Thursday, January 8, 2009

Life ish good, ishn't it?

I know I promised a cheese post for today, but I'm putting that off for tomorrow because it's going to have a little bit of a rant in it, and Friday is rant day.

Today is about that wonderful stuff we imbibe so freely this time of year...alcohol. And because this is French week, let's take a tour of the alcohol in France!

France is basically one big wine basket. Most of the regions in the country support it, and just by drinking wine, you take a tour of the country. Bordeaux wines from the Bordeaux region of southwest France, bubbly champagne from Champagne in mid-France (and the requisite brou-haha that goes along with Champagne, and only Champagne, being able to use that appellation for their drink), Riesling from Strasbourg, Burgundy reds in Bourgogne (also known for their Dijon mustards). Honestly, I like wine, but I'm not much of a conoisseur. I haven't yet achieved a taste for all the subtleties of fine wines, so their mysteries still elude me a bit.

On a more unusual note, the area of Normandie (northwest France) is known more for their apple and pear trees. So you can see the riot of colors at Monet's home at Giverny, and take in the scenery with an apple tart and a tart cidre or poire (cider is often calvados, and is sometimes poured overtop of the apple tart, and I haven't tried the poire (there should be an accent over the e, poir-ay), but I imagine it's much similar, just more pear-flavored). I did try the tart with the calvados and man was it strong!

Lorraine, which is in northeast France, hosts a delicious plum which is used to make Brandy (did you know brandy was made from plums? I sure didn't! Color me surprised). And Cognac comes from (quel surprise!) Cognac...but I've never tried it, and honestly I have no idea what to do with it. I think it's drunk straight in this area, though one website mentioned that it could be added to any number of cocktails. This shall require some research.

The north (Picardie, Pas-de-Calais) seems to have a goodly number of artisanal breweries making excellent beer. As I didn't start drinking beer until last year, I didn't try any of them when I was there, but I love the idea of having beer from a small artisanal brewery. I'm still acquiring a taste for beer, which means that I'm stuck on the mass produced stuff like Miller Lite until I can acquire a taste for the more flavorful, microbrewed types.

Grand Marnier, which I should have known was French (given the name), but had never really thought that much about it, is from the Ile-de-France, which is the central region which also hosts Paris and Versailles. The orange liqueur is great added to orange tea (I'm told it's great for colds, though I've never had luck with that), simosas (dangerous! doesn't even taste like alcohol, until you feel the kick), or biscotti.

To round off the list is pastis. Pastis was created when absinthe was banned in 1915. Basically, they took out the wormwood and added in more aniseed flavor, making it very licorice in taste. It's mostly popular in the south of France.

So that's my alcohol round-up for the day. Any I missed that are your favorites? Or does it not matter, just mix 'em all and deal with the hangover tomorrow? ;)


Charlotte said...

Well seeing as I'm LDS and therefore don't drink (and never have, actually!), I can't offer an opinion but now I'm curious as to why absinthe was outlawed??

The Lethological Gourmet said...

It was originally banned because it was thought to be dangerous as an addictive psychoactive drug, but no real evidence has been shown that it's any worse than any other liquor. So I guess it's just a holdover that it's still illegal in many places.

Romny said...

bring on the burbon!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

You know, I don't think I've ever tried bourbon. I've had bourbon chicken. I almost tried scotch in Edinburgh (got it to my mouth and the smell of it made me want to wretch before I even took a sip). But no bourbon. What's it like?

Crabby McSlacker said...

Great roundup!

I don't have terribly sophisticated taste in wine, but I do love it and red wine has a lot of health benefits. I used to be fussier about whites, and it got more and more expensive. Then I switched to red because it's better for you, and am trying to stay less fussy since it saves a lot of $$. I can be quite happy with two buck chuck at Trader Joes.

JeffG said...

bourbon is a little 'spicier' than scotch. not as smokey/peaty. i've taken to really digging rye lately (not canadian rye), which is "up and coming" - being propelled by the movement towards pre-prohibition style drinks. and speaking of classic cocktails, a pastis rinse on the glass can add a lot of flavor.

JeffG said...

also btw, based on what i've read, if you're ever digging up drink recipes from pre-1900, grand marnier is a good substitute for curacao (as theirs wasn't candy blue!), as for cognac it is usually the best thing to use for 'brandy' (due to differences between our brandy and brandy then).

Cognac is definitely used in cocktails, although I've normally seen it used in place of general brandy. Tastes good in a flip.