L'Auberge de Sedona

L'Auberge de Sedona

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Heavily Steeped in Champagne

We woke up and had a delicious breakfast of two Pierre Herme desserts followed by café and a Madrange Ham and Cheese omelet cooked to perfection at a brasserie next to the hotel. We packed our bags differently today trying to be smarter and do so in a manner that would keep us from lugging the two excessively heavy ‘mother ship’ bags into the actual Chateau. If we could manage packing the two smaller bags with two days’ worth of clothes than life would be gouda!

Driving out of Paris today was a blessing as it was Easter. The roads were relatively empty and our GPS seemed to work well despite horrid butchering of French street names. Side note: anyone else ever notice Garmins can pronounce Spanish words like a true Mexican but rarely English and almost never French?

We arrived in the Champagne region two hours before we were able to check into our hotel. What to do, what to do… Yes, drive to Epernay and drink copious quantities of bubbly at C. Comme, a great Champagne bar offering unknown Champagnes at fantastic prices. Each of us decided on the six glass sampler (yes, one full bottle each… hey when in Rome…).

We drank six different styles of Champagne from six small producers I had never heard of. Each bottle retailed for no more than 20-30 dollars. We started with three single grape sparklers (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Each were very different and both Lisa and I (and little Beau) enjoyed the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier versions best. We decided on plates of Pork Rillete with Morels and Reims Ham served with sweet pickles and crusty bread. I decided I would add tiny little pots of rillete to the charcuterie platter at l’Auberge de Sedona when I get home. Rilletes are essentially super slow cooked pork, shredded and mixed with more fat than I would ever admit to and in this case morel mushrooms. They are very inexpensive to make and very delicious to devour. The fourth bubbly was a blend of the three different grapes and the final two were two different styles of rose, one with red wine from Champagne added and the other left to macerate with the skins long enough to extract a salmon pink hue. Beaumont was running around with a little 12 month old Italian hottie. He is such a little flirt! We left the shop feeling extremely tranquil and with a double magnum, magnum and single bottle for our week in Provence.

We walked around the picturesque town of Epernay and marveled at the gorgeous flowers while Beau did his best to destroy them.

By now it was time to go to the Chateau d’Etoges and check in. Thank God Avis gave us an extremely advanced rent a car, in fact so advanced that stupid us had to ask how to start the damned thing. Bluetooth. Press the starter button on the dash board. The speedometer rises up out of the dashboard and is projected on a little display reminiscent of a fighter jet. Thankfully it has both forward and rear sensors that tell you how close you are to crashing into something. We did get a 200 page owners (onerous?) manual in French should we find the time to translate it detailing how to operate this state of art Peugeot.

As we were driving down some mispronounced road I spotted an amazing Castle and told Lisa I had to stop and photograph it. It turned out to be our castle! Holy Crap - I sure hope Lisa read their web site correctly and got the rate right. We could be in deep trouble if somehow we missed a zero. Though I imagine even in French debtor’s prison the food must be good.

The grounds have several fountains, parks and places for small children to play. Beau especially liked the slide and the HUGE geese that swim around the moat. I guess he still is fascinated with the fountains and if during this trip he doesn’t manage to fall in at least one and perhaps a moat we will be lucky.

After a short nap sleeping off lunch’s excesses we headed down for our 7:15 dinner reservation. The restaurant is in the recently restored l’Orangerie at the Chateau. We started with a glass of Gonet Rose and an amuse bouche of Poached Salmon and Leeks with a Champagne sauce. YUMMY! Very simple, few flavors. The leeks were just perfectly cooked with a barely perceptible crunch while the salmon was super moist and the sauce just added a small lusciousness to the bite. An amuse is designed to stimulate your palate for what will come… to whet the appetite! Mine was soaking by this point!

We began with a bottle of Jean Yves Carlini 1er Cru Champagne to go with our Ris de Veau (veal sweetbreads cooked meunier on a bed of diced Parisian mushrooms and grilled white asparagus from Nantes. The plate was sauced with a mushroom sauce and a drizzle of demi glace. Lisa had a Consomme of Langoustines with emerald green raviolis, baby turnips and zucchini.

Beaumont adored my sweetbreads and mushrooms to no end. I think he groaned like Papa when the plate was finished. My boy is a gourmand!

For the main courses we switched to a red wine from Bordeaux, La Chapelle de Lafon Rochet 2004. We still had enough Champagne for Lisa’s Cod dish. I had the Beef Oxtails in a Mustard Sauce. The oxtails were slow braised, deboned and shaped into cylinders and cooled then sliced, breaded and fried. A little sauce dressed the plate with potatoes and sno peas. On all main courses they put a small ramekin with extra sauce for those that LOVE sauce. Nice touch!

Lisa’s cod was sautéed and served atop a Chorizo Risotto with small calamari and peas surrounding the plate. Very simple. Totally relying on freshness and quality ingredients. Excellent dishes.

My tongue was still hard when the back waiter asked if we wanted cheese. Good God was she kidding? Who does not love cheese and why are they allowed to breathe air? To have cheese in a real restaurant is something to behold. And no country does cheese better than the French. There is a famous quote from Charles de Gaulle that says something like ‘How do you govern a country with 246 cheeses’. Our waiter pushed a heavy trolley laden with cheeses of various states and milks to our table. The winners were a brie cheese cured in calvados that tasted like just picked apples, my all time favorite Epoisse and a Cantal from the mountains.

Next came a little bite of a chocolate and caramel mousse to whet the appetite for dessert. Lisa’s Chocolate Tart was decorated with edible gold and the best, crispy chocolate cookies and white chocolate sorbet. I opted for macerated pineapples topped with a crème and a thin wafer of puff pastry served with pineapple sorbet. Two espressos and off to slumberland!

Bon Soir from Champagne!

~Chef Francois

Chef Francois de Melogue is the new Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona. He is currently on a 3 week learning sabbatical in the French countryside, picking up ideas for the new menu at L’Auberge.

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