It was around this point that Nick noted the proliferation of stands dispensing aperitifs. We concluded that the reason behind it was to keep everyone in a constant state of hunger. And on that note, we went to taste some Armagnac. Before we were given a sip, we got a full-on Armagnac-tasting lesson. The (very) Frenchman doling it out told us that you must warm it in your hands and take deep smells of it – like a woman. We got to taste the 1979 and the 1967. The ’67 was pretty remarkable, I thought, although never having tried Armagnac before, I don’t have much of a frame of reference. When the vendor found out this fact, he said this was the third time in one day that he had initiated someone into the world of Armagnac. The first was a Swiss man, and the second was a Japanese couple. We were holding out to try the 1944, but it didn’t seem to be in the cards. He tried to put the hard sell on us, and we walked away empty handed.
Over to another foie gras booth, where we got samples of foie gras mi-cuit and foie gras au sel from Alban Laban. Both were unctuously delicious, but the foie gras au selwas the real standout. Uncooked, simply cured in salt, it was perfectly seasoned with an incredibly smooth mouthfeel. I could have eaten tubs of the stuff and they would have had to roll me home. So I guess it’s a good thing that they weren’t giving out free tubs of foie gras au sel.
Instead, we wandered over to the G. Prieur Grands Vins de Bourgogne stand. I came for the Vosne-Romanée, and I stayed for the nice large Burgundy glasses (as opposed to the cheap tasting glasses most of the other stands were using) and the amiable proprietors. At first we were proposed a flight of 3 wines, starting with my requested 2005 Vosne-Romanée, which had a deep rose color, almost floral aroma, and juicy flavor. Next came the 2003 Nuits-St.-Georges, darker and more complex, followed by the 2003 Morey-Saint-Denis, ruby-colored with a slight oakiness. As we chatted with the proprietors, (my French is getting better by the glass!) I mentioned that our 2nd wedding anniversary was in a few days, and they insisted we try a few more wines. Out came the 2005 Beaune 1er cru Clos du Roy. It was absolutely amazing. We asked if 2005 was a better year than 2003, and they told us that 2005 was one for the ages. Then they gave us a taste of the 2005 Volnay, which was lighter and sweeter, and described as “très feminin, très fin.” Perhaps it was a little too subtle for my palate – it was nice, but nothing particularly noteworthy, especially after the Vosne-Romanée and the Beaune 1er cru. To top it off, we were given one more sample: the 2003 Aloxe-Corton. It was rond. We began to notice a few fellow salon-goers with hand-trucks for carrying their purchases and wished we had planned as well. Luckily, G. Prieur was selling cases of 6 bottles for home delivery. We couldn’t pass up that Clos du Roy, especially if we didn’t even have to carry it!
Our next stop showed that even France is not immune to inane food fads.
Yes, that’s a chocolate fountain. Which is too bad, because they had some very good chocolates, once you got past the stupid gimmick. Our favorite was the dark chocolate with cacao nibs. We wanted to buy a bag of just those, but all they were selling were mixed-bag gift baskets – again with the stupid gimmicks!
Speaking of gimmicks, the next thing we tried was a fresh cheese mixed with red pepper and shallot, rolled in neat little hors d’oeuvre-sized balls. They were quite tasty despite their cutesy look, and made with lait cru, to boot. Then we stopped by a caviar booth and, inexplicably, were given candied hazelnuts. They were actually quite good, with a nice, dark caramel crunch to them. But that’s not why I’m at the caviar booth, now is it?
Moving on, we were flagged down by a man peddling calvados and a lighter, sweeter liqueur made from apple cider. This is not the sort of thing we would normally try, but it turned out to be enjoyable, especially the liqueur, marketed as either an apéritif or a digestif. It had distinct apple flavor, but with earthy undertones that balanced out the sweetness.
Of course, no French food fair would be complete without an array of fancy sea salts.
This particular booth was handing out salted butter caramels. The caramel could have been cooked a little darker, in my opinion, but I am a sucker for a salty caramel. To the right of the salt was the Camille de Lys mushroom stand. Obviously, we had to try it. We got three different marinated mushrooms: Champignons Bruns, in an acidic, appetite-stimulating marinade; Pleurote Gris, meaty and rich; and Lentins du Chêne, with a subtle curry flavor.
With our palates fully blasted, we, predictably, went straight to… Read the rest of this entry »