What an absolute pleasure it was to spend 5 days in the French countryside cooking with Mary.
Right from the beginning she could not have been more helpful. She sugggested all of the best ways to arrive at the Chateau, and even picked me up from the bus. The Chateau itself was just charming; the real-deal French country house that it appears in the photos. Xavier, Mary and their housekeeper Ella was so incredibly attentive to all of our needs and made our stay so welcoming.
We had a lovely few days cooking a wide variety of beautiful sweet and savory dishes, and covered lots of basics like the perfect mayonnaise and vinaigrette. Every meal was a true feast, with all of the amazing food we had cooked, accompanied by locals wines that Xavier was able to give us some real lessons on.
Mary was an excellent teacher, and keeping the classes small and fairly relaxed was a great way to help us learn but also make us feel like it was a holiday too!
I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Chateau de la Barbee and would recommend it to anyone who loves French food. Mary and Xavier were the most perfect hosts and I hope to be able to go back again one day in the near future!
a traveler Australia
From the time I first visited France, it had been a mystery to me how food could taste so much better than what I was normally accustomed to eating at home.
I’m recently retired and wanted to embrace a healthier lifestyle, so began my journey of discovering the joy of ‘eating for the pleasure of eating’.
Our gracious hosts Mary and Xavier provided us with fascinating insights into French culture, cuisine and history of Château de La Barbée; built by their family at the time of the Revolution in 1790.
The six day course was a full and varied program, the tuition both enjoyable and very well-paced as were the excursions.
If I may say so, the meals and wine were superb!
I’ve learnt a great deal from the course and already impressed my friends with the results
All round a great holiday experience!
Like so much of the Loir, both the Chateau and Estate resonate with the rich history of France and might be said to have a certain ‘rustic charm’.
What a fantastic experience! I had good fortune to attend a 5-day cooking course at the lovely Chateau de La Barbee this summer.
We arrived after lunch, were shown to our beautiful rooms and invited to proceed to the Orangerie for an al fresco wine and cheese tasting and to get acquainted with our hosts, Mary and Xavier, the owner residents of the Chateau.
We fell in to an easy daily routine. After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, croissants, milk from the farm, homemade jams, local honey, we hit the kitchen "Aprons on!" around 9. We cooked, tasted, tested and tried lots of recipes all in preparation for our lunches and dinners.
One of the things I loved most was Mary's ease in the kitchen. We did not stick strictly to planned menus. On any given day, dependent on what was freshest, most available, etc. we would adjust our menu accordingly. For example, Xavier came home one day with mussels fresh from the sea. He steeped them in a delicious broth and they became the 1st course of our lunch that day.
Each day we would go on at least one outing to see and enjoy the local markets and sights. After lunch it was back to the kitchen "Aprons on!" for another lesson and more preparations for our next meal. Evenings would end in one of the many comfortable parlors, a glass of Armagnac in hand listening to Xavier's great stories. The Chateau has been in his family since the days of Napoleon and he is an expert on French history in general and the Chateau and surrounding area in particular.
Everything was so special and well run it is hard to pick favorites, but two highlights for me were learning how to make an ice bowl and our final formal dinner in the grand dining room. Mary and Xavier invited 4 friends, we set a beautiful table, dressed for the occasion and feasted on lamb shanks, duck breast and the many dishes and desserts we had prepared earlier.
A very rewarding and enjoyable 5-day experience. Completely immersed in the french lifestyle in a fabulous setting with attentive, knowledgeable and gracious hosts.
Julie Parker United States
What a fabulous way to celebrate a milestone birthday! Never dreamed that I would be celebrating "60" with 5 of my dearest friends in France! We started off in Paris and then headed to the beautiful Loire Valley for our amazing stay at Chateau de La Barbee. When got to the end of the road and entered the driveway we were in awe of the beautiful building with a huge fountain standing before us. This was our "home" for the next 5 days. The adventure started with getting settled in our rooms and then a quick stroll through the rose gardens to the Orangerie where we ate exquisite cheese and drank fine wine. I knew we were in for a treat of a lifetime.
Our chateau hosts were Mary (cooking teacher extraordinaire) and Xavier (wine connoisseur) who were so gracious and welcoming that we immediately felt at home. I was a bit nervous about taking a French cooking class (I saw Julie and Julia) but Mary put us at ease from the get-go. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen on recipes that I would definitely cook at home. We prepared lunch and dinner courses, shopped in the outdoor market in La Fleche went on a variety of excursions (Abbey of St. Peter, Chateau de Lude, Chateau of Angers and Domaine de la Tuffiere for wine tasting and a picnic). The table was beautifully set each night and our meals were fabulous. In addition to the recipes, we came away with a number of new useful cooking tips. I would go back in a heartbeat! Merci Mary and Xavier!
Catherine R United States
I recently spent a totally delightful stay at the Chateau de La Barbee, cooking, eating, and sightseeing under the wonderful direction of Mary Pochez. We were a group of 6 women friends celebrating the 60th birthday of one with a 2-day stay in Paris and a 5-night stay at the chateau. The chateau itself is incredibly beautiful and charming, filled with antiques and lovely art and portraits, but also very lived in and comfortable. You don't feel that you are in a museum, but rather in a home that has been loved and cared for by many generations of Mary's husband's family. Xavier is a very charming co-host with lots of knowledge about French history, the chateau, and local wines. Everywhere you look, both inside and out the windows, you see beauty.
The French cooking classes were fantastic - so much fun and so well taught. Mary is a very knowledgeable and casual cook and makes you feel that you can make the dishes with ease. She instills confidence along with all her recipes and tips. Every single dish we prepared (and ate!) was mouthwatering delicious, from the fish baked in salt to the beef Bourguignon to the cheese souffle to the potato dishes to the baked peaches and chocolate cake. We all had fun cooking in her wonderful kitchen with walls of copper pots and and fresh cut flowers and produce everywhere. We learned a lot of dishes and loved them all!
And the program of excursions was wonderful too - the drives through the charming villages to visit other chateaux, the evening at an ancient abbey listening to monks sing Gregorian chants, the local farmers' market, the 14th century tapestries displayed in the chateau in Angers.
This is a trip I will remember, in detail, my whole life. It was educational, fun, and lovely in every way. Get together a group of friends and go! Or go with your partner! You will love it too!
Thank you for sharing your home and your vast knowledge of all things French, Mary and Xavier!