Went for a country drive through the Drome (with two blind people stuffed into the backseat of our rented Toyota Yaris), the dramatic landscape accented by fast-moving clouds. Fifteen shades of beige, rocky fields with small bunches of new lavender starting to bush out above the furrows, wheat, a few vineyards for Clairette, then fruit trees in the higher plateau, backed by striated cliffs with flat tops, backed further by craggy snow-capped mountains.
It looked bleak and freezing out and the wind was blowing, but it was strangely warm, having switched from a frigid north wind to something blowing up from Algiers.
As we’ve done throughout most of the trip we had our main meal midday, today in the shadow of the cathedral in Die (pronounced Dee, thankfully). It was a warm and charming place where we’d hoped to meet up with Manouche’s brother, an old hippie, ex-chef/restauranteer, and apparent all-around character.
B2 and Manouche had sweetbreads in a creme fraiche sauce, M. with a side of ubiquitous frites and dad with a beautiful (and massive) plate of veggies: endive, ratatouille, zuke, string beans…. The French don’t share bites and pass plates around, more on that later, and Dad, guarding his personal space like a longtime resident of San Quentin apologized between bites that no one was getting a taste of his (though he was strangely generous with his greens). I was torn between outrage and pleasure that he was enjoying it that much. I love sweetbreads, but like foie gras, I want a taste, or an appetizer, not a full plate. And it’s a sad fact of life in the US that you’re only going to find sweetbreads on the menus of fancy restaurants, not some casual lunchtime place in the shadow of a 16th century church.B1 had kidneys (sorry to the faint of heart for our penchant for odd cuts of meat) in a crisp phyllo drenched with an ambrosial mustard cream sauce, and I the full menu for a mere 13 euro: dressed frisee topped with a poached egg wrapped in an eggy crepe (I’ve decided everything is better with a poached egg); chicken leg and thigh in a half french (creme fraiche and butter) half morrocan (bitter lemon and cumin) sauce that was utterly unique to my tastebuds, overcooked but tasty zucchini, so-so apple / pear tart, and a personal pitcher (two glasses) of ridiculously good vin rouge du maison.
I swear most days we only eat one meal a day…though I’m still managing to feel sausaged into my baggy jeans. With my heart out so much and the b’s inability to walk much, this has definitely been a most sedentary trip. Even by my standards.
Afterwards, for a bit of exercise (heh) we went to a caveau to taste and buy their local specialty, Clairette du Die. By chance, the caveau we selected had a petite musee complete with 70’s store mannequins dressed in peasant garb attending to the various stages of growing, bottling and consuming the local sparkling wine. Usually fairly sweet (my preference) from being mixed with Muscat grapes, the Clairette Brut alone was surprisingly good…toe jammy and just how b2 likes his champagne.
Blasting from the motion-detection speakers, in what Manouche cackled was a heavy local accent, long-sideburned, lifesized Malibu Ken #1 bellows: “Beh…I am the bottler. Without me there would BE no wine!” “But without me,” says the pinafored peasant woman, “no one would get any work done!” So true, but so hard to take seriously with her bright blue eyeshadow and Farrah Fawcett hair.
As in Vacqueyras, tasting was free and copious, and the bottles were all under 7.50 e.