Saturday, 11 February 2012

Freezing Churches and Big Lunches

After Fifi’s proclamation last week that spring is nigh, the temperatures have plummeted and we are freezing cold here. Night time lows of –14 and daytime highs of –5.

Last weekend was the local celebration of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. The parade was due to kick off at 10.00, but by 09.30 our thermometer was still at –14 and even though the wind had calmed down from the day before, it was not a temperature we wanted to be out in for too long. We decided to wait a while. At 10.15 we thought we would set off for the church, where the parade was due to end and a mass was to be held, rather than following the whole procession. I went prepared - two tee-shirts, one fleece, pyjama trousers under my normal trousers, two pairs of socks and a ski jacket. After 10 minutes outside the church, I wimped out and went in, ostensibly to save us a pew (very thoughtful of me) but Cees, being made of sterner stuff, waited outside the church to take photos as the whole concoction arrived.

The service was as strange as I remember last year’s, not like a CofE service where you are given full instructions about what is supposed to be going on. Round here you are just given a few hints on a piece of paper, as to what might possibly happen, no prayer book, no hymnal and I have now decided (after being to a few masses) that basically you have to be psychic to fill in the gaps. It was not helped by the fact that the priest didn’t bother to follow the order of service we had been given anyway. The singing bits were very short, fortunately, as they were all in a very uncomfortable key for me and to be honest they lacked a followable tune. Give me a gusty version of anything in the English Hymnal or a simple gentle Taizé song any day. The “pièce de résistance” in the service, is the opening and closing where the hunting horns play a loud, long and very rousing tune, to welcome us into and guide us out of, the church. Knowing that this would happen, I positioned us well away from them so that we could enjoy them this year, without damaging our hearing !

After the church had truly frozen our bones, we skipped the glass of wine in the village hall and went home to warm up and change out of our excessive amount of clothing, ready for lunch. We arrived on time for lunch. I know, I can’t help it, I am incurably “on time” and I really can’t cope with arriving late, even after all these years here. Lunch was due to be served at 13.30 and so we arrived at 13.00 to make sure we would get a place next to our friends and as you can guess, there was no one there. There were so few cars in the car park, we genuinely thought we had the wrong venue and started to panic a bit. But no, the hall was decked out for about 200 diners, just no diners in sight yet. By about 14.00 most had arrived and our aperitif was served at 14.30.

I did ask what was in the aperitif verrines (little glass cups), but the waitress didn’t know however, she assured me there was no fish. One had tuna in and the other was crab, fortunately my next-door neighbour has good taste buds and she stopped me eating either of them. The starter was pâté en croute de chevreuil, not bad, a bit too much croute (pastry crust) and not enough pâté de chevreuil (venison pâté) for me, but tasty enough. The next course was a ramekin of frogs legs with mussels in cream. A strange combination to say the least and very tricky to eat, if the messy attempts of my fellow diners was anything to go by. I had a sort of chickeny thing which defies description. After that, the meal really picked up, it was time for the Trou Bourgingnon. This is sorbet ice with the local firewater (Marc) poured over it, to drill a hole (trou) in your stomach to make room for the main course - very nice indeed.

The main course was veal in a Gaston Gérard sauce and potatoes “macaire”, both of which I had never heard of before. It turns out that Gaston Gérard is an ex-mayor of Dijon and like another famous mayor of that town (Kir) he has a recipe named after him. What else would the sauce be but Aligoté (local white wine), mustard and cream and it was truly delicious. The potatoes also turned out to be quite exquisite, but I have failed to find a recipe that vaguely resembles what we were given, which is a great pity. The potatoes we received were like potatoes dauphinoise with pieces of chestnut crumbled between the layers - truly divine. All of this was followed by cheese and then panna cotta as dessert and, as you would expect, every course had it own matching wine.

We finally finished our lunch with coffee at 19.00 and rolled home, not noticing the cold so much any more.

La Tuilerie Website

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