Sunday, 3 July 2011

Blois, Partie II

Posts for 1-2 July 2011



Following today's traditional French breakfast, we finished the formal orientation to our language learning program and then went out into town to have lunch before boarding our bus headed for Chambord. After playing the first yoga ball soccer game of the trip--on the lawn in front of the Chateau de Chambord (ironically the teams were named Pamplemousse and Les Oofs, not to be confused with Les Oeufs)--we headed back to the hotel and then into town for a language lesson on cards. For dinner, we went to La Crêperie des Rois, which feels completely familial and offers a wide range of delicious galettes/crêpes.

For my plat, I ordered a galette with potato, ham, and raclette (one of my favourite cheeses). In terms of the galette's exterior, I recognised for the first time an almost cocoa-like quality to its taste, which in itself comes from the buckwheat flour.

For dessert, I ordered a crêpe glacée with flavours from Normandy, the most distinct of which was apple. Sitting atop the dessert crêpe were scoops of apple ice cream (one of my new favourites, alongside cassis), cooked apple, and a bit of calvados. After letting the alcohol evaporate and mix with the other ingredients, the result is of a rather concentrated (and delicious) apple taste.


After breakfast, we had our first group experience of doing laundry at a lavarie. Perhaps more exciting than that, as we waited for our clothes, the students broke up into groups of three for a scavenger hunt throughout the farmers market in Blois. As everyone else was exploring, I made my way to a paella stand and broke into my second go-around with whole shrimp. While the flavours seemed to be there, the serving of paella I got was rather dry (though I forgave that fact when I realised I was walking around France with paella). In addition, we picked up ingredients for our Défi de Nourriture (food challenge) which would be taking place at the end of our travel day to Le Conquet.

From the market, we rushed back to the hotel to gather our things and make our way to the Descente de la Loire for an afternoon of kayaking. Eventually, we gathered the necessary hunger motivation to get back to the hotel in time for dinner at Le Monarque, the restaurant owned by the managers of the hotel we had been staying at in Blois. From as far as I could tell, tonight was our first French “French” dinner, i.e. a wonderful three-course meal (with France as its culinary point of view), which certainly included a plethora of options for the most adventurous/pickiest of eaters.

For my entrée (first course), I ordered an île flottante with asparagus cream; beautifully presented (and beautifully green), two perfectly cooked spears of asparagus rested on a firm cloud of egg white, this "island" of which floated on a cream-based asparagus purée.

For my plat, I had filets of red mullet in a bacon sauce served with a side of lumpy mashed potatoes. Texturally, I thought this was the weakest of the three dishes (and I'm being nitpicky here), as the one element that would theoretically serve as a crunchy counterpart to any otherwise smooth dish was not fried at all (though it certainly seemed like I would/should be). In addition, I also found a bone in my fish which eventually set my food critiquing mindset alight.

For dessert, I had an étang de Sologne, a cake-like cookie soaked in a citrus-based liquid. On top of this cookie was a thick cream with a custard-like texture which was in turn topped off with a toasted meringue which tasted like marshmallow. The overall effect resembled that of an île flottante was pleasantly smooth and in great form with the support from all the ingredients.

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