Saturday, April 29, 2006

from Apremont, France: horses, horses, horses…(and lobsters).

For a little village (with no Internet), this place has a handful of nice surprises.

When gray stone houses have high stone fences and dense hedges, you get that itch to find an opening and look inside. Shocking color! Little gardens built into rocks and along paths, trees so full of blooms you have to wonder why they are this excited to let it all out.

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Ocean colors

It’s horse country here. Not because of the proximate Chantilly racetracks. They graze and raise their horses in Apremont for the sole purpose of playing polo. How do I know this? I walk past the fields and I see this:

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But the village itself is really small. From the point of view of commerce, there is one tabac and one country restaurant. That is it.

The chef has been cooking up local foods in the kitchen of this particular country auberge for some thirty years. Does food ever become predictable? No. And that's just excellent. You do not want to go out of your way to find food and realize that the place offers no surprises. Not a problem at the Auberge. The seasonal Brittany lobster is splendidly presented: boiled, broiled, baked, wrapped in aspic, creamed in a bisque. There are just a few locals in the dining room. They all choose the lobster run. Me and them, them and me. Community over lobster tails.

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pancake wrapped lobster in aspic, radish custard, chutney, parmesan cookie

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lobster bisque

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spiced tail, two types of a potato, one type of everything else.

God, what a way to start a trip. I justify the indulgence by pointing out that it is Ed’s only night in France and tomorrow we’ll be hosted by Germans and who knows what will appear on our plates. I imagine they have a different attitude about food, there, in the villages of Germany. When I was a teenager, I spent a month in Eastern Germany (because I am Polish and I guess one needs to show a sign of neighborliness even if I’m not altogether sure the feeling was historically reciprocated). Don’t much remember the food. Given me, that says a lot.

So indeed, the meal is splendid. Chef Jean Claude smiles endlessly. I want to hug and kiss him but realize that such a display of affection may be misinterpreted.

Nothing left then but for me to wake up the next day before dawn and venture forth for a morning walk, just to see those earliest beams assert themselves on the stone walls.

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Followed by a basket of croissant type pasteries and then a frantic effort to catch the proper and timely train into Germany. It becomes cold and drizzly in central Europe. Figures.

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layers of croissants

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to Germany, for now.

P.S.: No, no Internet access here in Buren, Germany either. Not even dial up at the hotel. I infiltrated the proprietor's private office to post this. Man, I am brazen. I post now to the audible belly-laughter from the floor below. Good thing they're all preoccupied with late night week-end indulgences or else I'd never have coaxed anyone to let me work here, behind the kitchen doors.