We made a small trip to a region that we aren't familiar with for a change : Brittany, known in French as Bretagne, this region has lots of specific traits, beginning with the architecture and the maritime landscape. There isn't wine produced there but there is cider and Calvados, and Bretons are known to drink well.
One of the gastromy hot items of Brittany is the oyster, and as we were walking at low tide on the shore, we went across wild oyters. There were plenty of them, most of very good size, on the rocks along a small bay in the area of Paimpol (you'll not know where exactly, go to brittany and find out...). We had a couple of bottles of Muscadet in the trunk of the car, that I had bought at the Leclerc supermarket of Paimpol, and these oysters sounded like a good opportunity to pop up for a new year treat. I was not sure how legal it was to pick and eat oysters on the shore but the friend we were staying at in Paimpol told us later that as long as it is on the shore, it's public space and picking is allowed. The heath concerns may be why these oysters could grow quietly and not be picked, as people are wary of getting sick because they are above the water level at each low tide. I took a risk and survived (this is winter and the risk seemed negligible to me), B. choosing to abstain and just sip some wine. If you know the size of a Swiss-Army knife, you may check with the picture on the right and understand that these oysters were the biggest I ever had the chance to eat. They're proof that there's lots of wild life in Brittany.
See on the left another great spot of this region, the pink granite rocks at Ploumanach.
The Muscadet is a Chateau Thébaud, Reserve du Fief Cognard 2009, it was fruity with freshness, and had a perly feel. It cost 3,3 € at the supermarket.
We were driving in the middle of a forested area in the Loire with no house in view when B. spotted this lone appletree along the border line of the woods : a few apples were still hanging and many others were lying on the ground. We stopped to pick them all and suddenly realized that they were from the Golden variety and that this now-adult tree which had no reason to be there was certainly the consequence of an apple core thrown out of a passing car long time ago...
The moral of this story is that everything we do has consequences and that littering can be good and bear fruits when you refrain from throwing empty cans and their likes...although, didn't I read somewhere that sunk war ships created an enormous haven for fish habitat ?... Nothing is simple in this world, but if the benefits of sinking retired warships is widely recognized, try NOT to litter the highway with plastic, metal or glass, just fruit cores and skins...
This video, which I found on Wine Itch, a Flamish-language blog from Belgium, could inspire the musicians among us to write humoristic and musically-pleasant lyrics on wine.
This César is a surprising wine, much more easily drinkable than what I had heard about this variety : the color is a very bright rubis, with much more transparency than this picture hints. The attack is good, the wine is moderately tannic with a good freshness bordering on the excessive acidity, and the aromas go between strawberry and meat juice (also crushed raspberry). Mid-level length in the mouth. In spite of the acidity, this is a very interesting wine to drink, it can be had in summer with raw ham for example, says B.
The label is quite ugly and the name of the cuvée (le Vaillant) pitiful like it seems to be the norm in this winery, but that leaves more wines for us I guess : They have quite a good range of interesting wines, including some Pinot Beurrot (in rosé or white), an Auxerrois and an Aligoté (in addition to the Chardonnay). Their Pinot Noir gave us also some good pleasure more than once. Most of the wines in this estate are priced between 6 € (Aligoté) and 8 € (Pinot Noir or the Pinot Beurrot white). Flavigny, a cute medieval village of central Burgundy, is located far away from the known wine regions (Chablis, Beaune etc...).
Kano leaves now and then his kitchen for a short tour of the table during the evening, he is a very modest and kind person, very affable even for the unknown visitor who asks a question about a dish.
It's wise to call and reserve for dinner. Lunch is a good deal in terms of prices.
There's another quality Japanese restaurant in Boulogne owned by the same people : Sanki, which is located 34 Avenue Edouart Vaillant.
The restaurant has the classical settings of a traditional French auberge, complete with the vintage-looking red-and-white tablecloth and napkins, and cosy moleskine bench seats. This place, which looks unchanged since the 1950s', is some sort of smaller version of Chartier (another cheap historic restaurant in Paris) that would be serving almost only Pot au Feu (there are a few other choices though). The wine list is short, and the wine is already on the table when you walk in : it's a red Côte Roannaise that you will pay à la ficelle, which means that you pay only what you've drunk of the bottle. This cheap red is rather ordinary (you'll not come back for the wine) but it seemed to me very low in alcohol, maybe 10 ° or solmething like that, which is in line with the type of table wine that people drank in the past.
Entry dishes (among which bouillon and Bone-Marrow plate (there is also bone marrow in the Pot au Feu) cost from 5 € to 7 €. Main dishes cost 18 € (including the Pot au Feu Royal) or 20 €. A bottle of Côte Roannaise cost 18 € (but you pay à la ficelle, meaning that you only pay the volume that you'll drink from the bottle). As the restaurant fills up fast and the managers don't take reservations, come early to choose your table, like 7 pm (the restaurant serves also all day anyway if you prefer to come earlier).
The herring was so good too, lightly marinated or smoked, I don't know exactly, but its texture was similar to the one of a freshly caught fish. It was very moderately salted, had all its intestines, eggs and everything and I envy these people to find these products at very affordable prices.
Japan also comes our way as our friend Junko came as usual for her usual week in Paris, and again, I asked her to bring a few bottles of Japanese whisky from the dutyfree shops in Narita. B. went several times to Japan this year but on cheaper two-leg flights, and thanks to you-know-whom, you can't board the plane in the second part of the trip with bottles (even if bought in a duty-free zone).
Learning that our friend would fly direct, I sent an email to Fasola, the duty-free chain with shops in Narita (see map), to know what whiskies they had in store and at which prices. They were kind enough to send a reply, here are the whiskies they had recently. This may be of interest if you, or someone you know, flies direct from Narita, as the rates are a good deal compared to what we pay wherever we live (Let's remind that 4000 Y makes 37 € or 49 USD).
SUNTORY (size 700ml)
ROYAL 15years \3,300
白州 (Hakusyuu) 12 years \4,500 Y
白州 (Hakusyuu) 18 years \15,000 Y
響 (Hibiki) 12 years \3,500 Y
響 (Hibiki) 17 years \6,500 Y
響 (Hibiki) 21 years \15,000 Y
響 (Hibiki) 30 years \75,000 Y
山崎 (Yamazaki) 10 years \3,300 Y
山崎 (Yamazaki) 12 years \4,500 Y
山崎 (Yamazaki) 18 years \15,000 Y
NIKKA (size 700ml)
余市 (Yoichi) 12 years \3,500 Y
余市 (Yoichi) 15 years \3,900 Y
余市 (Yoichi) 20 years \5,500 Y
竹鶴 (Taketsuru) 21 years \ 6,000 Y
The video has some flavors and reminiscence of the humor of Art Buchwald when he wrote the following lines in an essay on wine in 1954 (I already posted some of these quotes, sorry for those who remember) :
When speaking of vintages, never refer to a wine as 1935 or 1936. Always drop the nineteen and refer to them as thirty-fours, thirty-fives, thirty-nines, etc. Learn the names of a few rare wines and throw them around as much as you can. If you can associate them with a good French restaurant, it always helps. For example, never say, "I like a Margaux." It's much better to reminisce, "I remember a Margaux I once had at the Grand Vefour in forty-six. What a noble lunch that was."
When ordering wines in restaurants, study the card for a long time even if you don’t understand what you're reading. Cluck occasionally, and then turn to the sommelier and ask him to advise you on what to order. Never accept his first suggestion. He is testing you, and you don't want to lose face.
Always carry a vintage chart with you.If you're not sure of the best wine years, take the wine card to the washroom and check it against your vintage chart.
Text-to-movie is a tool created by Xtranormal.
The promenade begins with le Verre Volé (the wine bar/shop) along which I just pass (the guy speaking on the phone works there if I'm right) and ends as I walk into La Contre Etiquette (a street shop located at 31 rue Sainte Marthe and the physical front of an online wine retailer), where my friend Christophe Guitard opens a bottle of Les Vignes du Paradis, a small domaine (3 or 4 hectares) in Savoie along the Lac Leman. This is a cuvée named "un Petit Coin de Paradis" 2009, 100% Chasselas. This is a very small cuvée in terms of Volume and Christophe (who sells artisan/natural wines) could get a few bottles to sell in his Paris shop. Beautiful fruity wine with a bit of residual sugar (a particularity of the vintage 2009). Thank you Christophe for the opportunity to warm up and taste this wine. And sorry to have stopped filming a bit early (still learning shooting videos...).
At one stage, you'll see a sleeping-beauty vineyard with rusted tin cans on top of each post, then a lone horse eating grass it forages under the snow (the poor animal didn't see me coming and jumped out of surprise), then later you'll see a few courageous cows whith the winter fur they grew to endure the cold temperatures. Very few people on the roads, that's when we like best go out and walk.