Somehow I fell in a communications black hole yesterday, so no update was posted. But having set off yesterday morning from Rennes, after much, much driving, I’m now back in Alsace. Several meetings a day and travelling do not allow any time for sightseeing, but I ended up yesterday night in Blois, in the midst of the Loire valley. Tourist country, of course, and my hotel had a coachload of American pensioners on tour. The chÃ¢teau at Blois was the royal residence for many years, but its outward appearance is less impressive than nearby Chambord or Chenonceaux. The inside decoration is supposedly a masterpiece of the Renaissance, but naturally it was closed at time I arrived.
Today I spent a lot of time driving on the D-roads. As you know, all main motorways lead to Paris and there are few roads going across France. But it turns out to be no problem. I am driving in the heartland of France, in the Saulois, the Cher and the Yonne. The straight, empty roads take me through woodland with many ponds and little villages (the men here still wear flat caps and rotund women emerge from the boulangeries with baguettes in hand). In one of these villages I see a sign for Fromage de ChÃ¨vre fermier – I cannot resist and buy a couple of Crottin de Chavignol to take home.
I finally join the A6 motorway, and skirting past Dijon, head for a meeting in the Franche ComtÃ© and then onto my overnight stop in Mulhouse.
Mulhouse is of course a German town that has been only been French (on and off) for about 200 years or so. As in much of Alsace, the architecture is Germanic, with a cathedral similar to Freiburg’s. The locals speak a curious Franco-German dialect. The old town is pretty enough, but is sadly ringed by many ugly 1960s and 1970s concrete buildings.
For dinner tonight I select Aux Caves du Vieux Couvent in 23 rue Couvent. This is the place to go for Alsace specialities. The atmosphere is rustic, wooden beams, red checked tablecloths, tall green wine glasses and frescoes on the walls. I choose the menu terroir where every dish is accompanied by its own little glass of Alsace wine:
First off with Presskopf Ã la Vinaigrette, which as the name suggests, is a slice of pressed meat (don’t ask….) with vinaigrette dressing, served with a gherkin and capers. Not exactly to my taste, but one has to sacrifice oneself in the sake of culture, no? A glass of Syvaner starts the series of wines.
Next, a slice of Tarte Ã l’Oignon, oniony of course, but very delicately so, with a nice crunchy base. Glass of Tokay Pinot Gris – much nicer than the Italian Pinot Grigio that I find invariably acidic!
The main course is Choucroute fine au Riesling, featuring caraway seed sausage, Frankfurter, Speck and a pork chop over a small hill of sauerkraut, with a couple of boiled potatoes. Did I tell you Alsace food isn’t exactly light? Ideal of course for a cold winter’s day, but it’s midsummer now!! A good glass of Riesling helps to wash it all down.
More arrives: Munster cheese with acacia honey – beware, one of the “stinkiest” cheeses in France when ripe, but this one is nice and sweet. Why the honey? I don’t know the origins, but it combines wonderfully with the cheese! And the glass of GewÃ¼rztraminer that accompanies it is delectable!
What better to conclude the meal with a refreshing fruit sorbet? Naturally enriched by a squirt of Marc de GewÃ¼rztraminer!
Excellent value at EUR 25!
Another recommendation in Mulhouse is Au Bouton d’Or in the Place de la RÃ©union (RothÃ¼ssplatz) – a fromagerie with a vast selection of cheeses, where I will shop tomorrow morning before heading home.