Taste Unlocked Autumn Equinox 2015 in Chartres, France
Taste Unlocked 2015 was a great success. Our guests have returned to England, but the house reverberates with the still-fresh memories of their presence and the joys of good food, fine wine and the excellent company we shared. Happy souvenirs of their visit, a few unfinished bottles we tasted will be emptied in coming days, but we shall toast our special guests each time we partake.
I prepared traditional dishes from the Beauce region, using the recipes I’ve researched over the years and the best products from local farmers and producers. These were accompanied by what we consider our local wine, that of the Loire Valley, which starts less than 50 miles down the road from here.
We kicked off the weekend on Thursday over a dinner of locally farmed duck cooked in Eure-et-Loire apple cider and served with Beauce turnips and carrots and apples. This was followed by a curried green gauge plum sautée with Financier almond cake.
I launched the workshop on Friday morning with a discussion of the history of taste and how taste is perceived in different cultures. We then blind-tasted and analyzed various purées, trying to identify their salient characteristics.
Over a lunch of wild foraged mushrooms and pumpkin flan, we began our blind wine-tasting, with James Flewellen leading. On Friday evening, the Restaurant St-Hilaire treated us to a gala dinner using only local products. What a pleasure to know the name of those who provided every egg, every bacon bit, every vegetable, every fruit, even the flour for our bread, and to savor the freshness and flavor of their products. All the more so in the caring hands of such talented a chefs as Alexis and Julie Langevin.
James gave his first wine tasting class in the afternoon.
On Saturday morning, I took the group to the farmers market and introduced them to numerous farmers and producers. We then visited the 13th-century cellar of Cave St-Lubin, La Macaronnerie macaron and cake shop, the Maison Loos for some Mentchikoffs, a chocolate, praline and meringue specialty, and La Strasbourgeoise pork butcher to pick up the pâté de Chartres, a special pâté en croûte made of duck with foie gras in the middle. We bought the most delicious pickles in the world from an old woman in the market to go with our pâté, with which we did still another blind wine tasting.
Saturday afternoon was the occasion of another wine tasting class.
Saturday evening saw the celebration of the Autumn Equinox, with processions, dancing and music in the streets, as well as presentation of the new light shows on the façades of Chartres. We had an early dinner of Beauce rabbits braised in apple cider and veal broth with a mustard, mushroom and cream sauce, accompanied by Beauce pasta and braised pumpkin.
Sunday lunch was both wonderful and sad, because we knew our guests would soon be leaving. We celebrated with more blind wine tastings and a lunch of black pudding that the pork butcher made for this special occasion, accompanied by stewed apples, green beans and rosemary.
We’re already preparing Taste Unlocked 2016 for the June weekend preceding the Summer Solstice. Will you be coming?