Tuesday, December 27, 2011


So now we are on the train back from Strasbourg.  Commuting would be a good way to actually get blogging done.

We spent some lovely time in Strasbourg with the French family of our nephew who is traveling with us.  They invited us to their home, which is of course always the best way to travel.  We crowded into their living room and ate Christmas cookies and drank tea.  Our nephew's great-grandmother is alive and well at 91, and hadn't seen her great grandson in ten years, so it was all very sweet and sentimental.  Plus our nephew doesn't speak much French, and his family doesn't speak much English, so he sat on the couch with and got his cheek pinched while they stammered back and forth in one language or the other.  As we were leaving this morning everyone showed up at the train station to send us off.  Among other things it was good French practice for me, it isn't all that often I see French people whose English isn't markedly better than my French.

Food interlude.... in Strasbourg the first night we ate at La Gavroche  and had the best meal we have had so far in France.  It is modern style Bistro, sleek and dark, grey walls and carpeting.  It is owned by a couple in their thirties,the wife runs the front and the husband does the cooking.  She greeted us when we walked in, shook everyone's hand, sat us at two tables, one for adults plus Eden, one for the rest of the kids.  There were two choices for entree and main on the prix fixe menu.  Starters were foie gras (surprise) on a bed of buttered shredded cabbage with toasted pine nuts and a scallop ceviche pressed into a little disk with a layer of caviar on top.  The main courses were duck breast with  an asian flavored crust and a dark reduced sauce that was almost a barbecue sauce, or lieu (pollack) wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed with julienned vegetables and ginger.

I had the cheese platter for dessert, and it was spectacular.  It came on a square slate plate, with 12 little slices of cheese arranged in a grid.  The waiter gave a complete tour, explainiing the order in which they should be eaten, from lower right, across and up.  The first row was all goat cheese, the second local muenster and a few other cheeses, the top row stronger cow's milk cheeses, with the last a blue.  The chef/husband came out at the end to shake hands and thank us, it was a very special night.  It left me thinking about how there is a little bit of luck and magic in good food.  Our first meal, which I don't think I wrote about, wasn't nearly as much fun, at a restaurant where CAM and I have had some absolutely perfect evenings.  A bunch of things just went wrong:  we kind of got stuck at a table in a corner, there were complications about who wanted to eat what on the menu, possibly because we were in the back corner the service wasn't all that great.  It is a little like a concert, the music can be fine, but if you aren't in quite the right mood the evening can seem flat and ordinary.  A musician friend has said that part of performing every night is learning to create the illusion that every night is the best party anyone has ever been to, disgusing the repetitiveness of playinng every day.  Lecturing is the same way, actually.  Mostly you say the same things every year, but the trick is to say them as though they were fresh, and ironically if you manage it, they become actually fresh.

The next morning we headed to the train station to rent cars, which is always a bit of a hassle in Europe, because the rituals are just different enough to make things a little uncomfortable, plus if you are doing it in a city you are usually crammed into some little space on the side of a parking garage facing some crazy maneuver of a van (in our case) through little winding streets, always within risk of denting the thing.

Turckheim next.  The Cathedral in Strasbourg is awe-inspriing.  I love cathedrals, I just can't think of anything to say about them.

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1 comment:

  1. Be sure to try the Gewurtztraminer wines in Turckheim! Said to be especially wonderful there.