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Strasbourg, Champagne, and Paris...


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#31 Megan Blocker

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 06:32 PM

Absolutely gorgeous trip report, Megan.

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Thanks, Lucy...I've never been more jealous of you than during the ten days I spent in France. :wink:
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#32 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:33 AM

Our journey to Reims (via Chalons-en-Champagne) was uneventful, and we were pleasantly surprised, upon arrival, to see a little park right next to the gare in the center of town. We hopped in the taxi that our hotel had sent to retrieve us, and settled in for the 20-minute drive to Champillon.

For our stretch in Champagne, we stayed in a small hotel called Hotel Royal Champagne. Since we planned on using our time in Champagne to relax and recover from the hustle and bustle of the cities we'd visited so far, and to rest up for Paris, we thought posh was the way to go. :wink:

We pulled up to the hotel, a former stop on the French postal route and a favorite spot of Napoleon's for a drink, and were escorted to reception. There we were served a glass of local champagne and a madeleine each, before walking down the hill to our room, which had a gorgeous view of the valley below and Epernay in the distance.

We were busying ourselves with finding places to put our suitcases and hanging up our more sensitive-to-wrinkling garments when the door opened and one of the staff walked in bearing this:

Posted Image

In addition to the sweeties, there were two glasses of a thick peach puree, which we drank down before realizing how well it would have paired with the split of Veuve in the minibar. :wink:
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#33 docsconz

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:37 AM

Our journey to Reims (via Chalons-en-Champagne) was uneventful, and we were pleasantly surprised, upon arrival, to see a little park right next to the gare in the center of town.  We hopped in the taxi that our hotel had sent to retrieve us, and settled in for the 20-minute drive to Champillon.

For our stretch in Champagne, we stayed in a small hotel called Hotel Royal Champagne.  Since we planned on using our time in Champagne to relax and recover from the hustle and bustle of the cities we'd visited so far, and to rest up for Paris, we thought posh was the way to go. :wink:

We pulled up to the hotel, a former stop on the French postal route and a favorite spot of Napoleon's for a drink, and were escorted to reception.  There we were served a glass of local champagne and a madeleine each, before walking down the hill to our room, which had a gorgeous view of the valley below and Epernay in the distance.

We were busying ourselves with finding places to put our suitcases and hanging up our more sensitive-to-wrinkling garments when the door opened and one of the staff walked in bearing this:

Posted Image

In addition to the sweeties, there were two glasses of a thick peach puree, which we drank down before realizing how well it would have paired with the split of Veuve in the minibar. :wink:

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But how much would that split in the minibar have cost? :wink: It would have been nice and appropriate for them to have had the split on the tray.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#34 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:45 AM

But how much would that split in the minibar have cost? :wink: It would have been nice and appropriate for them to have had the split on the tray.

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Fair point, Doc. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the lack of price-gouging in the Czech and French minibars (for instance, most 12-ounce bottles of water were around $1-2)...can't recall the exact price of the split, but I think it was around what you might pay in a New York bar - maybe $15-20 bucks?

Then again, as a Manhattanite (and one who frequently checks out the minibar cards in her mother's various hotels), I have a skewed idea of what "price-gouging" really means. :wink:
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#35 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:08 PM

Our first afternoon in Champagne was a lazy one...Louisa went for a short run (OK, my afternoon was a lazy one), and I took a bath in the giant tub in our bathroom, which had a glass wall looking out onto the same valley view.

After we washed and brushed, we headed up the hill to the main house and restaurant for dinner. We were seated at a lovely table near the fireplace, looking toward the wall of windows and the other patrons (providing excellent opportunities for people-watching).

For dinner, we chose one of the three tasting menu options, and were very happy. Our sommelier, a lovely gentleman named Frederic, recommended a bottle of the Ayala Brut (I believe it was a 1996) - you have to drink champagne in Champagne! - and we put ourselves in his very capable hands.

The amuse was a lobster soup, concentrated and thick on the bottom, brothy in the middle, and topped with foam. It was delicious, rich and fragrant, but it paired very poorly with the champagne, leaving an unpleasant metallic flavor behind in the mouth.

Undaunted, we moved on to the entree, zucchini flowers stuffed with pesto. Also on the plate: a single, fried zucchini flower petal, a salad of fava beans, tomato, and ollive oil sauce, and a delectable langoustine. The langoustine was perfectly seasoned, and oh-so-tender. I ate it bit by tiny bit, trying to make it last all night. Unlike the soup, this dish went extremely well with the Ayala.

Next up was the poisson course, which was a lobster ravioli. Well, several lobster ravioli. The pasta was thin, light, and very delicate (which was a good thing, since Louisa has a special hatred in her heart for thicker ravioli), and the filling...oy. Very rich, succulent, and served with a lobster jus and on a bed of garlicky spinach, which helped cut through what could have been a heavy dish. This was my favorite dish of the night, and really could have been a whole meal in itself.

The viande was roast leg and breast of pigeon, served with poached foie gras. On the side was a potato and carrot galette, a perfect cube tied with a leek "ribbon". The dish was full of dark, meaty flavors - no brightness to contrast it, but still very good. Especially the foie. :wink:

The cheese cart was amazing - and I'm not really even a cheese person! I can't remember the names of, well, anything, so I really, really apologize. I'll try to get Louisa to answer your questions if you have them - when I say I'm not a cheese person, I mean that sometimes, cheese nauseates me. I know, it's weird, what can I say. But I'm very proud of myself - not only did I try all six cheeses on my plate, I enjoyed three of them! :wink: Well, my mom was proud, though you guys probably just think I'm nuts. My two favorites were an epoisses-esque cheese (but not epoisses - I would have remembered that) and a sharp goat's cheese that came in a pyramidal shape and smelled like dark chocolate.

Finally, dessert, a tarte framboise (moderne). A layer of pate sucree on the bottom, then a layer of confitures, then some huge, fresh, juicy raspberries. On top of those, more confitures, a paper-thin disc of dark chocolate, and then, finally, a layer of dense whipped cream. The tart was served with a tropical-tasting sorbet, which may have been mango and rose, though we weren't certain.

Petits fours were sea salt and caramel truffles, strawberry macaroons, and minty marshmallows.

On our way out, they asked if we would be having breakfast in the restaurant or on our terrace. Ummmmm...terrace, s'il vous plait!!!!

And then we rolled home.

Edited by Megan Blocker, 22 February 2008 - 09:35 AM.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#36 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:27 PM

The next morning, we woke up to this view. The fog rolled in each night and covered the Epernay valley, so that when you woke up, it looked like you were floating in the clouds. When I took the picture, the fog had actually receded pretty significantly...

Posted Image

A few minutes after we woke up, there was a knock on the door...in came one of the hotel staff, bearing this beautiful gift:

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On the tray was a breakfast big enough for four - not that the size stopped us from eating pretty much the whole thing. An inventory:

- Coffee
- Yogurt
- Fruit salad
- Orange juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Croissants
- Baguettes
- Pains au chocolat
- Jambon fume
- Jambon blanc
- Saucisson
- Honey
- Marmalade
- Confitures
- Coffee
- Warm milk
- Butter

A close-up:

Posted Image

A particular favorite of mine was the croissant with the strawberry jam, and the coffee, black, with sugar. Louisa went for the baguette with smoked ham and butter, and for the yogurt.

We absolutely decimated that thing:

Posted Image
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#37 Chufi

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:39 PM

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Oh my goodness. That is so beautiful! :wub: I could just look at that view all day, with some charming server bringing me breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks & dinner! Oh and some of those sweets from that first tray s'il vous plait.. :smile:

Edited by Chufi, 27 October 2006 - 01:41 PM.


#38 docsconz

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 01:54 PM

What an incredible view and wonderful sounding meals, Megan!

The amuse was a lobster soup, concentrated and thick on the bottom, brothy in the middle, and topped with foam. It was delicious, rich and fragrant, but it paired very poorly with the champagne, leaving an unpleasant metallic flavor behind in the mouth.

Undaunted, we moved on to the entree, zucchini flowers stuffed with pesto. Also on the plate: a single, fried zucchini flower petal, a salad of fava beans, tomato, and ollive oil sauce, and a delectable langoustine. The langoustine was perfectly seasoned, and oh-so-tender. I ate it bit by tiny bit, trying to make it last all night. Unlike the soup, this dish went extremely well with the Ayala.

Next up was the poisson course, which was a lobster ravioli. Well, several lobster ravioli. The pasta was thin, light, and very delicate (which was a good thing, since Louisa has a special hatred in her heart for thicker ravioli), and the filling...oy. Very rich, succulent, and served with a lobster jus and on a bed of garlicky spinach, which helped cut through what could have been a heavy dish. This was my favorite dish of the night, and really could have been a whole meal in itself.


Did you have the Ayala with the ravioli too? Ifso, I am curious about how it paired with that dish? I was surprised about your reaction to the initial pairing. Champagne is one of the great food wines and a pairing with lobster is fairly classic. I have never had the Ayala (so far as I can remember anyway :raz: ) nor obviously that amuse, so I have no idea from experience how they may have worked. I suspect the issue ofthe metallic aftertaste was more a function of the amuse than the Champagne as you didn't have that response with the langoustines. While that may have been a little disappointing, it is nice to see that it did not affect your overall joie de vivre either diring that meal or afterwards. :smile:

Megan, this really is a wonderful report. Between this and daddy-A's, I think the tourism rate to France will increase significantly in the near future!
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#39 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 02:16 PM

Oh my goodness. That is so beautiful!  :wub: I  could just look at that view all day, with some charming server bringing me breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks & dinner! Oh and some of those sweets from that first tray s'il vous plait..  :smile:

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That view was my absolute favorite thing about the hotel...I sat there every afternoon and either read my book or took notes about our travels. I'm such a city girl (Louisa actually had to tell me to calm down on the first afternoon, because I was all fidgety about not going, going, going), but sometimes it's nice to just...be.

Edited by Megan Blocker, 27 October 2006 - 02:16 PM.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#40 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 02:19 PM

Did you have the Ayala with the ravioli too? Ifso, I am curious about how it paired with that dish? I was surprised about your reaction to the initial pairing. Champagne is one of the great food wines and a pairing with lobster is fairly classic. I have never had the Ayala (so far as I can remember anyway :raz: ) nor obviously that amuse, so I have no idea from experience how they may have worked. I suspect the issue ofthe metallic aftertaste was more a function of the amuse than the Champagne as you didn't have that response with the langoustines. While that may have been a little disappointing, it is nice to see that it did not affect your overall joie de vivre either diring that meal or afterwards. :smile:

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We did have the Ayala with the ravioli, and it paired well...I agree, I think it had something to do with the amuse, and I'm not sure exactly what could have caused it. The wine went really well with all of the other courses - VERY food friendly. It's going to be my number one Christmas gift this year. For the privileged few who will appreciate it, that is. :wink:

Megan, this really is a wonderful report. Between this and daddy-A's, I think the tourism rate to France will increase significantly in the near future!

Thanks, Doc! I've been reading through his report - we visited a few of the same spots in Paris, within a few weeks of each other, so that will be a fun comparison, I think!
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#41 TarteTatin

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:19 PM

OH MY GOSH, Megan!
We were in France the same time!
Sam and I were in Paris last week!

AND, we've been to Strasbourg/Alsace, for a few weeks, based in Ammershwihr---
and Champagne twice!
Stayed last Christmas in a suburb of Epernay in Champagne, with similar views!
Love both places! Your report is wonderful.

Look for our review of Paris restaurants last week
(coming soon).
As soon as I can write them up.

P.S. Tarte Flambee, real ones, are my favorite things in the world. You can't get them in Philly, nor NY (remember Cafe D'alsace? Non. Nor even Paris last week at Le Epicerie de Bon Marche....You HAVE to get one in the region only.

It's sort of like Kugelhopf in Alsace/Strasbourg. Forget about Paris. Just had one, not the same.
Philly Francophiles

#42 markk

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:29 PM

I have to go to France now...

Is there an eGullet charter flight?
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#43 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 09:08 PM

I have to go to France now...

Is there an eGullet charter flight?

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If there isn't, there should be. I just bored my friend Faith silly with my Strasbourg memories. She thinks we should move to Barcelona...how do I help her see the light? :wink:

Edited by Megan Blocker, 27 October 2006 - 09:10 PM.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#44 Megan Blocker

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 09:09 PM

OH MY GOSH, Megan!
We were in France the same time!
Sam and I were in Paris last week!

AND, we've been to Strasbourg/Alsace,  for a few weeks, based in Ammershwihr---
and Champagne twice!
Stayed last Christmas in a suburb of Epernay in Champagne, with similar views!
Love both places! Your report is wonderful.

Look for our review of Paris restaurants last week
(coming soon).
As soon as I can write them up.

P.S. Tarte Flambee, real ones, are my favorite things in the world. You can't get them in Philly, nor NY (remember Cafe D'alsace? Non. Nor even Paris last week at Le Epicerie de Bon Marche....You HAVE to get one in the region only.

It's sort of like Kugelhopf in Alsace/Strasbourg. Forget about Paris. Just had one, not the same.

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It's so true!

I owe you two a PM...I'm a bad eG'er. :sad: :wink:

Can't wait to compare your Paris bistro reviews to mine...we did the same thing, taking all of our cues (well, most of them) from eGullet, with a little Jeffrey Steingarten mixed in for good measure.
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#45 Megan Blocker

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 07:35 AM

Once we'd recovered from the morning's bread-basket gorge-fest, we made ourselves presentable and climbed into a cab for the ride down the hill into Epernay. We weren't quite sure what to expect, and when the cab dropped us in front of Moet and Chandon, we realized that the guidebooks (which had been snide about certain things in Prague and Strasbourg that actually turned out to be quite charming) hadn't been kidding - Epernay was fine, but certainly nothing extraordinary (outside of the gorgeous champagne houses lining the avenue). Add to that the fact that the length of the avenue de Champagne is being torn up and re-paved right now, and you've got yourself a slightly bleak picture.

We went into Moet (our plan was to visit them and Perrier-Jouet) to buy tickets for the next tour in English (our French is strong, but we didn't want to miss a word), and were reminded that it was 12:00, and the house was closed until 2:00. We're such New Yorkers! :wink:

So, we took a walk up the hill, then back down and around into the centre ville...the only folks we ran into until we hit the main roundabout were lycee students. I felt so old!

We decided that it had been too long (almost three hours!) since we'd eaten last, and ordered a salad to split at a little cafe in downtown Epernay, two blocks from Moet. We ordered the salade paysanne, which came with bacon, potatoes, egg, and tomato...sort of like breakfast on a salad, tossed in a really tangy (the way I like it) vinaigrette).

Posted Image

(Side note: I'm writing this in the coffee house across from my apartment, and a young man just sat down next to me and started speaking in French on his cell phone. Sigh.)
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#46 Lori in PA

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 08:54 AM

(Side note: I'm writing this in the coffee house across from my apartment, and a young man just sat down next to me and started speaking in French on his cell phone.  Sigh.)

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#47 ludja

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 09:13 AM

...

It's sort of like Kugelhopf in Alsace/Strasbourg. Forget about Paris. Just had one, not the same.

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But you can get excellent Gugelhupf's in Austria and Germany...

It sounds like the pastry shops in Strasbourg, along with all the food, must be quite an interesting blend of French and German.

I'll take your comments from experience on the Tarte Flambee though... :smile:

The hotel in Champagne looks like something out of a dream idlyll!

Edited by ludja, 28 October 2006 - 09:15 AM.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

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#48 Megan Blocker

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 10:33 AM

After our salad, we headed back up the avenue de Champagne and bought our tickets for the tour of the Moet cellars. It was a small group, mostly American with a couple of Brits mixed in. The tour was led by a charming woman (she never told us her name, but Louisa and I have named her "Clothilde") who was dressed in a very well-cut grey tweed blazer and similarly stylish black pants. Only later did we realize that this is the uniform for Moet cellar guides - only in France.

Our tour started with a quick peek into two of the salons off of the lobby - both decorated as they were in the early 19th century, and both two of Napoleon's favorite rooms in the house (he was a friend of Claude Moet's and a frequent visitor). Then we watched a video about the history of the house and the champagne-making process, from grape to degourgement.

We descended into the refreshingly cool, surprisingly elegant cellars. The tour was marvelous (I know some people find their tour very commercial, but we really enjoyed ourselves) - the guide was very knowledgable, and we loved seeing thousands upon thousands of bottles of champagne in one place :wink:. The tasting was very intimate - only our little tour group, and Louisa and I tried two Brut Millesimes, one rose and one white. The white was very, very dry, as Moet tends to be. I think it would have been better with food (I did like it when I tried it with one of the little crackers on offer), but wasn't terribly drinkable on its own. I really enjoyed the rose, though - I'd never had Moet's rose before. It was also dry, but not quite as harsh going down.
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#49 Swisskaese

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 12:00 PM

P.S. Tarte Flambee, real ones, are my favorite things in the world. You can't get them in Philly, nor NY (remember Cafe D'alsace? Non. Nor even Paris last week at Le Epicerie de Bon Marche....You HAVE to get one in the region only.

It's sort of like Kugelhopf in Alsace/Strasbourg. Forget about Paris. Just had one, not the same.

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Flammkuchen (tarte flambee) is also found in the area around Heidelberg. They are very nice, but I prefer Italian pizza.

If I wasn't afraid of getting sea sick, I would like to see the Alsace again by river barge.

Edited by Swisskaese, 28 October 2006 - 12:09 PM.


#50 markk

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:22 PM

P.S. Tarte Flambee, real ones, are my favorite things in the world. You can't get them in Philly, nor NY (remember Cafe D'alsace? Non. Nor even Paris last week at Le Epicerie de Bon Marche....You HAVE to get one in the region only.


And not only that (please don't anybody take offense) but according to real Frenchmen, you can't get them (real ones) in the city either - and here's why I say this. (Probably long-winded but I'll do my best to make the point).

On my first trip to Strasbourg in the early 90's we came a Christmastime, and street vendors and markets were everywhere, and everywhere we turned, we gorged ourselves on the incredible "Tarte a l'Oignon":

Posted Image

(Flaky butter-based pastry crust, eggs, cream, onions, bacon=heaven on earth.)

We heard about Tarte Flambee and not seeing anything different, assumed we were eating it. Then we did a little research and realized we weren't.

So at the hotel I brought into play a rule taught to me by a crazy Italian friend of mine: when looking for eating recommendations, always seek out an overweight civil servant (that they're fat means they like to eat, and that they're in a low paying job means they seek out the best food at the best value - you know, it has served me well!). So I waited till evening when a portly fellow came on at the desk at the hotel, and asked him to verify that what we were eating was not Tarte Flambee (it was not) and asked him where to find it.

Well, "not in the city, for sure" he said, and went on to explain that it was a country, or peasant dish. So he took out their handwritten book of restaurants, and flipped to the Tarte Flambee page, looked down it saying "ah, this one's closed, this one I don't like, nor this one... ah, here's a good place!" and he asked if we had a car - we did.

So off into the countryside he sent us. We were to leave the northern end of Strasbourg by a local road, and follow the signs for "Wolfisheim", where we were to turn for "Achenheim", where we were to turn for "Oberschaeffolsheim", then again for "Osthoffen", and finally "Dalenheim". The towns (I use the word loosely) got smaller and smaller, until Dalenheim, which was really only six buildings, three on each side of the road, about 25 minutes from Strasbourg.

There was a big tavern that specialized in Tartes Flambees (and now I know they dot the entire countryside) - they had a little hut out back with the wood burning oven that cooks them in under a minute, and inside they serve them in all their forms, from the standard with just creme fraiche and fromage blanc whipped together and spread on the dough (a bread dough pulled super-thin), top them with onions and bacon, and put them in the oven where they buckle and blister in 60 seconds - to the ones with cheese and a very few other extras.

There's a dessert one with apples and Calvados that is standard, and spectacular - the bread dough is spread with the creme/cheese mixture, and topped with apples, and baked. It's transported on a piel, and even though it walks through a freezing courtyard, it arrives at the table so hot that when Calvados is drizzled on it, it lights with a match; a mixture of sugar and cinnamon is sprinkled on it while it's flaming.

I don't have any photos of this, but I do have video of the experience, and I will try to dig them out and convert them to web format.

I do see that now Flam's has indeed opened in the city, and your Tartes, Megan, sure do look like the real thing (!)

(PS - I also have discovered that these Tarte Flambee places in the country seem to be "smoking obligatory" - they're so dense with cigarette smoke that you can't see into them. The first time, we endured it for the experience; when we tried to go back the next year, we couldn't do it, and turned around. Maybe when the new law passes...)
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#51 Megan Blocker

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:34 PM

One story I forgot to tell in my last post...

During the tasting, "Clothilde" answered our questions about the wine and the history of the house and the region. I had done some reading about Champagne before we left, and had been quite intrigued by the stories of how the vignerons and cellar-workers lived in the caves to escape German bombs during both World Wars. I brought this up, and asked if the cellars at Moet had been used for the same purpose.

Our guide replied that "Yes, but, that is war, yes? There were also lots of parties, too." :wink:

Dinner that night (at the hotel, again), was very nice, though nothing too memorable. The best part was the wine - we shared a bottle of Pol Roger Rose, 1996. Delectable and indulgent, to say the least.

The next day we headed to Reims, eager to see the cathedral and to visit Pommery, where we had an appointment for 3:45.

A quick bit of non-culinary history: the cathedral at Reims stands on the reported site of Clovis' baptism in 496, and was the site of the coronations of most of the French kings from Phillippe II in 1180 to Charles X in 1824. It was heavily bombed in both WWI and WWII, and the facade is still undergoing repairs. It is famous for its Chagall windows in the transept, and also for this sculpture on the central portal, known as the Laughing or Smiling Angel. It's also where Charles VII was brought, by Jeanne d'Arc, for his coronation in 1429.

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The towers seemed a bit stumpy after the soaring spire in Strasbourg, but the interior of the church was breathtaking. You could really feel the history of the place, the layers of the past unpeeling. Quite a remarkable church.

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After visiting the cathedral, we stopped for a quick bite to eat (sandwich jambon for me, and toast with chevre chaud for Louisa) and then headed across town, toward Pommery.

The Pommery maison is really something - huge, and with this faux-Elizabethan architecture. You enter what used to be a huge storehouse to begin the tour. Right now, there's an art exhibit called Supernova installed in the lobby space and in the caves. Our guide, Aline, told us that the artist intended for the caves to represent space, and for the upstairs to represent Earth. There was even a giant UFO in one room, and a landing capsule in another.

The experience felt younger than Moet, geared toward a slightly different demographic. Like the Moet tour, Pommery started with a short film about the history of the house. We then descended a really long staircase down to the caves. The Pommery estate is on a hill, and most of its early cellars were placed in existing chalk pits, which had been dug by Roman slaves in the first and second centuries. The ceilings in almost every room reached up to ground level, though the galleries had low ceilings, just like Moet. There were several giant carvings in the caves, carved directly out of the chalk, in the dim cellar light. The artist went blind after completing the last one in the series.

Much was made of Louise Pommery's interest in the arts, and the house's ongoing support of artists.

Unlike at Moet, at Pommery we were able to peek into the bibliotheque de champagne, housing bottles of champagne dating back to 1874! Louisa and I were quite excited about this...one of our favorite movies, traditionally screened each May Day at Bryn Mawr (while sitting on the lawn, drinking champagne), is The Philadelphia Story. Its plot hangs quite heavily on the following quote, spoken by our fellow alumna, Miss Katharine Houghton Hepburn '28:

You see, there are certain things about that other girl, that Miss Pommery '26, that I rather like.

Alas, we remembered the line incorrectly, conflating it with her graduation year...there was no Pommery '26, but we managed to snag a photo of the '28!

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We also took a photo of the oldest bottle in the cellar, from 1874:

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We did the Prestige tasting, which included a flute of of the Cuvee Louise. We supplemented that with a flute of the Springtime Rose.

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Aline mentioned that Pommery is far more popular in the UK than it is in the States, which rang true with me - you don't see it very often over here, which is a shame. The champagnes were both pleasantly dry but not overly so, and the rose in particular was lovely, lightly tinged with red fruit.

And so it was back to the hotel for a good sleep - Paris in the morning!

Edited by Megan Blocker, 28 October 2006 - 01:42 PM.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan
eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

#52 Megan Blocker

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:38 PM

(PS - I also have discovered that these Tarte Flambee places in the country seem to be "smoking obligatory" - they're so dense with cigarette smoke that you can't see into them.  The first time, we endured it for the experience; when we tried to go back the next year, we couldn't do it, and turned around.  Maybe when the new law passes...)

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Two things I noticed about France this time around...alcohol becomes like water the second you cross the border, and cigarette smoke starts to smell awesome.

The former needs no explanation, I expect. The latter was discussed at length througout the trip. I'd never noticed cigarette smoke in Europe before, but hadn't been back since the law passed here in 2003. This time, I noticed it, but it was really quite pleasant. I didn't mind it in the bars, and in the restaurants, it was just sort of lingering a bit in the air...like everyone had just had one or two cigs with coffee, not chain-smoked all night.

Unsurprisingly, we did not feel so happy about the smoke in the CDG lounge. That's just nasty. :wink:
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan
eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

#53 Megan Blocker

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 10:22 PM

Ah! Before we head for Paris, I have some pics to add! Louisa has sent me her photos, and there are some great shots from Champagne.

Here's the outside of Pommery:

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And here's one of the chalk carvings from the Pommery cellars:

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There were vines that came right up to the hotel, and we decided to see if any grapes had fallen to the ground, which would mean we could, you know, check 'em out. Taste them? I won't admit to that... :wink:

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"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan
eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

#54 nakji

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 02:35 AM

Wow, reading this report has been like being on a mini vacances. My favourite french cafe here in Hanoi is run by an Alsatian, and his flammenkuche is spectacular. I can't imagine how fabulous it must be in Alsace! I have a feeling I would love it there - my favourite wines have always been reislings and guwertztraminers (sp?), and who isn't a fan of copious amounts of creme fraiche, chevre and pork? Thanks for the great pics...if I'm ever in Europe, it'll be on my must visit list.

As for cigarette smoke, I think the less it's around, the more bothersome it is. In Asia, smoke is everywhere...I don't even notice it anymore. But I remember when I visited Canada, I really noticed it the few times I smelled it.

#55 Felice

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 05:19 AM

Wow, reading this report has been like being on a mini vacances. Thanks for the great pics...if I'm ever in Europe, it'll be on my must visit list.

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Yes, thanks Megan for such an amazing report. Were you able to visit any of the villages that surround Strasbourg along the wine route? The whole area is full of charming, beautiful little villages, so beautiful that they seemed unreal to me. And the food is so different. That's the beauty of France, each region is distinct with its own cuisine and specialities. Paris is wonderful, but the French countryside can be breathtaking. I am so glad you are sharing this with everyone.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your Paris experiences :smile:
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#56 Ptipois

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 05:52 AM

Wonderful report, Megan, especially about the Champagne region. Even in real life I've never seen so much of it. You grasped the atmosphere of that place beautifully.

#57 Megan Blocker

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 07:40 AM

Wow, reading this report has been like being on a mini vacances. Thanks for the great pics...if I'm ever in Europe, it'll be on my must visit list.

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Yes, thanks Megan for such an amazing report. Were you able to visit any of the villages that surround Strasbourg along the wine route? The whole area is full of charming, beautiful little villages, so beautiful that they seemed unreal to me. And the food is so different. That's the beauty of France, each region is distinct with its own cuisine and specialities. Paris is wonderful, but the French countryside can be breathtaking. I am so glad you are sharing this with everyone.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your Paris experiences :smile:

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Thanks, Felice!

Sadly, we didn't get to visit the villages around Strasbourg on this trip. Next time, though, I plan to make a point of it. But with only three and a half days, and given how enamored I was of the city, I just couldn't bring myself to leave.

That said, I've been lucky to have spent much time in the countryside of France in previous years. One summer I spent six weeks traveling up from Nice, through Montpellier, to the Gorges du Tarn, then the Loire Valley, and finally, ending in Paris. Spent lots of time on that trip (which was far too long ago) in smaller towns and villages, and I agree - the countryside is absolutely wonderful.
"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

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#58 Megan Blocker

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 08:21 AM

Upon arrival in Paris, we were famished! We dropped our bags at our hotel, which was located on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and rue de Seine, and headed out in search of a cafe.

I had an omelet nature, a green salad, and a cafe grand noir.

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We then walked north to the Seine and made our way to the Musee d'Orsay, where Louisa made a pilgrimage to Manet's Olympe, and I visited the decorative arts. We crossed to Place de la Concorde to board the metro and head to the Pompidou Center. However, when we got there, we saw this:

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Humph. So, to ease our disappointment, we hopped back on the metro to Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and went to the Rue Bonaparte outpost of Laduree. Their famous macarons (of which I saw lots and lots on Friday night, when I watched Marie Antoinette) fill the windows.

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We were seated in the downstairs salon, which is decorated in a sort of chinoiserie-jungle camp theme.

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Napkins and sugar packets both sport the famous Laduree green.

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I had one of their new pastries, a religieuse fraises, which was filled with strawberry pastry cream, stewed strawberries, and fresh strawberries. It was delicious, and you should have seen how pink my tongue was!

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Louisa had a tarte au citron - the pastry in this was amazing. It broke without crumbling and melted an your tongue. And the filling was pure, concentrated lemonness.

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"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan
eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

#59 Swisskaese

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 08:29 AM

I had one of their new pastries, a religieuse fraises, which was filled with strawberry pastry cream, stewed strawberries, and fresh strawberries.  It was delicious, and you should have seen how pink my tongue was!

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Louisa had a tarte au citron - the pastry in this was amazing.  It broke without crumbling and melted an your tongue.  And the filling was pure, concentrated lemonness.

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OMG!!!!!!

They both look delicious.

I see from their website that they have other versions of Religieuse, such as:

Truffle

Tomato

Caramel

Rose

Blackcurrant - Violet

Fleur de Orange

The Ladurée "Baiser" (Kiss) also looks very interesting.

I wonder what the Muguet (Lily of the Valley) macaroon tastes like?

Edited by Swisskaese, 29 October 2006 - 08:38 AM.


#60 MissAmy

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 09:17 AM

Megan, I don't have anything to add or any burning questions to ask, but I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed reading this SO MUCH! It's brining back great Europe memories for me. Thank you!
-Sounds awfully rich!
-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!