Friday, July 8, 2011

Chateau des Poccards

Oh dear this is turning into a travelogue and not a foodalogue. But I must pay homage to the Chateau des Poccards in Hurigny, just outside Macon. We chose to stay there because it was close to our friends and it looked nice. It was and it was!
The owners (a Belgian couple Erik and Erika Bruyneel) bought the place at the end of 2010. It is a large house with gorgeous grounds and a nice (cold for us Texans though) pool. It is just so civilized.
On arrival at about 6pm, we were greeted by Erik who eplained things simply. There's a place for the room keys in a box at the bottom of the stairs. It's best to put the key there - just like in an old fashioned hotel. Then up to the room which was just lovely. Comfortable bed, extra pillows, wine glasses, recently renovated bathroom. Enough towels, plenty of hot water....
So we unpacked and went down to the salon. Dvorak playing softly. Fred met us and we had some wine - Erik has a cellar with local products - white whines from the Macon region. The price per glass? Ridiculously inexpensive. We almost felt that we were visiting friends - even though it was clearly a commercial transaction. The owners hit the balance perfectly.
Discussion of where to eat, and Erik called to make reservations - so when we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted very warmly. Not surprisingly, Erik and Erika rocked up to the same restaurant about 30 minutes after us.
But now for the really special bit. I screwed up. We wanted three nights, they only had 2 available. I had been corresponding with another place too, and the other place had 3 nights available. However, I got the places mixed up. The Chateau des Poccards was fully booked the Saturday night - but Erik/Erika somehow made it work and we were able to stay. That is generous, human, and wonderful.
Being a small chambres d'hotes place, they don't take credit cards, so cash (from the ATM) was needed. No problem we established that early and all was well.
If you are heading to the macon region, stay here. It's that good!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

seabirdskitchen and all things goat

On our trip to the Macon region, we spent time with local friends. That's the way to experience a region! So we enthusiastically supported the idea of the "goat milking entertainment". One of the family members has a friend who runs a farm. And on that farm he had some goats... Anyhow, we weren't sure what the entertainment would be, but were game for anything.

We met "at the fountain" in Blany - a small speck of a town with a public oven and Marc's farm, a bar and a bend in the road. A trek though the fields, and then down to the milking shed to meet Marc, the goats, the border collie and the cat. The dog gets wildly excited with the thought of the daily milking, so when she was let off the leash, she exhibited the boundless energy that a border collie has, together with the herding instincts and absolute discipline. The cat was properly aloof and hissed and spat when the dog came too close.

The first batch of goats (18) of them were let in to the milking stall, where they were hooked up to the machine. The cat placed herself on guard and the process started. It takes about 10 minutes to milk the batch of goats. Somehow the dog knew when they were done, because she got very excited at the thought of herding them back to their pen. Feed stations were filled and the next batch were set up. A total of 4 batches of goats, so we were in the hot shed with the goats, each other, the flies, the dog, the cat, and who knows what else for about an hour and a half. Wouldn't have missed it for anything.

After the milking was done, we sauntered to Marc's house, went into the cheese shop where his wife sells the goat cheese made only from their goats and showed us all the varieties they made and all the stages. Then to their patio to try the various cheeses, drink some local wines (including a nice cremant) before dinner. We left there at about 10:30 and started dinner at Dominique and Daniel's house in Tournus at 11 or so.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seabirdskitchen visits Georges Blanc

Madame and I have been on vacation in France. There'll be other posts, but the pride of place goes to our fantastic evening at Georges Blanc's restaurant in Vonnas.

In some ways, Chef Blanc is "phoning it in" - everything is not picture perfect and the wine service was shockingly bad. That didn't detract (much) from the experience - it dis remove a fairly hefty item from the bill, since we didn't get to order another bottle. With the fairly ordinary Chablis (if there is such a thing!) running at $150/bottle we knew we were in for a pricy evening.

When we arrived we were served the house signature summer cocktail - a cremant with fresh raspberry juice instead of cassis. Intense flavor, pretty color, a perfect start sitting outside near the small river. With the drinks there were appetizers - a little smoked salmon on a cracker perfumed with orange and ginger, and foie gras pressed to look like orange segments, again with some dried orange zest. Talk about a mouth explosion.

Inside and an amuse of langoustine on avocado puree (yeah, I am not doing it justice) for Madame and Fred. Some caviar and asparagus for me (crustacean allergy prevents the langouste).

We must have spent almost 30 minutes with the menu.

I had the fondant de blanc de poulard de Bresse marbre de foie gras... strips of foie gras with local Bresse chicken meat in a gelee between. Quite spectacular. Madame had the crab and oysters - the oyster brine was turned into a gelee and perfumed with some lavendar. The crab tower was wonderful. Fred had the minute de bar napee... Wow, a beatiful piece of fish on a rich vegetable reduction finished with olive oil.

For the plats Both Fred and Madame chose the signature poulet de Bresse. Geroges Blanc is known for this - and in Heston Blumenthal's book, "In search of perfection" there is a whole treatise on this. Madame had the leg portions, Fred, the brreast. The vegetables were perfection. I had the carre de veau with sweetbreads and again some of the same vegetables. Also divine.

We ordered the cheese tray - very impressive array of cheeses. A delicious Fourme D'Ambert, Lovely Morbier, a nice Livarot and a Brie (from Meaux) that was the perfect gooey consistency with a hint of that funk so important in a well kept Brie. Madame had an aged goat cheese (crottin) and some camembert. Fred kept his selection well hidden, so I don't know exactly what he had.

We did order dessert too, but first they brought a selection of petits fours, and a trio of little sweet things to try, followed by the real desserts. Fred's was the pick of the litter here. A poached pear stuffed with ice cream.... 

There I think that's the 8 courses!