Here we are again! Barbara over at Winos & Foodies has wrapped up everything that's great about wine, food and cycling and France into one big Gastronomic Tour de France. Here's the full list of participants, their blogs and links to keep your own pace by.
Every year the course for the Tour de France changes some stages ever so slightly. In 2005, Stage 6 began in Troyes. Fast forward 5 years and today's stage begins in the commercial capital of the Champagne region, Épernay just 88 miles east-northeast of Paris. Stage 5 is made for sprinters and for champagne drinkers.
Built on a chalk foundation the town is the key commercial center for the production of champagne. Most visitors will find themselves on the L'Avenue de Champagne where many well-known champagne producers including Moet Chandon, Perrier-Jouet and Champagne Mercier can be found. Most tourist information you will come across will say that this avenue is the most valuable–more so than Fifth Avenue or Champs Elysees due to the many bottles of champagne stored in the chalk cellar caves below. (I’m happy to house sit!)
Specialties of this region include andouillette de Troyes, a savory tripe sausage made from pork chitterlings and tripe, seasoned with fresh onion, salt, pepper and stuffed by hand into natural casings it is highly sought out. Another regional specialty is potee champenoise–a pot-au-feu consisting of jambon des Ardennes (smoked ham), cabbage and sausage.
And if you are looking for something new and different for your everyday salad dressings keep an eye out for Vinaigre de Reims or the more commonly named, champagne vinegar. It is an elegant way to mix things up as it is milder than most vinegars, you can use it with just a bit of oil and a pinch of sugar to create a tasty vinaigrette.
The boys of the Tour will dash across the plains and end up in Montargis, the second largest town in the Loire region. Medieval in looks with several canals and bridges it is sought out for it’s charm, honey, saffron and pralines. There is also a rubber factory where, as a young boy, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made shoes–but that is an entirely another story.
Most will want to locate the the shop from where these pralines were originally sold, Maison de la Praline, that visitors seeking to taste the original crunch confectionery made from almonds, and dissolved in sugar back during the rule of Louis XIII. The story goes they were created at the chateau the French soldier, diplomat, and sugar baron, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin. Pralines from New Orleans are made from the more readily-found pecan.
There is a piece of folklore found on the Southern CandyMakers site that, if not entirely factual is slightly plausible:
“A more playful account paints du Plessis-Praslin as a notorious ladies man, who asked his chef to come up with an irresistible treat he could present to the women he would court. He would put the sweet sugary nuts into little parcels marked with his name, so people began to call the sweets after him.”
The two recipes that follow make for a perfect Saturday lunch in the garden with a friend. You may want to pair with a glass or two of bubbles.
Salad au Lard (Potato, Bacon & Greens) (commonly found salad in Épernay)
Almond Praline (this is great broken up into bits and served over vanilla ice cream)
Because you may want to know more:
Splurge on the original from the source! Praslines of Montargis "Amandas"