Barbara Pool Fenzl's Perfect Food Day

While most all of our perfect food day contributors have imagined days, Barbara Pool Fenzl actually had a perfect food day. Fenzl is Phoenix's ultimate culinarian. She has every distinction you might aspire to, including a B.S., M.A., Certified Culinary Professional (CCP). She's the "past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP); benefactor and past board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food; past president of the Arizona Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier; and a past member of the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Committee."

She has been teaching Phoenicians to cook since she opened Les Gourmettes cooking school in 1983. While she's classically trained having studied at Cordon Bleu (London), Ecole LeNotre, and Luberon College, she's also an expert in our regional cuisine. She's quite adept at making southwest cooking sophisticated and smart. You've probably watched her cook television with her cooking program called Savor the Southwest which aired on PBS in 1999. She's also the author of several cookbooks: Southwest the Beautiful Cookbook, Savor the Southwest, and Seasonal Southwest Cooking. She was also the food editor of Southwest Passages and Phoenix Home and Garden magazines and also a frequent contributor to Bon Appétit magazine and other national publications. Phew!

As if that's not enough, you might see Fenzl out jogging, training for sprint triathalons. She puts us to shame, having won 2nd place in one a few years ago. "I love to exercise so I can burn off all that terrific food," she tells us.

Here is Barbara Pool Fenzl's perfect food day:

Many of my days are gastronomically perfect because the best chefs in the Valley - and, actually, from around the world - teach in my home cooking school, Les Gourmettes, two to three times a week. From Chris Bianco's sumptuous pasta to Vincent Guerithault's decadent desserts, my taste buds are often doing a happy dance. The trick is balancing that overindulgence with more sensible eating when I'm not holding classes!

But, if I had to describe just one perfect day of eating, I'd transport myself back to the Dordogne in Southwest France where I conducted cooking classes two weeks a year for the last 12 years. The beautiful 18th century farmhouse housed eight guests, my husband and me, and our lovely hosts, the husband-and-wife team of Wendely Harvey and Robert Cave-Rogers. Each morning we began the day with a lovely buffet of flaky, buttery croissants from the local baker; yogurt right from the farm; a selection of perfectly ripe fruit purchased the day before in the market; and Wendely's own cereal blend. It was the perfect way to start the day before trotting off to tour a castle, visit a goat farm, or go truffle hunting.

Every day we had a lovely two-hour lunch before returning "home" to spend the rest of the afternoon cooking. But all week we looked forward to our farewell luncheon at Le Vieux Logis, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tremolat. Our nine-course feast typically began about 12:30 and ended about three hours later. Dining under the arbor in the formal garden was dreamlike enough, but when the champagne cocktail was served with the lobster tart, I knew we were in heaven. The most exquisite morsel I put in my mouth was the silky crème brulée of foie gras, a mousse-like puree of duck liver with a crunchy sugar topping. The fish course, lotte with tomatoes and small scallops, was divine, as was the duck breast with sautéed fois gras and wild mushrooms. A perfectly ripe cheese is something I can never resist, so the Brebis with cherry jam was worth every calorie. Three desserts followed, each one more unique than the next. The strawberries had a beautiful green pistachio sauce, the raspberries and currants were incorporated into a delicate cheesecake, and the tiny chocolate cake melted in my mouth. Each course was paired perfectly with a French wine, and we were all feeling very mellow by the end of the afternoon.

While our guests packed or took a nap, Wendely and I leapt into action to put together a petite picnique dinner for our graduation celebration. Everyone groaned at the thought of more food, myself included, but by the time the grilled lavender chicken on a bed of arugula, the caramelized onion tart, and the cheese and fruit platter appeared, we all dove in with renewed enthusiasm. Memories that will last a lifetime were created during those weeks, and my taste buds will never forget.

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