Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hand to mouth in the Loire Valley

Doves cooing in the garden, sun on the pink geraniums. Ulrike and I both getting as much as we can done while we've got wifi. This is our gite...

... And this is the very kind owner's house  across the lawn.

We have to leave soon. I have so much enjoyed being able to eat 'at home' for the first time in France. We have a well- equipped kitchen, even a dishwasher. I haven't gone in for any fancy cooking, but it's been huge fun collecting bits and pieces from the local shops and occasionally a market (not often, too hard to park and we're usually out all day chateau- ing), and working out how to turn them into tasty suppers. Black pudding and couscous; omelette with potato, shallots and ham; fettuccine with cheese sauce made from three different ends of cheese; heated up little quiches from bakery; and lots of curly frisée salad and sliced tomatoes. Dessert is either cheese and white peaches or lemon tart.

We did manage two picnic lunches down by the Loire (see Elsewoman for a photo of how close it is, and my food memoir page on Facebook for the picnic), but often we went to a cafe or restaurant at the chateau of the day.. Cheverny: Orangerie setting, simple but delicious lunch of quiche and salad followed by a shared lemon tart;  Chambord: competition keeping the standard up (it works for restaurants) so we had a brilliant formule of linguine and smoked salmon, plus coffee with petit fours and chocolate mousse;  Chenonceau: lets its beautiful self down with horrible self- service caf, posh restaurant fully booked, me getting irrational the way I do when lunch is too late - rescued by croque Monsieur from kiosk at the gate, plus a lemon ice cream later; Villandry:learning from experience, we booked on the way in, advised by lovely energetic waiter, then returned at 1 for smoked duck salad, coffee and shared little cakes - expensive, but it was our last one so we didn't care, and we could have it outside. What I like is that so often, as at Villandry, the same attractive place with the same skilled professional staff serves everything from a simple and cheap sandwich to a four course gourmet lunch. 
But I think it's the dinners at home I'll remember with most pleasure. Now I'm off back to the city and then a river cruise, so I won't be eating at home again till I reach my friends in the UK. I can't afford and don't want to eat proper French lunches and dinners all the time, so I'll have to pace myself - a galette here, a sandwich there... But with a little forethought, the one thing I won't need to do is go hungry. Here's our remarkably delicious supper of black pudding, made by the local butcher in Menars.

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