Let’s change the sights for today. I’m heading towards Mont Blanc. As we drove towards the far eastern end near the Switzerland border, the landscape changed dramatically. It was an interesting comparison, geographically speaking. The Mont Blanc was approaching closer and closer, making me want to climb up there one day.
Barren and rocky mountains peaks started to appear and the houses looked different and the temperature was higher as well. I imagined arriving in Turin or Milan, Italy through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. I’m still fascinated by arriving in another country by road as the first experience of the Euro Star ride from London to Paris during my first trip to Europe. I remember the Champagne and good wines I drank and the exquisite on-board meal served by an extremely hospitable waiter with a towel draped over an arm. At that time, I thought, “Wow, I must be in France! The food and the attitude of people has changed!”
What is still mysterious to me is that kind of ticket I bought to have all that service free of charge. As I was a young backpacker at that time, I must have bought a 1st class by accident. I remember asking the waiter offering me Champagne, “Is it free?”, smiling sweetly, and I got “Bien sure, madam!”
However I got on the train, it’s one of the best memories of my first European holiday that set my standards for food. The salmon exquisitely perched on the bed of wild rice and with cute little vegetables on the side, and the decadent chocolate mousse and the different kinds of wines being poured non-stop….
Sorry I got carried away with the memories of my good old days. Anyway, the reason we went there was to pick up a new fancy van for Cyrille. The car dealer had an amazing house with a living room that has this incredible view like a wide panorama TV screen.
On the way back home, we stopped by at a gourmet grocer to stock up some vegetables and things. I liked the shop very much because all the produce was fresh, local and good quality. But well, dead rabbits and ducks, with fur unplucked , were too much for freshness, I think. I almost got a heart attack.
I got some parsnips as I love them so much for their sweet fragrance, and he got a bottle of Champagne and an organic red wine to celebrate his new family, Albert, as he named his car. Real Champagne, drunk on good occasions, tastes really special. Especially, observing the bubbles is a part of the joy of drinking Champagne, isn’t it?
Apparently the Champagne bubbles are good for Alzheimer’s disease. The eruption of bubbles following the long stem of the flute glass was really mesmerising. The taste, though it’s not one of the top best Champagne brands such as Moët, was delicious with the fruity and zesty palate with mouth-watering acidity, which I liked and paired well with the salmon dish we ate. Compared to Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle I drank on one of the wine course, it didn’t have the yeasty lingering mouth-feel and that’s all I can tell for differences, but other than that, it was a good Champagne.
Cyrille insisted on cooking the salmon his way so I let him do it his way, which is a slow-cooking method of letting the salmon, skin side down, cook over low heat for 30 mins. “Oh, come on! I’m hungry!” He claimed that salmon cooked that way was more moist and flavoursome. And I argued back saying that cooking it over medium heat on each side for 5 mins until the white fat oozes out was ideal.
Curious to know the result, I patiently waited, while making parsnip chips and letting out occasional grunts. He always says that I am more French than the French because I like arguing and I don’t know whether I was meant to take it as a compliment or an insult. He continued to say that I knew more stuff about French food and wines than most of the French and I had good potentials to be real French because of my ability to be a snob sometimes and be individual.
By the way, I just love the fragrance of parsnips and it was his first time to taste parsnips. OMG~~~~! And he loved the parsnip frites so much that he stole all the frites from my plate.
The salmon…well, was good, I admit, with the flesh flaking off with nice juice and Sichuan peppercorns were quite nice with salmon. Ok, I will give him a credit for this. Later I found a blog with a recipe that cooks salmon even for 1 hour , which was inspired by the famous Chez Panisse. Gastronomy seems like an endless learning and inspiration, for which reason I’m so addicted to it.
After finishing the main, we opened a red wine for our daily cheese board. The selection today isn’t that exciting as I’ve already tried them all; Selles sur Cher, the disk shaped goat cheese covered with ash, is a classic favourite along with crottin de chevre in various small shapes.
However, the wine was very interesting. It’s Vacqueyras, for one, and it’s also an organic wine. When in France, I just live like an ordinary French person would, not like a tourist looking for famous names and sights, so I never see any of the wine labels I’ve read and studied on wine courses and wine blogs when I go to supermarkets. That sometimes leaves me disappointed but at the same time, I feel privileged to be able to peek into the real wine world for local people and have the insider’s knowledge.
Wine lovers probably know about Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas but not Vacqueyras. Domain de l”Oiselet Vacqueyras 2012 was, on the nose, like sticking my nose into a bag of potpourri, and all the berries, blackberry, raspberry, cherry and strawberry, swirled out of the glass. This wine wasn’t as dark and spicy as Châteauneuf and Gigondas, and it seemed a bit cooler and delicate like Pinot Noir, which gives the wine a gracious finish.
It was my first tasting of Vacqueyras and I liked it. Based on the same cepage, Grenache, asChâteauneuf and Gigondas, but more reasonably priced, I can see why people like Vacqueyras. The wine I drank was young so I will try to taste some older Vacqueyras while I’m here to compare.
Oh…another day of cooking, eating and drinking has ended. What a life! Is it l’Art de Vivre? Eating good food and drinking good wine while talking about food? The next two posts are going to be very interesting because I made excellent Confit de Canard and Fondant au Chocolat, and did a wine tasting of old vintages from different wine regions, which we bought from a secret garage store.
I am finally off on a wine and cheese tour through Jura, the red Burgundy, and then possibly to a bit of the Loir region over the long All Saints’ Day holiday weekend. As it’s October, I will see colourful vineyards and have experiences in Burgundy, compared to my last tour, which was in late April. I will see you again when I get back then. Cheers!
- Do we really need a good reason to drink a posh champagne? (thewinewankers.com.au)
- I Blame the FRENCH & CHINESE (champaigntochampagne.wordpress.com)
- Vacqueyras stars from the great 2010 vintage on Winophilia (http://www.winophilia.com)
- Champagne for Four Courses? I Was Surprised, but Now Enlightened! Yes, You Can. (manoavino.com)