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How to Eat, Cook and Travel Like a Francophile

Cooking-obsessed Texan travel guide Danika Boyle explores French culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
Danika Boyle
At venues like a converted church, Danika Boyle (in hat) hosts dinners inspired by films, the ballet or other performance art.
Photo © Elaine Huang/flickr

A native Texan cook who has traveled extensively in France, Danika Boyle combines the kitchen confidence of Patricia Wells with Austin's indie-rock edge. As the founder of Petite Pêche & Co., a high-end travel company, Boyle arranges events all over the world: culinary tours of France and Tuscany, pop-up salons in Paris, cooking classes in Austin. "For me, parties, cooking classes, travel—they're all a way to create a sense of community between like-minded people," she says.

For a recent event in Paris, Boyle rented out a classic Right Bank apartment (complete with gilded Louis XIV antiques and floor-to-ceiling windows) for a dinner party featuring French-American mash-ups like bourbon-spiked chicken liver mousse on mini waffles, guacamole on endive and foie gras burgers. The 60 guests, a mix of American expats and Parisians, drank mint juleps while listening to Austin jazz singer and songwriter Kat Edmonson. Boyle's a master at picking out the best elements of each culture without veering into campiness. "The Parisians completely devoured the American comfort foods," says Boyle. "I was in the kitchen at the end of the night, trying to scrounge up more things to cook for them."

Boyle discovered France—and travel—after studying at the Sorbonne for a semester in college. A decade and countless visits later, she started leading trips to some of her favorite places. For instance, she often brings guests to Provence's Château la Coste, a 250-acre, biodynamic vineyard with art installations by Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder and Richard Serra. Guests taste wine and wander the grounds before reconvening at a local villa, which Boyle chose for its vintage Lacanche range. Here, at the 18th- century property, she teaches relaxed cooking classes. Many of the dishes are classic, like an herb-crusted leg of lamb and mussels stuffed with herbed bread crumbs. When teaching in Austin, Boyle mixes her French technique with local produce, as in a zucchini soup with crème fraîche to which she adds poblano and cilantro.

France and Texas will come together in yet another way at the new 60-room inn Boyle is designing on Austin's East Side, where she will host cooking classes and events. She plans to incorporate a French-style bakery and restaurant and extensive gardens inspired by the seaside town of Menton, near the French-Italian border. It's Boyle's latest way of bringing her Francophilia home. "When I was 16, I remember looking through a travel magazine about the south of France with one of my girlfriends. She was drooling over a bathing suit, but I was like, 'Look at that hotel!'"

Find more information about Danika Boyle's upcoming trips and events at petitepecheandco.com.

Published September 2013
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