The next hour began with chocolates. We tasted pear and vanilla caramel-filled chocolates, crunchy praline chocolates, and a peach confection that the chocolatier informed me was made from a peach unique to France. I asked him where he got his chocolate from and the answer (as it was almost everywhere I asked) was “South America, specifically Venezuela and the Caribbean.” These were much better than the olive oil chocolates I had so recently encountered, giving me hope for the rest of the chocolate booths.
Next we had the pleasure of partaking in a bite of pure foie gras d’oie. (That’s goose, for you non-francophones out there.) The artisan, Stéphane Leprettre, explained that he didn’t add anything to the foie gras but salt. It was fantastic. Nick declared it some of the best foie gras he had ever tasted. It was certainly distinct from duck foie gras (which is less expensive and therefore more common), with a mellow, delicate flavor unlike the voluptuousness of duck.
I was excited to have the opportunity to sample so many high-end French wines, but the next stop, Vignobles Pierre-Emmanuel Janoueix, was disappointing to say the least. We were poured a taste of 2002 Pomerol which tasted a little watery and flat. Certainly nothing to write home about. But when we asked to try another, the man condescendingly told me that the point of the Salon was to go from booth to booth, and that basically, he wouldn’t be pouring more than one taste for anyone. Good luck with that, buddy! Maybe you should start out with a better wine, if that’s your attitude.
After a brief macaron break, the Puligny-Montrachet line was too long, so we made our way to the Pessac-Leognan. We were served a 2002 Château Haut-Gardère, which was delicious, and a 2000, even smoother than the 2002. I paused for a nibble of some lucques olives (great olive flavor with a dense, almost meaty texture) on the way to a stand with cheeses from the Pyrénées. They were giving out samples of an aged goat/sheep cheese that had a piquant, salty flavor and an almost crumbly texture. Their pure sheep’s milk cheese was similar, but stronger and a little mustier. And then we left the “small room.”
Upon entering the “big room,” we were greeted with this sight:
We were distracted, however, by the Compagnie Bretonne’s smorgasbord of seafood salads. We ate thon à l’estragon (tuna with tarragon), and rillettes of sardine and mackerel. After a rich, eggy slice of cannelé, and a spoonful of sautéed shiitake mushrooms, we found ourselves staring at a large case full of interesting-looking sausages.
They appeared to be composed of many thin layers. We learned after tasting it, that it is, in fact, formed by rolling up the large intestines of pigs and stuffing them inside another large intestine. I must say, it was the tastiest intestine-only preparation I have ever had.
We refreshed our palates with a couple of seaweed canapés, one of which featured a concoction called “norinade,” which I took to be a play on tapenade. It was good – not overly salty with a definitive nori flavor. Moving back to heavier things, we had some smoked filet mignon of pork followed by an incredible Italian cheese: Gialline. It is made with cow’s milk and has a flavor and texture similar to good Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Of course there was more wine…