How to Host a Relaxed Breton-Style Summer Lunch

In a secluded hamlet close to Audierne in northwestern France, with grounds that slope gently down to the Goyen River, sits the late 18th-century Breton farmhouse of Benoît Rauzy and Anthony Watson. Though raised in Paris, Rauzy has spent holidays on this windswept nook of Brittany ever since his dad and mom purchased the whitewashed, blue-shuttered home — and the encompassing two acres of meadow, orchards and sheltered gardens — within the 1960s. The salty air that blows via the property continues to be scented by the roses and hydrangeas Rauzy’s father, Jacques, planted there greater than 40 years in the past.

“There was always this feeling of absolute freedom when we came here,” mentioned Rauzy, who additionally shares properties with Watson in Paris and Provence. As a little one, he would spend seemingly infinite summers on the home swimming, choosing fruit, fishing from the household sailboat and taking part in with the kids from neighboring farms, who’d inform terrifying tales, in Breton, of Ankou, a deathly determine who looms massive within the area’s wealthy Celtic mythology.

On a desk within the farmhouse kitchen, spider crabs and the elements for a starter of recent mackerel served with black pepper, olive oil and domestically fermented kombucha.Credit…Roland BeaufreA dish of smoked sardines and thinly sliced lieu jaune, or pollock, ready with olive oil and recent backyard herbs.Credit…Roland Beaufre

Little has modified on this rural enclave within the intervening years. On a current July morning, Rauzy and Watson — who collectively based Atelier Vime, a line of handcrafted Provençal wicker furnishings, ornamental equipment and antiques in 2014 — made their approach via the patchwork panorama of stone-wall-wrapped fields to the river’s chilly tidal waters for his or her each day swim.

Afterward, the pair stopped on the riverbank to full one other age-old ritual of Breton dwelling — harvesting a few of the area’s considerable sea lettuce. They carried handfuls of the translucent, vivid inexperienced algae residence, in wicker baskets of their very own design, to be chopped and blended with butter from a close by farm, forming a salty, textured condiment. One of a whole lot of seaweed species frequent to these waters, sea lettuce can be amongst a number of domestically foraged elements to seem on the desk for lunch that day: a celebratory gathering the couple was internet hosting to mark the current déconfinement, or “unlocking,” in France.

At round 10 a.m., the pair have been joined by a few of the identical native associates — together with the stained-glass artist Steven Pennaneac’h, the illustrator Emmanuel Pierre, the graphic designer Virginie Fouin, the native historian Cécilia Floch, the photographer Roland Beaufre and the Breton artwork connoisseur and collector Tangui Le Lonquer — that Rauzy met right here as a boy. Many of them helped Rauzy and Watson, albeit remotely, to revive each the home and its backyard final yr, after the couple sought sanctuary there through the first months of the pandemic.

The property’s wicker studio, which occupies a restored laborer’s home within the backyard, options a massive cupboard stuffed with Watson and Rauzy’s assortment of vintage miniature baskets.Credit…Roland BeaufreThe Île de Sein-style soup was served in bowls that belonged to Rauzy’s grandmother.Credit…Roland Beaufre

“We haven’t seen anyone properly for a year,” mentioned Watson. “So it’s this special moment when we are able to get together for a little party.” For the event, he and Rauzy arrange a lengthy farmhouse desk within the small willow subject to the west of the home. Established with the cautious steering of the native skilled Gaël Davoli, one other lunch visitor, the superb mahogany-hued number of the plant, which grows to round six ft tall and is also referred to as petite grisette, has thrived within the area’s temperate local weather. Davoli, Watson and Rauzy harvested the primary crop of two,000 seedlings by hand in February and the following is predicted to come to fruition this winter. The intention is for Atelier Vime to have the option to domesticate sufficient willow to notice its personal small-scale wicker creations utilizing it, and to start controlling the manufacturing cycle from seed to completed product.

The studio’s new Atlantique assortment — which incorporates rope-wrapped globular lamp bases, a pair of boldly patterned desk linens with coral and woven rattan motifs by the artist Marie-Victoire de Bascher and handmade vegetable-wax candles in terra-cotta urn containers — attracts from the Bretagne lifestyle, if not from its fields. “This is such a humble place,” mentioned Watson, who discovered inspiration for the lamps within the conventional glass floats as soon as utilized by native fishermen within the close by Baie d’Audierne harbor. The identical maritime temper infused the menu. Served in six programs with glasses of white Meursault and purple Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the meal started with pollock carpaccio and smoked sardines ready by Rauzy and Watson with olive oil and backyard herbs, adopted by recent lobster with do-it-yourself mayonnaise, a hearty Île de Sein lobster soup and a flower-strewn backyard salad. To end, there have been native farm cheeses and two desserts — a charlotte, a Chantilly and génoise confection created by the hosts and dressed with recent raspberries and blackberries from the backyard, and a noisette cake made by Fouin. The feast was cooked fully with regional elements, from Homard Breton lobster to apple juice pressed from fruit collected within the property’s orchards.

“We wanted to preserve the bohemian atmosphere first created here by my parents,” mentioned Rauzy, recalling how that they had an open-door coverage, internet hosting their circle of author and artist associates — whose work nonetheless strains the bookshelves and adorns the partitions — from the 1960s till the mid-1980s. True to this spirit, the lunch dialog centered on artwork and native traditions, starting from Seiz Breur, a 1920s-era artwork motion that originated within the space, to methods for getting ready spider crabs, one other regional delicacy that the friends loved. Plans have been hatched for Rauzy and Watson to create wicker beehives — they’ve late 19th-century examples of their archive in Provence that have been made of their home there, a former wicker workshop in Vallabrègues — that can be part of the 5 picket hives already put in and in use on the grounds.

After the final chunk of the charlotte aux framboises was consumed, the buddies made their approach to an association of vintage rattan lounge chairs on the fringe of the orchard, the place they shared reminiscences of the Parisian illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, who died in 2019 and whom Emmanuel Pierre knew nicely, over an natural tea made with sage and verbena from the backyard. And when the solar, which had miraculously proven up the second lunch was served, retreated behind a cloud, they gathered fallen wooden and constructed a massive hearth in the lounge, the place they continued speaking lengthy into the evening. Here, Watson and Rauzy share their suggestions for internet hosting a equally rustic however refined Breton-inspired déjeuner sur la mer.

At the desk, Watson serves the stew to friends Steven Pennaneac’h and Virginie Fouin.Credit…Roland Beaufre

Keep Floral Displays on the Wild Side

“We always put flowers on the table,” mentioned Watson, who sometimes fills vases with wild roses, poppies and herbs to show across the residence every week. And so, the day earlier than the lunch, he and Rauzy, along with their Andalusian Hound, Alma, headed into the backyard to collect lavender, pink roses, anemones, white cosmos, ivy and different blooms, in addition to wheat from the neighboring fields, to put together a few preparations.

While the couple generally make monochrome bouquets, for the luncheon they opted for a extra various method. “Wildflowers are the most beautiful, especially when mixed in with some grasses,” Watson suggested. And relatively than lining the middle of the desk, the blooms have been very loosely organized, then positioned in Atelier Vime’s urn-shaped Medici rattan vases and positioned at one finish of the desk. “Nothing should be too controlled,” Watson mentioned. “The desired look is natural but elegant.”

Watson (left) and Rauzy make the ultimate preparations within the kitchen.Credit…Roland BeaufreA basket stuffed with domestically sourced salad elements together with chives, arugula and nasturtium flowers.Credit…Roland Beaufre

Make Cooking a Group Effort

The meal was a completely collaborative affair, with no visitor arriving empty-handed. Beaufre introduced his do-it-yourself mayonnaise for the lobster, whereas Fouin got here with a basket stuffed with cheeses — together with an natural goat selection created by the native producer Fabien Bourdel — in addition to elements for a backyard salad of chives, grilled squash seeds, arugula and nasturtium flowers, all gathered from her plot in close by Plogoff.

The morning was spent cooking and chatting. While Fouin made a hazelnut oil and raspberry French dressing, Rauzy ready some recent French beans, sourced from a farm within the space, to add to the salad. “It’s so much more fun to cook together, rather than just arrive to see the finished dishes,” mentioned Watson. It’s an ethos that ensures relaxed hosts, although doing a little work forward of time helps. He and Rauzy made the charlotte the evening earlier than.

An vintage rattan chair beside a financial institution of hydrangeas in full bloom.Credit…Roland BeaufreEach visitor was served with a slice of every of the 2 desserts, a charlotte aux framboises ready by Rauzy and Watson, and a noisette introduced by Fouin.Credit…Roland Beaufre

Style the Table to Suit the Scene

“The style here is country chic,” mentioned Watson. “So the lunch setting should be refined, but not overly sophisticated.” Placing the practically 10-foot-long elm desk alongside the sting of the willow subject, and shut to an orchard of fruit timber groaning with pears, apples and plums, additional necessitated a relaxed, low-key desk setting. Rather than ensuring the whole lot was coordinated, then, the couple selected two completely different sorts of chairs, alternating 1950s steel armchairs from Mathieu Matégot topped with Pierre Frey cushions and vintage rattan seating from the 1920s. “The colors should match, but the periods should be mixed,” he mentioned. “It’s prettier that way.”

The meals was introduced on a modest 19th-century service of plates and platters that belonged to Rauzy’s grandmother, with Christofle cutlery and unadorned Spanish wine glasses. “We wanted to reflect the Breton identity, which is simple and yet strong,” mentioned Watson.

Bruno Fouquet’s show-stopping model of Île de Sein soup.Credit…Roland BeaufreSeasoned potatoes, cooked within the casserole with the stew, have been separated into a terrine and served as a aspect dish.Credit…Roland Beaufre

Don’t Be Afraid to Tinker With Tradition

The focus of the menu was a tackle Île de Sein soup. A well-loved lobster dish that was historically made by sailors’ wives, it’s named after the one-mile-long strip of close by land that’s famed for its indomitable fishermen. “It was made by Bruno Fouquet, a family friend from the village,” mentioned Watson. “He’s the only one left who knows this very special version of the dish, which is an old family recipe.”

Along with beneficiant helpings of Homard Breton lobster, Fouquet’s mix featured potatoes, onion and a secret mixture of herbs together with saffron. While there are many customary iterations of this native specialty on-line, his take additionally comes with one distinctive addition — a beneficiant splash of whiskey. “It adds real bite,” mentioned Watson, who introduced the soup to the desk in the identical big casserole Fouquet had delivered it in and served it from there. “Everyone was amazed,” he mentioned. “Lots of people eat lobster here as it’s so easy to find, but you can’t eat this soup anywhere else, even in a restaurant.”

The collage artist and illustrator Emmanuel Pierre, a visitor on the lunch, made menus and place playing cards specifically for the meal.Credit…Roland BeaufreA noisette dessert served with blueberries and candied kumquat — and hydrangea flowers for adornment solely. (“Don’t eat them!” warned Watson.)Credit…Roland Beaufre

Bring Theater to the Table

Watson selected a tablecloth that may chime with the meal’s nautical temper — and add a little understated drama. “The arm of the sea is right at the end of the garden,” he mentioned. “So it made sense to use a marine design.” The piece, produced for Atelier Vime by Olivades, options a painterly sea life motif created in collaboration with de Bascher and was made utilizing a conventional aid screen-printing approach often known as impressions au cadre.

While its energetic sample has a splendidly hand-drawn really feel, it was the best way the tablecloth skimmed the grass, mimicking a voluminous skirt, that lent the setting a theatrical air. The couple took as a reference oversize tablecloth kinds they’d seen in European movies from the 1930s and ’40s. “We wanted something that would trail the ground. But we couldn’t find anything long enough — so we created it,” Watson mentioned, including that it’s straightforward to produce a related impact utilizing classic linen sheets. “The key is to be generous. You want it to waft in the breeze.”