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France Trip - The Foods of France

This is a continuation of my blog posts about a three-week trip to France for the entire review, check out these previous blog posts: Week One, Week Two, Week Three

Some general food observations about France first:
  1. The Boulangerie – The Frenchlove their famous puffy, melting in your mouth croissants straight from the oven.But the Pain au Chocolat was a daily choice for me. Strong coffee versus caféamericano (watered down). I found their coffee to be strong, but much lessacidic as typical American coffee.
  2. Generally, the northuses more dairy (milk, butter and cheese) whereas the south uses more olive oil.South is a more Mediterranean diet (more fish, tomatoes and other nightshadevegetable). More goat cheeses, lots of olive oil. Rosé wine in the warmmonths. South-East France: Not surprisingly, foods revolving around olives,olive oil and herbs, tomatoes and garlic are popular in this region, in commonwith nearby neighbors Italy, Basque country of Spain and North Africa.
  3. Lunch is usually thebiggest meal of the day, and longer than what we take to eat in the US. Manyshops close for two hours during lunch.
  4. The most prevalentfood we found (available in the big cities, and the small countryside villages)was...Pizza. Fresh food everywhere.

Our first taste of any French foodwas at a local bakery, in Paris, called Yannick Martin. Our hotel room wasn’t ready,and we had been flying all night. So, our first taste of food in France was aPain au Chocolat, followed by a cheese plate and wine in the lobby of ourhotel, as the wait for a room was drawn out.

Our first encounter with a sidewalk café was in the Montmartearea. We had lunch at a sidewalk café called Au Cadet de Gascogne. I had a hamand swiss baguette (served with hard boiled eggs). 

That evening, the hotel was offering a free drink that theycalled “The Green Beast” (made with Absinthe, lemon, cucumber and water).Dinner at L’Imperial BBZ. My wife had a warm goat cheese salad, and I had thesalmon tartare, along with a carafe of Provence Rose.

Salmon Tartare
A couple times, we grabbed a quick bite at McDonald’sMcCafe, which is loaded with fresh pastries and coffee. They take their cafébusiness seriously. It is a completely different section of the restaurant.While the regular restaurants are automated (you place an order on anelectronic kiosk) the café portion is personal service. The display cases werefilled with croissants, macrons, cookies, pastries. I think American McDonaldscould learn something from their French franchises!

When we went wine tasting in thecountryside, some of the tasting rooms at the Chateau offered freshly madelunches. One stop was the small Ch?teau de Nitray. where theyserved a rustic lunch of grilled chicken, tomatoes and potatoes along with theirwine tasting (Sauvignon Blanc, Rose and Cot). All wines were about 7 euros abottle.

Whenwe traveled to Nice, in Southern France, the front desk person at our hotel wasItalian, and he gave us his recommendation for his favorite Italian restaurantsin the area. We walked a couple blocks from the hotel to the Villa D’Este.Ordered a bottle of Valpolicella. My wife had a margherita pizza and I had thegrilled prawn (which was the whole prawn and not de-veined). The cobblestone streetswere packed with outdoor café seating, and tons of choices for places to eat.

The next day, we had dinner at Lu Fran Calin. AuthenticNicoise food. I had the local specialty, Daube (a beef stew on gnocchi). Therestaurants that offer authentic local food have the label "CuisineNissarde". This is awarded to restaurateurs who work to promote thecuisine of Nice by committing to respecting the recipes, the quality of theproducts and raw materials used.

The next section of our trip was on a river cruise for aweek, so most of the meals were served onboard the ship. The typical buffet breakfast consisted ofeggs (not cooked well, usually on the wet side), fruit, fresh baguette withjam, pastries (croissants, Pain au chocolat) very thin bacon, cold cuts, bakedbeans (I’m assuming this is for the English tourists), yogurt (usually prettyrunny, and served in glass jars), cheese, café, fruit juices. Thedinners were all four course meals. You could order individual items, or go withtheir regional menu for the day (which is what we usually did). Meals were madewith fresh local ingredients, and paired with wines from the general area.

During the river cruise, we would stop along the Rhone atvillages and spend a portion of the day exploring the towns and soaking in thelocal culture. We found great bread shops (with fantastic olive bread). One ofthe highlights was a lunch at La Tablede Sorgues, for wine tasting and lunch. A typical two-hour French lunch. Openedwith a taste of 2018 Chateau Aqueria Lirac (very refreshing and floral with acertain minerality), paired with a couple small appetizers, as well as ascallop dish. Next was a 2013 Clos de T Ventous, paired with perfectly roastedlamb and red pepper tart. This was followed by a cheese course of goat, sheepand cow mile cheeses. Lastly a dessert course that consisted of an éclairfilled with a raspberry crème and fruit.

Valrhona Chocolate
Another highlight was stopping at theValrhona Chocolate factory on the east end of Tain Hermitage. It is consideredthe finest chocolate in all of Europe, and used by all the top chefs.

Other side trips included a cheese tasting at Les HallesGrand H?tel-Dieu, in Lyon as well as a cider tasting along with a smoked fishpate. at the Halle de la martineire, and a stop at the Boulangeriedu Palais, to taste pink praline cakes, which are made with caramelizedalmonds. 

Our last big excursion of the River Cruise was a day tripto the Macon/Beaujolais area, where we visited a Goat Cheese factory: ChevrerieLa Trufiere, in the village of Lys. Cheeseand wine tasting Wines were presented by the winemaker: Christophe Perrin, ofDomain Christophe Perrin. He presented five wines, which were served withdifferent aged goat cheeses. The next stop was at thetruffle farm at Les Cos Piguet, in Sa?ne-et-Loire. The owner (Oliver Devevre),and his 15-year-old dog (Chinook) gave a black truffle digging demonstrationbeneath the hazelnut trees. He grows nine different types of truffles innumerous locations. This time of year, the truffles were dried out. The seasonis really in the fall. After, we went to his house for lunch and wine pairing.Lunch included homemade ratatouille, beef stew, couscous, bread, cheese andchocolate mousse. The wines were presented by Kerrie de Boissieu. Her and herhusband’s winery is Chateau de Lavernette. She is an American, and happened tobe studying for her Master of Wine with Brandon Sparks-Gillis (of DragonetteCellars). The 2016 St Amour “le chatelet” was outstanding.

Afterthe River Cruise, we were back on our own, and this is when the food got reallyfun! 

Back in Lyon, we walked to the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Unfortunately,most of the market stalls were already closed. We stopped at Beillevaire Cheeseshop and Bellota Bellota Charcuterie. We did buy some macrons at Seve. Theraspberry was a favorite. There is nothing like these in the United States.They just taste better in France.

After checking out Yelpfor reviews of authentic Lyonnaise cuisine, we stopped for dinner at FistonBouchon. We started with a carafe of Rose. I ordered the Menu Lyonnais, whichincluded Salade Lyonnaise, Andouillette (a traditional pork sausage) in amustard sauce and dessert of a praline tart. 

Another dinner was at Le Gourmandde Saint Jean. Once again, I had the Menu Lyonnaise, which included a goatcheese and apple salad, and a main course of quenelles. Dessert wasprofiteroles. If you have never had quenelles, it is something you have to try.This was one of my favorite dishes on the entire trip. It is made with creamed whitefish, and shaped like a sausage. Wonderfully smooth, light, fluffy and tasty!

In Dijon, we had to stop at themustard shops. There are two in old town Dijon: Edmund Fallot and Maille.

Dijon Sampler
Dinnerin Dijon was at Temps Des Ducs. where I ordered the Dijon sampler plate whichincluded (in the photo from left to right): Fromage de terroir, boeufbourguignon, chair de grenouille en creme parsille (frogs legs),Oeufs enmeurette, Nage d'escargots, jambon-persille.

Whiletouring the vineyards and tasting rooms along the Cote d’Noir we had lunchand wine tasting at Trapet Pere et Fils, in Gevrey-Chambertin. This is a nicehidden spot, that only locals know about. This day, we were the only onesthere. This was an expensive lunch and tasting. The five-course lunch includedfive wines from Domaine Trapet Pere et Fils. Lunch included a large Gougère, DijonJambon Persillé (ham in parsleyed aspic), Beef Bourguignon with crushedpotatoes, and assortment of Goat cheese (from the farm and mountain cheese), Organicbread and a dessert.

All the towns had wonderful fresh market places, where fruits,vegetables, cheese, meat and bread were available. The shopping carts weresmall hand held baskets, so most locals bought just enough for one or two days.Fresh is the key emphasis here.

The market in Dijon
Any trip to France has to include food, and you don’t haveto go to the Michelin star rated restaurants to experience France. The most weever paid for a meal was the lunch in the Cote d’Noir at 140 euros for both ofus. Most dinners were around 60 to 80 euros for two, and the larger luncheswere less. Breakfasts (Lepetit-déjeuner) were simple. 

I could live this lifestyle!

France Trip - Week Three: Burgundy

 Onmy last blog, we had just finished the second segment of our trip to France,and had us disembarking the river cruise in Lyon. We were allowed to stay onthe ship for lunch, and the crew arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 1:00 andtake us to our hotel in Lyon. Since our room wasn’t ready, we decided to walkalong the Rhone, and down to the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Unfortunately, onSunday, most of the market stalls were closed. Stopped at Beillevaire Cheeseshop and Bellota Bellota Charcuterie. We did buy some macrons at Seve. Theraspberry was a favorite. We weaved our way through the town, and made our wayto the largest urban park in France, Parc de la Tête d'Or. The weather was very warm, and there were lots ofpeople picnicking on the grass, or paddling in the large lake. Our hotel waslocated just off the park.

Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
After checking in, webought a 48 hour bus pass at the front desk. Walking in the heat was achallenge. The bus pick up and drop off was right behind our hotel, and wouldtake us to the Hard Rock Café right at the end of the line in Cordeliers. Thismade for an easy walk from the Peninsula to Vieux Lyon (the old part of town).We crossed the pedestrian bridge called Passerelle du Palais de Justice, whichcrosses the Saone River, and lets out at the Palais de justice historique deLyon. We wandered around the small cobblestone streets that we had previouslyvisited a couple days before. After checking out Yelp for reviews of authenticLyonnaise cuisine, we stopped for dinner at Fiston Bouchon, more on this, check the food blog post.

Notre Dame de Fourviere
The next morning, we took the busto our normal drop off point, then walked to the old part of town to take thefunicular to Notre Dame de Fourviere Cathedral. The train runs up through atunnel directly underneath the Cathedral. We then walked down the road to theFourviere Ancient Roman Theater. Unfortunately, the only day the museum isclosed is on Mondays, so we walked around the ancient ruins. The theater wasbuilt in 15 BC and is still in use today. The weather was getting progressivelyhotter, so we walked back up to the Cathedral, to sit inside and cool down abit. We ventured down in the crypts, below the cathedral. 

Had lunch at an outdoor café, onthe peninsula. Hamburgers, Fries and Cokes. Headed back to the hotel to cooldown for a bit.

Dinner was at Le Gourmand deSaint Jean. Similar to the night before, I had the Menu Lyonnaise. I will getinto the foods of France in a follow up blog.

The owl
Thenext morning we took a taxi to the Lyon train station. We got there very early,and had to wait awhile before our train was announced (they only announce thegate about 30 minutes before boarding). Our bags were never checked when weboarded, and they never even checked our ticket. Security is a bit different inFrance! The trip was fairly short, and we arrived in Dijon and picked up a taxito our hotel. 

Burgundian Tile Roofs
TheHotel Wilson is located on the corner of a roundabout, and is a very oldbuilding. The hotel was originally a coach house, built in the 1600’s. Thewalls are very thick. Only the bathroom had been updated. No air conditioning,but they did have a standup fan. The temperature was well over 100 degrees. Thefront desk had the Owl Trail Maps, so we ventured out, to find the trail. Wefound the Palace Du Theatre, and started walking the trail backwards. Firststop was at the Square Des Ducs, where dogs were playing in the pond of thesmall park. Next was L’Hotel De Vogue with its’ Burgundian tile roof. Next doorwas the Maison Milliere, with the black cat on the roof. The bottom floor is ashop and opens into a pub. The house was built in 1483. Further down the alleywas the owl. It is considered to be a good luck charm for those who rub it withtheir left hand. It is built into the wall that surrounds the Notre DameCathedral of Dijon. The Notre Dame has rows of gargoyles around the outside,and beautiful stain glass. It was built in the 13th century.

Place Francois Rude
Furtherdown the road, the streets open up into the Place Francois Rude square, where alarge carousel is located as well as a fountain with a statue of a grapeharvester, stopping grapes.

Nextwe stopped at the  Edmund Fallot mustardshop, for some mustard tasting. Then walked to Place de la Liberation. Thesquare faces the Palais Des Ducs, and is surrounded by shops and cafes. In the centerare a series of fountains, that kept the young children entertained, and coolon the hot evening.

Place de la Liberation
Atedinner at Temps Des Ducs. And after dinner, we walked around the square, andmade notes for where we wanted to go the last day, then headed back to the hothotel, and tried to sleep in the heat.

At 9:30 the next morning, we met with Jérémie Durand, fromAuthentica Tours. Thank goodness his black Mercedes had powerful airconditioning, as it was already hot in the morning. I had hired Jérémie, as anexpert on Burgundy Vineyards, to take us around all the major vineyards, meetlocals, and learn more about Burgundy. I will say that one day in Burgundy isnot enough. It can take months to understand the complexity of all the vineyardcharacteristics, but this day was a good education. The temperature reached 107degrees (the hottest recorded temperature in Burgundy).

Clos de la Perriere
We headed south from Dijon through Marsannay along the Routede Grand Cru. Then up into the gentle sloping hills of the northern Cote de Nuit.The slopes are not as steep as I had anticipated. Along the hillsides areoutcroppings of limestone. Each appellation has a slightly different exposurewith valleys leading out of the north west. This allows cooler air to flowthrough to the hillside vineyards.

First stop was in Fixin, at Clos de la Perriere. This southeast facing slope of calcareous soil is located right at the border ofChambertin.

Clos de Beze
Second stop at the Grand Cru vineyard of Clos de Beze inGevrey-Chambertin
Third Les Bonnes Mares which is located in both Morey-SaintDenis and Chambolle-Musigny. In a bowl with outcroppings of limestone.

Clos Vouguet
Next stop was above Clos Vougeot. Parked at Les Musigny andlooked down on the large vineyard.

Continued down the road, and stopped at La Romanee-Conti.While there, an old vigneron stopped to speak with us. He previously owned thevines right next to La Romanee-Conti at Le Richebourg. He is now retired, andwas commenting on the stressed vines in Romanee Saint-Vivant. He felt the youngowners of those vines had sprayed sulfur at the wrong time, and it was causingthe grapes to discolor in the sun.

Tasting at La Cave Privee
Our first tasting stop was at La Cave Privee in Fixin. www.burgundy-wine-club.com. Entereda non-descript building, and met Gabriel Angermaier. There was a small office,then you walked down a stairway to an underground cave, stocked with wines. Thewine club blind tastes wines from smaller wineries, then stocks them in thecellar to club members, and those that know about them. Tasted about ten winesin the cellar. All were pretty stellar and great values. They do ship to theUS. 

Trapet Pere et Fils
Lunch and wine tasting at Trapet Pere et Fils, inGevrey-Chambertin. This is a nice hidden spot, that only locals know about.This day, we were the only ones there. This was an expensive lunch and tasting(140 euros). The five-course lunch included five wines from Domaine Trapet Pereet Fils. 

After lunch we drove to Aloxe-Corton and viewed thesurrounding vineyards, then to our final tasting at Pierre Mayeul in Beaune.Tasting in the cellar with Matthieu Bouchard. Tasted 10 wines. Bought a case ofwine at Cotes et Climats, which was held in a cellar in Beaune, until theweather cooled enough to ship. They held my wine for three months.

We drove around the exterior of the Hospice du Beaune, thenheaded back to Dijon.

Jardin Darcy
Itwas a rough night sleeping in the heat, but got up in the morning, and hadbreakfast at the hotel. We packed up our luggage, and the hotel allowed us tokeep the bags there, until we were ready to get a taxi to the train station,later in the day. We walked back to the old part of town, to continue walkingthe Owl Trail. First stop, before hitting the Owl Trail, was at the MailleMustard shop. The air-conditioning was wonderful. At the end of the Rue de laLiberte, we started at the beginning of the Owl Trail, at the Jardin Darcy,with the large sculpture of a polar bear, and a fountain that was being used bydogs and pigeons.

Marketplace in Dijon
Weretraced some of our steps from the previous visit to town, and made out way tothe large covered market. The market was full of fruit stands, cheese and meatstands, as well as stands with prepared foods. Next, we walked down to theSaint Jean Church, then around the corner to the Saint-Philibert Church. It wasthe parish of the wine-growers, and was built in the 12th century.Across the street was the Cathedrale Saint-Benigne. We sat in the church for abit, to cool down, then entered the crypts that are located under the church.

Downtown Dijon
Upthe road, we stopped for lunch at the first place we could find withair-conditioning. Ordered drinks and burgers at Restaurant L'Edito. Took ourtime in the restaurant, and watched the Tour De France on the big screentelevisions located throughout the restaurant. The Tour was going through theAlps. To our surprise, one of our closest friends showed up on the televisionscreen, as an observer of the race. He was in France at the same time as us,following the tour on his bike.

Tombs in the Palais Des Ducs
Aftera late lunch, we walked back to the Palais Des Ducs, which now houses the Museedes Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts). They had an exhibition of works by YanPei-Ming. The main art gallery was four stories with a focus on Burgundy and the history of the Duchy of Burgundy. Numerous Renaissance paintings, armory, weapons and the ornate tombs of Philip the Bold and his son John theFearless and his wife Margaret of Bavaria.

Wereturned to the hotel and picked up our taxi to the train station. We arrived early,and the station didn’t have any air-conditioning, however they were handing outfree bottles of water due to the high temperatures.

Thetrain ride back to Paris went through rolling hills covered with sunflowers,and the occasional vineyard. Small villages dotted the countryside, and wecould often see the small canals that connected the rural areas with the restof France. As we approached Paris, the graffiti grew more prevalent. We arrivedat the station in the evening, and it was drizzling and 109 degrees. Our hotel waslocated just outside the station. We checked into the room, with a viewover-looking the city. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Sacré-C?ur were allvisible from our window.

Waiting on the train platform in Dijon
After a breakfast, we took a taxi back to the Charles de Gaulleairport. Left the hotel at 11:30 and got to the gate at 1:25. Traffic wasterrible, and took us about an hour to get there. But, we had plenty of time tocheck in. Global Entry passes fast tracked us through the lines. Got to thegate very early, so had lunch at one of the restaurants in the terminal. 

Arrived back in Los Angeles on time, and once again,whisked through custom with the Global Entry. Got home at 9:38pm. 19 hours fromhotel to home.

What a trip, and what an adventure. The River Cruise addeda lot of additional expense to the trip, so I know we can do it again, at alower price. My hope is that this three-week adventure will encourage you totravel, and explore. I certainly have “caught the bug”. Check back for moreblogs about Food, Wine, and individual Wine Regions.

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