One of the principal factors in my passion for travel is that it gives me the opportunity to have one of a kind experiences.. My pre-pandemic trip to the Loire Valley was no exception, The central theme of this journey was “slow food.”
“Slow Food” – To learn about, savor and appreciate local foods, wine cheeses, etc. in the Loire Valley, renowned for its magnificent chateaus, great wines, cheeses, and mushrooms was about a perfect setting as one could wish for. Let me give you a brief overview of the area
The Loire Valley is probably one of the richest regions in the history of France. During the Renaissance (15-17th Centuries) many French nobles became enamored of Italian artists such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, and the latter spent the last three years of his life in the region. Spectacular architecture flourished in the Loire Valley with magnificent chateaux that became palaces of pleasure.
To combine the exquisite beauty of these still standing and operational chateaux and the equally exquisite flavors and textures of foods and wines straight from farm and vine to the table was absolute perfection. Let me share some of the highlights with you.
Our first journey was to a large farm run by a lovely young couple who struck me as so serene and happy who pretty much ran this large farm by themselves with help from a few neighbors. There is a ” cooperative” group of local farmers in France who believe in growing, cultivating and creating foods organically, showing respect for the land and its fauna and flora. So no preservatives or shipping in any produce from another area – everything from the seeds planted to the wine is home grown. It is the definition of “rustic.”
We arrived at milking time and once the milk was cooled they added whey and rennet to curdle the milk. One the milk has hardened a bit it is rolled in salt and ashes to dry it out while the ash prevent bacteria from forming.
The farmers make cottage cheese, yogurt and an assortment of hard cheeses- the longer the cheese ages, the stronger the taste. We had a marvelous sampling table of all of these along with some local organic wines and homemade jellies and a ridiculously delicious caramel topping, also made by the wife.
But the highlight of this visit was our short excursion into the fields. The wife went further out into the field and started yodeling and before we knew it a large heard of goats started gamboling towards us – first in single file, then spreading out until we were completely surrounded. The goats proceeded to nibble at our clothes but what they really wanted was to be petted and a few became quite possessive of me – guess they liked how I scratched behind their ears:
That night we headed into town for a wonderful multicourse meal again in the vein of Slow Food. In fact the carp were so fresh they were actually swimming in tanks behind our table and in one frantic attempt at freedom, one actually jumped out of the tank and almost fell onto my back – needless to say we did not eat that fish.
The restaurant – “Les Chandelles Gourmandes” – was beautiful – white beamed ceilings and open air courtyard that had been converted with a glass ceiling:
We were given a tour of the kitchen to watch the prep – I think there were five or six varieties of mushrooms used (more on the Loire Valley mushroom in an upcoming post)..
After a local version of a slow sparkling Pinot noir fizz and some cheese slices we went on to a culinary feast that was topped off with a fruit soup of mixed berries mixed in a anisette-like liquor.
Slow food is easy to love.
More to come!