MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH FRENCH CUISINE

Le Grange à Dime, Montreuil-Bellay

With our friends, gite guests and neighbours at Le Grange à Dime in Montreuil-Bellay.  After a traditional Anjou meal to celebrate two birthdays, Robert’s and Heather’s.  Thank you all for a lovely time and we look forward to doing it again.  (L to R:- Brian, Robert, Heather, Karen, Mick, Roger, Sheila and Jeanette).

My love affair with French cuisine began before we arrived to live in the Loire Valley.  After several holidays visiting other regions around France, I purchased lots of cookery books!  And so one of the pleasures top of my list on arriving here was to start a food adventure.  In fact,  it turned out to be a food and wine adventure, after all they go hand in hand in French culture don’t they!

The cuisine varies throughout the Loire, being local provincial food in the countryside restaurants and then there are the gourmet restaurants, more in the cities, offering mouth watering and delicate meals.  We take pleasure in visiting our local village restaurants in Le Puy and leisurely drives to other neighbouring villages for a midday lunch and a walk around afterwards, taking advantage of fixed price lunchtime menus for around 12,00 Euros, some including wine – oh yes and the basket of bread – always – it’s a sin not to provide it in France, unlike other countries where you have to ask and pay for it. But for lunch in France beware because it’s 12 until 2pm when ovens are shut down and doors are firmly shut until the evening service at 7pm.

We have never ditched provincial food in favour of gourmet – to be honest we love both for different reasons.  We love the little restaurants, many family run, where the dishes are made from local ingredients  with vegetables and herbs grown by themselves or from a ‘monsieur’ in the village, (often, in our village, from herbs grown in our herb-garden here at le Clos des Guyons), but occasionally we also enjoy a gourmet meal with all that labour intensive artistic skill, I am thinking now of our local One-star Michelin Restaurant ‘La Gambetta’ in Saumur, where one is seduced by the art, time and imagination put into the food, or the family owned ‘Auberge Reine de Sicile’, a little gem of gourmet standard, where the Chef, Cedric, produces traditional French cuisine and throws himself into providing memorable meals for his clients and a then a very pleasurable cheese cart is wheeled to your table.  An interesting article we read recently says that the French Parliament have adopted a new law requiring restaurants to clearly label the dishes they prepare from scratch so that the client will know if the restaurant has relied on frozen or industrially prepared ingredients – certainly an interesting move.

And so last week we had a very traditional experience in one of our local restaurants called ‘La Grange a Dime’ where we decided to go for a night of birthday celebrations.  This was one of those provincial eating experiences, hearty peasant food eaten in a wonderful candle lit old building.

The restaurant has a wood fired oven and offers a ‘fixed’ traditional menu 27,50 euros consisting of  a glass of Coteaux du Layon for an aperitif and a large stuffed mushroom with cheese and herbs cooked in the wood fire. Then there are ‘Les Fouées’  or ‘Fouace from Anjou’ as they are called- as many as you can eat  (hot pocket sized flatbreads also cooked in the wood fire oven) which you slice,  fill with butter and traditional regional Porc Rillettes – these are very filling but absolutely delicious! Afterwards a deep brown dish of cassoulet arrives consisting of white haricots beans and duck accompanied by bowls of fresh crisp green lettuce with delicious red wine vinaigrette.  If you have any room left by now ……. there is goats cheese and créme brulée and coffee.  We chose the menu which included the aperitif, bottle of Saumur rouge (from Bruno Albert in our village of  Le Puy Notre Dame) and then Jean-Pierre, the owner, gave us all a  glass of sparkling wine with the dessert and coffee;  There is also another  menu, without wines,  slightly cheaper at 19,50 euros.

Noteworthy is the building itself  dating back to the XVth century and is in the heart of the enclosed ancient chateau town of Montreuil Bellay in rue du Chateau, about a five minute drive away from Le Clos des Guyons. (The building was a granary of the barony – or Lord of the Manor) where taxed goods were kept, because until the French Revolution in 1789 when it was then sold as a National Heritage, the common people had to offer ‘gifts’ to their so called master and this is where they were all deposited. The restaurant is on two different levels designed in the shape of an upside down boat scull and retains most if not all of its original features.

It’s a whole experience with friendly staff dressed in period costume for an evening  of hearty peasant style food – there are no other choices on the menu.  We found it great fun but with no varied menus available you certainly wouldn’t go every week of course!

The Loire region never let’s you forget the history of bygone days when food was basic and filling.  Many of the chateaux, for example, had hearty meals in those medieval days consisting of soups, casseroles of game or fish, crusty breads and fruit tarts.

chateau-montreuil-bellay

Chateau Montreuil-Bellay, five minutes from our Gites.

 

Just to give you an idea, I discovered a typical menu prepared centuries ago in the huge old kitchens at Chateau Montreuil Bellay (which is built on a spur of rock overlooking the River Thouet) a fabulous location.

… Brochet a la Rouland (Pike, caught in the river by the gamekeeper Monsieur Rouland)!

… Boiled eggs with Truffles served with buttered bread.

… Le Haricot (the humble bean an uncouth yokel of a plant au jardin) added to boiling water with two pig’s ears, pig’s trotter, pig’s tail, salt, onions, garlic, pepper, bay and pimento.

…Pheasant with Quince Compote and a stuffing made from pheasant liver, bacon and shallots.

All this reminds me of when we visited Lyon a couple of years ago, Lyon the gastronomic city of France I had been told, and what arrived for my Plat du Jour? …….. well it turned out to be battered beef testicles ….. exactly – and no I didn’t eat them!! (Brian did of course).

It’s Pentecost here today another May Bank Holiday – we know that restaurants will be full offering their special ‘Repas du Jour’ and I’m sure we will be joining in – why not!

Bon Appétit!

Sheila

http://www.closdesguyons.com Loire Valley Gites and Wine Tours of the Loire Valley

RAISING OUR GLASSES TO A 1990 DOMAINE DES GUYONS SAUMUR BLANC!

 

Gites in the Loire

Left to Right:  Heather, Roger, Jeanette, Robert, Brian, Mick and Karen. (I’m taking the photo).

We had a fabulous dinner on the arrival of our new guests this week, Heather, Roger, Karen and Mick, after their long car journey travelling through Southern Spain into France and finally reaching the Loire Valley to Le Clos des Guyons in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame!  We were also joined by our neighbours ‘en face’ in rue du Moulin, retired vigneron Robert Guyon and his lovely wife Jeanette. Not only were we all having a great time, but at this point in the photograph above, a wonderful memorable moment too enjoying a very special bottle of wine which had been made by Robert, but we were all staggered when he announced it was his VERY LAST BOTTLE of 1990 Saumur Blanc, being just as good as it was when he made it 24 years ago in the old wine chai here at Clos des Guyon (his former family home where he was born and worked all his life, formerly ‘Domaine des Guyons’)!  It was also a perfect accompaniment to my home made Tarte au Pomme! Merci Robert!  The wine had a lovely delicate Chenin nose even after all this time, proving how good the Chenin grape can be. Aged Chenin loses most of it’s aroma and taste of white fruits and lemon and gains  a complex, minerally feel, reminisent of the local tuffeau limestone together with intense waxy honey.

One of the pleasures of living in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame is to enjoy the wines from not only the new commerical winemakers around us, because of course the choices are endless, but for me it’s also about the wines made by the old retired vignerons who often surprise you, like Robert last night, by pulling out a cracker of an old wine from his cellar.  We never take anything for granted living here, it’s a winemaking village so there is a lot of history out there to be found and I do so love their stories when they tell us about their certain vintage years and remembering working days with their fathers and grandfathers – some good stories and some not so good when harvests had been very difficult.  Robert explained that 1990 had been one of those excellent quality vintages when growers produced some superb wines and I can’t explain the feeling we all  had sharing that bottle with him and Jeanette. It was magic!

Chin chin to wonderful guests and wonderful neighbours.

Thanks for a great evening!

Sheila

New website www.closdesguyons.com

Loire Wine Tours and Tastings 

We offer superb holiday gite accommodation with heated swimming pool and also Loire Wine holidays in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Loire Valley, deep in the Saumurois vineyards and now in its own wine appellation of Saumur Puy Notre Dame.  Ideally located for the sights of the Loire and visiting the surrounding majestic chateaux and troglodyte caves in the region.

 

About our Loire Valley Gites and Wine Tours

The XVIIIth. Century entrance to our Loire Gites

The XVIII Century Entrance to our Loire Valley Gites in France

Highly Commended by our TRIPADVISOR guests, (rated 5/5).

We receive many emails from our blog readers asking what exactly we do  here in the Loire so we thought that we’d do this static post which explains just that.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

The Lounge in le Sauvignon gite.

Le Clos des Guyons is a former winemakers house in the village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Loire Valley.  The village is designated by two french accolades:- Village de Charme and Petite Cité de Caractére. We arrived in the region in 2001 and purchased the property in 2003 on the retirement of the then winemaker, Robert Guyons. His wine, the Domaine des Guyons, still produces wine but the current winemaker, Franck Bimont, uses a larger wine chai on the other side of the village, although we still use our existing tanks for storage on occasions.

We have found that the property is perfect both for normal gite holiday rentals and for wine tours as not only are we perfectly placed to access the bulk of the chateaux and historical sights of this famous region, but we are in the middle of a mass of wine appellations and, since 2008, Le Puy Notre Dame now has its own appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame.

Situated on a quiet road on the edge of the village we are adjacent to the vineyards but, at the same time, only a few minutes walk from the bakery, bar and the two excellent village restaurants:- Le Bouchon Ponot and Le Puy à Vins.

With over 13 years of experience living in the area we have developed a mass of information which is freely available to our guests, many of which return to see us year after year and we thank them enormously for their loyalty and trust!

Brian has worked for years in wine retailing in the UK and has a Wines and Spirit Education Trust Ltd Higher Diploma qualification and so his knowledge plus relationships with local winemakers makes a wine tour here interesting, unique and enjoyable. Not only is Le Puy Notre Dame the newest appellation in the Loire but it has over 50 winemakers each putting their own unique interpretation on the local wines.  Walso do an increasingly popular “One Day Immersion Tour” which includes a day visiting the vineyards, touring one of the best wineproperties in the Loire, lunch and assoerted nibbles.

The courtyard at our gites

The courtyard at our gites

We have two holiday rental properties, “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” the former for four or six people and the latter for two.  We opened for business after one full year of renovation and both gites are now fully equipped to the exacting standards laid down by the main French gite organisation, “Les Gîtes de France” who, incidentally carry out regular inspections which is very rare if not unique amongst gite rental companies.   At the same time we have tried to preserve the original ambiance as far as possible.

Access to Le Clos des Guyons and to our gites is through the huge XVIII Century gates which guard the property.  We are quite proud of the attractiveness of our courtyard and garden and try our best to make it one of the prettiest in the village. The garden itself is of the courtyard and contains a wooden terraced area and above ground swimming pool (heated mid May to September) great for a quick swim to add to our guests pleasure.  Behind that is a small but productive vegetable garden which allows us to share fresh salad, asparagus and other vegetables in season.

Of course this blog is primarily about our lives here in the Loire Valley, so the individual posts tend not to carry specific information either the wine tours or our gite holiday rentals.  To find details of availability, tariffs, accommodation details, ‘What do do whilst staying here’, etc. etc, you can go to our extensive website:- www.closdesguyons.com or, use the contact widget on the right hand sidebar to contact us for more information.

Talking about the Grape Varieties on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

Talking about the Grape Varieties and vineyards on one of our Loire Valley Wine Tours

à bientôt?

Sheila and Brian

Loire Gite Holiday Rentals and Wine Tours

6 rue du Moulins,

49260 Le Puy Notre Dame, France.

‘THE WINE TOUR YESTERDAY WAS JUST BRILLIANT’……..!

 

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Guests, Glenis and Chris with Brian, enjoying our popular ‘Wine Tour’! and finding out about the ancient wine press.

Our guests Glenis and Chris combined days sightseeing with a keen interest in the wines of the Loire Valley and hence an ‘Immersion in Wine Tour’ was chosen!

The visit was to the highly reputed organic and biodyamic winery of le Domaine de la Paleine just around the corner from Le Clos des Guyons in the village here at Le Puy Notre Dame. On arrival we headed into the vineyards where Brian explained the Domaine’s appellations including  new appellation of Saumur-Puy Notre Dame  and the annual work involved with cultivating the vines – right now the shoots are well advanced and flourishing for this time of the year, the reason being the current onset of April showers mixed with days of very warm sunshine – that’s perfect!  Then followed a tour around the state of the art ‘wine chai’ with its huge stainless steel and wooden cuves and beautiful picture window overlooking the vineyards, at the same time explaining the wine making processes involved.  Finally, we strolled deep down  into the vast underground galleries and walked through many tunnels of caves where the wine is stored, taking a deeper detour to the area where the fine sparkling wines are processed using the Gyropalette which is a piece of equipment  used in the production of sparkling wine made by the traditional method where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. To remove the yeast sediment (‘lees’) formed in the bottle after the fermentation a ‘riddling’ is performed so at certain intervals the bottle is gently twisted, shaken slightly and moved slowly to a vertical position with the cork pointing down by means of motors and automatic controls. This used to be done manually many years ago – it’s just so difficult to imagine the labour that was involved!

We then resurfaced……..! and went into their chic tasting room for Brian’s ‘tutored’ tasting, to thus appreciate further the expertise of the wine maker, Patrick Nivealleau, who turns the vineyards grapes into a diverse range of award winning bottles of wine, which is nice to see and of which they have an awful lot so credit to him.

Glenis and Chris didn’t leave without some purchases (at winery prices) and also left this kind note in our visitors book, which made us feel happy because they clearly had a great stay:-

……..”The Wine Tour yesterday was just brilliant – Brian has so much knowledge!  We have both been to a few wine tastings, but we have never tasted so many diverse wines at one time and learnt so much about them.  It was obviously a testiment to Brian’s professionalism the way in which the patron gave you and Sheila the freedom to take clients around their winery.  Thankyou and good luck for the future wherever it takes you”!

Our guests enjoyed the visit (as they do) and tasting, being amazed at the Paleine’s range of wines. From the Saumur Rouge, “Cuvée du Moulin”; Saumur Puy Notre Dame “Moulin des Quints”, “Allegro ma non troppo”, “Tamino”; the Saumur Champigny, “Papageno”; the Samur Blancs, “La Paleine”, “Toccata”, “Traviata”, “Pamina”, “Casta Diva’ and newcomer “Aria”; the Bulles, Saumur Brut, Brut Rosé, Cremant de Loire, Cremant de Loire Rosé and Rouge Petillant; the Rosé Cabernet d’Anjou and delicate Cabernet de Saumur and then the luscious Coteaux de Saumur! And so many medal winners amongst them every year!!

We try to offer our guests an interesting holiday whilst visiting the Loire Valley.  We can help with ideas of places to visit and what to do to make your stay enjoyable. Certainly one of the highlights during your stay in Le Puy Notre Dame is to have a short guided wine tour and tasting (included in the rental for our weekly guests) or, if you prefer a more comprehensive wine tour and tasting, we can offer our popular ‘One Day Immersion in Wine Tour’ available for guests staying at Le Clos des Guyons or indeed visitors in the area. We also offer two day short break wine holidays.

So why not come and visit us this summer!  in France’s Loire Valley. website

See you soon perhaps to say Bienvenue!!!

Bonne degustations!

 

Sheila and Brian

If you are looking for something different and unusual this year why not have a look at our website http://www.closdesguyons.com   We have two lovely gites and you can spend some time sightseeing in the area. There are lots of magnificent chateaus nearby and pretty little villages to explore.