Sunday, July 29, 2018

Wine and Food of the Tour de France 2018 Stage 21: Houilles to Paris Champs-Élysées

Where are we?
Houilles :A final first time stage city for our final day.
Houilles is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France. It is a northwestern suburb of Paris, located 14.2 km from the center of Paris.
LeTour suggests a different kind of race: The International pedestrian Corrida de Houilles, is one of the most prestigious 10-km road running races in the world. Every year in the end of December, it combines a festive atmosphere with the highest level in the sport. In 2013, the race received IAAF’s international label and now holds two races, a popular one and an elite one. IAAF then awarded Corrida de Houilles a Silver Label placing it along the Top 50 road races on the planet.
LeTour Specialties: Multicultural cuisine  (Gee, thanks LeTour)

Paris Champs-Élysées:
LeTour specialities: French cuisine, more than 13,500 restaurants  (also helpful, LeTour)


The stage:  To Paris! The final day of the Tour is always strange: riders drinking champagne on their bikes in a sort of ceremonial parade, followed by laps around Paris and a very intense bunch sprint. 
For most of the day, it is that celebration:




 As they circled Paris there would be an attack after Sylvain Chavanel's honorary time on the front. He'll be retiring at the end of the year.
With seven laps to go, Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Taylor Phinney (EF), Michael Schär (BMC), Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) and Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) were 24'' ahead of the pack. Nice to see Talyor Phinney, broken nose and all at the front. Bike issues for him finally resulted in a bike change. That was rather endless.

Nice to see Taylor make it back to that breakaway group.
Fifteen kilometers to go and that gap was only 20 seconds.
Hey, Alaphilippe with an attack. Doomed, but fun to see.
At the bell lap, all alone at the front Nils Politt. He would be caught quickly enough.
Time for the sprint. With so many of the big names gone, it would be interesting to see if an injured Sagan could pull it off. His team had certainly worked hard.
Late attack! The sprint was disrupted, but at the end: Kristoff.

The wine: Champagne Grongnet Carpe Diem Extra Brut NV
From CopakeWineWorks

From the producer, with some help from Google translate: In 1885 Edmond Grongnet acquires vines, then installs his press, always in his place of origin.
Since that time, 5 generations have succeeded each other at the head of the house, transmitting, like a ritual, the family know-how necessary for the elaboration of their champagne.

This wine, aged on a cork, gives rise to an extremely fine effervescence. The nose is both mineral and gourmand, complex.  The mouth is rich, structured. 

The food:  Honestly, choosing a food for Paris seems silly. But, for the record, I'm having a croissant. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Wine and Food of the Tour de France 2018 Stage 20: Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette

Where are we?
Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle: Another first time stage city here in the Basque country. Let's visit a museumEcomuseum of the pelota and xistera Pilotari:
Enter in Donamartia villa and let yourself be drawn into the world of Bask pelota.
Discover the secrets of making a xistera and a ball. Watch on a giant screen a pelota party demonstrations. Meet the great champions.
Saint-Pee- sur- Nivelle is located at the crossroads of major communication routes that connect the villages. Each has its own history with pelota but our village because of its location played a special role in this game, founder of the Bask soul as well as the language, song and dance.
Gantxiki , senpertar thirteen years old , son of a blacksmith , had the idea while playing with his buddy Halsouet Donamartia the farm to use a small wicker basket to throw the ball away.
LeTour specialties: Axoa de boeuf (spicy minced beef stew), tripoche d’agneau (sheep’s blood sausage in soup), dried sausages with Espelette pepper, trout, Basque cake

Espelette: Michelin tells me that: An ancient feudal settlement, Espelette's tortuous streets, lined with red and white Basque houses, stretch over a large area. It is a centre for growing red pimentos (which hang on houses and in kitchens), and is also famous for the little "pottok" horses which live semi-wild in herds on the uninhabited slopes of the mountains. Formerly used in mines, thanks to their docility and small size, these horses are ideal to carry luggage when out trekking.

LeTour specialties: The Espelette pepper or Ezpeletako Biperra (its great aromatic finesse and long-lasting flavour contribute its unique taste. Its fragrance and colour embellish the kitchen on a daily basis and it is used in dishes from aperitifs through to desserts), axoa de veau (spicy minced veal stew), piperade (onion, pepper and tomato dish flavoured with local pepper), Basque chicken, dark chocolate, Espelette pepper chocolate


The stage:  A time trial to decide the final podium in Paris. Geraint Thomas has enough of a gap and the ability to time trial, so his top step should be safe, but the gaps between 2, 3, and 4 are small. Keep in mind also that second through fourth overall made up the podium of last year’s world time trial championship, in that order. 
For other riders, it is mainly about surviving the stage to make it to Paris tomorrow, thought we could have an earlier rider challenge for the stage victory. Speaking of surviving, Peter Sagan did make it through the day yesterday, as did Taylor Phinney, who crashed into a tree and will be riding to today with a broken nose. Apparently he also can not fly with his injuries so while most riders will fly to the final stage, he'll be back on the team bus.
On the road, the early leader of the day was Michael Hepburn at 42:15.
Hovering over some of the injured riders:

A new leader on the road, by fractions of a second, Soler: 42.14.95.
As he takes his last Tour time trial start, LeTour is saying a fond farewell to Sylvain Chavanel:




The new leader: Soren Kragh Andersen at 41:43.
Coming in one second faster: Kwiatkowski. My fantasy league team celebrates.

Finally on course, Chris Froome and it was time to more closely start watching the clock. Next up Roglic, followed by Dumoulin, and finally, Geraint Thomas.

Did anyone go out too quickly? We'll know soon. Ahead, Jungels in two seconds slower than Kwiatkowski.
At the second check point, Dumoulin still two seconds behind Froome. Roglic was losing lots of time. Wow. Thomas in 12 seconds faster than Froome. 

Froome 40:52. The best time by 49 seconds. Yikes, Roglic 1:14 down on Froome and would lose his podium spot. Dumoulin ahead of Froome by fractions of a second. They would give him the lead by one second. Thomas slowed at the end, making the sensible choice.





The wine:  Domaine Ilarria Irouleguy
From San Francisco Wine Trading Company
From the importer
One of the appellation’s long standing producers is Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria.  In fact, until 1990, he was one of the two independent producers in the appellation.  Peio grew up in the region, a descendent of multiple generations that also inhabited the white stone house where he currently lives and works with his wife Lucie and two growing 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 environment, with hundreds of sheep graze the hills and where elongated white houses with red tile roofs dot the countryside.
Peio now farms 7 hectares of vines (just over 17 acres), located along the steep hillsides a couple of kilometers from his house.  He began eliminating the use of weed killers and synthetic chemical sprays in 2005 and is certified organic through Ecocert.  Since working organically, he feels he obtains a stonger, natural yeast formation within his vineyards.  While many producers in the region have carved out terrasses along the hillsides, Peio prefers to plant top to bottom, feeling it creates less erosion.  In addition, while many of the vineyards of Irouléguy are  planted on iron-rich, red soils, most of Peio’s plantings are gray limestone, which gives a particular mineral lift to the domaine’s wines.​

Food: Axoa from FrenchLetters

1 lb beef, ground coarse as for chili
1 lb veal, ground coarse as for chili
4 T. duck fat, or substitute olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine, divided use
1/2 small onion, sliced paper thin
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette powder, or to taste
3 bell peppers, 1 each red, green, and yellow, quartered and peeled with a vegetable peeler
3 T. olive oil, preferably a peppery, grassy one
1 heaping tsp. veal demi-glace, or use beef bouillon
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
Melt half of the duck fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the veal and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown and tender. Salt to taste only at the end of the cooking period. Remove veal to an ovenproof casserole dish and deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the wine. Scrape skillet into the casserole dish. Do not wash out the skillet.
Melt remaining duck fat in the same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until just browned.  Salt to taste only at the end of the cooking period.  Remove beef the casserole dish and deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the wine.  Scrape skillet into the casserole dish.   Do not wash out the skillet.
Dissolve the demi-glace or Better Than Bouillon in the water and pour into the casserole dish with the meat.  Stir all together and set aside.
For the vegetables:
While the meats are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 375°.
Heat half of the olive oil in the skillet and add the thinly sliced onion and the chopped garlic.  Add a pinch of salt, and 1/2 tsp of piment d’Espelette.  Let sauté together very gently over a low heat for 10 minutes.  You want the onions to melt, but not to brown.
Cut the peeled peppers into lengthwise strips, then cut the strips in half crosswise and add them to the boiling water.  I know you’re going to want to skip peeling the peppers, but the Basques believe that pepper skins are indigestible, and in fact the texture of the peeled peppers is an important part of the dish.  Just do it.  Let the peppers simmer for about 10 minutes while the onions cook, or until very tender but not falling apart.  Drain the peppers.
Add the onions to the meat mixture, deglaze the pan with the remaining wine, and scrape the pan into the casserole.  Add half of the peppers to the casserole and stir to combine, reserving the remaining half for garnish.
Cover the casserole dish and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Heat the remaining half of the olive oil in the skillet and gently sauté the garnish peppers until they are lightly golden around the edges. Set aside.
Remove casserole from the oven, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp of piment d’Espelette, or use more to taste.  Personally I like a lot more.  Make a colorful pattern on top of the casserole with the sautéed peppers and serve.
Nöel’s serving suggestion: serve with cubes of oven-roasted potatoes and green beans sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wine and Food of the Tour de France 2018: Stage 19: Lourdes to Laruns

Where are we?
Lourdes: The regional tourism site tells me that:  Cosmopolitan, magical and mythical… Lourdes is one of those extraordinary other worldly places. Each year more than 6 million visitors from more than 140 countries visit Lourdes. It was in 1858 in this small mountain town that a young girl called Bernadette saw 18 separate apparitions of the Virgin Mary in a cave close to the river. It is the second most visited town in France after Paris, but Lourdes possesses a calm and tranquillity to offer a place of prayer, charm and legend which leaves nobody insensitive.

To discover in Lourdes

  • The sanctuaries: In 1857 the Virgin Mary made 18 apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous, at the Massabielle grotto. Since then the sanctuaries have received millions of visitors of all nationalities and all faiths. This «Universal» site is accessible 24h / 24h and throughout the year welcomes visitors from the world over. Things to see : the Massabielle Grotto, the Basilica (Immaculate Conception, the underground Basilica Pius 10th, Our Lady of the Rosary, in the form of a cross), the crypt, the St Bernadette church, the Adoration tent, the Reconciliation Chapel and the exterior stations of the cross.
    Not to be missed is the torchlight procession which takes place every evening at 9pm from April to October.

  • A Visit to the Castle. Classed as a historical monument, it played a major part in Lourdes history during the 11th and 12th centuries. Since 1921 it houses a Pyreneam museum, one of the 'Museums de France', it possesses one of the most important collections on the history of the French and Spanish Pyrenees (costumes, furniture, rituals, agriculture, pastoralism, artisans...).
    The + are the wonderful botanical gardens on its terrace.
The Pic du Jer funicular railway. Easily recognised by the cross at the summit, the Pic du Jer towers over the town of Lourdes and offers a magnificent panorama over the Pyrenees.
The +: Access is by funicular railway, the summit which is at 1000m of altitude is then easily reached in just a few minutes.
LeTour specialties: Bigorre black pork, garbure (meat and vegetable stew), gâteau à la broche (spit-baked cake), Pyrenean cheese, Pailhasson chocolates, Malespine sweets

Laruns: A first time stage city! Francethisway tells me that:
Laruns is situated in a lovely setting the mountains of the National Park of the Pyrenees, 35 km south of Pau, in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department, with easy access to some of the finest scenery to be found in the Pyrenees.
Laruns village: The village itself contains some good examples of the typical Pyreneean architecture, as well as the 16th century village Church of Saint-Pierre and some houses with attractively designed lintels above the doors, also a large marble fountain in the main square. Although there are no great sites to detain you for long it is a pleasant town to explore.
Local events in Laruns: The weekly market in Laruns is held on a Saturday morning, and on Thursday evenings during the summer. On the 15th August each year there is a traditional dance, in costume, held in the village, and there is an important regional cheese fair held here the first Sunday in October by the local cheese producers.
LeTour specialties: Lamb, garbure (meat and vegetable stew), Ossau cheese


The stage:  Our final mountains of thus year's Tour and almost immediately we had attacks to create a break.

By kilometer 58, there was a group of 18 riders in the lead: Jungels, Barguil, Kangert, Mollema, Nieve, Izagirre, Yates, Alaphilippe, Chavanel, Vichot, Amador, Slagter, Dillier, Burghardt, Bennati, Hardy, Postlberger, and Gaudin. Their gap was 3:25.
Visibly struggling on the day: Peter Sagan, after his crash earlier this week.
It would be a long day for him.

The riders wouldn't have the chance to enjoy it, but lovely scenery today:

On the road, the front group was breaking up as riders dropped off the back. Excellent news: Julian Alaphilippe crested the col d'Aspin in first position. He had mathematically won the King of the Mountains classification of the 105th Tour de France and I was delighted.
With 112 kilometers remaining, there was 12 riders in the lead group:
Adam Yates and Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels (Quick Step), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Warren Barguil and Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Andrey Amador and Daniele Bennati (Movistar), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).


With 100 kilometers to go, Adam Yates and Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels (Quick Step), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) had a  2:30 lead over Bardet, Zakarin and Landa.

Sky continued to look unconcerned.

At the downhill in Luz-Saint-Sauveur, the six leaders and the five chasers were separated by :25. the yellow jersey group was 2:50 behind. Sagan's group was 19 minutes back.
With 65 kilometers to go, our leaders were Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels (Quick Step), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Mikel Landa and Andrey Amador (Movistar), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). They had three minutes over the peloton and Landa was in virtual second place overall.
Virtual standing with 55 kilometers to go:
1 Thomas
2 Landa +1’19”
3 Bardet +1’58”
3 Dumoulin +1’59”
5 Froome +2’31”

That front group would start to attack each other. Done for the day, Alaphilippe, who set a new record  earlier: Since the inception of the HC category in 1979, five riders were holding the record of cresting three HC climbs in first position: Gert-Jan Theunisse in 1989, Tony Rominger in 1993, Richard Virenque in 1995, Thomas Voeckler in 2012 and Warren Barguil in 2017. Julian Alaphilippe has now set an all-time record with four: Glières, Bisanne, Madeleine and Tourmalet.
DNF: Jelle Vanendert who had been riding alone for most of the day.
Forty five kilometers to go and the gap to the yellow jersey group was down to 2:15.

Attacking from the yellow jersey group: Kruijswijk. Sky would simply let him go.
Up front, Landa and Bardet would attack the lead group and get a gap. They would soon be joined by Majka.
Behind, Dumoulin tried, but he was chased down immediately. Off the back of that group, Quintana. Dumoulin would try again but Thomas was glued to his back wheel.
To be honest, even as a Geraint Thomas fantasy team owner, I miss Nibali.
Attack by Roglic. He was followed by Froome, Thomas, and Dumoulin.  He would kick again and Froome would struggle.
They would reach Kruijswijk, leaving Thomas isolated.
Meanwhile with 30 kilometers to go, Zakarin was back with Landa, Bardet and Majka at the front. Their gap was around 30 seconds.
On the descent, some regrouping in the gc group as Froome, Martin and Bernal made it back.

As the yellow jersey group closed in an attack by Majka, hoping for a stage win. He had a small gap.
More attacks and yellow jersey group was shrinking again as the neared the top of the climb.
Next up, twenty kilometers of downhill. The mist would add to the drama. Not that far into that descent and they would catch Majka. 
Roglic at least seemed to be enjoying himself. Cue yet another ski-jumping reference from the commentators.
Roglic in fact was descending so well and he got a gap on the group.

Two kilometers to go and he had 17 seconds. He would hold on, gaining valuable seconds before the time trial tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be interesting:


TEAM SKY 79h 49' 31'' -

TEAM SUNWEB 79h 51' 36'' + 00h 02' 05''

TEAM LOTTO NL - JUMBO 79h 51' 55'' + 00h 02' 24''

TEAM SKY 79h 52' 08'' + 00h 02' 37''

TEAM LOTTO NL - JUMBO 79h 54' 08'' + 00h 04' 37''

MOVISTAR TEAM 79h 54' 11'' + 00h 04' 40''

AG2R LA MONDIALE 79h 54' 46'' + 00h 05' 15''

UAE TEAM EMIRATES 79h 56' 10'' + 00h 06' 39''

MOVISTAR TEAM 79h 59' 57'' + 00h 10' 26''

TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN 80h 01' 20'' + 00h 11' 49''

The wine:  Domaine Ameztia Irouleguy
From the San Francisco Wine Trading Company

They say: The Costera family has been producing wine since the 17th century, most of which was sold off. In 2001 Jean-Louis Costera built a new facility with the intention of crafting world-class Irouleguy and they haven't looked back. The wine has golden apple, ripe pear, hints of honeysuckle and a stony minerality.

The food: Presse de porc noir de Bigorre au sautoir, physalis compotés au Pineau des Charentes (“Presa” of Black Pork of Bigorre in the pan in physalis and Pineau des Charantes sauce) from LeTour
20 km from Lourdes, in St Savin, the restaurant Le Viscos was a favourite of former Tour de France TV commentator Jacques chancel and it became one of the favourite eateries of many seasoned Tour followers. The recipe is from its chef Alexis Saint-Martin and is made from black pork of Bigorre and a maize paste.
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
- 2 pieces of “presse” (Spanish “presa”) of black pork of Bigorre
- 500 grams of physalis
- 20 centilitres of veal stock
- 2 bunches of thyme
-  shallots
- 100 grams of maize flour
- ½ litre of chicken broth
- 10 grams of butter
- 1 bottle of Pineau des Charentes (75 cl)
- Salt, pepper
Cut the physalis according to their size. Slice the shallots.
Realisation of the touradisse: bring the chicken broth to a boil and incorporate in it the maize flour. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet.
Cooking: In a pan, sear the presses and set them aside on a roasting tray on a bed of thyme. Bake at 180 ° for 8 to 10 minutes, turning regularly. Degrease the pan and fry the shallots. Add the physalis. deglaze with Pineau des Charentes, then add the veal stock. Reserve the physalis.
Filter and rectify the seasoning. Cut the touradisse into 6 triangles and slightly fry them in an anti-adhesive pan.
Dressing: slice the “presse” into thin slices. In the center of the plate arrange the touradisse and deposit the slices of press harmoniously. Cover the touradisse with the reduction of physalis and Pineau des Charentes.