Friday, April 20, 2012

Changeable weather in the Gers

    After leaving the Chateau de Cassaigne on Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to the gite with our prize croustade in tow. It had started to rain, so we decided to skip our usual early evening walk, and I headed to the bar/cafe in Mezins to use the Internet. After finishing my Floc and posting my most recent story, I drove back to the gite, where Ann was getting dinner together. We had bought foie gras at the ferme auberge where we had lunch on Sunday, and we started dinner with that, accompanied by a 2010 Pacherenc Vic Bilh from Domaine Dou Bernes, which was a great match. After a couple of other courses, we had the 3 different Roqueforts we had bought at Roquefort Papillon last week. We also opened the 2011 Equinox (a late harvest Viognier) from Domaine Mazel to try with the Roquefort, but despite what some people had said, we didn't think it was a great match. On the other hand, the wine by itself, like everything else from Jerome Mazel, was outstanding. Following the cheese course, we had the piece de resistance – Madame Lantin's croustade. The apples had been flavored with vanilla and Armagnac, and the crust was amazingly thin; it was one of the finest desserts I'd ever had. Madame Lantin certainly deserves a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in the croustade maker category!

      The rain had gotten heavier during the evening while we had dinner, so we stayed in our gite rather than venturing out for our usual late evening stroll around the town. The gite is in an ancient building that includes part of the old wall of the village running through it, and has very old wooden timbers and a large fireplace.

      On Thursday morning we went to Éauze, the center of the Bas Armagnac area (the Armagnac AOC is divided into Bas Armagnac, Haut Armagnac, and Armagnac Tenareze), which has their weekly market on Thursday. It was quite a large and busy market just outside the center of the town. We parked near the medieval center, which has a magnificent cathedral that had originally been constructed in the 15th century and was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Wars of Religion (they had a lot of those in France). There were a number of beautiful old half-timbered houses in the square around the cathedral, but because of the rain we really couldn't take any decent pictures. We did buy a few provisions at the market, including some greens from an organic farmer. His lettuces looked beautiful, so I took one, and I also saw what I thought was a pile of arugula, but when I asked him for some of the arugula, he said it was a mix of bitter greens in addition to arugula (at least that's what I think he said in French), and he gave me a taste of some of them. I bought a basketfull, and we had them as part of a salad later that day; they were so fresh and flavorful.

      After leaving Éauze we eventually went into Mezins again, and after I used the Internet while consuming the obligatory Floc, we had lunch at Le Relais de Gascogne on the edge of the village. For 12 Euros (about $16) each, we had the Menu du Jour, which consisted of a tureen of leek and potato soup, quiche, roast pork with a vegetable gratin, apple and walnut tart, and a carafe of rosé. Everything was very good, especially the pork, which was incredibly tender and juicy.

      In the afternoon the skies cleared on and off, and we drove to several towns in the nearby Lot et Garonne department to take strolls. The first stop was Barbaste, which had a massive old mill building with towers (le Moulin des Tours) on the Gélise River.


After leaving Barbaste we went to the village of Xaintrailles, which had fabulous views of the valley below and a chateau in the center.

Chateau de Xaintrailles

     I then saw a sign for a bastide town, Vianne, which turned out to be a jewel. There was an old square, and four gates at each entrance to the old walled part of the village.

Gates of Vianne

     Afterwards we drove back to Fources by way of Mezins so I could use the Internet (I think the bar owner had my Floc ready), and had dinner at the gite. We had the rest of the foie gras as an appetizer with Jerome Mazel's Viognier, duck confit from a local farm that we had bought in town, plus a salad and cheese, and more of Madame Lantin's croustade. And a bottle of 2007 Madiran from Domaine Dou Bernes.

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