Even if you have never traveled to France, you probably have heard all about the food. I am not talking about our elected leaders’ attempt to rename French Fries as Freedom Fries but instead about the amazing cuisine the French produce.
In traveling around the country numerous times, I have had quite a few excellent meals. Several stand out.
The best might have been the multi-course meal at our hotel in Chalon-sur-Saone in Burgundy. The hotel previously boasted one Michelin Star but sadly, had lost this. We couldn’t tell. The restaurant opened for our group on a normally-shuttered Sunday and served us an amazing meal including local rabbit and delicious escargot in a garlic-laden pesto sauce. We were all stuffed when the proprietor/chef came around with the dessert cart – full of about a dozen desserts baked and created just for our group. After choosing one, he would look at us and say “What else?” This was topped by the equally large cheese cart, after which we rolled out of the restaurant and into our rooms.
There was the time Kris Thomas and I were researching restaurants for our Burgundy tour and found a cute little “wine cave” style restaurant in the small town of Montagny-lès-Buxy. The cafe was run by a Parisian academic who loved the idea of us bringing 20 Americans to his small town. With an excess of enthusiasm, he sat us down in the empty restaurant and said “I will prepare you something your group will love.”
After a quarter hour, he returned with a plate of two large sausages. Cutting into one, we immediately smelled a foul scent strongly reminiscent of a backed-up bathroom drain. Ugh – this was Andouille, made from the gastrointestinal innards of a pig. Luckily, the nice owner had an even nicer Golden Retreiver who ate the two large sausages in four bites as he caught the chunks we threw to him from our table. He then returned with a delicious salad and a lovely baked potato dish, which we explained would be perfect for our American groups – with perhaps a steak rather than the Andouille.
Another time, I was at a family reunion north of Bordeaux, sitting down to a dinner of about 20 people at a summer home owned by my aunt and uncle. (Great reunion location, no? All the others have been in our home states of Washington and Oregon.) We were all seated at an outdoor table in their yard overlooking the fields below and treated to an amazing 13-course meal served by George, the local village’s gourmet chef in residence. Even more amazing, George was also (and normally) the village plumber! The food was spectacular and the wine flowed freely.
These experiences are not unique. If you are a reader, I can suggest two fantastic books for you to read. Burgundy Stars by William Echikson is a true account of an aspiring chef’s desire to achieve one Michelin Star for his Burgundian restaurant. It is an inspiring account of his dedication to every facet of his food and wine. After you read it, make sure to Google what happens to the proprietor after the story ends.
If you have not yet read A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, I suggest you do so. This is a truly fascinating account of a British couple’s move to Provence and put this area squarely on the tourist map. As you might know, we are running a Provence Biking Adventure April 19-24 and would love to have you join us for some outstanding biking, food, and wine. Here is just one sample menu from a simple three-course evening meal we will experience:
Avec 1/4l de vin Aoc et le café inclus
1/4 liter of wine and coffee included
Mariage de caillette et terrine de nos régions, marmelade au muscat Beaumes de Venise
Assorted selection of regional pates with sweet wine and onion marmelade
Soupe à l’oignon gratinée « vieille façon
Traditional baked onion soup in the “old style”
Salade composée aux saveurs méditerranéennes
Tuna, boiled egg, seasonal crudites, green salad parfumed with provencal dressing
Aubergines confites à la Provençale « recette de 30 ans
Pan fried aubergines in provencal tomatoes sauce
Dos de Saumon sauce à l’aneth, émincés de légumes du sud et riz de Camargue
Salmon steak, grilled with butter and dill, garnisched with local rice and vegetables
Suprême de volaille rôti au thym et romarin, pôelée de saison, gratin dauphinois à l’ail
Roasted chicken seasoned with thyme and rosemary gravy
Daube de taureau à l’Avignonnaise, servi avec ses grosses pâtes au fromage
Stewed bull cooked in red wine sauce, served with pasta topped with cheese
Médaillon de porc sauce moutarde à l’ancienne, légumes cuisinés du chef
Roast fillet of porc and old fashion mustard sauce
Poires pôchées au vin rouge des Côtes du Rhône à la cannelle
Fruits pear poched in red wine sauce and cinnanon
Tarte aux fruits de saison de notre pâtissier
“Tarte” of the day
Faisselle des Alpes au miel de Lavande
Cottage cheese with honey syrup and candied orange
Mousse au chocolat caramel ou Fondant au chocolat chaud et crème anglaise
Chocolate and caramel mousse or Warm chocolate cake and custard