Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Armagnac - 3rd Day

I rose earlier than anyone else, and enjoyed my petite dejeuner in solitude,

before I moseyed over to Mont de Marsan . . . a golf course I had not found, but which the Hotel arranged as part of the package deal . . . it wasn’t on the list of golf courses of armangnac I had seen . . . shot 98 on this very difficult course, including a throw-away 13 on a par5 . . . one of those courses that one would love to play again now that there was some familiarity with the lay of the course . . .

On the way back to Chateau Bellvue, I had to stop at construction on the road . . . I hadn’t paid attention coming thru the first time, since I was the 3rd-in-line, waiting our turn to use the one-lane left, but now I was first-and-only . . . they had a signal arrangement, that looked like a standard traffic signal with 3 lights, but it went from Red to flashing yellow when the cars on the other end had past thru, so I intuited “proceed with caution” and did.

Halfway there I met a woman in another car. She looked at me with surprise and outrage, and gestured me to get out of the way . . . I gave her the gallic shrug, and gestured to show I had no where to go. . . . she thru up her hands in disgust . . . I gestured to show her to pull just aside a little bit and I could get out of her way. . . she pulled over and up next to me and cranked down her window and screamed at me, what I can best interpret as “Asshole, M’seiur!”

I didn’t know French for “I am sorry madam, but I think you have driven out of turn on this one lane road” so, I gave her the downtown frozen smile, the half-gallic shrug (shoulders only), and drove off.

Mrs was wondering where I was by now . . . the golf course was supposed to only be 20 minutes away but it’s closer to 45, the way I drive (not the French), and she was hungry . . . so was I . . . so we left for lunch in Eauze without further ado. We had seen a little bistro on the square while we were looking for a grocer the night before (Sunday, fuhgeddaboudit) . . . La Vie en Rose. We sat, we waited, we ordered what will become our luncheon ordinaire: eau minerale gaseus, vin rouge, menu du jour, c’est fin.

The 3 course meal included a crudite’ salade . . .

which we were surprised to see that cruidite included crude sausages, in addition to veggie bits . . . something bologna-like, some blood-sausage - black as asphalt – and something with a loose texture like spam or deviled ham, only a sausage, if you see what I mean . . . Mrs wouldn’t touch more than a morceau, but I ate most of mine.

2nd course was a pork chop. . . Mrs said it was a little tough, but it tasted fine to me . . .

3rd was a fruit compote – various berries – 8^D . . . it was cold & delicious.

Thus fortified we walked around Eauze . . . it didn’t take long . . . the church wasn’t that interesting, from the outside, the grocer was still closed, the patisserie/chocolaterie had no chocolate noir . . . so we headed back to the foie gras place . . . there was a car out front this time, at least, so we timidly breached the inner confines . . . the Farmer’s Wife stood by imperiously silent as we fondled the various confit and foie gras packages . . . we are such provincials, the prices seemed gastronomic . . . we’re more peasant-food people, I should say . . . we finally bought one foie gras for 29E . . . we will enjoy it some time in the future . . .

Somewhat deflated, we headed back towards the hotel. We past a place I had seen from the road before, and Armagnac ventre, of course, apparently in Cazubon, the Armagnac ventres are thick as flies at a picnic, you could spend a week just going from one to the next down the road . . . there were some really interesting ones over towards Mont de Marsan, but I was disinclined to go back thru the construction zone, if you know what I mean . . . . anyway, the place was called Veuve Lafontan et ses Enfants . . . somewhat ingenuously we had realized that everyplace titled Armagnac was not a ventre . . . some were plumbers, tile merchants, commercial institutes of every stripe that happen to be in Armagnac, if you see what I mean . . . so we tho’t this might be a day-care, but when we walked in, it was clear that this was an Armagnac ventre of the first water, so we waded on in.

The charming young woman served our degustations with savoir faire and information. Her family has been making Armagnac for 4 generations. We started with the younger armangnacs and proceeded till we couldn’t tell the difference anymore. She said, “after 4 tastings, no one can tell the difference, anyway” . . . 8^D . . .

I have my bohemian crystal balloons that I had been using for my Armagnac at home, but I had read a while back that the balloon is not proper . . . it releases too much flavour at once, which the Armagnac is bursting with flavor, unlike its weaker cousins which must be coaxed, so the proper glass is an, um, Armagnac snifter, that looks like a fine port snifter, I think, a small stemmed glass with a large round bottom but a small mouth . . . oh, jeebus, I have to re-compose myself . . . sorry . . . so we bought 6 of those, a case of champagne (REAL champagne from champagne?!?!?, squealed Mrs . . . 8^D . . . in her girlish joie de vie) and a few bottles of armagnac, too, incidentally. . .

But when we tried to pay, the machine rejected our overtures . . . I jumped on my cell phone and called mastercard, but they said, “Our logs show no refusals, so, really, it is a telecom issue, on their side.”

So, tears in our eyes, we left, promising to return the next day, bearing EuroCash, bearing in mind that I was playing golf in the morning, that they would be closed for the extended lunch, and we were driving to Tillac, too, to the next Chateau and golf course.

We sulked around the chateau salle till time for dinner, then strolled down fashionably late, only to find they were still setting up. They were unenthusiastically letting us sit outside, anyway. “I expect a severe storm,” said our host, which led to a discussion of the big storm back last January, where he lost several large trees – some of the other guests were going over to the edge of the grounds and peering down at the fallen trees – he made a cyclonic motion with his hands, “A tornado” we guessed, and he nodded . . . odd for france, and unheard of in January . . . but the golf course I’d played that morning had lost 1200 trees itself in that same storm, I’d been told when I asked about all the firewood stacked up on every hole . . . “I will have a busy winter,” our host lamented. I didn’t ask what he did last winter instead of chainsawing dead trees, but instead I tried to console him, “At least you live in a solid chateau, instead of a house trailer!” But I don’t think the French vernacular includes “house trailer”; he went on to describe how the middle of the house, the 2nd floor we would call it in America, had buckled and let water into the walls and into the rooms. “I weell be vary bizzy this weenter” he re-iterated with a sadness that told me he’d rather be fronted by the fireplace with a good book and a bottle of Armagnac . . . 8^D . . . c’est la vie, I guess.

He broke out of his melancholy musings to tell us about the evening menu and take our wine order . . . I’d done so poorly before his help yesterday, I told him he could guide us, but he sneered kindly and thrust the wine menu back into my hands . . . so, without looking, I said, “. . . the local family reserve from Pelle Haut looked interesting, le vin rouge, sil vous plait!” He smiled maliciously and said, “An excellent choice, m’seiur.”

While he went to get that, we bothered with our aperitif & hors d-oeurve: the same toast with olive oil & parmesan and a local favorite called Mousqueteer – the whole place is rife with references to D’artagnan and the 3 Mousqueteers – which is a bitter orange liqueur made with Armagnac . . . they had mixed it with champagne & garnished with a fresh orange slice . . . we actually liked this, but we past several chances to buy a bottle later.

Our entrée was a poached egg on a crispy roll with a rind of bacon & some greens with some light dressing. It was great, but both Mrs and I broke down in coughing fits from crumbs from the bikky getting down the wrong pipe . . . 8^D . . . Mrs dithered but then finally just wolfed down the bacon bits anyway.

The sommelier came back with my bottle and said “Hold this!” which took me by surprise, but he repeated the command and suspecting some practical joke, I did. The bottle was uncommonly heavy. I quizzed him with an eyebrow. He almost swooned with the delight of helping me make such a discovery . . . 8^). . . “it is made the old-fashioned way, both wine & bottle”, he said. Well, I’ve always been kindly to the old-fashioned-way, even when I disregard it, so I was all for it, especially when I tasted it . . .

“mercy, mercy, mercy!” I said, in the manner of my grandmother.

“Bien tot.” I think he said, there was blood rushing thru my eardrums then, while he poured glasses for us. “This should go well with the beef, don’t you think?” I asked him. Again the cunning look, “Mais oui, m’seiur”, then he was gone to the other tables, leaving us to our wine and eau naturelle gasseus, while the storm clouds raced past the sunset toward us, seeming to break up and bringing a very pleasant zephyr.

We were very pleased with the plate they finally put before us: a piece of steak more fine than large, with a glace reduction, and cherry-tomatoes oven-roasted on-the-vine in olive oil. We’ll be doing ‘em that way if we can at home for now on, tho’ the Mrs says that the Vietnamese green-grocers in Prague tend to break the tomato stems when they throw them in the bag. I don’t know that there could have been a better troika of flavours than the wine, the meat, and the tomatos.

Just as we finished the wind picked up and the rain started. With a flurry we adjourned inside. When we were seated the sommelier came back by, “How does it feel to always be right?” I teased him. He didn’t get it. I guess that’s how it feels to always be right . . . I wouldn’t know myself . . . 8^D . . .

Desert was a vanilla pudding with lavender cookies, with a lavender sprig decorating the plate . . . we debated it’s consumption, and I tried, but it was like eating soap . . . that was some pungeant lavender . . . I had regular coffee after dinner this night, which means expresso, and I had them bring me some Armagnac, grateful that they would bother to ask again . . . 8^) . . . it was a mere 15 years old, very very fine, but I missed getting the vintner . . . doesn’t matter. It’s all good.

Then back upstairs and to bed . . . I had golf in the morning again.

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