When it comes to apples, I am very fussy. I have an affinity to crisp and acidic apples so even in my childhood I only ate Granny Smith. Later I discovered Braeburn, a cross between Granny Smith and Lady Hamilton from New Zealand. I never eat Fuji or Pink Lady for example. I discovered Reinette du Mans in France (third one in the first row), similar to golden apples but with lots of freckles. They look ugly but they are so perfumey and tasty, often making me think I’m chewing Normandy cider. It is a shame that these days most fruit and vegetables are so tasteless because of mass production and green house.
They are also great for tarts. I love tarts of all kinds; the combination of buttery pastry and fresh fruit. It is the easiest, fool-proof dessert to whip up yet perfect crowd pleaser. The French have an affinity to vanilla and an aversion to cinnamon unlike the English. I love cinnamon myself. So this tart was baked with a whole vanilla bean, a little Armagnac, orange juice and fresh ginger.
Oops, it got burnt a little but the taste was fine; perhaps added extra toffee character to it! The Armagnac used in the tart was the one on the left, Les Pièces Oubliées, which had been fogotten in the barrel for 25 years. So the alcohol volume is 38.5% instead of normal armagnac’s 51-52%. The colour was deeper but aromas were not as intense as normal Armagnac. It had more woody and leathery characters with a hint of nuts and creamy tannins.
I personally prefer Amargnac to Corgnac for its more fragrant and smoother taste due to single distillation in continuous stills. After learning more about the history of Armagnac and how Cognac adds water to lower the alcohol level to meet the international standard of 40%, I like Armagnac even more. Plus, I didn’t have a good time when I visited Cognac; it was raining, everything was shut and people seemed a bit distant. We found Cognac of 50% alcohol and also bought a local specialty Pineau, like English Sherry, which I’ve been sipping a little with my forever love, Comté, every now and again. I just can’t have enough of it.
The second Livarot of the month was not as tasty so I wondered if it was due to the season; aged cheeses taste better in winter time as it’s made with spring milk as cows graze on dandelions on the meadow, giving the milk fruitier and complex flavours. Take a look at the photo of a beautiful and peaceful country farm house, which I took on my Burgundian trip in late April.
So the best time for Comté, for example, during winter months as the cheese requires a minimum of 4 months ageing and the taste is at its best after 6-12 months of ageing. Oh, Comté, Comté~~~! I feel so weak and hopeless with you.
Anyway, back to Cognac. I was tempted to buy and try red Pineau but decided to leave it for later. As there wasn’t much to see or do, we ended up spending time eating a rabbit dish with a glass of Pineau in a restaurant in the city centre where we got a discount voucher for Remy Martin. So we went there only to be disappointed by their snobby attitude and didn’t get to have a peep into their distillery.
As full spring is around the corner, the apples and pears will soon retire into the shadow of strawberries, which will come on the show soon, though I’ve already started tasting strawberries. So here is the last apple dish and I hope you enjoyed it with your eyes. And I actually liked Cognac better in the end after several tastings…. 🙂
- Differences between Cognac and Armagnac (farehamwinecellar.co.uk)