Sunday, December 1, 2013


Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: Thursday, March 10, 2011

Craig and I had planned to arise early for a day trip to Chambord, since Darcy would be at work all day, but I had forgotten to set the alarm. With the shutters closed, our room was quite dark and we didn't wake until 11:00! We were very disappointed, but set out to make the most of our extra day in Orléans. 

We decided to do a bit of shopping and took the tram across town to Auchan. There, we ate lunch at Flunch, which is next door to the mega-market. We managed to order without holding up the line too badly. I like the way you can choose your salad, main course, and dessert and then have as many side dishes as you wish. No one ever goes away hungry! 

In Auchan, we wandered the aisles, looking for items to take back to the U.S. I found some wonderful scented soaps and a fabulous tea that was soon to become my favorite. We also put together a tool box for Darcy. She had not even the most basic household tools at her apartment, and was badly in need of those things. 

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped in at the wonderful little bakery at Halles Chatelet and picked up some pastries to enjoy with our afternoon coffee. The caramel eclair I chose was one of the best pastries I have ever tasted! Craig liked it, too, and he also ate a bouchon, which was like a baba au rhum without the custard. Why can't we find such delights back home? 

What to choose?

After Darcy and Mathieu were both finished with work for the day, we all crowded into Mathieu's little car for the two-hour drive to Bitry, where we would have dinner with Mathieu's family. This was something we were very much looking forward to, as we had dined with them in the past and had a wonderful time. 

It was twilight when we arrived. We were immediately greeted by two very enthusiastic Boxer dogs. We had met Roxy on our previous visit, and were now being introduced to her half-grown pup, Rouky. Mathieu's parents, Muriel and Thierry, and younger brother Gregoire were soon welcoming us back into their home. After greetings and kisses all around, we were ushered into the dining room, where the table was set with a beautiful floral arrangement surrounded by charming accents of wooden mushrooms and nuts. The meal began with champagne which was mixed with a green apple liqueur. This was something I had never tried before and I really liked it. We nibbled from small dishes of cashews, olives, crackers, and some hot, delicious little puff pastry appetizers which were filled with a variety of flavors from tomato to salmon. 

Thierry pours the wine as we begin our delightful meal.

We had begun a lively discussion of the days events as we moved on to the next course. A large tureen of Pot au Feu was brought to the table. Muriel ladled up servings of vegetables in a rich, beef broth fragrant with herbs. As before, a different wine was served with almost every course. We slowly savored our soup as we talked and told them of our misfortune of having overslept and missed our trip to the castle.

Next, Thierry brought out from the kitchen a large platter of the tender beef which had been cooked with the vegetables. This was served with a flavorful, dark rustic bread, honey mustard, and fresh butter from Brittany. It was scrumptious! I really didn't feel that I could eat another bite when the cheese course was served. Since I am supposed to limit my intake of dairy products, I only nibbled a tiny bit of the cheese, but Craig certainly enjoyed it. 

Last, but certainly not least, Mathieu came walking into the room with a lovely raspberry-cream cake which had a candle stuck in the center! Everyone began to sing "Happy Birthday" to Craig, much to his surprise. Our travel day had been his birthday, so we had not had a chance to celebrate it, and he was touched by their thoughtful gesture. They had gifts for both of us - a bottle of Muscat, a cute pizza serving set, and a huge bag of walnuts from their own tree; a tree which they had brought from Brittany years ago. Those were the best-tasting walnuts ever!

It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

It was such a wonderful evening, and we will never forget the warmth and hospitality shown to us. I am grateful that Darcy and Mathieu translated so well and so rapidly for all of us. Our conversation had flowed very smoothly, and it seemed as if we were all speaking the same language. 

RECIPE: Here is a version of Pot au Feu made in a crock pot.

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