Life has been generous given the places I’ve lived. Carmel by the Sea, Ca (where I was born) and Paris, France have been places I’ve called home for most of my life. Now, the family house in Carmel is for sale and when that happens my life will be centered in France. Why France you may wonder?
As the daughter of a chic Parisian woman who took her young daughters regularly to Paris, it feels natural to be drawn to the way of life in France. My French grandfather, Leon Briet (known to me as Pépe), loved good food and wine. It was as a little girl at Pépe’s dining room table that my adventures in ‘Gastronomical Extravaganzas’ began, and it was while holding his hand at the outdoor food markets of the 11th arrondissements that the farmers and small producers became my life long obsession. I appreciate what comes from the fields and orchards of family farms because clearly the freshest, best quality produce is, without exception, from the small farmer. A strong desire to share this passion is what inspired the The French Market Maven – my 1st blog.
It was this same passion for cooking and food that led to my catering business in 1984 and the subsequent two restaurants I owned, cooked in, and ran (Zabie’s in Santa Monica, Ca and Poulet Patate in Santa Fe, New Mexico) from 1986 to 1997. Everything we prepared and served was seasonal, locally grown and if possible, organic. Much of the produce came from weekly farmers markets or was delivered to our kitchen door by the farmers themselves.
From 2005 to 2008 I partnered in a vineyard in Mendocino County, California. We produced a marvelous Pinot Noir under the label Gryphon Wines. Our grapes grew on a 120 acre heritage farm parcel untouched by pesticides or chemicals. I also had the extraordinary experience of producing my own negociant label: Marie Johnston Wines; Chardonnay, Syrah and Rosé which was mostly sold through Whole Foods Market and Bevmo. In the fall of 2008 our vineyard was bought by Rhys Wines. While I still deeply miss the property, there is great happiness in knowing that the Rhys philosophy and management practices will keep the land and water pristine for generations to come.
2009 found my youngest daughter and I in Paris while she attended a French high school. It was a transformative time for us both and the precursor to becoming an ‘empty-nester’. She moved to Boston for college in the fall of 2011, leaving me to my own devises in the midst of an unraveling life, what Brene Brown describes as “walking headlong into uncertainty”. It was there, at that crossroads, re-discovering my original life mission became my quest.
Since 2013, My kids and I have been on the search for a new (to us) family home no more than 3 hours by train from Paris . The Loire Valley and the Bordelais coastal regions are a big draw, both are loaded with charm and rambling properties. My dream is to have a place large enough to receive my growing family over the next few decades, A property which will also be workable as a haven in which to host work shops and retreats for other women, such as myself, who are transitioning into their Best Next Life. Oh.. and Bees. I want to have bees.
Somewhere in my garage, packed in a box of books, is my high school senior yearbook. There among the smiling photos of the graduating class is a serious picture of me with short, unruly curly hair. Under that photo is the description of my life’s mission: Travel the world. Photographer. Writer. A few months ago it dawned on me that more than 40 years later I am living that dream.
PO Box AT, Carmel by the Sea, Ca. 93921