Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dinner at the Chateau

Chateau Valcreuse is a 19th century country house owned by our friends Caroline and Alexander. During the summer months they run it as a high end bed and breakfast (or chambres d'hôtes as B&Bs are known in French).

Alexander rang us one day recently to tell us they had English guests who read the blog, and since he and Caroline had been meaning to invite us to dinner for some time, he thought we might like to come over and meet Nina and John. We did not hesitate, as they employ an excellent chef!

 A table: John, Caroline, Gerard, Alexandrine, Crystal, Alexander, Nina and Simon.
It turned out there were two other guests staying at the chateau, Gerard and Crystal, who are Flemish, and so we were 8, with 3 languages between us. We began with a champagne apéro by the pool, but once the sun went behind a cloud we decamped to their wonderfully comfortable sitting room.

Alexandrine, their housekeeper, served more drinks and verrines of red lentil velouté topped with toasted pain d'épices crumbs (it sounds weird but looked attractive and the spices in the 'gingerbread' blended well with both the slightly sweet crunchy crumbs and the smooth savoury soup). Moving on to the dining room the menu was foie gras with jerusalem artichoke purée, followed by roast leg of lamb served with a jus, girolles mushrooms and parsnips. I had Maroilles, Roquefort and a Brebis Fougère from the cheese platter, then dessert was a Belgian chocolate moeulleux with homemade vanilla iceream. Yum.

 Denis the chef, who came out to tell us we were eating légumes de la guerre (meaning that Jerusalem artichoke was all you could get during the War). The combination with the foie gras worked very well
A still white moeulleux wine was served with the foie gras, a red with the lamb, but unfortunately I didn't catch where either was from. With coffee Alexander produced a bottle of ice cold genever, which we non-Flemish assumed was the same as gin. He was delighted to be able to educate us. It smelled like gin, but tasted more like vodka, and was clearly very good quality, as it was very drinkable.

 My Belgian chocolate moeulleux, properly squidgy and gooey.
Caroline and Alexander are such good hosts, thoughtful and generous, that it's no wonder all their guests rave about them. We enjoyed meeting Nina and John and discovered that we know and love quite a few of the same areas in England too.
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Donkeys in pyjamas: Not all the donkeys on Ile de Ré have dreads but they all wear stripey pyjama-like trousers when working and are known as ânes en culottes. This is a nod to the old practice on the island of protecting the donkeys' legs from salt and prickly plants as they worked on the salt marshes. Nowadays the donkeys don't do anything more strenuous than providing rides for small children.
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Sour Cherries: I have started picking the sour cherries in earnest now. 7kg yesterday, destined for liqueur and clafoutis to start with. Simon has made a batch of his ChilliCherry Sauce. Any readers within cooee and not overwhelmed by their own cherries are very welcome to get in touch with us if they would like to come and pick their own (email us through our profiles on the right side bar if you don't already have an address for us). 
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Other Orchard News: The grape vines are in full leaf and sending out shoots and tendrils. The white Chasselas grapes have not flowered, so there won't be any grapes from them. The black Hamburgs have a nice showing of tiny grapes coming. It looks like being a moderate but not huge crop, which is just fine.

 If you live in Europe and are madly weeding your vegetable garden at the moment, please be careful of Wild Parsnip. It is capable of giving a very nasty 'burn' (I have the painful blisters on my wrist to prove it).

4 comments:

  1. Think I'll definitely make a batch of the chilli cherry sauce - my wild cherries are finally ready for picking, though lots have mildew, sadly.

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  2. Genever! I'm in Belgium this summer and that is firmly on my list...wonderful stuff!

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  3. how kind of practice is that. it's like ice in the storefront dog bowls. I wish showing such consideration were the rule.

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