Sunday, July 18, 2021

Wine & Food of Le Tour 2021, Stage 21: Chatou to Paris

Where are we? Heading to the finish in Paris.
Chatou:Le Tour embraced art: Arriving by the Chatou bridge, you only have to look at the Seine and its banks to feel the change of scenery. The whole environment is bathed in blue-green hues: the water of the river, the trees, the bushes along it and the sky. You notice immediately that you are in the land of the Impressionists. One of the main reasons for the enthusiasm of artists and strollers for the banks of the Seine was the construction, in 1837, of the first passenger railway linking Paris Saint-Lazare station to Le Pecq. Painters, poets and with them the whole Parisian bohemian scene flocked there. Some sought inspiration in the landscape, others simply sought entertainment or fresh air. Renoir, Manet, Monet and Caillebotte came to soak up the ever-changing atmosphere of nature and the brilliance of its colours and to enjoy the guinguettes along the banks between Chatou and Croissy. 
The painters brought along the poets and writers, notably Guy de Maupassant, a canoeist in his spare time. They lunched and boozed at the famous Fournaise restaurant. This inn stands in the heart of the Impressionists' island, as well as the Maison Levanneur, located a few blocks away. On Sunday afternoons, bourgeois, artists, poets and young onlookers enjoyed good food, chatting, boating and partying. The best-known testimony to those happy moments is Auguste Renoir's famous painting Luncheon of the Boating Party. Around 1902, a new generation of painters, also inspired by the place, proposed a new artistic approach. It seems that this place has a magical power over artists! André Derain, born in Chatou, and Maurice de Vlaminck, originally from Le Vésinet, thus gave birth to Fauvism. Despite the vicissitudes of time and the urbanistic fashions of the 1970s and 80s, the town has managed to preserve a unique atmosphere. A town of gardens, it hides real heritage wonders that will surprise visitors.

Paris: Time for Le Tour to send us to one final art museum: Every visit to Paris should include a stop by the Louvre to discover the countless treasures in the French capital’s largest museum. It displays works of art from the Western world from the Middle-Ages to 1848 but also from the ancient Eastern, Egyptian, Greek or Roman civilisations as well as graphic arts and items from the Muslim World. From room to room, the former royal palace reveals more masterpieces: Mona Lisa, The Raft of the Medusa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace.
In all, some 35,000 works of art. In eight centuries, the Louvre followed several architectural movements from the 12th century medieval fortress to the 1989 glass pyramid by Pei. The latest addition was the wing designed by architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti and housing the Arts of Islam, an undulating glasshouse covering the Visconti courtyard and flooding with light the 2,800 sq. metres of the new department. Visting the museum is especially pleasant during night sessions. With fewer people the, the Louvre display a different atmosphere and striking panoramic views over the Pyramid, the Cour Carrée and the Seine.

Le Tour specialties:
Chatou: No specialties listed
Paris:My favorite, every year:  French gastronomy, over 13,500 brasseries and restaurants

Christian Prudhomme saysChatou is the happy “chosen one” for this fourth consecutive start of the final stage in the department of the Yvelines that will carry on doing so until 2023. The Yvelines has become a land of cycling, it has indeed welcomed the start of Paris-Nice for ten years now and will be hosting the discipline (road, track, mountain bike and BMX) for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The stage: Is this the most stressful final stage in a long time? Well, I suppose that depends upon whether or not one is a Cav fan. For tyhe record, I'd love him to take the win and the record, but am also not looking forward to the announcers talking of little else. But first, the processional. Off they went.
One hundred and forty one riders were on their way to Paris. 
Nice scenery. On the road, they had covered 30.8 uneventful kilometers in the first hour. 
I have said this before, but I first became interested in professional cycling because I was randomly in Paris for the final day and was fascinated by the festive atmosphere. We watched from the Louvre, so i always enjoy this part.
Or in video form.  
And then, the ceremony would end and we would have a bike race. In the lead, Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Casper Pedersen (DSM) and Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal). Pedersen would drop quickly.
At the sprint point, Cavendish grabbed the remaining points from the field to help protect the green jersey.
A new leading trio: Alaphilippe, Gilbert and Schelling. The attacks would, as expected keep coming, with small groups forming and being caught.
And there would be no joy in mudville today, as Wout Van Aert with the win! I will console myself with the reminder that pre-Tour it would have been hard to imagine the record even as a possibility. It has been a pleasure. 

The wineChampagne Augustin Cuvee Le Feu CCCI 2013
From an importer: Champagne Augustin is Emmanuelle and Marc Augustin. Between them they represent nine generations of winemakers. Now, with 2 sons of their own, they run Marc's family estate located in Avenay-Val-d’Or in the slope above famed Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. They grow both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though the majority of their cuvees are dominated by Pinot Noir. Since 2012 they have been farming organically with a full force switch to biodynamics in 2013. Every aspect of their winery follows biodynamic and holistic practices. The winery was built while adhering to biodynamic principles, the vines, cultivated by Emmanuelle, are grown with cover crops utilizing biodynamic preparations. The vines are not pruned in Spring but braided so as not to hurt the living plant. Harvest is of course by hand and happens following the lunar cycle on a Flower day, deemed the best day for harvest. Marc, responsible in the cellar, crafting the wines, a term he prefers, has created a philosophy called coeurviculture which means following the heart and being attentive to nature. Marc and Emmanuelle's belief that the vine and the resulting wine they craft is a living organism truly permeates every aspect of their domaine. Following these principles of harmony, their extraordinary Champagnes, named after the elements: Terre (Earth), Air, Feu (Fire) are balanced and nuanced, their complexity making them truly gastronomical as well as celebratory.

The food: Le Tour taught me something: The Paris mushroom
Known in France as the Paris mushroom, its real name is agaricus bisporus, and it is known in English as common mushroom, white mushroom and a dozen other names. It was first cultivated under Louis XIV in Versailles and then under Napoleon in the catacombs of Paris. Hence its name. But it was only at the end of the 19th century that its cultivation developed, not in Paris, but in Touraine and the Saumur region. As the bispore agaric is the easiest mushroom to grow in a mushroom house, it quickly conquered the whole planet and is nowadays produced mainly in China and the United States.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Wine & Food of Le Tour 2021, Stage 20: Libourne to Saint Emilion

Where are we?
Visiting Bordeaux.

Saint Emilion: Le Tour says: 
Saint-Emilion is a medieval city surrounded by vines, internationally renowned and visited by many tourists each year (around 1,500,000). Spearheading its territory, the town also offers a large number of services in various fields necessary for local life.
With Saint-Emilion, UNESCO has for the first time listed a wine-growing area as a world heritage site. Happiness and pride throughout the jurisdiction. Saint-Emilion, its vineyards and its landscape have been listed by UNESCO since 1999. Only a handful of remarkable sites deserve such a distinction.

Le Tour Specialties:
Saint Emilion: wines, Saint-Emilion macaroon (since the 17th century)

Christian Prudhomme says:The prestigious vineyard setting will make the athletic performance all the more impressive and will remind many of the Bordeaux-Pauillac time-trial in 2010 when Fabian Cancellara had beaten Tony Martin by 17 seconds. And drama should be well present on the day as the end of Tour time-trials have that vocation to decide who will conquer that final Yellow Jersey.
The stage: On paper a deciding time trial, but it may only be deciding minor places. Our early leader:
In off the road news. Andre Greipel has announced his retirement at the end of the year. I will miss his videos. Also announcing that this would be his last Tour, Philippe Gilbert.
Nice picture: Next into the hot seat, Kasper Asgreen. Kung looked like he would challenge him, but came in second.
Nice field art:  Eventually into the hot seat, Wout Van Aert.


The wine: Closeries Des Moussis Gisele Bordeaux Blanc 2016
Christy says: This is their Bordeaux Blanc which is heavy on the Muscadelle, the grape that usually plays third fiddle in the white wines from the region. Lees contact gives some texture to the wine without weighing it down. There's a slight oxidative nuttiness to it which compliments the low-key citurs and herbal notes that keep it fresh and vibrant. Great with cream-based dishes, all your stinkiest cheeses, or on its own.

The Food: Saint-Emilion macaroon
From Pascal Rigo, in the LA Times


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond paste and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture obtains the consistency of a fine meal, about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. (Or pulse in a food processor, then place in the mixing bowl.) Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until well combined, about 5 minutes.


With the mixer still on low speed, add the egg whites about a teaspoon at a time, making sure each addition of egg whites is incorporated before adding any more. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl midway through mixing. If there are any lumps, stop adding the egg whites and continue mixing until the mixture is smooth. Resume adding the egg whites very, very slowly until they are completely incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.


Slowly add the cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you have added 2 teaspoons, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Stop adding water once the mixture looks shiny. You may not need to use all 3 teaspoons. Transfer the finished batter to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fit a piping bag with a three-quarter-inch, No. 9, stainless-steel round tip and fill the bag with the macaroon batter. Pipe the batter into slightly rounded disks, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, onto the baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Dab the center of each disc with a damp paper towel to flatten any peak.


Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until set on the sides. The edges should be light brown and the surfaces lightly crinkled with small, fine cracks. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macaroons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently remove from the paper backing. You also can cut between the rows of cookies with scissors and store them with their paper backing. The macaroons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Wine & Food of Le Tour 2021, Stage 19: Mourenx to Libourne

Where are we? Leaving the Pyrenees.
Mourenx: Le Tour tells an interesting story: To accompany the discovery of the natural gas deposit at Lacq and the development of an industrial complex, the first new town in France was built in 1958 near a village of 200 souls: Mourenx. This "mushroom" town was built at an extremely fast pace and a few years later had almost 12,000 inhabitants. A striking project in the rural landscape of Béarn: General de Gaulle in 1959 and Nikita Khrushchev in 1960 came to measure the extent of this symbolic construction site of the Sixties and the industrial development of France.
At the heart of this immense and modern building site, the first inhabitants invented a social life and gave a collective soul to the city. They were called "The Pioneers". Mourenx then became a formidable human adventure thanks to the strong solidarity that was established within this young population coming from various territories and backgrounds. This state of mind and this particular atmosphere are still anchored in the town's DNA: life in the neighbourhoods, a wealth of associations and culture, urban renewal and modern infrastructures...
The town of Mourenx remains closely linked to the industrial basin where international companies and start-ups are driving the conversion to renewable energies and the chemistry of tomorrow.The urban landscape has also undergone profound transformations. Rehabilitation, demolition and reconstruction have followed one another for more than 10 years to create a new town that is greener and more accessible to all.

Libourne: Le Tour is sending us surfing: The Libourne tidal bore is surfed by riders from all over the world because the Dordogne wave is unique. As it moves rapidly over the water coming in from the ocean, this spectacular natural phenomenon swells, slips, breaks, foams, reappears, breaks in the Dordogne river bed and moves inland to Libourne and beyond, over 100 km from the ocean. In France, the Libourne tidal bore is number one. Some celebrities like Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard have made a habit of coming to surf this exceptional wave every year.

Le Tour Specialties:
Mourenx:  Jurançon wines, Roussanne fishing (since the 16th century), Béarn cider, cheeses, ice cream... and all the specialities of Béarn
Libourne:wine (3 renowned appellations in the commune Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol...), lamprey à la Bordelaise (river fish similar to eel), bouchon du Vigneron (biscuit, a Libourne speciality)

Christian Prudhomme saysOn the traditional “Landes stage”, one logically predicts a bunched sprint based on the number of sprinters still in the race after surviving the mountains. But will they be able to master the events and circumstances? Redesigned and coming after three weeks of racing, it could also suit a courageous adventurer.

The stage: The question of the day was: will Cavendish's team have the legs to keep the break close, to give him a chance at 35? Or were there legs tired from the mountains and they could not control things?
It was not an easy start to the stage with crashes and some anger in the peloton. Eventually, there would be a group of twenty in the front: Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Julien Bernard, Jasper Stuvyen, Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Ballerini (DQS), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Michael Valgren, Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo), Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic), Casper Pedersen (DSM), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Ion Izagirre (Astana), Simon Clarke, Max Walscheid (Qhubeka-NextHash), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Franck Bonnamour (B&B-KTM), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious).
Eighty five kilometers to go and their gap was 1:50. Seventy seven to go and it was out to four minutes.
Cav seemed content.
Sixty five kilometers to go and the gap was more than seven minutes. Fifty five kilometers to go and it was ten minutes. As they rode along, attacks from within the break and they would eventually split.
I was enjoying the scenery.
Twenty sic kilometers to go and Mohoric attacked off the front of the break.  Seventeen kilometers to go and he had about fifty seconds. Eleven kilometers to go and he had forty seconds. Behind him, the chase continued to attack each other.
The peloton, by the was, was eighteen minutes back.
Mohoric would hold on for the win!
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious4:19:17
2Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis0:00:58
3Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM
4Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:01:08
6Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo
8Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies
10Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo  

The wineCloseries Des Moussis Debordant 2017
Christy says: Pascale Choime and Laurence Alias founded this micro-winery in 2008. These two friends have created a beautiful anomaly in the land of big Bordeaux: lady run, micro-scale, organic farming integrated with biodynamic principles, and lovely, elegant wines made with a light touch.

This bottling includes fruit from both Blaye (within Bordeaux) and Duras (not Bordeaux) so it's tecnhincally a Vin de France, not a Bordeaux. It's a blend of malbec and merlot, so the fruit leans a little deeper and darker (think dark cherries with a whiff of cocoa power) than your usual merlot-dominated Bordeaux.

The food: Béarnaise Sauce 
, recipe from Epicurious


    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
    • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon


    1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper; stir to coat. Stir in vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vinegar is evaporated, 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking shallots, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer shallot reduction to a small bowl and let cool completely.
    2. Meanwhile, fill a blender with hot water to warm it; set aside. Melt remaining 1 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is foamy. Transfer butter to a measuring cup.
    3. Drain blender and dry well. Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water in warm, dry blender. Purée mixture until smooth. Remove lid insert. With blender running, slowly pour in hot butter in a thin stream of droplets, discarding milk solids at bottom of measuring cup. Continue blending until a smooth, creamy sauce forms, 2-3 minutes. Pour sauce into a medium bowl. Stir in shallot reduction and tarragon and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. 
    4. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Wine & Food of Le Tour 2021, Stage 18: Pau to Luz Ardiden

Where are we? Climbing in the Pyrenees.

Pau: A stage town for the 73rd time!  So, we've been here before.  Michelin tells me that: Pau is the birthplace of Henri IV and wears its royal past in a discreet and refined manner, as shown by this château. Located at the gates to the Pyrenees, it is steeped in nature, which lend life here its pleasant quality, as sought by the English in the 19C. Their contribution to the city was a love of horses and the sumptuous villas of the Trespoey neighbourhood. Today, with its "Horizons Palois" project, Pau is set to play its trump card and distinguish itself with dynamism. 

Luz Ardiden: A ski resort in the Pyrenees. Let Tour tells me that: This sunny village, situated at an altitude of 711m in the heart of the perched villages of the Pays Toy and the most beautiful listed sites in the Pyrenees (Gavarnie, Pic du Midi, Cauterets Pont d'Espagne and Lourdes), is appreciated for its cultural heritage as well as for the character of its traditions. Victor Hugo wrote: "This village, they named it Luz, which means light", when he stayed in Luz-Saint-Sauveur in 1843 in front of the church.

Le Tour specialties
Pau:  garbure, poule au pot, foie gras, magret and other dishes derived from duck and goose, honey, coucougnettes du Vert Galant (roasted almonds coated in dark chocolate and raspberry marzipan), Verdier chocolates, Francis Miot jams, "Russe" (almond cake and praline cream), ossau-iraty (cheese), wines (Jurançon, Madiran, Pacherenc).

Luz Ardiden: PDO Barèges-Gavarnie mutton, garbure (peasant soup), pastet (typical dish of the Pays Toy made from buckwheat flour), blueberry tarts and pies, spit cake, craft beers from the Pays Toy.

Christian Prudhomme says: Dense, tense, selective with the climbs up two giants of the Pyrenees: the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden, where the verdict of the final mountain battle will be known. The climbing type leaders will have to find a way to gain enough time in the GC on those who are better in time-trials.

The stage: The last mountains and they went big.
And look, Alaphilippe in the break.
That group would stay away for quite a while, eventually reaching the main course of today's stage.<
As they climbed the Tourmalet, a group of Valentin Madouas, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Omar Fraile (Astana), Ruben Guerreiro (EF), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) and Ion Izagirre (Astana)  caught the two remaining leaders, Alaphilippe and Mohoric.
Four kilometers from the summit and it was a group of four, Latour Alaphilippe, Gaudu and Guerreiro. As they climbed Alaphilippe would drop and be quickly absorbed by the peloton.
Result at col du Tourmalet with polka dot jersey points, something that only a few of these riders actually cared about. 
1. Pierre Latour, 20 pts
2. Gaudu, 15 pts
At 25’’ :
3. Guerreiro, 12 pts
4. Poels, 10 pts. (88 total)
5. Fraile, 8 pts
At 35’’:
6. Woods, 6 pts. (72 total)
At 50’’ :
7. Van Aert, 4 pts (68 total)
8. Vingegaard, 2 pts
Next up was a dramatic descent. 
Behind: Twenty five kilometers to go and Poels, Latour, Guerreiro and Fraile were 45'' behind Gaudu with the peloton at one minute. Twenty kilometers to go and the peloton had reached the chase group.
As they reached the climb, Gaudu was twelve seconds ahead. The yellow jersey group had been large, but it was shrinking rapidly as they climbed. Under ten kilometers to go and they caught Gaudu. 
Would attacks come?
The remaining riders in the lead group were Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonathan Castroviejo, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Rafal Majka, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Enric Mas, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Wilco Kelderman, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo), Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citröen), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Wout Poels, Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious). That group would continue to shrink.
Eventually attacking, Pogacar! Going with him were Carapaz, Kuss, Vingegaard and Mas. After a final attack, coming in for the solo win, Pogacar.


The wineDomaine Ilarria Irouléguy Blanc 2018
From the importer: One of Iroulegy’s longstanding producers is Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria. In fact, until 1990, he was one of just two independent producers in the appellation, which was traditionally dominated by the cooperative. Peio grew up in the region, a descendant of multiple generations who also inhabited the white stone house where he currently lives and works with his wife Lucie and their two boys. In this part of the Pyrénées, where the mountains begin to lose altitude as they weave their way toward the north of Spain, large domes of green grass cover the mounds—more so than snow that covers the granite peaks seen further east. It is a bucolic setting, with hundreds of sheep grazing the hills and where elongated white houses with red tile roofs dot the countryside.
A blend of 60% Petit Courbu and 40% Petit Manseng from limestone soils, with a skin-contact maceration for the Petit Manseng, followed by malolactic fermentation and aging in tank and (sur lie) in barrel for the blended wine. A pleasantly round wine, this dry white is marked by tropical fruit notes. A highly ageable white, it can be paired with the regional cheeses as well as chicken and pork dishes.

The food: le Ruuse recipe from Meilleurduchef

Ingredients for 6-8:

  • For the Russe biscuit:
  • 125g tant pour tant
  • 25g flour
  • 40g milk
  • 5 egg whites
  • 25g sugar

Before starting this Russe recipe, make sure you have organised all the necessary ingredients.
Combine the tant pour tant, milk and flour together with a wooden spatula.
The preparation should have a soft consistency.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, until stiff peaks form.
When stiff...
... add the castor sugar...
... and continue whipping for 10 minutes.
Add 1/5 of the egg whites to the soft preparation...
... to make it more liquid and homogeneous.
10 Pour the liquid preparation over the rest of the beaten egg whites...
11 ... and combine gently, using a rubber spatula.
12 Pour the preparation on a baking sheet (40 x 30cm), slightly greased...
13 ... and lined with baking parchment, slightly greased as well. Spread the preparation with a cranked spatula.
14 Sprinkle the whole surface with icing sugar.
15 Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4) and bake for 10 minutes.
16 The biscuit should rise a little and remain soft. Make sure you do not overcook the biscuit.
17 When cooked, remove from the oven. Cut the biscuit in two identical parts.
18 For an easier assembly operation, you can use an expandable frame Set the frame to the dimensions of one biscuit half.
19 Using a pastry scraper, scoop the crème au beurre. The amount of praliné used will vary according to the desired intensity.
20 Spread the crème au beurre into a thin, even layer.
21 Place the second biscuit half on top.
22 Gently press with your hands to make the layers more compact.
23 Leave in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
24 Once the cream has set, remove the frame (slide the blade of a knife between the frame and the cake if necessary).
25 Using a serrated knife, trim the edges...
26 ... to create a perfectly neat rectangle.
27 Sprinkle the whole surface...
28 ... with icing sugar. Place in a nice serving dish and refrigerate until ready to serve.