Monday, May 23, 2011

France 2011

France May 4,2010. Three days in Burgundy and eight in Provence.

Burgundy has over 4,000 wineries and we only had 2 days. We chose an easy 1.5 hr drive from CDG and stayed at Chateau de la Resle in Montigny north of Auxerre on the way to Troyes.

For our first day we planned to visit Troyes, in the champagne district, a medieval town that's easy for parking and a walk about. We shopped and parked in Les Halles for an evening picnic and walked to Les Crieurs de Vin (see earlier posts)for lunch and our first wine tasting. It was a perfect day; I found the one kitchen item I'd hoped to find in France, a Nespresso wheel for our beloved coffeemaker. We also visited the Cathedral St Urbain to see the beautiful stained glass. We were going to visit a winery before we found our way home, so were back on the road quickly. SE of our Chateau the vineyards of Chablis started and we were determined to find a Cave open till 6.

We found Domaine de la Motte. They charged us for tasting, apparently frowned upon in France, but we were happy to pay and buy more to drink with our picnic supper.

The tasting rooms in Burgundy are mostly underground, miles of cellars beckoning off tasting rooms. I plan to expore further soon.

We had one day left in Burgundy and we planned to eat and drink our way through the Chablis district. We did a tasting at Domaine Gouailhardol, a very friendly tasting room at the entrance to town with a good English speaking host.

Lunch at Le Pot d'Etain in L'isle sur Serein was in a traditionalFrench dining room and the menu matched. David had a dozen snails.

I especially enjoyed the salmon mousse with horseradish sauce.

Dinner that night was at Le Jardin Gourmand in Auxerre. It was our best meal in France this trip and featured in an earlier post.

Saturday is move in day for villa rentals so we headed south with a lunch planned in Lyon at Rue LeBec thanks to a recommendation from Scott at The Pear Tree Burnaby. A cool concept restaurant on the revitalized docks of Lyon with a talented French chef at the helm we were really enjoying our travelling day.

We even stopped a couple of miles from the villa at a road side stand. Strawberries were fresh and we were in luck, so were the cantaloupe. Cavaillon is famous for the cantaloupe but our previous trips were always too early. Both fruits were intense colour and flavour. We were off to a good start.

Our aim was a market every morning and a winery or so every afternoon.

The best market on Sunday was Coustellet and it was also the closest. There was great prepared food, several farmers and lots of arts and crafts. We went home with supper planned around several large tarts; a potato, a roasted mixed vegetable and a tomato. Several cheeses, some artisan bread, an array of olives and what luck, a couple of wineries were doing tastings right at the market. Most wineries are closed on Sunday so we didn't think we'd get started on the "tasting" so quickly.

Monday we went to the Cavaillon market, more of the flea market variety but there were a few things lacking in our villa kitchen and we were able to get everything we needed at bargain prices. I even practiced my bartering.

The focus of the day was really wine tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape. This is the best wine of the region and I wanted to have some for the rest of the week. We could only bring home 2 bottles each. This was going to require some real work to decide what would make it into the luggage.

We had lunch in the village of Chateauneuf du Pape and tasted at several of the stores stores that sell a variety of the wines from the appelation. These wines are not allowed irrigation or machine picking and the flavours are big and intense. We had timed our morning so that we could visit the Museum of Wine on the way out of town. This is run by the Brotte winery, they are famous for the funky twisted bottle that everyone recognizes as Chateauneuf du Pape. Hopefully I'd bought enough Fiole Reserve to save one for my suitcase. We stopped at Fortia on the way out of town and did a tasting, and bought some more wine to try during the week. Let it be said that all week we were trying to find time to return to Chateauneuf du Pape. Love that wine.

Tuesday the best market in the area is Gordes, one of the loveliest hilltop towns. Full of artists, artisan foods, beautiful clothes and some very sweet, sad kittens, Gordes market is top notch, it's one of the most affluent villages and the very best sellars go there.

We laid in some supplies for a light supper since we were having lunch at La Ferme de la Hupe, where we would have the second best meal of our trip. Here again we started on a covered patio with a bottle of rose and 2 amuse bouche, a cherry tomato dipped in a spicy, sugar syrup that was a little crisp base with a tiny chive sticking out of the top was big hit.

We moved to a dining table on the patio overlooking the pool and were served a beautiful meal; entrees of chicken mousse or smoked salmon with chive pancakes (my pick).

We chose fish or roasted beef in wine sauce for our main course. The roasted beef was a raving success.

Every plate was praised. We were visiting friends who were staying in one of the 9 rooms at La Ferme, they had eaten several meals there and said everyone was outstanding. I'd stay at this place for sure if I only had a few nights in the Luberon.

Wednesday we wandered farther afield for the St Remy market, known for its textiles.
We'd all recorded our table sizes and were ready to shop. I bought 3 tablecloths, a large for 40Euro, a medium for 30 and a small for 10. We didn't have long to spend in St Remy but did buy some olives, the best grilled artichokes of our trip and some pickled garlic which was quite a surprise and an excellent addition to our salads.

Thursday we went to Roussillon for the market. Roussillon is the red ochre village, another prosperous village, the market is a match. We tried the paella, it would make an excellent lunch for 5 Euros. We all had a taste as a mid morning market snack. Again we were able to taste and buy some wines right in the market. In the afternoon we went to Domaine de la Citadellein Menerbes. They have the corkscrew museum, some lovely gardens and delicious wines to taste and buy.

Thursday night we were booked to make a return visit to Auberge de Presbytere in Saignon. We had really enjoyed a special vegetarian tasting menu there a few years ago and wanted to go back. We were disappointed. The asparagus salad compared poorly to Les Jardin Gourmands,the fish dish was plain and boring and the vegetarian plate consisted of hte vegetables of the day with a piece of filo pastry brushed with butter and sprinkled with nuts. Just another reminder that if you eat out in Europe some research will pay off in better food at better prices. Time spent before you go will pay off.

Our final meal was in Nice at La Zucca Magica, another return visit. Although the food didn't impress us the way it did the first time, La Zucca offers a 5 course vegetarian menu for 29Euros and the wine list is cheap and cheerful. Reservations are a good idea.

Many people were turned away both times we've been there. La Zucca offers good value for your money in a charming setting right on the old port in Nice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rue la Bec, Lyon, France

Rue la Bec is a new venture by Nicholas La Bec. Casual and family friendly the restaurant is on the river in a redeveloping area of Lyon. As you walk in there is a Boulangerie and a Deli for take away. The staff are friendly and can speak English well. The menu has something for everyone. I had a baby romaine salad with a simple vinaigrette and a tuna steak with peppercorn sauce and mashed potatoes.

David had Haricot Vert and tuna steak. The haricot vert was the proof that the French really do know what they are doing with green beans.

And a half bottle of Chablis had to be "encore".

We would all go back to Rue la Bec if we were in Lyon again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dinner at Le Jardin Gourmand

Dinner at Le Jardin Gourmand, Auxerre was our best dinner out in France. Aperitifs were served on the deck with 2 amuse bouche, a scallop foam in a little glass with tiny spoon and a tomato salad. Perfect balance from the very beginning. Starting on the deck and moving to the dining room creates a casual feel in a formal dining experience. All the servers wore suits and yet were invisible. The ladies room was hidden behind a moving bookcase and oh so sleek and modern. There were very proper French couples in the diningroom and later in the evening young French hipsters dining on the deck. I'd like to be a regular.

The star of the meal was the asparagus salad. White, green and wild asparagus accompanied by crisp fried garlic leaves, a salad of tiny, mixed greens, edible flowers including a garlic blossom and a vinagrette with lemon caviar, crisp little yellow balls bursting with flavour that come from a unique, long, thin lemon from Australia. I'll be doing some research on those gems. A sunny side up quails egg that blended with the lemon and vinaigrette to create a blended sauce to finish the plate.

The main courses were good but didn't shine for us pescetarians the way the salad or the dessert did. David tried the dessert extravaganza, 3 sorbetto, a Caribbean Tiramisu, a crepe with a curry cream sauce (dessert ?) and an almond pistachio cake with rhubarb topping. He needed help with that and we happily set to with utensils and feedback.

Served with coffee was a dish of petite macaroons, marshmallows and tasty sweet surprises. Nine little sweets each and we ate every one.

This meal wasn't wildy creative, we ran across many meals with little glasses of soup or foam, even more asparagus salads,some sampler dessert trays and several trays of petit fours presented gratis at the end of the meal but this was the best.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Troyes, France May 5, 2011

Le Moelleux du Revard, a raw cow's milk cheese from Savoie. A new cheese created in 2008 it has a soft and creamy soft paste with very full flavour.

Troyes is a medieval city in the Champagne district. We had lunch at Aux Crieurs de Vin. An incredible wine store that also serves good simple food. You can buy any bottle of wine and try it or just have them match up wine to the food you've chosen. We did both and truly the most fun was having one of the very knowledgable staff help you choose. They give great consideration and information on their choices and greatly enhance the experience. I had a green gazpacho soup served with a piece of burrata cheese drizzled with olive oil and a glass of Marie Courtin Resonance Extra Brut, a lovely pale straw coloured champagne with apple on the nose and a bright acidic finish to keep the palate clean. The one bottle I bought wasn't enough.

We will definitely visit Troyes and Aux Crieurs de Vin again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

France, May 2011

We're busy this weekend making our final restaurant reservations in Burgundy. We're having 2 carpets picnics to fund the Michelen stars one night. Left it a bit late for the 1 or 2 stars at good value, but that's our goal. Soon we'll be drinking champagne in Troyes, Pinot Noir in Irancy and Chablis, well in Chablis.