffing. Sew it closed with cooking twine and then truss it.
> Put the capon in a large oven pan,
> Generously coat it in butter, add salt and pepper.
> Put into the oven at mid height and
> Cook 25 minutes per pound, turning the capon from time to time and basting it often with its juice.

  1. Prepare to serve

> Cut the capon by separating the limbs and cutting the breasts into 1 cm thick slices.Place them onto a hot serving dish as you cut them.
> Take out the stuffing and cut it into slices. Place them in the centre of the warm dish.
> Strain the cooking juice, degrease, correct the seasoning and pour into a hot sauce boat.

Ready for dinner. As the recipe contains foie gras, white wine from Burgundy such as  Meursault., Santenay or Montrachet would be a great pairing.

Enjoy your meal!

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“Eating with silverware gives more sophistication to the meal and therefore in principle the pleasure is tenfold.”

David is our expert today. He will guide us through the history of French silverware, in particular since the 19th century (he is the author of the 400 page book « French Silver Cutlery of the XIXth Century », Editions Faton). Silverware and France appear to be his two passions. He will also share with us his own history with France. He is a former antique dealer, and he happily describes himself as a compulsive silver collector. He will  explain the importance of the meal in French society, the idea of a “bon vivant” that is typically French.

David you are British, so what made you come to France in the first place? Was it a choice, or the result of life’s chances?
« I would say both! My father is Scottish and my mother Hungarian. The chance of my life was indeed that I was born in France, near Paris. I don’t have French nationality, but I was born here; but we left  when I was 2 years old. Throughout my childhood, I thought that one day I would move back to France. Before Paris, I lived in New York where I met my wife. We spent our honeymoon in Paris. And at that time, we told ourselves that Paris was where we should retire. Finally we came back to Paris much earlier, in 1991. This summer we moved to Burgundy Franche-Comté, in the Haute-Soane department. We have moved into a 19th century apartment in the small and charming ancient town of Gray, which first existed in the year 951. »

How did you become interested in silver ?
« I started buying silver before settling in France. As an antique dealer in New York, I mostly bought furniture. Actually it was then that I also started buying French and other silver pieces. »

So it became a passion for you?
« I would say, rather that it almost became an illness. Like for all collectors once your are « caught », it attracts you irresistibly. »

What do you admire most about silver?
«  It is a mixture of the quality of workmanship with human intelligence. It is a question of the design of the object and its purpose. The 19th century is a very interesting period where there is a lot of historicism in the design of objects in general. When you look at a well designed and well made object it becomes a thing of beauty. »

Then it is important that the object has a function?
« Yes, the object has a function, and that function is part of its beauty. For example, the better the quality of both workmanship and design of cutlery, the greater the pleasure experienced in using silver cutlery.
What is also interesting is that in the 19th century, there was solid silver cutlery and also less expensive silver-plated cutlery; which was the precursor of the use of stainless steel which is cheaper still.
The use of silverware became accessible to a large part of the French society, who bought silver-plated cutlery which were exactly the same patterns as those in solid silver. It became  easily possible to eat in style. »

And it is thus in the 19th century that the use of silver-plated wares became widespread?
« Yes it was a century of inventions. From the 1830’s silver-plated metal became  readily available.  The trigger was when the French company Christofle, which was at first the only important specialist in silver-plated wares, managed to sell them to the imperial family. For example, at the Chateau de Chantilly, you can see a whole cutlery service and also soup tureens, all in silver-plated metal. So it’s a combination of access to luxury with the possibility of having well-made, high quality and not necessarily very expensive pieces. »

When did the goldsmith’s trade first appear?
« Gold and silversmiths existed in ancient times, but Its apogee was the 18th century.  I was still expensive in the 18th century and restricted to the aristocracy which used only solid silver. As for all decorative arts, furniture, glassware, ceramics, porcelain, the 18th was the apogee of extreme luxury; the 19th was the century of access to luxury for the class just below the aristocracy, the bourgeois class. “

Of all the pieces you have, what are your favorites?
« There are many pieces that I like very much. There is not one single piece in particular. Each piece is different, just like people. There are pieces set with semi-precious stones, there are pieces in vermeil, engraved pieces. I recently bought a small mocha spoon, that has a figure of Napoleon on the handle, which is something you seldom see. It’s not worth a lot of money but it’s a spoon that was made for Napoleon’s admirers in the later 19th century and for a collector it’s quite rare today. »

When you buy a piece of silver, do you try to trace its history, to find its origin?
« Yes certainly. I look at the quality of the object but the first thing to do is to look at the maker’s marks and hallmarks. By observing the marks we can know where the piece was made, if it is French or not. We can see if it was made in Paris or in the provinces. We can find the name of the silversmith.  With the name of the silversmith and the type of mark we can often date the piece with more or less precision. In France in the 19th century, dating a silver objet is more difficult than previously because there is no date stamp for each year. The margin for dating is more vague, but still possible, using the guarantee mark and the silversmith’s mark, because many silversmiths had rather short periods of activity.”
Buying and collecting silver in general and cutlery in particular is interesting  because we eat 3 meals a day, so we use the cutlery every day. You can find antique silverware in antique shops, antique fairs, auction rooms, and even our own grandparents’ homes. It is possible to start with a small spoon that you found at grandma’s; then you can begin to understand how and why the spoon is interesting, by looking at the style, the quality of work and by studying the silver marks. This leads us to look for other similar pieces elsewhere, and once we start, we are lost, and can’t stop. It is easy to have hundreds of pieces of cutlery at home. Pieces which we use on Sundays, others which we use at Christmas or very rarely because they are so rare and beautiful that we don’t want them to get damaged… »

For you, using silverware during a meal changes the taste of food?
« It’s partly about the taste of the food but more important is that it changes the attitude of the person and consequently the experience. It’s comparable drinking Champagne in a plastic or crystal glass, it’s a totally different experience. If you’re at a friend’s house or in a restaurant and you drink from a crystal glass, it’s the same drink, but it changes everything. It’s like when you’re dressed in jeans and a t-shirt you’re more comfortable and then if you put on more sophisticated clothes, you’re already more sophisticated. Eating with silverware gives more sophistication to the meal and therefore in principle the pleasure is tenfold. »

Is there anything you would like to say that I haven’t asked you about, or that is important to you about the place of silver in a meal ?
« The most important thing when you think about a meal, is that the art of the table makes you feel better, it is the difference between eating and dining.
What is interesting in France is that this idea of the importance of the meal, is present in all social strata. There are different levels of wealth in different classes, but in all classes in France, there is an understanding of the importance of the meal. This is typically French. That it is always possible to eat well. This is the richness of French ‘art de vivre’, whether you live in Paris or in the countryside.

This is found elsewhere, but it is an idea that spread from France in the 18th century.  C’est l’art de vivre à la française! »

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Rungis is Europe’s biggest market. Dedicated to professionals, it is the bastion of the Parisian fresh food culture and defends, night after night, the art of food. As the sun goes down, the best products come into this impressive fortress from our many regions. As day breaks, the French je-ne-sais-quoi blossoms. A colorful kaleidoscope that serves the complete food chain, but fresh flowers as well. Rungis is a prestigious showcase of French know-how and culture.

Discover the unique experience of visiting Rungis