As I read in between drafts of motions a few articles about trends in French gastronomy, including this piece in Slate about the lack of French female chefs in France, I recall it is a seasons of thanks. I am reminded to thank my parents for fostering this "French thing" I have going on: from that costly Junior Year in France, which got me life-long bragging rights to say I took a class at the age of 20 (infancy) in French at one of the French grandes écoles--Sciences Po in Paris; to educational French class trips to France while still in high school (educational especially in getting to be friends with Côtes du Rhône at an early age); to their staying with my son whilst I have gone off in recent years looking for ways to "figure out" France for business (it will take a lifetime) and my place within that culture as experienced here back home.
I am grateful to be able to say that this was not an "awesome" trip in terms of sublime moments walking up and down the Seine, and that is just fine. That is what makes it a great trip. It was an exhausting research and business intelligence-gathering trip. Amidst that "worst trip ever" (because of so much work and not enough time walk around and be wistful and eat at Frenchie To Go or le 6 Paul Bert, etc. etc.), it was a maybe best trip to date, and there are many stories to come:
Enlightening Insights (hopefully blog posts) To Come From The Trip
1) The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley in the fall is something to behold. Rolling green hills covered with spots of bright gold, red and orange. Producers described for me the tiny microclimates so unique that just one hillside can produce its own particular type of grape for a particular type of wine, and it can do so because of the time of day the fogs rolls in, creates moisture on the mushrooms growing close to the ground, then that all goes away for the sun to shine on the grapes just the right amount of time per day at certain times of the year.
Yes, imagine dinner parties outside here with wine pairings, with wine made from the grapes you can sit there at dusk and gaze upon.
And then a walk down some trails to the river...
2) The natural wine movement in France and some of the people behind it
I met Kenji Hodgson and his wife Mai, not pictured here, at a wine-tasting in Paris that was celebrating natural wines of the Anjou region. They up and left Canada to lease some land in Anjou to make wine the natural way, through their company, Vins Hodgson. Kenji was patient with my schedule to fit in a visit to their cave here in Le Breil 49380. (Need GPS to get there.) Kenji and Mai share the cave with Damien Bureau, pictured here on my left, who is the man behind a very fun and tasty sparkling wine (un vin pétillant) and maybe the most darling wine label ever.
You could not have two more different experiences in the Loire Valley: an afternoon at Soucherie....
And a day learning from passionate pioneers in a relatively new wine movement--the natural winemakers, just down the winding road a few miles, guys sharing some space in a old barn to make some interesting and truly lovely wines.
It's all part of today's wine culture in the Loire Valley. And it's all way good.
3) Gentrification in Paris
Paris is changing, opening up to more English spoken everywhere and trendy small hipster joints all over. (The business culture will take more time...) And some have wondered whether hipsters are ruining Paris. Case in point: a Paris friend's longtime neighborhood "mom-and-pop" boulangerie in the bubbling-over-with-change-and-renos 10th arrondissement was recently closed in favor of a more sleek and thoroughly updated boulangerie, combining épicerie type wares with candies and pastries (i.e. as in a patisserie).
Jury is out on whether all this is good. For example, where did mom and pop go who had the boulangerie before this one? Did they cash out at a great price such that la retraite will be a sweet deal indeed? Don't know. Will check out Liberté next time, as it is near ever-delightful Le Verre Volé. Until next time.