Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

April 23, 2008

Chateau de Pommard

a special statue by a famous artist, it is only 1 of 2 in existence

Don't be looking for the Chateau de Pommard label in the USA, they don't export, and all their lushous wines and brandy are purchased directly from the Chateau. I asked if there was an American distributor that brings their wine over and resells them, and sadly the answer was no. I was disappointed knowing the only way to get Chateau de Pommard wine and brandy into my home would be to go directly to the Chateau, and carry only one or two bottles in a checked luggage, and hope they do not break the bottles. That is what we did, we bought one bottle and packed well in clothing and thank goodness, the bottle came out just fine when we got home. I am forever mad at the darn "liquid rule" on USA airplanes now. In Europe, care beer and wine all you want, drink them on the plane if you like, but here it is a no. The question I have is, are we truly safer not being able to carry more than 3 oz of gels, deodorants, shampoo and peanut butter and jelly on a plane? Are we safer for not being able to hand carry a wine bottle on the plane? I digress, where was I?

the vineyard

Just some quick stats about Chateau de Pommard, is that its vineyard is a continuous 20 hetares large, and is fully walled or clos by a stone wall. This is fairly unusual to have such a larage continuous acreage as the vineyard, and for this large vineyard to be clos. The real unique part of Chateau de Pommard is that it is its own appellation, and this appellation grows pinot noir. All other appellations in Bourgogne are made up of multiple vineyard owners for various reasons. Chateau de Pommard is quite unique. The Chateau also has a special bottle shape they use, and I this specific bottle shape is halfway between a champagne and a red wine bottle. The glass is thicker, and the bottle is a bit more squat as it descends to its base. The bottle is a trademark of Chateau de Pommard, and yet another really special and unique aspect to this wine house.

the original grape press

We tasted the wine from 2003, 2004 and 2005, and all the vintages were dark garnet in color, big and bold in flavor, and you can tell they were aged in either new or once used oak barrels. This is a stark contrast to some of the other wine makers in the area because the other wines are more simply made, some without oak, and are more about being an excellent daily table wine. I personally like the Chateau de Pommard 2005 the best. 2005 has been known to be a great growing year all around the world, and being able to taste vintages side by side like that, it is very telling. The 2003 was completely different, and I believe that was from the heat wave that came through France that tore through the country, ruining crops, vineyards, and causing deaths. Our gracious host also allowed us to taste Marc de Bourgogne, a brandy made from the skins and pits left over from the pressing after initial fermentation, and Fine de Bourgogne which is brandy distilled from wine. Marc and Fine are like grappa, but are aged in oak barrels to give it a lovely amber color. Tasting Chateau de Pommard's Marc and Fine side by side, I thought the Fine was just slightly smoother than the Marc, and because we were limited on luggage space, only one bottle was able to come with us, and it was the Fine. These two delicacies definitely do not make it out of Cote d'Or, and are not sold outside of the Chateau. It is gonna have to be a really special occasion to have sips of this gem. It is not for guzzling that is for sure.

Since I know little to nothing about Fine de Bourgogne (except for what the folks at the Chateau told me and the article that I hyperlinked), anyone have any online resources that I can go see and learn more? Do tell!

storage of 2001

We were told that the wine is aged in oak for about 2 years before it is bottled, and then the bottle wine hits its peak in the bottle after about 5 years. These bottles right here, the 2001s, there are only 232 left of them are at their peak right now. We were not offered a chance to purchase one of these. I have a feeling that these would probably be more than what we were willing to spend, and it is possible that these are in reserve for the owner to enjoy when he comes to stay at his Chateau.

the original kitchen of Chateau de Pommard, now a museum

The other thing about this Chateau is that there is a museum portion of the chateau that is open for a self guided tour. We saw a giant wood grape press, some antique wine making equipment, and the scene above, which is the original chateau kitchen, now just a museum piece used to educate tourists and visitors like me. The chateau was built in the early 1700s, with a huge hearth kitchen. The hearth is similar to my friend's grandmom's house north of Philadelphia (near Washington's Crossing of the Delaware is) and her hearth was built in the early 1700s as well. It was the area where there was open spitfire cooking, as well as a wood burning stove that was the stove, not just a heat source for the room. In the USA, my friend's grandmom's house is on the historic register because it existed before the Revolutionary War, and it is considered quite old for the USA. This chateau, although it is nearly 300 years old, it is considered one of the youngsters on the winemaking trail of Bourgogne, given that many other wine making families go back even further than 300 years. It is just perspective of time and tradition that I thought about while typing this blog entry.


April 20, 2008

Inspired Cooking from Bourgogne

The food I had in Bourgogne was so good. The charcuterie, milk, butter and meat all taste so good because of what the animals eat. There is nothing in the USA that can compare. We can use the same old world methods to make dried sausage and butter, but the end product will never be the same because the raw ingredients don't taste the same. Grain fed beef and milk lacks the rich, deep flavor that French pastured beef has. Even the pastured cow's milk in the USA does not taste like pastured cow's milk from Bourgogne because of the different taste of the Bourgogne grass.

Assuming that I could replicate exactly what I ate in France, but with American ingredients, I could never make the dish taste the same because the base ingredients taste different. The next best thing I could do was make dishes inspired by the food I ate in France, and do the best I can, and just enjoy what I made. To start, I am trying to replicate the salads I had in France.

Vero's salad with smoked duck breast

my salad with domestic salami made in Columbus, OH

My salad had the 1st local organic salad green that I picked up at the winter Franklin Farmer's Market, and very thin slices of salami made in Columbus, OH and purchased at Lazzaroli's Pasta shop. Lazzaroli's is mostly of Italian tradition, and most other specialty shops that I know of are also mainly Italian tradition too. It seems impossible to get French made charcuterie here, and most that I have access to is domestic, so I must make do. Parma Sausage out of Pittsburgh is really good, so next time I am going to have Lazzaroli's order from Parma Sausage for me. For the salad dressing, I used coarse grain mustard from Maille Dijon, not Canada like you get in the grocery stores in the USA, and I mixed it with some really great Arbequina olive oil from the Olive Press, and some balsamic vinegar.

The verdict? My salad was not as good as Vero's. But, I think my salad was made with care, and it was pretty, like Vero's salad. My mustard based salad dressing had too much vinegar, and the coarse grain mustard had too much of a strong flavor. Next time, will use the smooth mustard and less vinegar to make the dressing.

One other dish I have tried to imitate was Vero's fish dish with pasta. I think her fish has tomato sauce, shallots, onions, small chucks of fish, olives and a few slices of French made pepperoni. The French made pepperoni was made in more of a French tradition rather than a salami Italian tradition. It was certainly not what I have come to think of pepperoni (uh, ya know those Hormel slices). The French Pepperoni was much more rich and subtle than anything I have had in the USA. Not one ingredient went over board, and none of the ingredients were too strong. The fish was also served in small 3 cm cubes, not a big giant slab. I have rarely had fish not served in a giant slab, so to have nice manageable pieces was wonderful. I sometimes have a hard time eating fish because it is usually served in a fillet, and it just feels like way too much dense protein all at one time. I much rather opt for these small pieces. I don't know what type of fish Vero used, but it could have been a type of bass or grouper because it was thick white. The tagliatelle accompanying the fish was just simply tossed with a little oil and parsley. It was a lovely dish, and I wanted to make it at home.

Vero's fish in tomato sauce with a side of tagliatelle

my fish in tomato sauce and bow tie pasta
My dish, I went with a tilapia, a quick renewing fish. It was not optimal because tilapia shards up easily, instead of staying in a chunk like a grouper. I used a can of San Marzano tomatoes, white onion, a few kalamata olives, garlic, some of my dried oregano from my garden, and a few slices of the salami. Instead of tagliatelle, I used an Italian farfalle by Riscossa that I got from the Italian Market north of Sylvan Park. The pasta is really special pasta, and seems to be better than domestically made farfalle. I opted for frafalle because I love the shape, and I have always thought the shape was fun, especially when I was little. I tossed my pasta with a little butter, and topped with the last little bit of Reggiano Parmigiano I got from the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (the best source of cheeses and Italian specialties).

The verdict, I like my pasta better than Vero's only because I used really excellent parm cheese on my pasta. The fish, well, the San Marzano tomatoes equaled Vero's tomato sauce, but the rest was lacking. San Marzano tomatoes are so smooth and delicious, and resemble nothing of the normal canned tomatoes you get at the regular super market. The San Marzano tomatoes I used really did resemble the tomatoes Vero used. Yay! The next time, I will use a more sturdy fish. I will also try to use better base ingredients too. Next time I will use a shallot instead of an onion, and I will try to find better (less acrid) kalamata olives. The one part of the dish, which I think is integral, is that French pepperoni. I will try pepperoni next time instead of salami, but I don't think I can get the same rich yet subtle effect that Vero's pepperoni gave to the dish.

At least I tried. I have had a lot of great food in France, and I will be trying to duplicate the dishes as best as I can. What will be next? Perhaps a Bourgogne sauce. I just need to suck it up and spend the $50+ on a good bottle of Bourgogne red to make the Bourgogne sauce correctly. That sauce is for another day.


Back to French Home Cooking

Back to Bourgogne France and what we ate... Since we were staying in a fairly remote B&B, and the hostess Veronique offered dinner on a few nights, we took her up on it. To get down the mountain from Le Clos de L'Abbaye to the closest dining option is about a 30 minuted drive on cow paths, or over 1 hour one-way as we tended to get lost on all the backroads. It was to our advantage to stay up on the beautiful mountain top and have Vero cater to all of our dining needs. Vero does not cook dinner for B&B guests every night because she has many other responsibilities, so when she did have time to cook, we took advantage of her 4 course dinners and all the wine we could taste for 2 of the nights were in Bourgogne, on top of the wine and snacks she provided for us lost travelers on our arrival.

some wine with dinner

What was on the menu for our dinners were really great local wines, and 4-courses of Vero's expert French cooking. She made it look so effortless, but we all know, trying to make one of the mother sauces can be an ordeal. Is it that you have to have the French genetic makeup to make the lovely sauces that Vero made? Perhaps, because I can't do it.

Evening 1 Meal
cauliflower soup
veal with a cream sauce served with rice and steamed root veggies
endive salad served with a goat cheese and a special St Sernin du Plain cheese
apricot and raisin tart
all the Beaune Bourgogne wine we wanted

Evening 2 Meal
salad with smoked duck breast
fish in tomato sauce served with tagliatelle
special local soft white cheese
poached pear with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce
all the Beaune region Bourgogne wine we wanted

cauliflower soup

Dinners would begin early, like around 6:30 pm when we were invited to sit in the living room area of the B&B to sip on wine, and eat some walnut, and little appetizers that Vero made. We were joined by 5 Dutch from the Netherlands. Two of them just bought a summer house in St Sernin du Plain, and they hired Henrietta and Maurice and their friend to design their garden for the summer house, and implement the design. Maurice used to be the curator of de Hortus of Amsterdam, one of the world's oldest Botantical Gardens. Henrietta also worked at de Hortus, and that is where Maurice and Henrietta met nearly 2 decades ago. They got married, and decided to go out on their own as landscape designers with the ultimate knowledge of flora that works well in various regions. I really enjoyed Henrietta and Maurice's company because they are so smart and talented in the world of botany. They knew exactly who I was named after (Carl Linnaeus). BTW, my name might be inspired by Linnaeus, but that doesn't mean I know anything about zoology, botany, biology, etc. Anyway, these 2 are working in their passion - plants, landscape, and earth. They seemed really happy despite the hard, cold, rainy conditions they found themselves in while working on the rich peoples garden.

Trying to pick their brains about how I can manage to grow food in my tiny and well shaded yard, they suggested a winter crop. It is called Cut Flowers. It is a miniature broccoli variety that is fast growing. It is grown in England, with many parts of England have similar winters that Nashville has. This Cut Flower variety must be cut every week, or else the plant will bloom than die. Cutting the pre-blooms weekly keeps the plant available for food stock. I can grow food that will grow during winter when the tree leaves are down, and we get some sun in our yard. Anyone know where I might get some Cut Flower seeds for next winter?

veal with a cream sauce

The meals that Vero made for the 7 of us were so good, and made in the French tradition. The 1st evening main plate was veal with a cream sauce. Vero showed me the recipe, and it was long and involved. The sauce was made with a mire poix, browned veal drippings and cream, but my written description does not do the sauce justice. It was just a perfectly complex yet lightly flavored sauce for the dish. This is a sauce that only the French can just whip up for dinner. There was such subtly to this dish that we had. I wish I had the words to explain how delicious and intriguing this dish was. There is no where in my little world here in the USA that comes close to this meal. In a million tries, I do not believe I could make this sauce.

After tasting Vero's main dishes, I have put it on my list of life "things to do" is to find a non-competitive 5 mother sauces cooking class. I don't want a hell's kitchen class (no one thrives under that crap), I just want a nice teacher who can teach me the 5 sauces in the traditional way, so that I might come closer to making the lovely sauces Vero made for our dinners.

salad and cheese course

Besides being inspired by Vero's main dishes, I was also inspired by her salads and cheese courses. To start off with the salads, we had a lovely Belgian endive salad, walnut and onion with a light mustard dressing. Before Vero's salad, I had been brain-washed into this world of Americanized salad that are big bowls of industrial grown salad greens that are topped with too much overly flavored (sometimes harsh flavored) salad dressing. These salads are so big, monolithic, and almost torture to eat. The Americanized salads, you can get at any mid-range chain like Fridays, O'Charleys, Applebees, etc. So, when I ate Vero's salads, I woke up from this salad drudgery nightmare and into more subtle and artistic salads. Vero's salad dressing was a light mustard dressing that went well with the crisp pieces of endive. When I got home, I tried to recreate salads similar to hers.

special local Bourgogne cheese

Before I left for France, I decided that I wanted to have cheese, and if cheese was offered as a course of the meal, I was going to take the cheese course. There are so many cheese makers in France, and everywhere we ate, they offered locally made cheese. At Vero's house, the 1st dinner, she offered up a lightly flavored goat cheese and a young ripe cow's milk Epoisses style cheese, and on the 2nd night, Vero offered a delicate white local oozy style cheese. Epoisses is a type of pungent in aroma and flavor cheese made from cow's milk from cows that have grazed on Bourgogne pastures. I have never had, a cheese this fabulous before! As Matt said, it is literally the 1st cheese he has had in his life that smelled like sweaty feet, but the flavor was excellent with a rich, slightly salty flavor, and the texture was delectable.

As we were dining, I made claim that we cannot get Epoisses style cheeses where we are. It is true, Nashville is way behind the cheese 8 ball. We are able to get in some French soft cheeses, but by the time the cheese get through the importer, distributors and in the market, they are over aged, dried out, and not very good anymore. I got one Camembert a couple weeks ago, it was lacking aroma, and it was like cutting into a disk of rubber (not good eats). So, at anyrate, it is my goal to find a local vendor who can get in quickly a Epoisses for me, so I may use it at its perfect oozy ripeness. Anyone got any ideas?


April 15, 2008

We inturrupt the France Program for...

a scene from the former Whites Creek Farmer's Market 2007

After a little virtual discussion with a couple of my favorite Nashville Food Bloggers - Nashville Restaurants (great ethnic and hole-in-the-walls) they suggested that we both blog about the the loss of the organized Whites Creek Farmer's Market. What the situation is about the Whites Creek Farmer's Market is that it is now down to one wonderful and amazing local organic farmer: Hungry Gnome by Alicia and Bert. For more information about Hungry Gnome, email them at The rest of the local farmers and bee keeper have decided not to participate this year due to personal reasons. At anyrate, when it becomes warmer, perhaps May, Hungry Gnome will be selling local organic foods outside of the Earthman's Store on the corner of Old Hickory and Whites Creek Pike, north of town. Definitely check out Nashville Restaurants blog now because they have a good list of CSAs - consumer support agriculture farms that you can contact if you want more local organic foods. The other suggestion I have is to go to the Franklin Farmer's Market winter hours 10am - 2 pm Saturdays, and most likely 8am - 2 pm during spring and summer Saturdays.

Alicia and Bert's Hungry Gnome farm is close by Earthman's General Store, and their food is almost as local as you can get without growing food yourself. There farm is neat and sunny. Their chickens are happy and free range. The livestock and pet dogs live happily together. I have been there, and I can attest to the authenticity of their local organic food. I am thrilled they will be there to sell their tasty food.

For me, the loss of Whites Creek Farmers Market is a hard blow to my eating plan for 2008. I wanted to eat like I did last year, with every meal I made has some or all local organic foods as the base ingredients. I also wanted to cut down on my travel and shopping time. This is what I did last year. Traveling to Whites Creek, by driving up Metro Center Blvd, then cutting over a few blocks on Trinity Ln, then turn north on Whites Creek was the shortest route to Whites Creek, and I used a lot less gas than trying to drive to any other farmers market or stand. On the way back home, I took Metro Center back to the Nashville Farmer's Market where there were a few local organic meat and veggie vendors who provided me with the rest of the food I needed for the week. Yup, less than 2-3 hours total and less than 1 gallon of gas, and I had all my grocery shopping done for the week. It saved me so much time. I got to get on with my day, jog, other errands, lunch, nap, you know, the important things that people don't seem to have time for anymore.

I am not quite understanding why the Whites Creek Farmers Market is not happening this year. I am not sure why the few local vendors at the Nashville Farmers Market have disappeared. I am not sure why I have not heard about the Urban Farmers Market. I thought that there was momentum and a push for organic and local organic foods. I thought people of Nashville were waking up and remember what it was like to eat tasty locally grown food. I thought local organic was a growth market. What happened?

Seriously, what happend? Can someone tell me?

Can you tell, I am mourning the loss of yet another venue to get fantastic local organic foods.


April 13, 2008

Bon Beaune Repas

Beaune red wine

After our tour of the Beaune Wine Museum, it started to rain, and all the shops in Beaune were closed. In the countryside of France, everything seems to close from 12 - 2 pm for lunch, and there really isn't much else to do but lunch. This would be our official first meal we would take in France during this trip. A few of the restaurants were closed in Beaune due to being the winter, and they will re-open during the spring when more tourists and travelers show up. We walked in the rain into the center of town to see what might be open. We found Le Clos Carnot, an easy going restaurant, tavern and internet cafe all rolled into one.

puff pastry beef pie and salad

The lunch here was delicious. The base ingredients, skill and execution of the food at this tavern was quite wonderful. There are no bars in the USA that could deliver this type of food. In Le Clos Carnot, the lunch menu had a few options. The options were a menu where you pick 3 courses, 2 plat where you pick 2 plates, or a la carte. I opted for 2 plat. This will prove to be one of the least volume of food meals we would have in France, and believe me, there was plenty of food.

For my 1st course of 2, I opted for the beef pie and salad plate. The beef pie was a savory beef Bourgogne stew and gravy wrapped in a puff pastry. I have never had a beef pie quite like this. The puff pastry was golden to perfection, the beef was tender, and the gravy was savory, delicate and delicious, leaving me wanting more. I wish I knew how to make this. The salad was made with fresh salad greens and a light mustard dressing. I don't know how to make the mustard dressing, but I was able to bring back a few jars of French mustard to experiment. The salad dressing had a mustard flavor, but it was so light, unlike the overly flavored dressing that I have gotten used to in the USA. I really like the delicate and subtle flavor of the mustard dressing.

French onion soup with toast and cheese to sprinkle on top

To start his meal, Matt opted for French onion soup. Folks, I mean, for our 1st official meal in France, wouldn't French onion soup be appropriate? LOL. Well, it was really good. The soup had a really light and delicate flavor, and quite possibly very little salt in it (YAY!). It tasted like they roasted or caramelized the onions to make the natural sugars come out, and have that deep roasted flavor in the soup. The soup also came plain, with a nice little plate of French bread toast rounds and cheese to sprinkle on top. It was so good! Matt made a good choice. This lovely soup was great, and so not Liptons.

main plate of potatoes and pungent pork ribs

For my second plate, I got the special entree, it was small potatoes, cauliflower and pork ribs with a fabulous sauce that they called sweet and sour. This sweet and sour sauce was not like anything you could get in the USA. It was deep, pungent and complex. It wasn't really sweet, nor was it sour. I could not figure out how to deconstruct this sauce. I believe there must be a demi-glace as the base, there may have been some sugar, perhaps a little red wine reduction, but I can't tell what was in the sauce. I just could not get enough of this sauce. The pork ribs, there were only two, which was plenty of meat. The meat was roasted in the sauce, I am sure, and the meat was cooked to perfection, with the meat available to cut from the rib such that the meat did not fall apart readily, but melted in my mouth when I ate it.

For our 1st official meal in France, we were blown away at this simple tavern in the middle of Beaune. This meal was delightful! To top off the meal we moved over to the internet cafe portion of the tavern. We ordered our cafe au lait, and started using the computer, hoping the rain would stop. We emailed back home to the pet sitter to get an update (Hi Emily!) and she certainly took good care at home. We got home to a very well adjusted, happy and the best well groomed pet ever! Thank you Emily! We also got to check on the Paris - Nice bike race, one of the professional bicycle races passing by us about 100 km to the south of us. We did our final planning on getting to the finish line of leg 2 in Belleville, France in the south of Bourgogne. Leg 2 was a 200+ km race. The bike race is a blog post to come, so I won't give it away. The only thing I have to say is Go SLIPSTREAM! Yes, Slipstream is the new, rugged, tough and fast USA professional bicycle team.


April 12, 2008

In the light of day

We woke up at our le Clos de L'abbaye B&B, and finally there was daylight for us. When we were lost for 3 hours, we could not really see what was around us, except for going forward on small vineyard roads. It was so nice to get out and see what we were missing the night before.
a clos vineyard in the Cote de Beaune

We squirreled our way down the hill from St Sernin du Plain in to the town of Beaune. We passed by vineyard after vineyard after vineyard. Many of these vineyards date back to the 1500s or more. The vineyards have been producing grapes and wine for hundreds of years by the same families. Looking at each plot and appellation in Bourgogne, I could feel the history of the land. Each vine was planted with purpose, and tending to each vine has been perfected down to a science. All the mistakes in planting, tending and harvesting were weeded out hundreds of years ago. These wine families just know how to do things from 100s of years of experience.

As a hobby, we are part of a collective that gets Napa wine grapes, and we crush, press and age some of our own wine. After winding though Bourgogne, and feeling the history of the area, it really put our wine making in our place. We have no idea what we are doing, it certainly doesn't have 100s of years of family know how behind it, and we are lucky to even have palatable product at the end. In France, luck does not play into wine making. I think I have gotten to the point where I may not make anymore wine, and leave my sipping to the generations of master wine makers of Bourgogne. But then again, with markups and taxes on wine in this country, it kind of costs a lot of money to buy really good Bourgogne wine here.

the old church with a famed Beaune tiled roof

We got into the town of Beaune on this drizzly rain day. I did not get a lot outside photos because I did not want to get my camera lens wet. During a short dry spell, I got a photo of this old church in Beaune. Notice the roof. This area of Bourgogne, luckily, was spared from bombing during the World Wars. The old castles and churches that are 100s of years old, are still standing and still in use, even retrofitted with modern plumbing. I doubt the house I am living in will make it another 25 years, let alone 500+ years. Anyway, The roof tops of these buildings are glazed tile roofs, and make spectacular patterns.

the wine map in the Beaune Wine Mueseum

What we decided to do on this rainy drizzly day was to go to the Beaune Wine Museum. I actually learned quite a lot about wine in Bourgogne. I took a photo of the map and the region for me to remember where we went. We did get through most of the Bourgogne wine making areas from south of Macon and up to Dijon. There will be more blogs about the other areas to come.

I learned that there are 2 major grapes grown in this province: chardonnay and pinot noir, that is about 95% of all grapes grown. I believe that from old traditions and then finalized in law, that certain appellations can only grow certain grapes. So now, an appellation designated for chardonnay grapes cannot just go off an grow petit syrah, as an example. Every dining experience we had in this region, we requested a locally made wine, and the question back was red or white? Well, it is either pinot or chard. Am I the only one who was not in on this clue until now? It turns out nearly all wines imported into the USA from Bourgogne are chard or pinot, and most of the last 5% of other grapes are just sipped on by families in Bourgogne. The important part about Bourgogne wine is what appellation (soil and grade) the grapes are from, and who the wine maker is, it is not the grape varietal.

a antique hand held wine keg

This trip reminds me of something that happened to me 10 years ago in a Belle Meade area wine store. (note: Belle Meade is the town that ex-Senator Frist, ex-VP Gore and disco Queen Donna Summer live now. Also note, I am NOT talking about the wine store up at the 100-70 split, nor the one under the bridge next to the Kroger). Look, I don't claim to anything about wine, and 10 years ago, I really knew nothing about wine. 10 years ago, I thought Burgundy was a type red grape. So I walked into the liquor store, and a know-it-all clerk, with a beer belly, kind of rednecky, kind of sweaty greasy with a cheesy mustache, asked me what I wanted (apparently in certain adverse conditions, women like me don't forget too many details). I requested a Burgundy red. Then the kia said something like this: If you can't tell me what type of grape you want from this region, and it is a huge wine making region, I can't possibly help you. It is quite likely that all the Burgundy wine the store had at that time was just pinot. The store focuses on hard liquor, and doesn't have a wide range of wine, and I bet this kia had no idea about Burgundy reds, just like me, so he opted to act worse than the comic book store guy from the Simpsons. I left that store with a nasty Robert Mondavi and had not purchased another Burgundy until now because I was so intimidated. What a dis-service that guy did to me. For a decade, I could have been enjoying some of the best wine in the world. I gotta a lot of ground to cover, now that I know more.

wine clay vessel

Anyway, back to Beaune and the Beaune Wine Museum. We had a ball walking through this museum. There were so many cool vessels, and descriptions of the old ways of making wine. The old man-powered machines, the old school measuring devices, and the old wine vessels were all very interesting to look at. Since my French isn't so good, I did not understand all of what the placards were saying about wine making equipment and how they were used. I really need to know more about these old ways to help us with our hobby wine making. Since we do everything by hand, no machinery, it would to our benefit to learn more about the old ways.

wine bottles used through the ages

There was so much to see and learn in this museum, and I only could take photos without flash. It is unfortunate that only a fraction of photos worked out for me because I did not have a tripod (flash photos nor were tripods allowed in the museum). I feel like I need to work on my French, or at least wine making related French vocabulary, and return to the Beaune Wine Museum and learn more the next time.

As we exited the museum, on the stairway down to ground level and exit door, I saw this placard on the wall with a word about Col. Charles R Codman from Boston. I googled him, and he was a wealthy man, Harvard Educated and served in both WW1 and re-enlisted in WW2. He spent his time between wars as a French wine importer, and he must have spent a lot of time in Bourgogne in Beaune. Because he was fluent in French, and his country needed him for WW2, he went to France during the war. I could not find any googled info about his contribution to the Beaune Wine Museum, and this might be the only proof of his contribution to this town. So says Wikipedia, Col. Codman's only child and son died in Paris in 1946 at the age of 24, and Col. Codman died in 1956 at the age of 63. With the lack of direct descendants for Col. Codman to carry on the memory of his contribution to the Wine Museum, this placard becomes that much more important as past days, years and memories fade.

a sign at the Beaune Wine Museum


April 7, 2008

Le Clos de L'Abbaye

view of the part of the B&B

We finally get to our B & B in Bourgogne (Burgundy) in St Sernin du Plain. St SdP is located about 30 km from Beaune, France, the center of Bourgogne, and the center of wine making in Bourgogne. The roads in this area are seriously cow and cart paths from back in the day of the 1500s when growing grapes and wine making was being quite perfected in this area. The only way to get here is by car, bike or foot, and the closest train station is about 1/2 hour drive away. This town does not seem to be a high traffic area for the tourists who travel by train. St SdP is a small town is on top of the hill, and offers a really spectacular view of the Beaune, Cote de Beaune, and Haute Cote de Beaune wine region. There isn't much in this town, a post office, some homes, and a seasonal restaurant that was closed during our trip because we were there during the winter.

The buildings in this little town are all hundreds (400+ years old) and made of stone. The stone homes are actually similar to the Southern Ireland stone homes around the Burren. This makes sense because the Burren and Bourgogne are made up of the same rock and earth formation. The whole area from Ireland, England, and France was once all similar in geology thousands of years ago. The water, where the English Channel is now, slowly eroded away the land between England and France, and eroded away rock from England and Northern France, leaving the underlying chalk lime stone in the areas closest to the English Channel, and left the higher rocky areas in Ireland and Bourgogne. In Borgogne, like in Ireland, people tried to cultivate their land, and lots of rocks and stones are in the earth. I am sure they made piles of the stones to use to build their houses, and stone walls. It was quite amazing to be in a building that was ove 400 years old. It was sturdy, comfortable and warm. It sure beats our current bad 1980s cheap construction that we live in here in Nashville.

view from the B & B

It is worth mentioning that driving directions in France are a bit different than how we give directions in the USA. In this area of Bougogne, it is important to know what town you are driving towards. There is no reason to know street names or distances, just which town you are heading towards. Every intersection has signs for what the next town is, not street names. Many intersections are actually rotaries (traffic circles) that might have a more than 3-5 streets coming into the circle. Only the major roads seemed to marked well with road numbers. The direction to this B & B and Gite from the north, is this: Take Autoroute A6 to exit 31. Go in the direction of Chagny. See sign for Le Creusot and go that direction. See sign for Mercey and go that direction. See sign for St Sernin du Plain and a small sign for Le Clos de L'Abbaye and go in that direction. Go up and up the hill until it levels off and see the yellow Post Office Building on the left. One door down from the Post Office is a small alley street to the left, take that left and continue left as if making a U-turn, and the Le Clos de L'Abbaye is behind the Post Office.

Our Google map directions had street names, distances, and turn left or right, as if we were traveling in the USA. When faced with 6 street choices without street names, which street is considered "turn left" or "turn right". There was not one street name to be had in this area. We were lost in a 10 km square area for 3 hours and nearly ran out of gas. When in France, on the small surface roads of the countryside, the Google map directions are not going to help you. We did not have a GPS. Perhaps we should have. Oh, and the map that automatically printed with Google directions, was basically useless because it did not print town names, it only printed steet names. sigh.

one of my breakfasts at the B & B

We got there about 3 hrs after our due time, and Vero was really a gracious B & B hostess. She felt bad for us for being lost without a GPS, so she made us snacks (we were so hungry!) and gave us red wine from the Beaune region. The snacks were French bread slices with tartare cheese, and French bread slices toasted with sausage on top. What a wonderful treat for a long a drive. We sat chatting. Her husband was at the polls counting ballots because it was local election days. I forgot to ask who won the mayor's position. Vero is fluent in English, thank goodness. I tried my little bit of French, but it was a garbled attempt, and we all agreed that English was the way to go.

We finally turned in for the night, and our room had old wood timber supports, hemp and soil plastered walls that had a lovely creamy yellow color that contrasted quite well with our dark burgundy red quilt and drapery. The furniture is all sturdy traditional French country with accents that was surely placed carefully by Vero. It was visually exactly what you would want in a French countryside B & B experience. Our bed was nice and just the perfect firmness, and offered a perfect night sleep.

The plumbing in the room was a modern shower and toilet. The shower has a regulator where you can dial up the temperature you want, and turn on the water with the pressure you want. While sudsing up, the knob is right there on the handle, so you could slow the water down to save water. This mechanism is the same as on cruise ships. I am wondering if the hotwater supply to the shower is a point of service supply rather than an inefficient hot water tank (like what we have in our house). The hot water was rather immediate, so I suspect Vero put in a point of service hot water supply. I am really impressed with the water conservation toilets and showers we have run into all over France. I wish the USA would catch up. Here in the South USA last year, we entered into "water wars" during the drought, and Georgia is still vying for more water by re-drawing the state boundary to include another river that is currently in my state. If we had water saving showers and toilets, we might not have been in water wars.


April 6, 2008

Travel on a Sunday

French Autoroute A2

We had decided that Sundays would be our big travel days. Our first Sunday we picked up our rental car, and then went on our way from Brussels to central Burgundy (Bourgogne). My last trip to Europe (18 years prior) I recall that many places were closed, and it was nearly impossible to find an open restaurant on Sunday. Before we left, a friend of ours in London, who recently went to France for a mini-vacation, confirmed that it may be difficult to dine because all restaurants will be closed on Sunday. To prepare for everything to be closed in France on Sunday, we spent time on Saturday buying giant bottles of waters, bread, cheese, bananas, almonds, and raisins, to get us through the 400 miles (650 km) we were traveling, and a 4 pack of Belgian beer to drink at our destination. The bread was not that good as it was just from one of the grocery stores in Brussels, and the cheese was just the laughing cow cheese. These provisions were better than nothing.

our road food

As we were on our way, we stopped about 1/2 way for a rest stop and found that the Autoroute rest stops are quite open, with a fantastic looking restaurants, amazing salad bars, fresh tarts, a wide range of French entrees, soups, and beverages. The stop where we were had a great gift shop, candies, and plenty of coffee vending. Since we already had our "road food" we did not partake in dining at this Autoroute rest stop, and I regret we did not partake in the dining room. Our rood food was kind of bad, but our road food did provide us with calories to get by. On the way back, we made sure that we stopped for a meal on the Autoroute, and we were pleased (future blog post).

Fritelle chips

What I have learned is that the Autoroutes in France are great for smooth sail, and worth the tolls. The Autoroute rest stops with a dining room are very good, and open on Sundays. In the USA, the highway and toll road rest stop dining usually includes fast food like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, or other unhealthy options. The French Autoroute dining options are really fabulous. The Autoroute dining shows the French pride in the quality of ingredients and preparation of the recipes, and it is just Autoroute food! Amazing!

The one thing that I knew about, but could not get here in the USA is a chip and pin credit card, that is what the UK mandates by law, and what France has converted to. The USA still has the antiquated magnetic strip - swipe and sign credit cards, so they don't work in automated toll booths, or automated gas pumps. At night, the Autoroute toll booths are not manned, so tolls need to be paid by a chip and pin credit card. It was a little tricky trying to gas up the car, and to pay the tolls at night.


April 4, 2008

Belgian Beer on the Menu

The name, I am unsure
Where, a street off of Grand Place
Brussels, Belgium

5 Belgian beer tasting

We went to the historic Toone Theater for a puppet show, and it got out fairly late, after 10 pm. Many of the restaurants were no longer serving food (except for Rue de Boucher, which we had sworn off of since our first dinner in Brussels). We were pretty hungry because this day was one where were ate a lot at breakfast, skipped lunch and went site seeing, and we had not really eaten since 10 am. We walked over to Grand Place, and around a couple feeder streets into Grand Place. I remembered seeing late-night food windows over on one of the streets. All the windows had some sort of fast food Greek or Mediterranean food like gyros, Greek Salads, pita sandwiches etc. At that point, I thought we just needed some calories, and anything would be fine. Matt was not into the fast food gyro vibe, and he wanted to have Belgian beer with every meal we had in Belgium. So our walk continued, and I started getting a bit cranky, and demanding that he just pick a place to eat before they all shut down for the night.

waterzooi - chicken stew

We stumbled upon a cafe/tavern off of one of the feeder streets into Grand Place. I had written down that it was called Bruxelles Cafe, but as I have googled and googled for this pub, tavern, cafe, restaurant, bar, there is no such thing on the internet referencing where we dined on this night. I am at a loss of where we were. We were lucky, as we walked in, I believe we were the last customers that this place served dinner to, as they were getting ready to close the kitchen. This place was open for people to come in to try their beer though, and that made Matt happy.

country sausage over leeks and mashed potatoes

The options we had for dinner were all Belgian specialties. Matt got the waterzooi (watery mess) which is a chicken, potato, leek, carrot, and cream stew. His stew had a delicate flavor, and I enjoyed sneaking bites from his dish. I opted for the country sausage over mashed potato and leeks. Since it was the end of the night, and it was the last dinner dish sold, the sausage was a bit over cooked, but the mashed potatoes and leeks were delicious and flavorful. I think I need to make mashed potatoes with leeks at home because of the lovely flavor. The deep flavor of my mashed potatoes was a stark contrast to the delicate cream flavor of the waterzooi. These two dishes were hearty for the us, the hungry travelers. The dishes served to us were huge, and just as large as any plate served in a chain restaurant in the USA. We ended up easting about half of our food, and felt bad we had to waste the rest due to no refrigeration in our hotel room. At this point, we were stunned at the large volume of food of each meal served to us. We were thinking that it is a touristy Brussels thing to serve grand volumes of food, but as our trip went on in the non-touristy parts of Brussels and in France, we still got huge volumes of food. How do the French and Europeans stay so thin?

another view of the beer tasting

For our beer, Matt's motto was when in Belgium, drink Belgian beer! So, we did. We got set up with a 5 glass tasting of the beer that had on tap. I don't know much about beer, but I think that there was a pale, an amber, a stout, a lambic, and maybe a hefeweizen or a citrus flavored beer. I know little to nothing about beer, so if I got the labels wrong, too bad. The little I do know about beer is that I really liked each one in the line-up. I really liked the one that looked like a hefeweizen (cloudy with some yeast bodies in it), and it had a mild citrus flavor to it too. It could have been brewed with some lemons, but I don't know. It was full flavored and refreshing at the same time. We enjoyed our meal, and we certainly enjoyed the beer too. I just wish I knew the real name of this pub, tavern, cafe.

On the side, about this dining experience, was that we were enjoying our meal and beer, as we chatted in a respectful low volume. All those around us were doing the same, having a late night beer tasting, chatting in a respectful low volume and relaxing after a long week. Then, a group of co-workers from a multinational corporation from Canada, USA, Belgium and the UK came busting into the door. The young woman from the USA was quiet, and spoke in a hush tone, the Canadian did as well. It was the Brits who were loud, obnoxious, and disrespectful. One Brit was speaking so disrespectfully to the waitress, and making claims that he knew everything about Belgian beer and Brussels. He just babbled on and on in bravado. He made some overt innuendos to and about the young American woman about how uncouth, and unworldy she was because she didn't know much about Belgian beer and she did not really drink beer. The Brit took every opportunity to make fun of the American woman. The Brit also took time to say that all the pubs in and around London are by far better than anywhere in Brussels, and then he went on to insult the waitstaff at this cute pub/cafe saying that they were all lazy just like all waitstaff in Belgium. All I know is that our waitress (same one waiting on them) was really kind to us, smiled a lot, and was very helpful to us. What a butt-head Brit. It is possible that if he did not instantly insult the waitress, she might have been inclined to serve his table more. After the Brit arrived in all his bluster, I gave a quick look at the U.S. American woman, and she looked back with a shrug and nod in acknowledgment that she knew the Brit was a butt-head. After 10 - 15 minutes after the Brit et al. arrived, it was so unpleasant to be around that Brit, that we just had to cut our relaxing time short, and get out of there and back into the rainy evening.

NOTE: It was the Brit who was the ugly, disrespectful, loud person, NOT the U.S. Americans. Are swaggerty, loud and obnoxious Brits roaming around Europe being mistaken as Americans, and letting Americans take the rap for being ugly, loud and disrespectful?