My wife and I recently returned home from a culinary adventure while traveling through the middle of France. Loire Valley plays an important part in french history and is well known for its impressive chateaux and beautiful picturesque villages. We had been told by many of our friends that we must visit this part of the world and that the food and wine were like nothing we had experienced before. The Loire Valley not only offers eye candy with its beautiful landscape but it also makes your mouth water with its regional gourmandise. We spent two weeks exploring the region and hopping from vineyards to wine caves and everywhere in between, sampling wines made from grapes that grew in fields that appeared to grow for miles and miles, never to end.
One of our most memorable experiences was on a trip through the region around the quaint town of Chinon. We happened to fall upon this somewhat hidden wine cave that a man at the car repair shop recommended. The extraordinary wine we tasted had been barreled in old oak barrels for several years. This gave the wine a smoky taste beyond what either one of us had expected or had tasted before. We bought a couple of cases which we shipped to all of our friends back home.
An over all observation of the trip is that it seems that no matter where you go or how much you want to pay, you always find delicious food that exceeds your expectations. For example the Foie Gras with grapes and Champagne, a normal Bifsteak, a Coq au vin, a boeuf bourguignon, Oysters gave us a really culinary treat. But good food can be so easy.
One morning we were strolling through a market in Bourgeuil, when we stopped at this at what appeared to be an unimpressive Cheese stand, but the Cheese was everything but. We were so excited to try this Cheese that we stopped at a Cafe and ordered a bottle of red wine that we thought would pair best with the Cheese. I am not sure if we got the pairing correct but at that point it did not matter. The Cheese lived up to its reputation that we had been listening to for years from movies, books, reviews and friends.
Around the middle of our trip we stopped by an old friends house. She had enherated a vacation home in a nearby region and invited us to stay for some time to catch up and give us a bit of a tour. Upon our arrival she offered us one of the best cognacs we ever drank, which she had carried home from a trip by Poitou-Charentes.
The Cognac made such an impression that I decided for our wedding anniversary and as a souvenir I would purchase that Cognac for my wife. I was able to locate it along with some nice Cognac glasses.
Also surprisingly I was able to buy the Champagne that we had with our Foie Gras with grapes earlier on the trip. I can not wait to see the look on my wife’s face for she couldn’t stop talking about the Champagne but we were unable to find a bottle of it anywhere along the rest of our trip.
This leads me to the most important part of the trip as far as culinary experience is concerned. I realize now more than ever that prior to my trip to France, I had been blessed to had been exposed to such diverse and quality way of life and had learned to appreciate the finer things. But now I can say without a doubt that my appreciation, understanding and palate for specifically Cognac and Champagne have been dramatically transformed. This trip through France has raised the bar for what my definition of what the term “quality” really means in life and how it is important it is to savor all the small things, even down to every bite and every sip.