WELCOMED INTO A FRENCH HOME
We stayed for a week with Florent, the owner of the mill, and his partner Fred. They were wonderful hosts – so giving and welcoming. They showed us around Gennes, took us to Saumur to see a castle and have dinner. Florent brought us to Angers where we explored the beautiful city and castle. He also brought us to his sister’s troglodyte (cave) home and we shared wine and horsdevours with the family. And we learned a bit of French too. We now have a vocabulary of ~10 phrases!
Florent and Fred welcomed us into their home where we had our first extended experience of French gastronomy. We had a multi-course dinner nearly every night. To start, an aperitif, often framboisine, a French raspberry sangria, or sparkling wine, and bread with different spreads (fois gras made a regular appearance). Then the plat, always served with wine. Then the cheese course. And lastly, dessert. It was indulgent and amazing! And definitely a style I want to emulate (at least for dinner parties) when we get back home.
WORKING AT A MILL
There weren’t tasks that needed help in the mill, so we mostly helped with painting jobs and spent a day helping in the restaurant as well.
We sanded and painted the sign to the mill
We sanded and stained the doors to the restaurant
And we helped in the restaurant. This was my favorite!
A DAY IN THE RESTAURANT
Our last day at Moulin de Sarre, we got to work in the restaurant. It was a lot of fun! There is a set number of plates they serve, so the kitchen wasn’t overly busy. A perfect place to learn. We got to help prep food, plate food, prepare desserts, wash dishes, and set tables.
My favorite activity was prepping desserts. I got to brûlée a number of creme brûlées. Melting sugar with a torch is a lot of fun!
What better place to make a fresh bread than at an organic flour mill?
David and I made our first handmade bread during our visit at the mill. We used Florent’s recipe for fouee. Fouee is a type of bread that is the specialty of the region. It is somewhat similar to pita bread. It puffs up like a pita so you can stuff the inside with different dishes. Traditional food to stuff inside the fouee are cooked mushrooms and tomatoes, a white bean/onion/ham dish, rillette (shredded duck pate), and pork pate.
But instead of making fouee in it’s traditional sense, we used the fouee recipe to make pizza. When there are ingredients on top of the fouee dough, it doesn’t puff up like a pita, and makes a really nice dough for pizza. Florent let us use ingredients from the restaurant to make our wood-fire oven pizzas. See below for one of our masterpieces – pizza covered in tomato and mushroom sauce with gruyere and goat cheese on top. YUM!
David and I are vegetarians. Pretty new for the both of us. We started cutting meat out of our diets in May 2013. And we’d kept pretty well to that on this trip until China. China has some very meat centric cuisine. So we tried pork soup dumplings, and a few other meaty bites that our host insisted were not to be missed. And he was right. I still dream of the soup dumplings from time to time. But that put us on a slippery slope. A slope that has led us into becoming, as we like to call it, culturetarians. Or more accurately, eco-veggie-culturetarians. We prefer a veggie dominant diet, especially with local, organic produce. However, if the culture in which we find ourselves in very meat-centric, we are open to it. Northern France is apparently very fond of meat, especially duck. So I enjoyed a duck filled week. I have returned to full vegetarianism now that we are back in the States (yes, we’re back! we are in Seattle as this post goes up) but I did enjoy sampling the full array of local cuisines as we traveled.