The next step was to be in le Jura because, as said previously, there is some serious sausage made over there. The driving is not particularly nice if one is to take the highway but if one has time and can take small roads one will be delighted with the landscape and could stop somewhere along the way for a nice lunch, of course. It is interesting, see, because the path goes through le Buget and one of le Buget‘s specialities are… frog legs! Given my ancestry (and nicknames) it would be some sort of an heresy not to have some, wouldn’t it?
So we stopped in Morestel and I had some cuisses de grenouilles au beurre persillé (frog legs fried in butter and parsley) served with some zucchini and a gratin de crozet. So the stereotypes are indeed true, we froggies do it frogs. Deal with it. Only the legs are eaten and those were absolutely delicious, quite meaty and soft, almost swimming in melted butter. It is vital to eat is very warm. The gratin de crozet was a perfect way to complement consistency and flavors. Crozets are a very special sort of pasta, locally made with buckwheat or durum, cut very small in little square and dried. Some people think the name comes from “croé“, an old word from Savoie (a French area in the Alps) meaning “small.” Well, they are small, so why not? I really like them in gratin with some Beaufort cheese. They can also be made as a croziflette: an equivalent to the famous tartiflette, replacing potatoes. Anyhow, cheese, crème fraîche and potatoes or crozet: count me in!
French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget & Montbéliard
The rest of the day drive was uneventful, only stopping to get gas and buy some vin jaune. Yes, at the same place, one can get both in a supermarket in France, and much more. Yellow wine is a very special wine from le Jura. It would require a complete post (and stay) to describe the differences between white wine, sweet wine, port wine, fortified wine, etc. So Heso Magazine’s boss will have to send me back there!? In a nutshell it is made out of Gewürztraminer grapes and it is then matured in a wooden barrel (oak mostly) but not topped. Then a thin layer of yeast naturally forms (called le voile in French, the veil) and partially protects the wine from oxidation. This is a slow process as the veil typically takes about three years to form and the wine is ready around 6 years and some. The aromas are very rich: walnut, hazelnut, almonds, etc. but also sometimes cinnamon and grilled bread. It is not, however, a sweet desert wine. Needless to say it is worth going there only for that and can be enjoyed with countless food specialities involving the yellow wine in the cooking. Le Jura is a very attractive area when it comes to food. However, we had land to cover and were supposed to sleep in Montbéliard (Doubs, France) in order to have an easy drive the next day and reach Strasbourg (Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France) and eat a choucroute!
Montbéliard delivered the goods in terms of food and drinks… Here is what my partner in food crime has to say about it…
[words by Rowena Koh] From Montbéliard, meditations on the French and food
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the French, it’s that as much as they love to eat, they equally love to talk about food, especially while eating the food they’re talking about. Whether the conversation starts out on the mundane events of the day, the recent travels of a family friend, or something the neighbour said about the weather, always and eventually, the discussion reorients itself back towards the finding, preparation and eating of food. Yes, the French have earned a special place in my foodie heart.
A and I had our own culinary conversation at the simultaneously classy and homey L’Horloge in Montbéliard.
R : “That’s a whole wheel of cheese on your plate.”
A : “Yep.”
R : “A whole wheel! Just taken off the shelf and stuck in the oven. Just like that.”
A : “That’s totally normal.”
R : “But… it’s a whole wheel!”
I kept going on like that, with the Frenchman looking at me like an idiot. And in fact, it was explained to me, that before the wheel of cheese is stuck in the oven, it actually has a hole dug out of it into which white wine is poured. Yes, a whole wheel of cheese AND wine! I suppose my astonishment had to do with the fact that a wheel of this fresh, soft, creamy, mellifluously yummy l’edel de Cléron would most certainly cost more than what we paid for the entire dish itself at a supermarket in Canada.
That wheel of cheese in fact made up a tiny portion of what we found on our plates that night. La grande assiette regionale lived up to its name alright, with several slices of tender smoked ham, a rustic, country-style pate paired with pickled pearl onions and cornichons, local sausage (of course) prepared two different ways, a potato and onion fritter affectionately referred to as une rejetée (literally, something rejected), a slow poached egg, perfectly cooked until the whites were set and the yolk golden and velvety, and real, sinus-burning, dijon mustard. Oh yeah, salad too, served as a garnish more so than a side dish.
Such an overwhelming assortment of meaty and robust tastes and smells might cause the unfamiliar eater to gloss over the small pot of creamy liquid inconspicuously placed on the edge of the plate. Cancoillote is a delicious cheese with a consistency that makes you want to play with your food, running your knife through it before picking it up quickly, then allowing it, both runny like a thin custard and stretchy like mozzarella, to fall lazily back into the pot. It is made principally in the region of Franche-Comté by melting pure metton (the cheese) with some water or milk, and maybe salt and butter, then served either cold or warm. In this case, it was warmed and meant to be drizzled over everything on the plate.
As the cook mentioned to us as she made her rounds, they’re good eaters around those parts. “Better to have too much food on your plate than not enough,” she said. When the quality, diversity and coherency of the meal is as finely tuned as what we inhaled that night, it’s hard to argue with her. Plus, the more food there is on your plate, the more you have to talk about at your next family dinner.
Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip
After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!
After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.
What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.
After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!
Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.
This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.
What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg
And finally–though this is not the end–we must finish our French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine.