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Jamikins and Bikerscott Go Francing: Cooking in the Alps and Alsace

Jamikins and Bikerscott Go Francing: Cooking in the Alps and Alsace

Jun 4th, 2014, 02:23 PM
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What??? You didn't go to Mont Sainte Odile after leaving Obernai? I am appalled!
kerouac is offline  
Jun 4th, 2014, 10:06 PM
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Kerouac we did go there! Beautiful views and very peaceful!
jamikins is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 05:22 AM
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Oh, so sorry, I was reading fast this morning and missed the mention! Please accept my humble apology.
kerouac is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 11:49 AM
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No worries It was well worth the trip!!!
jamikins is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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Day Twelve

Jamie actually let me sleep in! This was a good thing, as I’d had unpleasant dreams all night plus some fairly significant indigestion (nearly two weeks of a lot of very rich food and too much wine isn’t good for the system, as it turns out). The weather forecast was for rain so we packed umbrellas but were hopeful that the sun would hold out for the day.

Our mission was the largest town in the region (other than Strasbourg…so the second largest town in the region I suppose) – Colmar. We had lunch reservations at a Michelin starred restaurant but not until 1pm so had a bit of time to get there. It turns out it’s actually quite close to Riquewihr, so we made it in plenty of time to make lunch. We had a bit of confusion with the parking – the first lot we chose was full, so we drove to the second lot, which seemed to have two entrances – one was free and the other was a pay lot. We couldn’t figure out what the difference was other than the gate, so we chose the free one.

Colmar would probably be a really nice town in the sun. Unfortunately for us the rain didn’t hold off, and we had to break out the umbrellas having hardly made it into the central part of the old city. We walked around for a bit before finding a covered café for a few cappuccinos and wines (coffee for me, as I was driving) to see if the rain would let up at all – it didn’t. We made a run around the church and found the restaurant down a little side street.

The Atelier du Peintre is actually quite a small restaurant – they’ve placed the tables almost awkwardly far apart, but the décor is very nice. We were shown to our tables relatively quickly and after a bit of a wait were given menus and made our choices. Jamie and I chose different menus – her starter was a thermal egg with bacon and wild asparagus, whereas I had asparagus and pea soup with smoked haddock and frozen peas (I assume they were frozen – they were very hard, and the menu listed them as “glace petit pois”).

Mains were tuna steak with guacamole for Jamie (a bit odd, but tasty) and a saddle of rabbit with onions and cherry for me. Both were good, but not exceptional. Finally Jamie had strawberries with passion fruit, coconut and lime sorbet. My pudding was candied apricot, ice cream, and some sort of semolina type cake which didn’t have much flavour but did have a very odd texture – sort of an overcooked rice pudding, with an overly-thick and nearly impenetrable sugar crust.

After paying, we were left at the door waiting ages for someone to collect our jackets for us, to the point where it became awkward. All things considered, a good lunch but not one I’d pay to repeat if I’m honest. The rain hadn’t really stopped while we ate, but we wanted to see the area known Little Venice so we walked a bit and found an area, which while it had canals didn’t really look like Venice. We took a whole bunch of photos and explored the covered market for a while before admitting defeat to the weather and walking back to the car.

Parking did turn out to be free, not sure why anyone would select the pay version of exactly the same thing…

We had a few drinks in Riquewihr before walking up to the Remparts for dinner. One of the recommendations people who rented the room was a crepe place up that road – the note said that he was a real Baronnet and an artist but was a bit eccentric. That didn’t go nearly far enough to describe the oddity of the meal. We’d stopped in earlier after getting back to town to see if we could make a reservation (the note said that the place was very small and recommended booking in advance) – we were told that they only had four tables and couldn’t take a reservation as they didn’t know if they would be busy or not. We were pretty sure this was why we wanted to make the reservation, but this didn’t sway them. If they weren’t busy, they could make the reservation and guarantee us the table, but if they were full then we couldn’t reserve and we might not get a place. The logic was impeccable.

We were the only ones when we arrived just after 7:30pm, although we were quickly followed by a couple who turned out to be friends of the people running the restaurant. Dinner was odd, and that’s pretty much the biggest understatement I could make. There were indeed four tables in a very small room filled with the art of the owner – evidently he used to be an artist in residence at several American universities (specializing in surrealist art, which explains the evening). The only option on the menu was crepes of either savoury or sweet varieties – I went for the foie gras and sauerkraut option while Jamie stayed a bit more traditional with walnuts and Roquefort cheese.

One of the pieces of art for sale, we noticed, was traditional Alsatian wine glasses of the typical shape etc. The resident artist had engraved them by hand in what at first appeared to be the traditional style – it was only upon closer examination that we realized that the engravings were positions normally found in the Karma Sutra, featuring the bearded representation of the artist himself (we didn’t pick this up right away, as the owner is quite a portly man whereas the glasses featured a much slimmer figure) practicing his favourite styles. He also pointed out that the multitude of little birds included in the engraving were his distraction while doing the works – when he got too excited by the positions and the imagings of them he’d add a little birdy to distract himself.

The crepes, I must add, were quite good. We paid far too much for a bottle of wine, and were slightly stunned by the décor (they have a glossy bright red plastic ceiling, amongst other décor atrocities) but actually quite enjoyed the evening. We even managed sweet desert crepes after the mains. All in all, a good if odd night out.

Day Thirteen

Jamie didn’t let me sleep in this morning; on the other hand we had a bit of a special morning planned. One of the advantages of our method of travel and my preference to keep going back (almost obsessively) to the same places over and over again is that we meet and become friends with some very interesting people. One of our favourite places in Riquewihr has turned out to be the wine bar and tasting room of the Gustav Jung & Fils winery – we’ve had at least a glass or two there every afternoon/evening since we got here and have almost sort of become accepted by the owners and some of the locals who seem to frequent the place.

A few days ago Dominique (or Dominik, not sure about the spelling) offered to take us out in the morning to see her vineyards. We’d originally planned to go on Wednesday, but the weather wasn’t looking great so it was postponed until this morning. It was bright and sunny today, so we walked down to meet her at 9:00am.

We jumped into her old-school Land Rover (proper farm style, with no back seats, only an old sack for me to sit on in the box) for our jaunt up into the vines. The views were amazing, as were the descriptions of the work involved in making the wine. We’ve done winery tours before, but mostly run by the marketing people rather than the ones that own the vines and care for them every day, cutting and pruning by hand (and some really fancy tractors) regardless of the temperature or weather. We spent an hour or so being ferried around the various hills around Riquewihr looking at some of their little plots of vines in the different sections of the hills. It was an amazing morning.

After such a great start to the day, we continued by ourselves in the car, exploring a few more of the towns around us, starting with Turkheim only a few kilometres away. They seem to be slightly obsessed with dragons in Turkheim, but we didn’t see the appeal to be honest. We had a coffee in the little square after wandering around for a bit, and then left. Not much more to say about it…

Next was Kayserburg, which was a slightly larger town featuring a fortified bridge and many shops which were open, unlike Turkheim. Again, not a lot to say about the town other than confirming that there was a bridge, many timbered houses, and a river. We didn’t have coffee, although Jamie did take quite a few very good photos.

Lunch was just up the road at the very small village of Kientzheim. This town had a little creek running down the side of it, but also what seemed like permanently overflowing drains on both side of the main (only) road through town. We had booked lunch at the restaurant in town called “Cote Vigne”, run by a young husband in the front of house and his wife in the kitchen.

It was the busiest restaurant in the area what we’ve been to so far, glad we booked in advance. Every table was full and the three front of house staff were running around constantly. Lunch was excellent – Jamie had the slightly boring but apparently popular regular menu featuring gaspacho soup to start followed by salmon in a puff pastry crust, while I went for the far more adventurous Alsatian head cheese starter followed by an excellent Choucroute plate – all the pork you’d ever want plus a HUGE portion of sauerkraut and potatoes. It was fantastic, not fatty or greasy like all the other choucroutes I’ve had before. I ate almost all of it, which was a bit of a mission which I suspect I’ll regret before the night is over.

We’d planned on visiting a few more towns after lunch, but were so full and feeling quite lazy so drove back to Riquewihr to relax for the rest of the afternoon. We spent a while in our room catching up on email and facebook before going to the wine cave downstairs for our afternoon cremant (the regional version of champagne), meeting a very nice Australian couple who were doing a several week tour of France. Next was our traditional glass or three at Gustav Jung & Fils where we caught up with Dominique and Oliver (the owners), seemingly having been accepted by the locals (Jamie even got kiss on the cheeks from the kid who runs the cellar downstairs for them – we’d been there every day so he thought it was appropriate he said).

I was still full from lunch so went with a slightly lighter dinner at Brendel Stub, although I got distracted when ordering and had a steak, rather than the tarte flambee that I’d intended. It was good. I’m very very full.
BikerScott is offline  
Jun 5th, 2014, 05:14 PM
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Scott, you really have a delightful way with words, lol !
Hugely enjoying (which means relishing) all of this so far, and please do not leave the area without a review of at least one good tarte flambee. I love making, eating and teaching others how to make and eat them
Mathieu is offline  
Jun 6th, 2014, 01:31 PM
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Day Fourteen

I woke up still full. That’s never happened before; however I’ve never eaten that much pork and pickled cabbage before. A very odd sensation.

Jamie wanted to visit the Thursday market in Riquewihr so didn’t really let me sleep in at all. It turns out the Thursday market in Riquewihr consists of a few people selling loose teas, some soap merchants, and one of these guys with a huge collection of interesting rocks although its never clear if he’s selling them or just wants you to admire the collection.

Our mission for the day was to drive far to the south to have some cheese – this seemed like an entirely reasonable thing to do at the time. We programmed Gazza the Sat Nav with what turned out to be completely random directions and set off. To be fair to Gaz, the place he had us drive to an hour from Riquewihr was sort of in the right direction, but it still took a half hour from the first destination to reach the place with all the cheese, almost.

I think we may have mortally offended Gaz, plus France has it in for us. We were looking for the best cheese shop in all of the country, run by one of the Grand Masters of Cheese (seriously, there are multiple awards from the brotherhood of Fromagerie, which is actually a thing). The address was 5 Rue de la Montagne, but because this is France there turned out to be two of them. Gaz brought us to the first one where we parked halfway up a dirt road in a small forest next to the first number five and we walked a further kilometre to the second number five and the cheese shop, only 20 minutes late (given the wrong destination and the multitude of fives, this is actually pretty good really).

We weren’t first in line when we finally got in, and waited for about 15 minutes while the Master served the few people in the queue ahead of us – say what you like, he certainly made sure they had what they needed, and the selection of cheese was impressive to say the least. Eventually we were acknowledged and we explained that we were there for the cheese tasting. We were shown into the next room with tables and chairs and suchlike and left to our own devices.

We can only assume that he forgot to tell the woman who manages the cheese tasting room that we were there based on her surprise when she found us 20 minutes later waiting for our cheese. She spoke both French and German but not English, and my understanding briefly deserted me when she apparently asked us if we’d been waiting long. I thought she’d asked if we were waiting for the tasting so said “Oui” in quite a matter-of-fact tone, which surprised both her and Jamie. To be fair, it had been quite a long time.

We were eventually given a giant plate of cheese each along with a basket of bread and some wine. There were a total of nine cheeses to taste, from a mild goat cheese St Marcellin Isere to the slightly toxic blue cheese Fourme d'Ambert Auvergne (my tasting notes say “could be used as a weapon, possibly banned by the Geneva Convention”). Our favourite was the Perail Brebis Aveyron, which was a very strong but excellent goat cheese from the Aveyron.

After our unusual lunch we set Gaz back north for a bit of village hopping before our final night in Riquewihr. We explored Eguisheim (I think there is a prize if you can pronounce that correctly on the first try), which is a small walled town which still retains its entire original wall. It was interesting, mostly because I bought some ice cream and had some coffee – I’m finding that after a full week all of these towns are starting to look the same with the timbered houses and cobbled lanes.

Jamie wanted to see Hunawihr, which is sort of close to Riquewihr and is known for its fortified church in the middle of the vineyards. We found a place to park, Jamie took a picture, and then we left (I know we’re giving these towns slightly short shrift, but it’s been a long holiday and we’re getting tired).

We drove back to Riquewihr for our last night in town. We parked the car, dropped off the bags, and went out to visit our favourite spots – Chateau Zimmer, Le Medieval at the top of the road, and finally Gustav Jung & Fils to have a last glass of wine and say goodbye to Dominique and Oliver and the rest of the locals we’ve met there over the last week.

Dinner was at the Michelin starred La Table du Gourmet, which Jamie had reserved quite some time ago. We’re not huge fans of art but can understand why people go out of their way to see the works of the masters – for us, Michelin tends to be an indicator that our preferred form of art will be emphasised. For the most part, La Table du Gourmet lived up to the higher expectations of its Michelin star.

The start of the meal was a bit disappointing – we were told that while we could pay €20 extra for the blue lobster course, that it was the first night that they were serving the new spring/summer menu and therefore we couldn’t have the wine pairing, despite them having it on the menu. In our books, if I’ts on the menu, it should be available at this level. The three amuse bouche were interesting, but not great (I couldn’t eat the second one – far too fishy for me).

The courses themselves were excellent, and the service was fantastic, especially from one of the waitresses who wasn’t so formal and had a good laugh with us. We’d selected a dry Riesling from one of the wineries in Keintzheim, and ended up having a great (if slightly pricey) meal. One of the revelations was that Jamie almost remembered the French word for marshmallow – the closest she could get was “fat William” (it’s actually guimauve, but Fat William was so much funnier – I cried I was laughing so hard).

We’re now back in our little studio flat, full and a bit sad to be going back to London, and not just because we have to go to work on Monday. We’ve been away from France for three years, spending most of our vacation time in the interim in Italy, and have realized how much we love this country. The food is almost universally excellent (if a bit rich), the language for us is easy (being Canadian we both speak French to a greater or lesser degree), and the people here are so friendly. We’re going to miss this place.
BikerScott is offline  
Jun 6th, 2014, 01:44 PM
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I have no idea what this "blue lobster" stuff is, but that's what President Hollande and President Obama had for dinner last night in Paris.
kerouac is offline  
Jun 7th, 2014, 07:58 AM
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perhaps it was raw, kerouac.

great report, jamikins & bikerscott. and I agree that if it's on the menu you ought to be able to have it, especially if it involves wine.
annhig is offline  
Jun 8th, 2014, 09:18 AM
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Well if it is good enough for Obama and Hollande it was certainly good enough for us I have no idea what makes it blue but it was very tasty!!

Glad you enjoyed the report annhig!

Well, we made it back to London this afternoon after a lovely afternoon and evening in sunny (but hot!) Paris. Perfect end to a lovely vacation.

My final pics have been added to the link and Scott will be adding his hopefully later this week.

So glad everyone enjoyed the ride...next up is two weeks in Le Marche in August!

Happy Travels!
jamikins is offline  
Jun 8th, 2014, 10:31 AM
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Glad to know you are back home safe and sound. Thanks for taking all of us, once again, on your lovely travels and adventures. I personally cannot WAIT for Le Marche in August. You KNOW why !!!
All the best
Flame123 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2014, 05:45 PM
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Jamikins, thanks so much for posting this link. I figured I'd respond here so as not to derail the other thread any further off topic.

Such an entertaining report and your photos are amazing! I've bookmarked this to use for tips when planning my upcoming Alsace trip. Very helpful, especially the restaurant reviews!
rachelnyc is offline  
Jul 27th, 2014, 11:22 PM
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You are most welcome! Glad you enjoyed it
jamikins is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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Wonderful TR and photos! You will always be thankful that you could travel while you are younger. In addition to your super photos, I enjoyed the food shots in chalet link—powdered sugar being sprinkled over the berries.

Please explain the following two dishes when you get a chance:

amuse bouche of a thermal egg with a tarragon vinegar and little pressed soldiers

French version of Eton mess for desert

What's next????
TDudette is online now  
Jul 28th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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Thanks TDudette!

The thermal egg was a slowly cooked egg - also called a 60degree egg I believe. Then it had a tarragon and vinegar 'sauce' and slices of toast to dip (called soldiers here in the uk).

Eton mess is a british dessert - fruit, meringue crumbled up and all mixed with cream. This was a French take on it!

We are off to Le Marche yet again in a few weeks - this time staying for two weeks! We can't wait!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 11:53 AM
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buon viaggio, jamikins e bikerscott.

bring us back another great TR please!
annhig is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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Thanks annhig! We will definitely keep up the trip report!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 01:25 PM
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Thanks, jamikins. Both dishes sound good. Friends of mine make a nice lamb curry and serve about a dozen toppings, they call 'boys'!

Looking forward to more of your TRs and photos.
TDudette is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 03:55 PM
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I loved your pics so much of Chalet Savoie Faire that I booked a week there in the spring!! Thanks again
Ruby99 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 04:01 PM
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Ruby that is so great! You will have such a great time! Nikki and Hugh will spoil you...I am jealous
jamikins is offline  

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