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Old Apr 8, 07, 1:20 pm
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,203
gradually getting there ...

Next day's adventure took us to a bio dairy where Ian and
Jacquie get their milk and yogurt. We went to see their
cheesemaking operation, despite Ian's warning that the
cheeses were yucky. We set foot (literally - one foot)
in the facility, and Carol recoiled in horror. Stale milk
odor all over. No thank you. We sat in the car while Ian
did his business.

On the way back we visited the farmhouse that had been the
headquarters of the Resistance in World War II - I wonder if
my high-school French teacher, Mme Storck, had seen this
place - she had been a courier shuttling in guise of young
schoolgirl among the various Resistance locations between
1943 and 1945. And then we pased a stele marking the site
where the Allies had dropped 400 tons of munitions, which
went to the liberation of the Correze - a good investment
as it turned out, as the Resistance efforts prevented the
Germans from getting back from the South to reinforce the
defenses of Normandy during D-Day.


Ken, a correspondent from one of the wine newsgroups, and
his mother and stepfather Leslie and Kiwi, were joining us
for dinner. Ken lives in Auckland, and the others in KL;
this had been a trip to celebrate Leslie's getting a degree
in English Literature - off to London to pick up her diploma
and then wending their way through Europe. Sounded like fun.

Mixed but friendly group, Ken enthusiastic about his wines,
Leslie reserved but polite, getting on pretty well with
Carol and Jacquie, and Kiwi (odd name, I didn't ask the
origin, as he's not Kiwi at all) quiet but pretty well
in touch with things. Kiwi had done his degrees at King's
or Queen's or whatever it's called in Belfast. Well-traveled
interesting bunch.

We started with the Franck Pascal 1998 Brut Equilibre
Cuvee Prestige, a lovely toasty wine and perhaps one of the
best Champagnes I've had. Story is that Mr Pascal the elder
had given Franck a small vineyard to prove himself prior to
handing the whole Pascal operation to him, and Franck was
working like a dog to prove himself: anyhow, the product was

El Vino Full Dry Sercial was pretty sweet, rather nutty, and
went quite well with the soup, a consomme of duck and cepes;
it was designed to carry over to the next course, but I
thought that the acid and spiciniess didn't fully agree with
the wine: this course was an aubergine in tomato sauce from
some famous hotel that I'd forgotten the name of (though
Leslie and Kiwi had stayed there) - you fry the aubergine in
oil and then cook it with a sauce of tomato and Indian
spices - rather like eggplant parmigiana with a south Asian

Time for the arm-wrestle of the day. We had two glasses, one
marked and one unmarked. In these were poured two wines, one
marked and one unmarked. This was supposed to be a blind
comparison. Ha; we all figured it out immediately.

A Hartenberg Shiraz 1996 (Stellensbosch) was light red,
beginning to go over the hill; good acid, flavor reminiscent
of red fruit; medium red berry finish.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Block 14 Shiraz 2002 (Craggy
Range) had been offered by Ken as an example of what New
Zealand can do: it was plummy, chocolaty, and delicious.
My only possible issue is that there was perhaps not enough
acid to allow the wine to age a long time.

With the wines we had Heston Blumenthal's recipe roast beef
- you sear the meat the night before with a blowtorch (Ian
and I shared this - the only kitchen work I did the whole
time), then pop it into a 65F/150F oven for 20 hours or as
long as you care to do so. The beef was a well-aged Limousin
rib roast, a real beauty, and the flavors were intense and
concentrated. I thought the texture just a bit soft, but
then I have always preferred a bit of chew. I wonder what
the result would be for long-hanging, say, a chuck and then
cooking it in this way.

Side dishes included delicious "cheesy parsnips," made with
Parmesan and cayenne pepper, carrots, potatoes in duck fat,
Yorkshire pudding (Ian claims to having a bad record with
the popping of these popovers, but you could have fooled me
as the result was magnificent), and a sinful cabbage braised
with lardons to unctuous softness.

The usual range of cheeses, including a young St. Nectaire
to augment the older one from before (the taste was very
similar, despite one being richly orange and the other sort
of cream-colored - the main difference was texture).

Finally, a vanilla bavarian cream that was delicately
flavored and not very sweet - lovely.

Vin Paille 2003 from Mas Vidal, despite its overpowering
stone-fruity aroma, turned out to be a pussycat of a wine
with not enough oomph to stand up to the dessert; further,
it wasn't sweet enough for a dessert wine by a good margin.

The Tours de Merle are a major historical landmark in the
Xaintrie, a heavily-wooded region flanking the eastern
Dordogne: these were castles overlooking the river from
which the Merle families could control all commerce up
and down the valley. They are imposing and, when Ian and
Jacquie first took me there a decade ago, largely ruined
and extremely spooky. Carol had not seen them before, so we
took a field trip. They're still imposing, but it appears
that the owners have woken up a bit to the commercial
potential, and they now look as though they are being fixed
up. You can see the evidence: multicolored pennants flying
from the battlements, a parking lot (closed when we went by
as off season), a driveway marked "delivery entrance."
This time we climbed on a little bluff and took pictures
from afar; sightsaw a bit, and the took some country roads
back to Forges so we could pack and get out of there in time
(our train tickets, though first class, were nonchangeable).
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