France 2005 – Part One (Loire)

I'm dumping a bunch of food notes I took during our last trip to France – one where we did an A&O-like culinary tour of France, and really got an immersion in terroir (that convinced my now-wife and I to have a "Wedding Terroir.")

These notes are primarily for me to remember what we did and ate – it's not really exciting reading, but there are some good memories attached here.

We didn't start the trip thinking we'd be doing a culinary tour – and as it turns out, most of our favorite meals were home-made – either by us, or friends or family.

(Unfortunately, most of these notes were made at least a week after the fact, if not more – so details on the wines is vague beyond appellation. And the "Day" count is very, very rough. Don't hold me to it.)

Day 0-1: Chantrigné

Dinner – Mimy's "Welcome Home" potato leak and salad
(The "day" entries are a little inconsistent. Somewhere in here we had a lunch in Lassay consisting of salad niçoise, pizza and rosé. Très Loire of us…. We spent the rest of the day hiking around the three castles of Lassay, trying to escape the English retirees who've invaded the region.

That evening we went to Chez Philipe', formally known as Relais de la Varenne. I had the chevre salad, and then the skate steak (Amanda had the langoustine) – and Alex M. had a special-made omlette. We finished with the créme brulée….)

Day 2: The Farm stay

Lunch – Baguette, cheese, some sort of Vin de Pays (VdP) rosé, and reine claudes (green-gauges)

Dinner – Farm-made (by an English couple) steamed salmon; steamed potatoes; steamed veggies. Quite – uh, bland. Downed with several carafes of rosé starting from the moment we arrived. Oh, and a healthy dose of homophobia to boot. We retreated to the room and got drunk on chocolate and Bourdeaux (tres un-terroir, I know, but we had to do something).

Day 3: Assumption Day Goose Wine Chase

We thought we would get out and do a wine tour of the extended Nantes wine region (primarily Muscadet Sevre et Maine). Well, little did we know that while most things are closed Sunday and/ or Monday (depending on whether you are a business or serving establishment), everything but the local baker/ general grocer is closed on Assumption Day. Thank god we had the sense to pick up some snacks and a bottle of white that morning at the grocer's on the way out, otherwise it would have been a really dry day.

Lunch on the Loire

 Lunch – baguette, chevre, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, reines claudes, and Cote D'Or chocolate (un-terroir, but my step-mother is Belgian, so it's always OK…)

We did abscond from the farm with (paid for) fresh veggies….

Dinner – Farm fresh dinner. Heirloom tomates and purple string bean salad; broccoli with cheese sauce (courtesy of our visitng friend Alex M.); mashed (farm fresh) potatoes.

Day 4: Alex sendoff

Brunch – Uh, something?

Lunc – A selection respectable curries from an Indian eatery in Laval (who knew?) – across from the Bar des Amis or Bar du Rock or something like that – definitely a local college hangout.

Dinner – Garden Dinner. Tortilla espagnol – essentially, the rest of the farm potatoes and eggs; along with a healthy dose of cheeses and charcuterie (usually ham, rillettes, maybe some paté); cornichons. And an easy-drinking Bourdeax. And a gorgeous, warm night, outdoors in our garden, thanks to the encouragement of Amanda. Oh, and then a visit from our neighbor, Mdme Hiboux, wondering what the crazy Americans were doing eating outside.

Our first garden dinner

 Day 5: The First Terroir Blowout

Dinner – Courtesy of our friends Isabelle and Laurent. Our first real terroir blowout (Chez Philipe notwithstanding). It started with a quick tour of their garden, and then a tour of their wine cellar, loaded with a bunch of Alsatian whites (both given only because we showed interest). The courses came out with apologies for their "home-made-ness" the drinks were changed each course with no advance thought, just a matter of course; and everything was delicious. We were delirious with delight and wine by the end of the night.

Aperitif: Kirs with cassis maison (berries from their garden) and Muscadet Sevre et Maine

Entrée: Caviar d'aubergines. With a (details forgotten) Alsatian white wine.

Plat: Crépes Maison avec Coquilles St. Jacques (all homemade, buckwheat crepes with scallops). With a local cider (crepes are, after all, a Norman food…)

Fromage: Local chevres, and Normandy brie. With a Bourdeaux.

Dessert: Tarte au pruneaux maison. Made by their teenaged son, Samuel.

Day 6: Rest Day before we head out

Lunch – Chez Phillipe's again. Mixed salad with green beans and boiled egg; local freshwater fish (notes unclear) au poivron. And the ubiquitous Muscadet sevre et Maine. Or maybe a Burgundy Aligoté, Mimy's white of choice.


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