Tour de France – Day 5 (Sancerre // Burgundy)

After waking up in Chavignol on the Fourth of July (just another day in France, of course), we headed for the town of Sancerre, with a cafe first on our list of stops. We found a cute little square, occupied at that moment mostly by cyclists, where we enjoyed our American coffees (because tasting wine at 10am is only ok if it isn’t the first beverage of your day).

We first visited the Maison de Sancerre, which was somewhat like a Sancerre vintners office, in which they had a small gallery, illustrating the terroir of Sancerre and the global climate changes over the millions of years that shaped the Sancerre area and make it unique. The many hills formed by the ocean once covering the area, the different soil types…all of it contribute to the unique style of Sancerre’s wines (sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, by rules of the AOC).

After we finished our tasting, we wandered around the town a bit to take some photos before hitting the road to Burgundy. Dave had been to the area back in March with his class, so he knew a little about what to expect. Since we couldn’t check into our airbnb place until 5pm, we stopped off at the famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vineyard to see where the wines, for which I once had to pre-cool my car and belt-buckle in to deliver, were made. Between the extensive photo op and the traffic around Beaune, we easily killed the two hours we had before check-in.

We immediately got situated in our airbnb “cottage” (a very cool old barn house, home to our hosts, also had a little adjoining “in-law” unit, where we stayed). We had booked for two nights in Corcelles-les-Arts, another small little village outside of the major city of Beaune (in Burgundy). By this time in the trip, the early mornings and late nights were catching up to us, so we let our very kind host recommend a spot for dinner. He even made the reservation for us at a grill, which I thought was appropriate, given my July 4th desire to have some form of red meat, preferably cooked on a BBQ—though the restaurant grill was as close as I was going to get in France.

At the restaurant, we were greeted with an aperitif, which was a sweeter-style rosé in a tiny glass, which was a cute welcoming. We sat down and while I ordered a salad with two crostini, topped with warm chevre, Dave opted for—wait for it—snails! Or, according to the menu, escargot. Ugh. Being that he is way more adventurous with food than I (though he’d had this dish before) he’s always trying to get me to taste bites of his dishes to expand my palate. After some prodding and a few snarky comments about how they were probably selected from the leaves of the finest lilies of the nile, he gave me one of his snails, which was coated in butter, parsley and garlic. It wasn’t half-bad, actually. Though, coat anything in butter, garlic and parsley, and you’ll have a better chance of me trying it. It wasn’t enough for me to have more, but if I was stuck on a desert island and snails were the only source of my nourishment, I suppose I could survive.

I was feeling pretty good about the whole experience, as I had enjoyed my salad. Being the cheese lover I am, I saved one cheesy crostini for last and sopped up some of the delicious dressing with a spare piece of bread, looking forward to the enjoyment that would come from consuming cheesy, toasted bread.

I should mention that, at some point in our early bird special (with a 7:30pm reservation, we had really brought the median age down a bit) a large group came in— about three couples and their kids, who occupied the long table in the middle of the room. We surmised that the large group threw the small waitstaff (two servers and the griller, who can only assume was Chef Gerard, since his name was on the wall and it was the only man we saw) for a loop, because the hustle picked up at the groups’ seating.

In the hustle of the ensuing chaos, Gerard whisked by and snatched my plate, the temporary home to my delicious, cheesy toast waiting to be enjoyed! I was flabbergast. The name of the dish is warm goat cheese salad! Did his just assume I didn’t want the whole reason one would order such a dish? It all happened incredibly fast and Dave and I just sat there for a minute, stunned, with our mouths gaping.

Sigh. Not awesome Gerard. Not awesome at all.

We tried to rationalize that it was probably because our entrees were ready (I with my steak and frites and Dave with the duck). It took a while for those to be delivered and the rationalization began to fizzle. Finally, our entrees were in fact brought to our table and as I fought the urge to ask for ketchup for my frites (fries) less I be the pain-in-the-ass American, I cut into my meat. Then I realized that Gerard has never worked a grill in his life. Ever. My medium entrecôte (a thin cut of beef to begin) was practically still moo-ing at me.

Then came the fun game of trying to flag down a server. When eating in France, I’ve noticed that servers prefer to let you enjoy the meal without interruptions. So if you need something, it’s sometimes on you to get up and initiate the request. I was thisclose to hopping up and giving Gerard the boot next to the grill that anchored a corner of the dining room. Finally, after a very long wait, we were able to flag down the poor server who didn’t speak English (as opposed to the one who met us and did speak English). Ugh. Not knowing how to explain, I started throwing out words like rouge and fume and four in an effort to make my point, all while using hand gestures, pointing between the grill and the meat. Finally, Dave was able to break through and she took it away, to be thrown back on. I have never had to send anything back before, but this was too much.

As Dave finished his duck, my meat finally made its way back to me, with a fresh plate load of frites, which I learned just yesterday from Dave, came back with a HAIR on them. It was a small and Dave said could very well have been his (we were sharing my refreshed frites) but just to safe and to save me from going “absolutely nuclear,” he opted to slyly remove it before I saw it. He probably made the right call but ew. Just ew. Never again “Salted Grill”. I can’t remember your French name but I will not be back. Bleh.

After such a long day, we headed for “home” and quickly to bed, as we had only one day to explore Burgundy.

Stay tuned….things look up from here!