Monday, March 26, 2012

Just wine, cheese and bread

The year was 2006, early May, and we were searching in France for wineries.  What a pleasant surprise to arrive at this sight; the winery of Henri Bourgeois.  We were in the Loire Valley and traveled to the village of Chavignol. Henri Bourgeois largely produces Sauvignon Blanc wines under the Sancerre appellation and has many single vineyard bottlings which are generally rated 90 or above by Wine Spectator.  

Not only is this a beautiful modern building with a fantastic tasting room, but the people who work here are so friendly and welcoming and....they speak perfect English.  That always helps, a lot!!  We bought two bottles of Sancerre for 10.60 Euro each, after sampling a lot of wine.  The kind gentleman guiding us also gave us a corkscrew with the winery name on it.  Always handy while traveling.  (sigh)

This last week we found a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc by this vintner and enjoyed it so much last night with a repeat of the "Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp".

  If you have French wine, you need French cheese.  Stopped at this fromagerie (cheese store) and bought crottins of cheve.  A crottin is a small round, possibly 2 inches in diameter.  You can buy very fresh and very, very aged.  We picked up a sampler of 6 different aged cheeses.  So delicious.  So now, we have the wine and the guessed it.....

BREAD!!  Isn't that the most beautiful bread and pastry window?  Picked up a baguette and a couple of pastries for our evening dessert.

We have never taken a tour in France.  The Trout is the researcher and finds an area to visit and then plots out the places we want to see.  We rent a small apartment or house and eat breakfast in our own kitchen, tour during the morning, eat out lunch at a spectacular restaurant, tour in the afternoon and then head to our rental and have dinner and a bottle of wine at home.  It has worked out so well for us.  The last few years we have used our GPS that has international capacities and it works every time.  What we did realize after the first time, you really need to know the zip codes of the villages you want to visit.  Much easier putting in a zip code than trying to type in the village names.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

German Rye Bread

The other day, I was remembering a bread recipe that I used to make in the 1970's.  I remember making it for Christmas gifts for our daughters' teachers.  It has been many years since I have made this slightly unusual bread.

Judging by the yellowed newspaper, I cut it out of a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, newspaper at least 40 years ago.  I do not know who to give credit to.  It makes 3 small round loaves and the bread is almost cake-like.  Absolutely delicious topped with butter and honey or jam.  Not really a sandwich bread though it certainly could be with the right sandwich fillings.  Excellent toasted and very, very moist.  So, if you are willing to try a new recipe, and this one is easy, I hope you will enjoy my recipe for "German Rye Bread."

German Rye Bread

2 cups rye flour
3/4 cup dark molasses or sorghum
1/3 cup shortening
2 tsps. salt
2 cups boiling water
1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
6 1/2 cups white flour
1 egg white mixed with 1 tbsp. water
Caraway seeds

Combine rye flour, molasses, shortening and salt.  Stir in 2 cups boiling water.  Cool to lukewarm.

Add dry yeast to 1/2 cup warm water.  Stir.  Add yeast mixture and one cup white flour to rye mixture.  Beat smooth.  Gradually add remaining flour.  Knead 8-10 minutes.  I let my Kitchenaid do most of the kneading, and finished it up on the counter, by hand.

Place in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down.  Knead until smooth and divide into 3 round loaves.  I imagine it would be no problem to shape into a rectangle and put into loaf pans.  I have never tried it though.  Let it rise 45 minutes.

Brush the tops of the loaves with egg white mixture and sprinkle with caraway seeds.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until loaves sound hollow.

I wish you could smell the bread baking.  It is unmistakably rye bread....the earthy, grainy smell.

It honestly is as good as I remember.  It freezes well also.  Wish you were here!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

A great wine and an apology

I sheepishly start this post with an apology.  A BIG apology to blogger friend, Diana.  I met Diana last September in Montana.  The Trout had just had surgery and could not be at the meeting.  Diana and her husband gave me the most beautiful bottle of King Estate, Pinot Gris, right out of Eugene, Oregon.  Since the Trout was still restricted on diet and his taste buds were non-functioning after surgery, we brought the bottle all the way to Florida.

I remember we had fish and  the Trout opened this bottle of wine.  It was about 2 weeks before MY surgery in December.  I remember drinking it and enjoying it.  I also remembered several weeks later that I did not even acknowledge to Diana that we had enjoyed it.  Guilt, guilt, guilt.  I kept telling myself that I have to contact her and tell her we did enjoy it. sigh..

Problem solved last week when we stopped into Sam's Club and there it was.  Diana and Pete, tonight we had flounder and shrimp, our favorite salad with Pacific Rim Dressing, and King Estate Pinot Gris.  Loved it.  Really, really loved it.

It was slightly spritzy, nice and smooth, drinkable now and very food friendly.  I can see where this could be an every day wine with chicken or fish, or just for a bottle shared together or with friends.  I hope someday we can make our way to Oregon and visit King Estate.  Thank you again for your kindness.  (blush)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Pigeonnier in the Loire

This year it will only be "France dreaming" as my bothersome for the last still bothersome.  I cannot guarantee that I can do a lot of walking, so with regret, we have opted to stay stateside this year.  But, that does not mean I cannot dream about our past trips...especially one six years ago, to the Loire Valley of France.

We have slept in a castle before..many years ago in Germany, so I was all for doing this again.  The Trout is such a fantastic researcher, so I let him do it all.  I enter the picture when it is time to choose between this or that.

This chateau sounded so perfect, but the topper was that there was a dovecote on the property available for rent.  A dovecote is a round, tall structure intended for pigeons or doves.  The inside is a mass of pigeon holes for the birds to nest.  An important food source in Western Europe, they were kept for eggs, flesh and dung.  In Scotland, the tradition is continued in urban areas.

The dovecote was called a colombier or fuie from the 13th century on and pigeonnier until the 19th century.  I have a few photos of where we stayed and this remarkable chateau.

We arrived in early May, for a week, and our cordial host has a fire going in the living room fireplace.  Flowers on the table.  Bottle of wine and glasses waiting.  We immediately were comfortable and felt at home.

The kitchen was small, as is typical in Europe, but everything we needed for a week was available including the washer under the kitchen counter.

There were two bedrooms in this amazing rental and we had the most beautiful one.  A King-sized bed and a balcony overlooking the back yard.

Welcome to Chateau La Vauguyon near Chinon, France, in the Loire Valley.

Our host, Celain, was a delight.  One afternoon, he drove us to two of his favorite wineries and introduced us to the owners.  He also gave us a tour of the grounds of the Chateau, caves and wells going back hundreds of years.

If you look at the above picture, in the foreground, you see some stakes.  Yes, oh yes, this is where a farmer grows white asparagus and many times during the week we would walk down there and buy the fresh, white asparagus for our dinner.  Very inexpensive and so very, very good.  I have often thought that one of the reasons we like to travel to Europe in the early spring is because of the white asparagus.

This was the view out of our upstairs bedroom.  Our host had imported many small deer for Russia and we enjoyed watching them early in the morning.

The big cities are lovely, but we have always loved the countryside and small villages.  Chinon is only a short distance from this lovely gite, and of course, the history of Joan of Arc is all over that city.

We did combine this week in the Loire Valley with a week in Normandy.  I hope you enjoyed my reliving our trip.  I think I feel better now.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza

A very favorite treat when we are in Ybor City eating lunch at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, is their out of this world Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza.  I had to try to duplicate it last night and it was just about perfect.

I used the recipe for pizza crust from My Carolina Kitchen.  When I saw Sam throwing that pizza dough in the air, I knew I would make this recipe.  I loved it.  So easy to make in the food processor and it turned out perfect.

The only thing I did different than the original pizza, is that I did not have roasted garlic on hand and I just couldn't bring myself to heat the oven for just a head of garlic.  Instead, I slowly sauteed mushrooms and added thinly sliced garlic towards the end.  Onto this perfect crust I spread the mushrooms and garlic and then added finely chopped rosemary from the garden and topped it with goat cheese and mozzarella on top of  that.  It was wonderful, but yes, it does need that roasted garlic spread on the crust before the mushrooms.

We had a side salad of arugula with a lemon vinaigrette  and a bottle of Les Violettes Cotes de Rhone 2007, from Moillard, Meursault, France.  It was $10 or $12 and Wine Spectator rates it an 84.  It was perfect, just perfect.