Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 554 - Our last day in Etoges

Before I fill you all in on the day's adventures and explorations, let's first revisit a petit stop we had yesterday in the pedestrian area of Epernay at a century old cheese shop - La Cloche Aux Fromages. The cheese case was strictly filled with all artisanal French cheeses -- each cheese labeled with it's region of origin. In case you were curious, the Champagne region is most known for the bloomy rinded, decadenly creamy cow's milk cheese known as Chaource. The bubbles and lightness in a glass of champagne will cut right through the richness of the cheese while simultaneously revealing hidden nuances in taste in both the cheese and the champagne. Other cheese specialities of the region are the washed rind creamy stinkers -- Langres and Livarot. These cheeses are not for the cheese novice as they are the epitome of rustic barnyardy stink! Creamy with that fantastic melt in your mouth sort of feel, of course! Perfect with a glass of Blanc de Blanc, (100% Chardonnay grapes) light and airy and the exact beverage to cut the pungency and weight of the cheeses. There are a few other regional specialities -- cheeses infused with champagne and the such but the ones mentioned above, one can find outside of the region as well.

Back to our excursions -- last night's dinner was also had at the restaurant at our hotel -- a homemade tomato tarte garnished with sautéed white onions and fresh basil oil was light, flavorful and an ode to the in-season produce. That was followed, keeping to the vegetarian menu, by an egg white omelet with mushrooms and tarragon. Then of course the cheeses -- specialities of the region as mentioned above, an aged natural rinded Chevre and of course some Roquefort. A delish meal in a congenial environment in very close proximity to our hotel rooms..

And what of our third day on Champagne?

We decided to have a lowkey morning, a long run for me. Long runs in the champagne region mean running a small rural highways in wine and farm country with occasional tiny towns every few kilometers. Funny to think that on today's run I was on five different highways (definitely nothing like the American version of a highway, these were barely large enough for one car to go in either direction!)

A car ride down to Epernay for another fabulous lunch at a local joint and a stroll through town. We decided to take it easy today as the next few days will be action packed! An excursion to Normandy to see the World War II beaches, Deauville, Trouville, Honfleur and more! So stay tuned!

Overall thus far in Champagne, I've had the pleasure of trying eight different small production, local champagnes, not available for export or found pretty much anywhere besides in close proximity to the region. Some have been home runs, some hits and some definite strike outs but boy has it been a treat!

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