Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Table d'hôte and the Market

September 12, 2008 – Table d’hôte
We just experienced our first Table d’hôte. What’s that?! (We weren’t really sure what to expect, either.) Before we left the USA; Martine, the French teacher at Parkway South, had told us that a table d’hôte was a fun experience that was a good value for evening dining – and she was right! Basically, the owners of a country inn invite a limited amount of people (6-8) to have dinner in their home. We paid 20 Euros ($28.00) per person for the "mystery" meal and were told to arrive at 7:45PM. We weren't sure what to wear, so we opted to go dressier rather than casual – good idea. We watched for the other people to arrive and walked in with them (on time, not like in Spain). There were 8 of us – the two owners, a couple from Switzerland and a couple from France. Thank goodness three of them spoke English! The lovely table and candles set the mood and we were off – first course, pâté and goat cheese on small toasts served with a grapefruit liqueur mixed with rosé wine from Chinon ; second course a tiny glass of cucumber, garlic, crème fraiche, and avocado mousse; third course, sweet cantaloupe with Basque ham served with a red wine from Chinon; fourth course, salmon with julienned carrots and onions en papillote (that means it was baked in a little paper bag for each person), angel hair pasta with a cream sauce topped with shaved truffles; fifth course, a cheese course of three different local goat cheeses and a Brie; sixth course, a plum tart tatin; seventh and final course, coffee and liquors. We left the table at 10:45 after three hours of wonderful food and interesting conversation. Now we can’t wait for our next table d’hôte next week in Burgundy!

September 14, 2008 – The Market
Today is Market day here in Amboise and since we finally have our own kitchen, we wanted to take advantage of the fresh produce and local cheeses, meats and fruits sold there. We knew that we should carry our own cloth bags for the purchases, like the locals - and we did (but no one was fooled – I’m sure we looked like newbies, since we oohed and aahed at every display). Food, even at the market, is expensive; but a lot of it is organic. They really advertise it and that’s where you see all the locals buying. We saw whole rotisserie chickens for 12 Euros ($18.00), which is actually cheaper than they usually are. (We still didn’t buy one.) We stocked up on huge brown eggs, fresh butter, shallots, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, and local melons. One stand had fresh prunes that were outstanding (even Paul likes them!). When we threw our baguette of French bread in the sack and it stuck out the top, we felt like we were in a French movie.
After a stop at the regular grocery store for milk (no refrigeration necessary) and Diet Coke (so American!), we headed home for a great lunch. The windows are open (no screens, no bugs) and the temperature is in the mid 70s. So we’re off to visit the Château du Clos-Lucé (Leonardo Da Vinci’s home and gardens), which is about a 10 minute walk from our house this afternoon. We might have to stop for a pastry on the way back. I’m making it my mission to learn the names and flavors of all of them while we’re here – it may be difficult, but I’m going to keep at it!

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