Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Magnificent lunch setting in St Emilion France

Souvenir shop in St Emilion

Les Belles Perdrix de Troplong Mondot
Lunch on Wednesday 17th April 2013

Waking up on Day four of our Pilgrimage through the Shrines of Food and Wine, another glorious day looked in prospect with brilliant blue skies and blazing sunshine greeting our breakfast view across the neighbouring lake. Indeed, boarding the tour bus the sweaters and coats got discarded quite quickly. The ealry morning spring nip went quite quickly.

We were without two members who had left to go tasting. We almost left without two more as they seemed to be taking their time getting ready and the bus was getting impatient to be underway. "Come on, let's go!!" cried a nameless one. "Give them a minute, I'll go and see where they are." As I got down, they came scrambling out and sheepishly crept on board past the glare of shame from the seated. "They shall be fined a bottle of First Growth," proclaimed the Governor. "Each." We presume he was joking - leastways there has been no sign of the bottle from the guilty and no attempt to enforce the punishment. 

St Emilion Church
Thirty minutes later saw us being offloaded at a roadside with an instruction from our driver to "take zat road zere and walk for ten minoootes. Ai will be back 'ere at zis place at eleven thirty. You all mus' be 'ere, ozzerwise you weel be lef' be'aind." So warned, we meandered up ze road and found ourselves in the centre of what must surely rank as one of the most charming towns in France. 

A UNESCO world heritage site with a history stretching back to prehistoric times, St Emilion is both a commune and an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) for Bordeaux wine. Named after the travelling monk who settled there in the 8th century, Frere Emilion's followers continued what the Romans had started and developed its commercial wine production. This must have proved a most welcome stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago del Compostela as a place for rest and revival. The village itself is unimaginably pretty, dotted throughout with Roman ruins and Romanesque buildings and dominated by the Gothic style church, which seems to feature in every photo you could want to take.

Overlooking the town
Although not large, St Emilion town is just hugely pretty, especially when it is lit up by brilliant blue skies and gleaming sunshine. Everywhere we looked, all we could see were stores selling wine or wine related gifts and accessories. Even the cafes and patisseries had some wines for sale. We all spent a most pleasant morning wandering along the narrow cobbled streets and mooching in the shops. Some members were clearly thirsty, some having stopped for a mid morning glass of fizz to enjoy the sunshine and bubbles. We bought some Armagnac which our Doc later claimed to be the best he has ever tasted. It is nice, we have half a bottle left. It won't last long.

Our driver's admonition clearly did the trick because no one was late when he arrived to pick us up. Even our two MIA wine tasters had made it back and were raging enthusiastically about the wines they had supped. Seems the Pape Clement drew top honours - hopefully we'll have a bottle or six procured for the IWFS in KL. Hope I'm still around to drink it….

Lunch setting at Les Belles Perdrix
A ten minute drive up the hill brought us to the entrance of the Chateau Troplong Mondot (pronounced Troe Long Mondoe). Disembarking we were ushered around the back - "the tradesman's entrance" someone quipped -  and assembled on a patch of grass at the wineyard doorway. Here we got our first view of where our lunch would be and it was delightful - under an awning with a superb prospect of St Emilion village on one side below and across the Chateau's vines and landscape. Totally picture perfect in the midday sunshine and a magnificent setting. Some of the best photos of the trip were taken here - the lighting and colours were superb. 

The Foie Gras that turned...
A brief and frankly fairly forgettable tour of the vineyard followed and we got sat for our lunch. 

There are very few notes on the lunch here at Les Belles Perdrix, partly because I felt a need to get some respite from a combination of French Foie Gras and Italian carbonated water. Something reacted which necessitated a walking break to let things settle. So much for any Entente Cordiale between French food and Italian water. The notes say that the beef was tough, the cheese was good, the serving staff were entertaining and the the Chateau Troplong Mondot 2004 is excellent. Supple, velvet, merlot fruit, good structure - a good lunch wine, superb with the cheese, though conventional wisdom holds that one shouldn't strictly judge a wine with cheese. Ah, what the heck - if it tastes good then roll with it. 

The Big Macaron
And the Macaron was excellent. I now understand why some people go sparky gaga over Macarons. This was crisp and sweet and the lightest of crunches which made the thing evaporate. And this one was big, earning it the inevitable label of a "Big Mac". Indeed. Who said we foodies lack wit?

It was a lunch of sunshine and spring breeezes. And dogs. Two dogs from the Chateau came over to say hello and get a scratch. As I remember I offered one of the wuffers some of my beef. He refused. Res ipsa loquitur.  

Friend Li Dong picked this moment to tell me she had lost a book on Lisbon that I had lent to her and she would replace it. It was perfect timing. How to get mad in a moment like this?  Damn smart, that girl. Didn't have the heart to tell her the book only cost me three ringgit. I am still waiting for the replacement. 

In sum, a fantastic venue but only a good to so-so meal. Would return for the location and the Big Mac though not particularly impressed with the beef on this occasion. May need to be brazen next time and ask the chef whether the beef needs a whack with a 3-wood to tenderize it into something a little more chewable. I can do that.

Li Dong preparing to confess about the lost book
Fig Foie Gras Terrine
Apple Chutney, Gingerbread Toast

Pan-Fried Beef Filet
Slow Cooked Shallots, Red Wine Sauce
Potato and Cep Mushroom Cake

Cheese and Jam from the orchard
Macaron "Belles Perdrix"

The Wines
Mondot 2007
Chateau Troplong Mondot 2004

IWFS KL getting ready for lunch

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