L'Auberge de Sedona

L'Auberge de Sedona

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The Land of Exceptional Pinot Noir

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! What an incredible start to the day! Despite staying up later than I wanted sorting thru over 300 pictures taken yesterday I feel great. Beau still hasn’t fully adjusted to the time change but is doing better. He is a little crabby and needy when he wakes up but after a double espresso he seems to be able to cope. Just like his Daddy.

After checking out of the Chateau, we stopped at a small Boulangerie along the highway for two croissant and two pain au chocolat. PURE HEAVEN! I often wonder why American pastries are over sugary, especially breakfast ones. I suppose that leads me to my second gripe about American food norms – why the hell are children’s menus so god awful for children or even adults for that matter. Who the hell really wants to feed their children deep fried chicken, grilled cheeses or mac and cheese? Nothing wrong with very occasional delves into unhealthy food but could someone explain why kids cannot eat the exact same food in smaller portions as the adults eat? Beaumont has been the shining star of that example. In his short five months of eating he started with duck confit went to truffles and now has progressed to sweetbreads and kidneys. Never once has he looked me in the eye and bitched that there weren’t fries, fried chicken or ketchup.

On the three hour drive south to Beaune (Burgundy) we stopped twice at a gas station for coffee and once for gas. It is really amazing to notice cultural

difference between France and America. At the first gas station, I stopped in their version of a quickie mart for bottled water and was amazed they sold, amongst other things, real Madrange ham. Unbelievable, something you actually would want to eat if you didn’t have time for a proper meal. The coffee I got actually was good, full bodied and not watered down or served burnt in Styrofoam cups in a variety of big gulp sizes. The diner equivalent had a variety of great salads, cheeses, hot dishes that actually looked good and wine. No unhealthy prefabricated Sysco brand chemicalized food. I honestly puzzle where we went astray food wise in America. In my 2,000 plus cookbooks I have numerous books from America in the early to late 1800’s. Believe it or not, at one time we actually ate real food believe or not.

The second round of comparing cultures came when we went to the supermarket for bottled water and to do laundry. On the surface the supermarket looked similar to any in America but upon further investigation I found blaring differences. The first and largest difference was found in the seafood aisle. They offered everything from the briny delectable crevettes gris (grey shrimp), langoustines (sweet, succulent deep sea lobsters), dourade royale, rouget, monkfish, etc. etc. The variety of fish was amazing. When I lived in Mendocino, it always was astounding to me that along America’s longest coastline they would have you believe that only salmon, halibut, and two other fish are found if we judged it by what was sold in grocery stores. Walking further into the store I found lobes of foie gras, beautiful guinea fowl from a small farm and elk.

For lunch today we went to a restaurant a friend has been raving about for at least ten years called Ma Cuisine. I now understand exactly why he raved and will say GO THERE NOW!

The sign leading to gastronomic paradise…

Ma Cuisine in Beaune

My cousin Andre met us there for one of the best, simple and regional meals I have had in decades. Lisa and I started with Ham Persillade, a Burgundian classic that also will find its way onto l’Auberge de Sedona’s charcuterie plate.

Last night Beaumont was l’enfant impossible… today both Lisa and I were absolutely jittery about which Beau we would dine with. Today we were blessed with little angel Beaumont, the petit gourmand.

Beau started with tasty little black olives

Segued into daddy’s veal kidneys in a mustard sauce and maman’s ris de veau (damn, I swear that boy cannot eat enough sweetbreads!) and finished on the cheese plate complete with probably the most perfect Epoisses I have ever eaten. To paraphrase Brillat Savarin, ‘a meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with one eye’ – she may satisfy you in the short term but damn what happened to that eye!

For Beaumont’s last two acts at Ma Cuisine he took a short stroll with Papa exploring the various puddles that filled the cobblestone walkway in front and slept – YES SLEPT! Hallelujah!

This is what heaven looks like to me

Anyone who truly loves wine will appreciate the following picture. I took it shortly after Ma Cuisine and before descending into a cave for wine tasting…

I honestly am not even sure of the winery’s name we visited. There was door it said come in drink some wine and we scurried in. They gave you tastlevin, little cork dorky wine tasting silver cups and told you have at it, take the tour on your own at your own pace… and only drink one glass of each of the 14 wines, please. Wines were strategically placed down in the cave at various points.

We ended up buying several bottles including a moderately priced ancient wine to share with friends joining us in Provence in a few days. The rest of the afternoon was spent stopping in cheese shops, charcuteries, chocolate shops, knife shops and walking all over the picturesque town of Beaune. I could live here very easily if I just could hit the lottery.

Hardly hungry and closely hitting the proverbial food wall we returned to the town center for dinner where Beau gave his best dining performance of the trip. He actually slept through all three courses including Lisa’s kir royale! Hallelujah!

I actually prodded him after I took this shot as I wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive. Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah!!!

On the way out of the brasserie he was awake long enough to get some cute little 15 month old French girl’s phone number before blissfully returning to sleep!

The quiet streets of Beaune just minutes ago… bon soir!

Filed under Chef Francois de Melogue lauberge de sedona pinot noir culinary france travel food and wine

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More Champagne… Will my Liver Survive this Onslaught?

We arrived back in Epernay with the same foreboding feeling my friend and Vietnam vet buddy Jim Groeger must have felt when returning to the scene of a horrendous battle a few days later only to retake the same hill again. I imagined the streets littered with empty bottles from yesterday’s excesses. Thank god the ghosts of bottles drank were gone and the streets clear. Whew!

Looking at road signs in a wine region is a bit like reading a great wine list. Every direction offers great possibilities. Which way to turn, towards Bollinger or Rene Geoffrey? Today we headed to one of the best small producers in the region at the behest of my friend Peter Zitz who works for America’s foremost distributor, Michael Skurnik.

Rene Geoffrey is one of the superstars in this neck of the woods, and one of the few who does no malo fermentation and actually makes rose champagne the way rose champagne ought to be made. Trivia tidbit, only two percent of rose Champagne is made saignée. In short, saignée is one of the methods of making rosé wines, along with blending white and red wine. It is simply macerating (allowing contact with skins to leech out color and flavor) the wine with the skins for a short period of time. 98% of rose Champagne is made by adding red wine.

He started making Champagne closer to his vineyards with part of the production occurring at his, his father’s and his grandmother’s houses. Life was chaotic and confusing and spread out. Luckily he found a building an old cooperative had operated that he modified with an ingenious gravity fed winemaking system and moved his production there. The size of the building allowed grapes to be trucked to a higher street where his two huge wine presses are located.

The grapes are pressed and the juice passes through a series of pipes that go down one level, deeper into the caves. Using gravity rather than pumps is gentler on the wine and therefore preferred. Everyday each and every bottle is given either an 1/8 or 1/4 turn. Every one of his 10,000 bottles he makes each year. Some of this is mechanically done and some by hand.

Scenes from the barrel rooms in the lower caves.

Amazingly Beaumont slept thru the whole tour, all three levels

After the tour we tasted three different Champagnes and a rustic still wine he makes using solely Pinot Meunier grapes. We were excited because we had never tried one. Look at the crazy stairs between levels of his cave.

Beau woke up to taste wine with us.

After the tasting and a prix fixe lunch at a non-descript brasserie we headed back to the Chateau with high hopes of napping. Eating and drinking takes its toll on your body. Please, no tears for our excesses. Upon arrival, Beaumont decided he would torture us by carting him around the property for a survey of the fountains and moat. That boy is single minded…

The Chateau was originally built in the 12th and 13th century and received many notable members of the French royalty including both Louis the XIII and Louis the XVI (obviously before he and his head became separated during the revolution). Parts of the castle crumbled with time and some, such as the original bridge, crumbled under the weight of royal carriages. Parts were added throughout the centuries and parts faded into memories. Beaumont is related to the Louis line through my father’s side of the family.

Dinner brought us back to the city of Epernay and onto what seems to be the only street we drink and eat on. We arrived promptly on time for our 7:30 reservation at Caves du Champagne for a bit of local cuisine and more Champagne. The tiny storefront restaurant was packed and the guests looked decidedly unhappy to see a 15 month old boy enter. Thank god Beau did not let the crowd down with a rare performance that hurls this tiny gourmand into the annals of terror with his ear splitting screaming and chucking of water glasses. Times like this make me want to crawl under the table and curl up in fetal position sobbing incoherently. As a parent you quickly realize who has had children and who hasn’t. Other parents look at you with sympathy, kindness and understanding. Non parents shoot visual death daggers at you. We ate three delicious courses and drank Champagne quicker than you can say “ah”. Lisa started with a terrine of foie gras with Ratafina Gelee, a local sweet aperitif while I inhaled six oysters gratinee. I ate them so quickly I didn’t notice they scorched my throat till later. For our main courses, Lisa had a wonderful Magret of Duckling with Green Grapes and I sautéed Sweetbreads with Girolle Mushrooms. Beaumont paused his tantrum long enough to eat most of my sweetbreads. As a parent, you learn to give whatever petit Satan wants just to quiet him long enough to recoup. Both courses were very very good and complimented the champagne well. I must admit the small amount of sweetbreads Beaumont let me eat really brought out the apple flavors of our R. Pouillon Cuvee de Reserve. Slight reprieve before Beaumont’s act two began. Somewhere during dessert Lisa fled under the table and tossed Beau at me. Everything was hunky dory till he grabbed a small water glass and doused me with holy water as if to exorcise the demons from within. This actually brought the Chef owner out who clearly was not a parent. With Lisa now trying to speak French and pretend neither Beau nor me was related I fled the dining and escaped to the technological world of our über modern Peugeot. In retrospect I think the dining room was too small and crowded and offered too much stimulation for Beau. One day we will return, though I probably will wear a fake set of glasses with a plastic nose… For those keeping score I believe it is Christians 0, Lions 1…

bon soir and bon nuits and tomorrow brings Burgundy in all her splendor!

Chef Francois de Melogue is the new Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona. He is currently on a 3 week learning sabbatical, picking up ideas for the new menu at L’Auberge. Here, we share his culinary adventures and dispatches from the road as he eats and drinks his way across the French countryside. 

Filed under France Food and Wine French cuisine Chef Francois de Melogue L'Auberge de Sedona