Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Le Bout Du Monde" Part 3... the wine

I awoke around nine in bit of a fog and jumped in the shower before heading downstairs for breakfast. We had spent so much time at the castle the day before we had pushed the visit to the winery off till the morning. They would open at ten and that gave us plenty of time for a tasting and visit to the caves before heading back to Paris. Fred needed to buy some wine to have around the house and for his sisters wedding. We arrived at the Marc Bredif winery just after ten. The buildings stretch from the very edge of the road quite near the river, some 200 feet to the opening of the caves carved into the limestone rock face rising over a 100 feet straight up. A site that is common and almost continuous in this part of the Loire Valley. These caves whose rock was used to build many of the castles that dot the higher ground in the valley act as their own climate control housing in this case over a million bottles of wine.
We started out tasting four sparkling wines each drier then the last. My headache hadn't completely gone away and after a couple more whites I was ready to head to the caves. As Fred and Amanda had previously taken the tour Toby and I left them to sample ( and here I should say a taste was a fairly substantial pour, maybe a third of a glass, enough to let the wines aroma fill up your nose. You could dump what you didn't want / like into the silver bucket.)
The first stop was the small modern warehouse which lead back into the caves themselves and an old wine press from centuries past that had been used to make some of the first wines produced from the vineyard. Our guide explained how each section was used to store the different wines the winery produced and how the wines were looked after as they went thru the aging process.
This room has a sampling of the best wines dating back over a hundred years.
These bottles lie in racks designed to aid in the natural production of tiny bubbles giving them their sparkling quality. Each rack has holes drilled at a slightly different angle and the bottles are rotated by hand enabling the bubbles to seep along the edges of the glass and collect themselves. The last room in the cave was filled with wine aging in oak barrels
We returned to the showroom just as Fred & Amanda where finishing their tasting and the wine we were taking back to Paris was being loaded into the car.

The only thing left was a quick lunch before we headed back to paris. We found a lovely restaurant, which I seem to have misplaced the name of, a few miles down the road. The food tasted as good as it looked, simply prepared and light after the night before with no cheese!

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Le Bout Du Monde" or the end of the earth Part 1... The Castle

((( Before we go to the end of the earth, an explanation for my lack of postings while away.  It seems I forgot to check if my browser could correctly read the blogger site.  Well it can sort of, but not enough to actually function & load pictures. Thus the wartime like silence on the airways! )))

Paris was lovely although I was mostly in a funk and not up for taking many pictures and those I did take were mostly rushed and pretty bad.  As you could see from my one and only post using our hosts computer we stayed in a lovely apartment on Ave Rapp in the 7th arondesmont.  In the end I didn't shoot in a restaurant kitchen because when you go to the ends of the earth, it's a long tiring journey back. On our first sunday in Paris our host Sharon and Michael had invited their friends Fred and Amanda over for brunch. Fred was excited to talked to me because he and Amanda are both big on food and my blog and pictures from restaurant kitchens was of interest to him. And it is thru Fred & Amanda that Toby and I got to go to the Le Bout Du Monde.  Turns out the end of the earth is in the Loire Valley. And is somewhat of a secret!  Fred was born in the Loire and thinks it's vastly underrated as a tourist spot. I tend to agree after our day and a half stay there. Fred declared on sunday at brunch that he and Amanda were going to Le Bout Du Monde, which it turns out is a very lovely restaurant at which he declared the owner Christophe Roublin, a sommelier as well as a cheese expert served the best cheese course he, Fred had ever tasted. Further more Fred suggested that we should base our entire meal on cheese.  Michael couldn't take the days off from work and Sharon suddenly got sick Monday evening, so Tuesday Toby and I met Fred and Amanda at the Pont de Serves subway station and off we went in Fred's car. Fred suggested that we had plenty of time and should stop by one of the many castles the Loire is famous for along with it's many small wineries.  As the Chateau at Amboise was close by our destination it made sense to visit this resting place for Leonardo da Vinci.  Seems he lived the last years of his life in the area and is buried in the chapel there.  The chateau itself is a mix of of French Gothic and the first use of Italianate Renaissance style in the Loire region. It sits atop a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Loire and the Amasse Rivers and must be a bitch to heat. It is lovely and worth a peak if your in the area.

Part 2 Food and Drink follows tomorrow.
If your headed to France and the Loire this summer
+33 2 47 57 00 98

Friday, April 2, 2010

Paris (1

Stayed up so late packing that I never did do the pre-post I wanted before we left Portland, Maine USA... 5 or 6 old photos from an earlier trip to Paris 28 years ago.  Seems I should have stayed up a little later as I forgot to pack a card reader, so I'm also a day late starting my posts as `i had to find a place to buy one, a Darty Box store just off the Place de Republique.
Let's start at the beginning...
We arrive at our friends apartment on Ave Rapp,which is very handy to...
We go out shopping, we drink some wine, eat some food, drink some more wine...
it gets dark and ...
Apparently the French are jaded after all these years from looking at the tower Eiffel and think it just lacks something, so they have outfitted the tower with flashing white lights that come on every so often for five minutes and at 1 o'clock before they put it to bed all the other lights go out and these flashing   white lights turn it into the worlds largest 4th of July sparkler! Talk about tacky!!!
We get up in the morning and head out on our day, to an up and coming section, Belleville, in the Northeast section of the city...
Supposedly there is art, we don't find any, so we have lunch...
 The salad is not bad. The pate` is pretty good, the fish is well... (I know, where's the fish?) ... think risotto but substitute mash potato's with a butter crust. It's different and actually again not bad, very warming on a cold damp day. Make that rainy, hard and windy. The girls are starting to rumble something about being inside, maybe a museum. I pack them off in the subway, buy an umbrella and within 5 minutes it stops raining. The street, Rue de Bellville, starts to get more interesting as it heads back down the hill to the Ave of the same name. More of an ethnic mix, some Asian, mostly Chinese, some Arab, some Jewish. Off to the side I see a street covered in grafitti. I start talking pictures, now I spot some Jimi Hendrik posters in an actual working artist studio and next to it the HOLY GRAIL, A POTTERY STUDIO, slab built, wheel built, contemporary pottery, only my wife the potter is somewhere in the subway.  Should I take pictures, should I not mention it?  We had spent lots of time searching the internet for just this but never actually found any. I decide we've come all this way...

These are eggplant, Toby loves them from afar, but she can't eat them.  They make her sick, so I usually take pictures of them. Farther along I spot a cake shop with decoration...

By now I'm on the flat on Rue de Faubourg de Temple approaching the Canal St  Martin as it goes underground and as luck would have it the lock is lowering a tour boat...
It comes above ground again below the Place de Bastille before dumping into the Seine. Paris is full of pastry shops, small groceries overflowing with fresh produce and meat markets, this is one of the nicer ones I've come across...
This last is a bad picture of some unlucky rabbits, whose pate`d cousins were in another case.  Next I find my card reader at the Darty Box in Place de Republique and decide follow the Rue Richard Lenoir above the canal toward the Seine and find one of the very few remaining original subway entrances.  It's getting late I  decide it's time to head back  across the river...
I head for the Place d'Italie to grab a number 6 train to Bir-Hakeim (literally The Tour Eiffel stop on the map). It's on the opposite side of the tower from the apartment and i snap some very touristy shoots as I make my way home...