We met a hometown hero tonight…Marc Meneau, who left his little town of St. Pere but came back and has spent the last 25 years developing vineyards and his Relais and Chateaux Inn and restaurant called L’Esperance. He wanted to show us his vineyards, and we were sitting on the patio of his elegant restaurant. He wanted to cook potatoes for us.
Who were we to say no? So after enjoying his ‘amuse de bouche,” a slender glass of whipped cream, caviar and beets, we jumped in our van and headed to the slopes. He showed us some little shoots that were encased in plastic. These were US vines that had been grafted to French vines to produce disease-resistant vines to grow Chardonnay.
We learned that in Burgundy, they only have two kinds of grapes. No blending here, no way, just Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Then we headed to a tiny cave where he opened up some of his recent vintages…crisp, refreshing chards, and then we were surprised when uniformed waiters showed up in the cave with plates of cheese puffs and long cheesy pretzels. Nice!
Dinner at his three-star establishment was, of course lavish. Among the most memorable dishes was “Les 4 Variants de Pomme de Terre.” One whipped with lots of butter, another cooked in a clay pot opened tableside, one that was tiny puffs that melted in your mouth and the last was a gratinee…potatoes, of course, done in innovative ways. Dessert, oh god no, but yes, a huge plate of pastries was the pre-dessert. The main event was lighter, raspberries with whipped cream.
We staggered into the salon to enjoy our postprandial decaf, and a few of us faded away to our rooms. I stayed chatting with Shonda, a writer from Houston who had never been to Europe before. I assured her that yes, they always eat this way, then a cute little Labrador puppy bounded into the dining room and we gave it sugar cubes and it sat down, sated.