I am writing this at the end of the evening and I actually cannot lie on my stomach any longer. I have the appearance of a reverse turtle with my feet and head no longer touching the bed simultaneously. Joyous bloating and discomfort have become my constant companions.
I actually fooled myself into believing that I wasn’t going to eat today, I mean aside from breakfast and dinner. Today was supposed to be about driving from Beaune to Chateauneuf du Pape, four waking hours away from culinary temptations. Somehow between the charcuterie breakfast at our hotel in Beaune and dinner I managed to eat more. Squirreled away in the seats of our car I found remnants of chocolate macaroons and ganache dipped in dark chocolate from one of the thousand chocolatiers we stopped at so far.
My cousin Andre said a temporary goodbye to us over an unexpected lunch at a roadside restaurant. When I saw the menu I could not resist trying the Pommes
Aligot with grilled Toulouse Sausage. Pommes Aligot is a potato dish I started making many years ago when I worked at a small Relais and Chateaux property in New York State. Two of my weekly guests had gotten back from France and requested I attempt this dish for them on their next visit. I scoured amongst my 2,000 cookbooks and found a recipe and prepared it the following week. Pommes Aligot is basically the smoothest, buttery, creamy mashed potatoes you ever made it your life with so much cheese added that it stretches like molten rubber when you stick a spoon in and lift it high in the air. It’s so elastic you might even be able to tie a knot if you tried hard enough. It became part of my regular repertoire ever since then and never having tried an authentic version I was curious how mine stacked up. I rarely boast but I think mine is superior. To make today’s version even more heart healthy the Chef added a nice grilled Toulouse sausage. The car groaned under the added weight as I crawled back into our car for the final leg of the drive.
I honestly think I would be still circling around a rotary somewhere in Paris had it not been for our Garmin GPS. French streets are not exactly marked in a way that we Americans are accustomed to. In fact I would go a bit further and say rental car companies out to show a video to any foreigner attempting driving here. I drove down two lane roads today that looked more like someone’s ramshackle driveway. There is not a chance in hell we would have found today’s castle we are staying in. Yes for those keeping track, it is castle deux.
Chateau de Varenne is a gorgeous Provencal castle built in 1738 by the first mayor of Avignon. It has amazing grounds with swimming pools, gardens and
children’s toys strategically located all over to almost make Beaumont forget about the numerous fountains, puddles and springs.
Though my mother was born in the Champagne region of France she grew up in Marseilles and her father had a beautiful resort, now run by my uncle Pierrot, in Perigord. The smell of boxwoods perfumed the air while the gravel walkways
reminded me of my youth. Fond memories swelled in my heart. The Chateau is painted in all the classic Provencal colors of ochre, blue, red and green. JOY.
The roads surrounding the castle are narrow for one car despite being for two and snake up and down the small hills of Sauveterre. Driving the same roads slightly loaded on the local Chateauneuf du Pape wines requires skill and tact, though just enough wine makes you more courageous and too much makes you foolhardy. If our GPS would break now I never would be able to find my way out.
Beau running down the center of a two way street in Chateauneuf du Pape
We drove to the center of Chateauneuf du Pape just in time to buy some amazing wine at Clos de Mont Olivet, one of our favorite producers here and also another supplier to my friend Peter’s company Michael Skurnik. We bought four bottles of just bottled 2010 Cuvee Papet, the special reserve that Robert Parker gave 96 points for, a magnum of 1976 (Lisa and our friend Dan’s birth year) and two 2011 white wines bottled three days ago.
After the tasting, we stopped into a small wine/gourmet shop for yet another tasting and stocking up on various small sausages including a black sausage from Corsica and an olive sausage. We climbed the narrow streets to the castle ruins overlooking town.
For dinner we ate at La Mere Germaine located in the heart of town. Have you ever walked into a restaurant knowing full well you aren’t going to eat well yet you still do it anyway? We walked in and the omens were blaring. Beau’s head
spun three times and he vomited green split pea soup screaming obscenities like the demon child in the Exorcist, empty dining room, cheap décor and they lost our reservation. It really wasn’t that the food was bad – it just wasn’t great for what they charged. A guide Michelin wannabe. The meal started with a pleasant tapenado with croutons. Beaumont helped himself to one basket of bread and two dishes of tapenado. Where does the little one put it? As caring parents I realize eating that many olives may not be good but it kept him quiet for three minutes and it was well worth it. The amuse was a buttery asparagus puree with microgreens. I started with Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with a seafood mousse, shrimp and the tenderest calamari ever while Lisa had her fifteenth plate of Foie Gras since touching down at Charles de Gaulle airport. The duck foie gras confit was delicious and served with white asparagus compote. So far so good. The main courses were a way over salted sautéed Loup (sea bass)
served over perfectly tender vegetables and my way over salted Filet of Charlois Beef over the same vegetables as Lisa. The flavors were good, just not great. Dessert descended into amateur hour at the Harlem Theater. Lisa’s Macaroon with Red Fruits was very mediocre and my Tiramisu with Pistachios and Praline was just okay. By now, little Beau had forgotten what an angel he could be and began making up lost time in torturing the nerves of his parents. We took turns taking petit Satan out to the fountain in front so he could splash in the water and perhaps exorcise a few demons along the way. The night ended
with both of us feeling super bloated and slightly drunk. Chateauneuf du Pape is a lot heavier than the Burgundies we had been drinking till now.