An American from Oregon attended two of my dinners. Since then, I receive his emails with extraordinary photos of his wanderings around the world. He has seen everything, flown over everything in strange machines, he knows Bertrand Piccard, author of world tours in a balloon or electric plane and shares his madness. I invited him to spend a few days at my house in the south.
I go to pick him up at Marignane airport and the car traffic has reached fearful heights of overcrowding. The airport itself, still under construction, is an anthill. We return at least two hours later than I imagined.
I open a Champagne Dom Pérignon 1975 whose cork seems more tired than it should and comes too easily. The color is very amber, the bubble is non-existent but the sparkling is present. This champagne is older than its age and had to undergo storage at excessive temperatures.
We drink the champagne on delicious strawberries which would have been more appropriate for a much younger champagne. It is with foie gras that champagne begins to express its complex flavors. And it is with a pesto gouda that the agreement is best. The champagne comes alive and a lightly smoked Corsican sausage accompanies it very well.
For an egg omelet from our hens, I open a Champagne Mumm Cuvée René Lalou 1985 which delivers a pleasant pschitt and offers a lively bubble. Its color is very light. The champagne is lively, brilliant, active, powerful and the pairing with a Jort Camembert raises the scale of pleasures at the speed of the launchers of SpaceX, the company of the whimsical Elon Musk.
We end the evening with strawberries, apricots and exciting discussions.
The next day, we will have lunch with our American friend at the restaurant l’Aventure located along the harbour beach. The menu is easy: stuffed mussels and lobster. It is a simple but effective kitchen. The rouille that accompanies the lobster and linguine is delicious. As a precaution, we only drank beers to save our strength. The owner of the restaurant was worried about it and told me « I have stocked up heavily on Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ». The call of the foot is direct.
In his Oregon, Bill often goes hunting for morels and porcini mushrooms. The dimensions of the mushrooms he brought us are gigantic. He prepares them in complicity with my wife. So tonight we will have a creamy morel soup, the caloric density of which promises to be as gigantic as the morels are. Bill made it. My wife prepared the porcini mushrooms, just pan-fried with garlic.
The presence of morels makes me want to open a Vin l’Etoile Caves des Echansons, Bouvret Père & Fils 1975. When I remove the capsule, I see a dusty cork that seems to have been attacked by hostile insects. This had no consequences on the level in the bottle, nor on the magnificent golden color of the wine.
The cork comes whole, of very average quality. The top of the neck smells of cork as I could imagine. At mealtime I help myself first so that the wine licks the neck and allows Bill to drink a flawless wine.
My glass smells of cork but I am not bothered in the mouth by a slight bitterness, because the morels erase all the faults and the accord is bright. The wine is solid, square, serious, direct. With the morels which bring depth, the wine is relevant, even if I suffer a little from the nose of a cork.
The nice surprise is that the wine forms a nice match with the porcini mushrooms, which was not easy. The intense and silky taste of the porcini mushrooms goes well with the classicism of the wine, which proved to be relevant despite everything.
We finished the Mumm René Lalou the day before with the camembert Jort opened the day before. It was a tomorrow that sings so much the agreement is joyful and fusional. I would never have imagined that Jura wine would have a lighter color than that of champagne, which I had found very pale the day before.
The next day we will eat soles and a new preparation of morels. I want to show Bill that we can break the codes. It was at the last minute, when the soles had already been served, that I opened the Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes Monopole Domaine Armand Rousseau 2008. On opening, the wine was exceptionally fresh. We feel a flower that is about to bloom, fragile but which we know will be solid. The agreement with the sole is subtle, elegant, full of suggestions.
On the morels cooked simply, the wine which has taken a few degrees in the glass becomes broad and noble, and behind baskets of spices in the sun we can smell a pretty generous red fruit. This still very young wine is already exciting, showing many facets of its talent, but will expand further. It has subtle acidities. It is with a Saint-Nectaire that it finds an additional dimension.
An onion pie is planned for dinner as well as raw salmon. One of the best pairings with tart is a Côtes de Provence and in particular a Rimauresq. But we had chatted with Bill and the idea of an Alsace wine was mentioned. I open a Riesling Grand Cru Sommerberg Albert Boxler 2013. The tight cork is of good quality. The discreet nose is a good omen.
Before dinner we nibble pecans brought by Bill and picked by him and cashews, quenching our thirst with Kronenbourg 1664 beers.
On the pie whose onion has sweet intonations, the Riesling just served is not so comfortable. I feel a hesitant wine, with a closed perfume, which has milky accents. The pie makes him uncomfortable.
It is with raw salmon soaked in rapeseed oil and soy sauce, but especially at a higher temperature, that the wine really takes off. It is broad, greedy, with a perfectly balanced minerality and becomes a wine of pleasure, precise and noble as the great Rieslings know how to be. We drank it happily.
We take Bill to visit Thoronet Abbey where we go almost every year and this time we have a big surprise. As we enter the church, we see a curious sign: “It is forbidden to sing. Only guides are allowed to sing”. Weird. At one moment harmonious sounds attract us while we are in another room. One of the guides paces the aisles of the church emitting various sounds and the resonance is spectacular. It is as if this frail woman were singing with a microphone turned to its maximum volume. There is something miraculous and moving about the amplification of the sound, which differs according to the position of the guide in the church. The acoustics of this church are spectacular.
After the visit we go to the restaurant Chez Bruno in Lorgues, the truffle specialist. The decoration of the garden is generous and does not lack humor. We will have lunch under mulberry trees with white fruits, very sweet, which fall from the branches which protect us from the sun.
The three-course menu is offered with the summer truffle or with the melanosporum from Australia that we choose, even if it is not so “local food”: truffle toast / thin garden vegetable tart with ricotta and truffles and a nice tin of truffle caviar / a baked potato accompanied by a truffle cream, tuber Albidum Pico and grated truffle / a little monkfish, a little lobster and his bisque accompanied by garden vegetables / Castelmagno cheese in two ways on his bed of candied apples with truffles / creative sweets from Damien Goelen.
In the wine list, the vast majority of wines are less than four years old. I spotted a Château Simone 1993 which makes me want but unfortunately it is not found in the cellar. I order the oldest of the Rhône wines, a 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieux Télégraphe from a brilliant year.
The ambient heat leads me to manage the immersion of the bottle in a bucket filled with water and a few ice cubes. The wine is magnificent, generous, dynamic, full of life and is drunk with pleasure because it has a joyful energy. It is long, with a very juicy black fruit and adapts to all dishes. But with the truffle caviar which is in fact a truffle cut into tiny pieces, the wine creates a fusion accord. The wine and the truffle merge, which is a divine moment.
The cuisine of Benjamin Bruno, son of Clément Bruno, founder of the restaurant in 1983, is direct and coherent. The association of monkfish with lobster claws is relevant. The truffles are abundant and the dishes are generous, perhaps too much in this period of heat wave. But generosity is nice.
This successful meal will be the last event of Bill’s stay in our southern house. This compulsive globetrotter will continue his peregrinations. He is an exciting friend.