Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 875 : Day Two in the Loire Valley

Hello from the Loire Valley – since I last wrote the past two days have been full of driving, adventures, and good times. Where to first?

How about lunch on a goat farm outside the town of Villandry! L’Etape Gourmande is a small goat farm just past the second field of vines and the third field of sunflowers on a small D route leading into Villandry. A bunch of wrought iron tables were assembled in a courtyard of sorts and a fresh delish simple yet creative menu was on offer.

We each had a poached egg with girolles sautéed in coffee and red wine with some of their local fresh chevre and a sprinkling of herbs to add a flavorful aromatic punch. Simple yet refined, inventive and creative yet not too out of the box. Followed by a classic green salad and of course their selection of three cheeses – a camembert style cheese, a brin d’amour (the classic triple cream infused with local herbs), and of course a Selles sur Cher (an ash ripened, aged goat’s milk cheese true to the region), served with a homemade pear compote, it was a true French farmstead experience.

Next stop – the manicured gardens of the Chateau de Villandry of course. Designed and inspired by traditional Renaissance gardens, the Chateau of Villandry boasts seven different gardens – the love garden, the woods, the water garden, the sun garden, the maze, the herb garden, and the vegetable garden. Each more beautiful than the last – it really enforces you to stop and smell the roses both literally and metaphorically – making you realize how much work goes into the cultivation of our produce, meals, our surroundings and really everything. These gardens are a labor of love available for all to appreciate. What a treat!

Where to next?

How about a few of the local wine producers in Chinon? Chinon is known for its reds, being the heart of red wine in the Loire Valley. One tends to find light, mineral forward yet round 100% Cabernet Franc wines, I think best served slightly chilled. Earthy and chalky yet full of light red berry notes and a nice round finish. Apart from the reds, we found a few fabulous roses and some bubbles. But wait till today’s recap when it comes to wine producers as they truly blew us away.

The day would not be complete with a visit to the local goat cheese producer, off of the D116, just past the hill of vines, around the next bend and up and back a few hills and just past the intersection. Le Vazereau was one of the close region’s only fromagistes and farmers specializing in of course Saint Maure de Touraine (the ash ripened goat’s milk log known here and abroad as being one of the top cheeses of the Loire Valley), along with a few of the other ash ripened goat’s milk cheeses – Selles sur Cher, the soft ripened Crottin de Chavignol, a few styles of Tomme de Chevre and a Bleu de Chevre. The Saint Maure blew us away – dainty and light yet bold and flavorful – chalky, citrusy, tangy, grassy, milky, and all around fantastic. This cheese bears no resemblance to the cheese of the same name that we are able to buy in the US. Boy was it spectacular! Perfect with a glass of Domaine Huet’s La Mont Demi Sec 2011. (More on that visit soon!) Apart from the Saint Maure, the Tomme de Chevre also wowed – honest and flavorful – with that classic goaty tang, a nice citrusy, lemongrass-y side with a grassy yet rustic and earthy finish. Perfect with a glass of local Chinon chilled. Overall – each cheese was out of this world and the perfect introduction to our visits with local creameries in the Loire Valley.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

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