Monday, April 26, 2010

"Le Bout Du Monde" Part 2... Cheese

One of the two main reasons for going to the Loire in the first place was to partake of the cheese course at the Le Bout Du Monde, which Fred had labeled as the best he had ever experienced.  So leaving the castle at Amboise, we checked in at our hotel in Tours, the major city in the Loire and after freshening up traveled the 12 or so miles to the end of the earth! We arrived just before dusk along a road barely wide enough for one much less two vehicles. We were in Berthenay, some 250 kilometers southeast of Paris. Fred's first plan, which he had talked about with the owner, Christophe Roublin, by phone the day before and which his lovely wife Amanda had scuttled almost at first mention was for us to eat a complete meal of cheese based food, paired with the appropriate wines.
We first tried a bottle of sparkling wine from the region which was very good, dry but not overly so. Amanda and Toby both ordered different fish dishes. I had "Pork Three Ways" and Fred ordered the appetizer of snails as his main dish and we also ordered one for the table. This was not the typical butter and garlic dish, but a much more earthy mushroom tasting delight with garlic and herbs that came in a very dark almost black sauce with snails ranging in size from small to thumb size. ( The trouble with tasting something this good on holiday is knowing you're not likely to get back to it anytime soon! )
All three entrees were scumptious. My entree came as three distinct statements on a single plate. One was very asian in a puff pastry, one was a German light colored sausage and the third was also sausage based with a root vegetable puree. All three were outstanding! as were Toby & Amanda's entrees.
But we really had driven the three hours for the cheese!  The first plate of 20 cheeses were goat or goat sheep mixes which we paired with a bottle of both a red and white wine. Our host Christophe Roublin would talk about the various qualities of each cheese as he sliced small portions of each . Fred would then act as a translator for the three of us, including what we called on French Island in Old Town were my grandmother lived, a half assed Frenchmen... one who had French roots but couldn't speak any French.
The second cheese tasting moved on to sheep & cow cheeses. We paired these with a bottle of dry white and separate glasses of wine, including a sweet red and white which were for the two blue cheeses at the end. As we lingered over the meal and talked about cheese and it's politics... with the continuing coming together of the European Union, raw milk cheeses are being legislated out of existence, but not without a fight by French farmers and cheese lovers who with consider a few bad reactions and possibly an occasional death of no consequence in their pursuit of frommage nirvana. We tasted a few of these in our selections and Christophe said he would defy the law when it takes hold later this year.

 As to his cheese tasting, which is normally experienced in a much more limited fashion than we had, I asked how often someone would have to come to his restaurant to get a full appreciation?  His answer was every day as it changed daily. Each cheese in his cellar was either younger or older when served, some cheeses were only available seasonally, some were quite different on a year to year basis, much like wine can be good bad or indifferent year to year. So if you really, really love cheese and you are willing to go to the end of earth to prove it, and you have a spare year of your life to fill. Pack your bags and head to Le Bout Du Monde!
We left feeling sublime and very satisfied with our adventure after 2 A.M.  As we walked to our car there was not a single light except a sliver of moon and a sky full of stars.

The next day we would visit the Marc Bredif winery for a tasting and a tour of the caves.

Le Bout Du Monde
Berthenay, France