Sunday, June 19, 2011

Loire Valley: Chinon – our favorite meal

We only spent one day in the Loire Valley, in the town of Chinon on the Rive Verielle, but this is where we had our favorite meal so far. Chinon is a small town, and we arrived at 8:45; our hotelier told us that we would have to hurry out if we wanted dinner, because places will be closing or already closed. The place she sent us to because she thought they would still be open was closed, so we continued to wander down the alleys of the Vieux Cite and came across Le Gandoyau. Their chalk-written menu outside their courtyard had items listed with “Terroir” next them, which I took to mean local specialties, so we went in. The waiter was very welcoming, (though we noticed a less-than-pleased glance between the waiter and the chef when the kitchen saw us being led to our table at 9:05 p.m.)

We ordered the two main courses that specified “terroir” along with a bottle of Chinon A.O.C. wine. One was described as “filet mignon” of Pork, and came with “noisettes” of mixed vegetables, prunes, and a delicate amount of rich, fruity sauce. The noisettes were a texture somewhat like mashed potatoes, and somewhat like polenta. I don’t really know if they contained cornmeal – French don’t typically use corn in people food as it is considered animal feed, so it could have been all potato, or a mix of other things I didn’t know. They also had shredded carrots and petit peas and were absolutely delicious. The prunes were stewed in the glaze that accompanied the pork, and were soft and sweet and tangy. It was an amazing combination, and a completely artful presentation.

Pork medallians with prunes in sauce, and "noisettes" of mixed vegetables.

The other dish was a “Tarte Sandra” which was copious amounts of the most incredible, light, crispy, buttery puff pastry imaginable, wrapped in a ginourmous pouf around a delectable, thick white fish that was smothered in fresh herbs (primarily dill) and a light and smooth cream sauce with carrots and peas. It sounds like it would be ridiculously rich, but somehow the textures were so melt-in the-mouth delicious that it didn’t taste over-the-top at all. It was absolutely delightful. In spite of the very high quality of ingredients and preparation, what really made this meal so outstanding was to have a meal prepared in precisely the region where they originated, being the freshest and most authentic of local foods.

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