|Posted on Saturday, September 7, 2002 - 2:23 pm: |
Chevalier, where did you get that picture?
That is sooooo cool!
|Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 9:34 am: |
over the woods and through the river…
friday night, we made the pleasant journey to villers-le-lac, about 18 kilometers east of our farm…benoît noël had arranged for a dinner at the restaurant ‘la france’ of hugues droz, the youngest michelin-starred chef in france, plus a side trip to visit the famous ‘saut du doubs’, a waterfall on the river…hugues brother, nicolas, ran a small restaurant near the site named ‘l’absinthe,’ in an old building that had served tourists to the region for more than a century…i must confess, if it were not for benoît, our trip would have been what it turned out to be and we would have not had the chance to really meet the locals, which changed the whole experience…it is one thing to be a tourist, skimming an area and trying to pick up tidbits when you can, it is quite another to do what we had the opportunity to do… benoît loves to meet people, and looks at everyone as having some kind of interesting story…happily for us, the story he is looking for now is about absinthe…
the region, along with the town of morteau, best known for it’s rustic sausage (and at least one absinthe distillery: p. carrez), was also known for clock and watchmaking, but overshadowed by the swiss on the other side of the border…the droz brothers’ father had originally created a museum of watchmaking for the area and passed his entrepreneurship to his sons…we stopped by the hotel de france, where the hugues’s restaurant was located to get directions to ‘l’absinthe.’ normally, one had to park the car at the top of a hill and hike down to the river, but we were given the ok to drive…we reached the old house,(but not before getting a little lost) at the end of a winding one-lane road that split into a dirt road to the left with the other direction ending in the water. the restaurant was in the typical, charming country style of haut-doubs, quite similar to the swiss-style, and a classified historical site... we walked around to the little 'deli/giftshop' to the side, where we found nicolas…
the ‘maison de l’artisanat’ was filled with local sausages, smoked hams, cheeses, wine, absinthe (françois guy) and other touristy things like candies and sachets of absinthe, all locally made…a perfect place to stock for a pique-nique next to the water…there was no one around, but by the look of the several little, self containing souvenir stands that lined the trail leading to the falls, the place could get crowded…one had the option at villers-le-lac to take a boat to the site, but it took an hour and a half journey, in a boat crammed with senior citizens…nicolas had installed an outdoor terrace opposite of the restaurant on the other side of the little dirt road…it was surrounded by absinthe plants, grand and petite, and other plant ingredients for creating the beverage…a nice little spot in the woods overlooking the river, with switzerland as a back-drop…it reminded me a bit of the northwoods in wisconsin…the great thing about france is that there is so much that doesn’t remind you of the states, but then, unexpectedly, you see pleasant similarities… unfortunately, some not always as welcome as a pine-forested river… we entered into the dining area…it was painted a soft, but pleasant green and the tables were covered in white and green checkered cloths…glass cases were put into the walls, which contained small collections of absinthe items; glasses, spoons, fountains, carafes…the walls were decorated with reproductions of vintage absinthe posters…it wasn’t a large room, but comfortable and cheerful, a nice place to be…nicolas explained that having a restaurant was not really his idea, but his father’s, as his inclinations leaned toward painting…he was in the process of coming up with an idea for an original painted sign for the front…if a struggling artist had to be condemned to a ‘real job’ this, in my opinion, was not a bad place to be…we were offered an aperitif, absinthe, of course, and, of course, françois guy, who has managed to get the monopoly in the restaurants of the region for placement of his products…ted, as always, was armed with his, and offered him a taste…’fort!’... it is the first reaction of amost every french or swiss who has tried it, followed by a confused and usually amazed look…
we drank our drink, explained a bit about what ted does,and what we were up to, and chatted about the site, and the story of an absinthe fountain that was found in the bar of an old french fencing club,where it originally stood, that nicolas might be able to get… it was getting late, and we had still not seen the ‘saut’(which we could just hear, when outdoors ) …we made the short wooded walk, the roaring getting louder as we approached... were amazed at the size of the falls…though not niagara falls by any means, it is quite impressive and unexpected…pictures were taken (but for some reason, i did not) and we gazed over the thin railing as the water crashed below…we hiked back to the restaurant, but, unfortunately, had to leave rather quickly, as we had reservations at his brother's…when we stepped outside and got ready to leave, nicolas started asking me, casually, about ted’s absinthe, like how much it would cost…i told him we would keep him posted...we thanked him and wished him good luck, and got into the car…
|Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 9:25 am: |
It seems that mademoiselle is having an Absente "La Blanche".
|Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 9:11 am: |
yes, it is in the 'place du marché st-honoré'...i went into the bar about 2 years to ask about absinthe, and the guy wrote down the name of one i could buy in france 'absente'...the restaurant is supposed to be good, but i haven't been back...
they have an original 'oxygénée c'est ma santé' poster that you can see from the window...maybe i'll check it out again...
|Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 8:51 am: |
In 1999, there was a café in Paris (not too far from the old Opera) called ABSINTHE. Have you run into it, Petermarc? I wonder if it's still there.
|Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 7:58 am: |
|Posted on Monday, August 12, 2002 - 2:57 pm: |
I am thoroughly enjoying your posts. My "den of fools" falls short of an actual tasting with such seasoned professionals.
I wish to be there...
|Posted on Monday, August 12, 2002 - 2:19 pm: |
thanks...can't add much right now, as i'm in the south for a couple of weeks...maybe barcelona, again...will finish when i get back...will try to guerilla post now and then...
|Posted on Monday, August 12, 2002 - 7:02 am: |
This reminds me of a village in France with its Norman church. American tourists look at the building and say, "Almost a thousand years old! Can't believe it's still used! Needs restoration, though." The villagers shrug and say, "It's just a part of our life, we're baptized in there and we're buried behind it."
Your stories are wonderful, Petermarc. I feel as if you're giving me a Swiss cybervacation. Keep those chapters coming; they're much appreciated.
|Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 6:02 pm: |
|Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 5:58 pm: |
messieurs…c’est l’heure! part 2
we made the 5 minute trip following the billowing jacket of cyclist pierre-andré, and pulled into his unassuming driveway…we were ushered into his house, where we were met by a glimpse of the val de travers, and a livingroom surrounded by modern paintings and sculpture, absinthe glasses, modern, commissioned la bleue label portraits and a laplander’s reindeer sled…this was the home of artists, and not hick-town, country folk…we were lead out to his back porch, where we had the full effect of the placement of his home…right in the center of the valley, looking straight down the middle, small herds of cows scattered about, with small mountainous ridges on either side…it was stunning…heidi would have felt right at home…with the magnificent weather, it couldn’t be a better representation of why someone would want to live where he does…we seated ourselves comfortably around a table, and pierre-andré went to get a couple of bottles…his wife showed up, he asked her to get some cold water, and she returned with a vintage green-glazed clay ‘messieurs…c’est l’heure!’ pitcher with a clock on the front signalling 10 to midnight, and a fox-headed spout…this is probably the most infamous swiss carafe, immortallizing the slogan of the famous poster showing the ghoulish blue-cross anti-alcohol preacher, satirizing the banning of absinthe in switzerland, in a mock reference to a ‘last call for alcohol’… i had never handled one of these before (i imagine they were made moreso later on, 1920’s-30’s, and possibly still today…it can be almost impossible to tell with hand-made pottery)this did not detract from it’s beauty, and from it’s defiant, mocking stance against the ban…it was the most appropriate piece for the occation, and well reflected this man’s sense of aesthetics…he presented us with two bottles, one a champagne style, without a label…
this is 15 years old, he said…
the other, bright blue green and squarish, with an emblossed skull and cross bones and ‘warning poison!’ in three languages…
this is more recent…
did you make that? the unaskable question was posed…
‘it was made’, pierre-andré said calmly, while speading his arms out, ‘in the region.’
a true diplomat of the the val de travers…
how would you like to start?
let’s start with the newer one…
i do not like giving tasting notes and am quite short and blunt, knowing what i like and don’t like, and what i think others will like…i will quote mr. delechaux again from 'letters to an absinthe drinker', as i think it is said so well, though he should have gotten someone who was a native english speaker who knew about absinthe to proof-read his english translation (the prose could most likely be about this product):
when you are drinking one of our bleues, you must use your five senses. hearing, first, when you pour the water. you must hold the pitcher very high up, and let the water fall carefully, almost parsimoniously. a trickle of water, which recalls the frothing of a wave on the shore, or a fountain’s murmur. take all your time, people in a hurry invariably fail with their absinthe. sight next. at the moment when the water touches the absinthe, and disturbs it, like in a fine love story, opal coloured swirls are formed and rise gradually to the surface, in long golden spirals. watch this spectacle avidly, you know that the banal drinker , the ordinary drinker does not bother doing this. as for smell, you don’t have to a thing (phrase sic) it literally explodes, to such an extent that your neighbors, to whom you had said nothing, will ask you “how did you manage to obtain it?”. aniseed and absinthe-like fragrances will spread throughout the house, even in the street, summoning up in turn the provencal garrigues, the high jura pastures, the mysterious forests where fairies are born. as for the taste, that is how you can distinguish the authentic amateur, who can tell the difference between real absinthe from val-de-travers and its imitations…a real bleue explodes on your palate, like a firework, letting the various aromas of which it is made appear slowly: aniseed, fennel, and mint. and that rather sharp taste which lingers in your mouth, is that of the great and the little absinthe, inimitable and indispensable…there is still the pleasure of touching, when you turn your glass in your hand repeatedly.
‘nuff said…it was good…the best la bleue i have tasted…so refreshing as each glass was dosed and poured from high by mr. delachaux, splashing drops and fragrance about as he made each drink…the headiness combined with the heat and pastoral scents made for an image, smell and taste i stored in my brain, filed in that special place, each time i know i’m getting a textbook experience…that dirty funk on the back-palate that you get with some la bleues, the 'tails,' the one quarter end of the still run, that is drinkable but should have been redistilled, put in the bottle anyway, to maximize profits and minimize loss; was no where to be found...
ted carefully poured a glass of the second sample he had brought, a kind of mutant of the nouvelle orleans for pierre-andré…he studied the color…when you have colored absinthe, you have gone a step beyond what the swiss do, and knowing now their passion, i still can’t figure out why they don’t try…ted’s sample looked artificially blue-green in the plastic water bottle he brought it in, and tended to shock each person who saw it that way…when poured into a glass, it was a light lime-green, an almost impossible color to be made naturally…i instisted that it was all natural…pierre-andré and his wife watched as it slowly louched and were talking quietly to themselves…i still think they might have thought it was artificially colored…he tasted and for the life of me, i can’t remember exactly what he said…i am sure he knew that that was from a true absinthe ‘amateur’(note: in french, when one is called an ‘amateur’, it is the same as calling one an ‘aficionado’.)
pierre-andré then poured each of us the 15 year old…it was similar, less pronounced, mellow…it was good, but not as freshly impressive as the first…i over heard pierre-andré say to his wife ‘i don’t think this one has aged so well.’ i silently agreed…madame delachaux had brought a bottle with her, and was on her second glass…it was a simple clear glass bottle with a light yellow substance that she was mixing with water, having a hand-written, taped on label that read ‘menthe’, which i took to be absinthe with a false label…it seemed surprising that she was drinking it so quickly, so i asked…
oh, this is homemade mint syrup with ginger added!
Since i was driving, i asked for a glass…spectacular! it always amazes me that mint syrup and water or perrier is virtually unknown in the usa yet in europe, especially france, it is as common as coca cola…with our general liking for mint candies, toothpaste and gum, it seems like a natural in the usa, as it is a perfect hot-weather drink…well, maybe when absinthe becomes common, so will a ‘menthe a l’eau’…
we chatted a bit about modern absinthe production (obviously) but one point really stuck in my mind… we were discussing trying to make absinthe taste like the originals…this seemed to not impress mr. delachaux…
making la bleue is like making wine, he said.
the makers today are not trying to make something that tastes like the past, just as wine-makers are not trying to stay in the past… we are evolving and “la bleue’ is evolving too…the la bleue that existed 15 years ago, like this bottle, does not have the same taste as today, nor do we want it to be…our tastes are changing and so does the taste of our absinthe…
(there is also a passage in his book where he states there is quite enough sugar in the foods we eat today, therefore no need to make a la bleue that needs to have sugar added, too)
i asked if he wanted to try ted’s other absinthe, but he declined, saying he had work to do for this evening…we got up leave, but not before i purchased and had him sign a copy of his book for me… we admired some glasses he had in the livingroom, some i had never seen before, but with all things absinthe, there are new surprises each day…we filed out to the car and said our goodbyes, promising to come to the event of the evening…this experience was textbook…
|Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 4:57 pm: |
Peter's stories are my favorite! Thanks Peter.
Also, thanks for not feeding us weiner balls.
|Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 3:20 pm: |
|Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 8:09 am: |
I well and truly dig these posts.
|Posted on Friday, August 9, 2002 - 1:38 pm: |
messieurs…c’est l’heure! part1
The history of ‘la bleue’ in switzerland is as cloudy as the drink…it is curious that absinthe ‘le fée verte’ had it’s birth as a commercial product here…one would think that the swiss would be quite fond of green absinthe(at least enough to make it green now), but this is not the case…all modern ‘la bleues’ are clear and the only one I am aware of that is green(and a very light green at that-closer in color to it’s pontarlier neighbors) is a sample provided to me by oxygénée which dates from around 1953…it is still fresh and slightly minty, with the heady, musty smell of ‘old’ that vintage absinthe holds so well…I am not even certain when the swiss started calling absinthe ‘la bleue’, but there must have been a certain historical event that caused the great rift and gave birth to an exclusively swiss reference name for absinthe, since, I image, most ‘la blanches’ looked like ‘la bleues’…there never was(to my knowledge)a commercial vintage swiss or french, for that matter, absinthe branded ‘la bleue’ …ironically enough, there is a french pastis called ‘la bleue’ www.lemercier.com/bleue.htm made in fougerolles, a little-remembered absinthe rival city, just north of pontarlier…it seems obvious from the photo that the product is not clear, and they state the name was chosen because that’s what the swiss call absinthe…this product has existed since the 20’s and the name trade-marked in 1939…there are several carafes with ‘la bleue’ either painted or emblossed on them, and I am pretty sure that these are all for that mark(or a copier), most all of them appearing to be manufactured from the 20’s on, the painted ones being more like the 50’s or later…when one visits the val de travers in switzerland, it is impossible to imagine the stories I remember reading a copy of years ago about ‘clandestine bootleggers’ installing stills in 18-wheelers, and hiding out in the woods, ready to move their illicit operations like soviet mobile missile troupes…’la bleue’ seems mostly a home-made affair, and although no one (normally, and quite rightly) will directly admit to making it…the important thing, is to have the right connections…
pierre-andré delachaux is a friendly, approachable fellow, and along with being curator of the absinthe rooms at the musée de môtiers, just down the road from boveresse, he has also written a couple of books and several articles on absinthe…this is the swiss perspective, often overlooked internationally; the well-made yearly catalogue of the absinthe festival goes to great lengths to point out when the french(or worse, others) have merely copied something they have done, from absinthe to the pontarlier ‘absintiades’ festival, which really isn’t like the boveresse festival at all (yet)…it is interesting how the new czech and german brews seem to be unknown, or at least not at all talked about here, considering the several labels refering to swiss recipes or hinting at swiss or alpine-ness..
pierre-andré was signing and selling copies of his new work ‘lettres à un amateur d’absinthe’,
(letters to an absinthe drinker)which had been simultaneously translated in to english and german in it’s first publication…it is a charming account of the history of absinthe along with experiencing today, in letter fashion, seemingly between a father and son, which is not too hard to think of that way, considering it is illustrated by his son, the artist jonathan delachaux, whom I believe, is presently living in new york…I would love to see his original works, which are quite amusing, as he transforms old posters, paintings and photographs of absinthe related themes with the faces of modern friends, in an impression of impressionism…a brief quote from the book sums up a lot of feeling in the val de travers:
‘as for france, some distilleries triumphantly announced that they managed to manufacture a 45° proof(sic) absinthe, in which they have considerably reduced the quantities of thuyone.
An “absinthe” at 45° only, absinthe without thuyone? That reminds me unfortunately of the war years-which I did not experience-when they made coffee without an ounce of coffee…I fervently hope that in our own country we never sink that low
It is almost certain that he was aware of kübler when this was written, so one can see how certain locals feel about this product, in fact any commercial absinthe…he told me he was friends with the guy that tested it for the government, and that it became legal in Switzerland because it was, in fact, not absinthe…the average alcoholic degree for ‘artisanal’ la bleue is between 50-60…
pierre-andré was seated next to benoît when we showed up at the table…benoît made the introductions. We chatted a bit about modern absinthes and he mentioned hermés from japan, and said it wasn’t bad…when I told him that that back label said in Japanese that there wasn’t any absinthe in it, he was quite surprised… I asked benoît if it would be interesting for mr. delachaux to try some of ted’s, as an example of american style absinthe…I was given the green-light and ted whipped out his pocket flask and pierré-andré gave it a sniff and sip…he seemed very much to enjoy it (a final version of ‘nouvelle orleans’). He had a project to do for this evening, some sort of artistic night-event to dedicate a park in the middle of môtiers that had been saved (with a great help from him) from being turned into an apartment building…and was about to leave…
would you like to try some la bleue that I have at my home? he asked…
give me a few minutes and then follow me on my bike…
|Posted on Sunday, August 4, 2002 - 3:48 am: |
i illiteratelly wrote that sentence
|Posted on Saturday, August 3, 2002 - 8:22 pm: |
"he was literally run out of the country last year"
|Posted on Saturday, August 3, 2002 - 4:46 pm: |
|Posted on Saturday, August 3, 2002 - 11:25 am: |
(due to missing information, I will jump to the next day)
a troubling relationship between cows and frogs
boveresse is a short distance from gilley, if you are a bird... the turning backroads are picturesque, especially when you cross over the small, forested mountains and drop into the val de travers; a flat stretch of plain dotted with small towns: couvet, môtiers, boveresse, fleurier…it was a perfect day, but already hot by 9 am, if you were not from the region, you would be pressed to believe it actually got extremely cold here…boveresse gets it’s name from ‘bovine’ –cow- of which there were quite a few about, munching on hillside grasses.
i’m sure there had to have been many more at one time, for the town to named after them…
the people are called ‘grenouillards’-frog people- because the area had been also very swampy, and a favorite pastime was hunting frogs...you'd think they would have been called 'boveressians' regardless, but 'frog people', well don't question it…we found the parking area, but then decided it was better to find some swiss cash before we got started. the parking security girl pointed us to couvet, via the back road…she was american…i should have asked her story, but was a little surprised, and she seemed busy…she was the only other american we came across there, except for betty…when we returned, we were greeted by a marching band, which incorporated all the best (if that term can be used, me being an old bass/marching drummer) aspects of the classic high school band, from matching uniforms to individual, strutting solos…we did our best to go around them, and get the hell away…there were brochures for sale, along with real and repro labels, the la fée cartoon fairy spoon (limited edition of 150) and the almost undrinkable absinthe wine and a creole-style absinthe rum, called ‘décollage’meaning to 'take-off' which traditionally was drunk all day long in the islands, hidden in cups of coffee (i had talked to a colleage at my old job, who had told me that she remembered trying absinthe in martinique, though it was only drunk by the old-timers…if it tasted like this, i can see why no one was drinking it now)… kübler had made it’s grand appearance as switzerland’s first legal absinthe(45°), since 1910 …one man was clutching a bottle like he had found the holy grail…of course, there were no absinthes from pontarlier, they may be neighbors, but there is a great rivalry between the two regions, both claiming to be ground-zero for absinthe…switzerland is also not part of the EU, and laws vary; we were the subject of much consternation last year by the president of the festival and the local customs officials, by openly drinking a bottle of oxygénée that i had brought with me…it is illegal in switzerland, but moreso, i was told, because it has unapproved artificial colorings in it…
it is interesting, as a side note, that growing marijuana is legal in switzerland (live plants for decorative purposes, only, please) it’s oils are used for perfumes and cosmetics along with the fiber for clothing, etc, but also sold in some shops in dried packages of buds, quite similar to that found in amsterdam(for scenting your closet and drawers, thank you)…you must be a swiss citizen to buy it…there are a few professional growers who are stocking tons of it, in preparation for the time it will become legal to actually smoke…one has to laugh about concerns over clandestine absinthe-making…
we made a quick overview of the flea-market, located on the main street, now that the town ‘séchoir’, -absinthe drying shed-, had been turned into a museum…dealers complained about a lack of material available to sell, and only had a few bits and pieces compared to last year…it was amusing to view the small plot of absinthe planted in the lot behind one dealer, things were really changing…
frenchman phiL was not there, as he was literally run out of the country last year, in a fit of jealousy by local swiss dealers, upset that he was selling (and selling very well) his reproduction spoons (as reproductions.) i must note that i noticed a fake eiffel tower spoon being sold by one of these dealers at the time…we were also a little late, arriving at around 9:30-10am, since there were several new collector/dealers adding to their personal stashes along with selling duplicates and less interesting material… someone said betty had showed up at 6am, 2 hours before the dealers were even ready to go…i look for absinthe antiques for fun, betty is serious, she finds great stuff, and gets collectors to part with things some said they would never sell…she works for it…anyone (with enough money) who asks her to find something special, will most likely get it, or if not, it won’t be for lack of trying on her part…i managed to find a lone couple, at the end of the street, who had bought the old ammann distiller’s house in fleurier, and had discovered a cache of old miniature bottles (some with absinthe labels) and unused labels…though mostly picked through, a beautiful advertising carton for the distillery schumacher and ammann was left behind (schumacher originally being the only actual distiller in boveresse beforehand) and which later became just j. ammann; with a color rendition of the towns and scenery of the val de travers, like a giant post card, circa 1880…i quickly offered to buy it, promising to come back with cash, seeing that it was a good deal, but still ridiculously more than i had on me…i couldn’t believe no one else had picked it up, but learned later several collectors had been eyeing it, since it was previously unknown, but he who hesitates, etc…ted had brought his copy of madame delahaye’s ‘absinthe, son histoire’ which he wanted her to sign…she had a little table in the middle of the flea market, well away from the séchoir, where benoît noël was signing his latest works, along with pierre-andré delachaux, the local swiss absinthe historian, who was also signing his books…i made introductions with marie-claude, eric and ted…ted rose to the occasion, turning on as much southern gentleman charm as was legal in switzerland, took her hand and kissed it…it was almost possible to see the little birds circling and chirping around her head…ted had been carrying around a small flask of the nouvelle orleans and a given a sniff to a french collector, whom we had a tough time explaining it’s origins to, she thinking that it was industrial, and high in alcohol, but in my opinion, her just never really having had much (decent) to taste before…marie-claude also had a sniff, but i don’t remember her taking a sip… we were hungry by this time and decided to get something to eat; eric had never tasted kübler, so he wanted to order a glass…i stuck with beer, a safe bet on such a hot day, knowing kübler, and having been previously introduced to swiss white wine, which comes in a screw-top bottle, is slightly sparkling, and has unpleasant secondary effects, not least is a splitting headache…eric took one sip of the kübler and couldn’t finish it…we decided to go into the packed local restaurant, and had an unremarkable meal …afterwards, we headed over the the séchoir, where we would meet up with benoît and mr. delachaux…this time, a taste of ted’s brew would lead to an extraordinary afternoon…
|Posted on Monday, July 22, 2002 - 8:43 am: |
a river runs through it-ornans
|Posted on Friday, July 19, 2002 - 9:34 pm: |
Ok, let's say it out loud, we where both already fucking drunk from the hausgematches when we tasted Emile. I'll have to taste it again one day...
|Posted on Friday, July 19, 2002 - 3:53 pm: |
Hmmmm, I don't taste any star anise in Emile.
|Posted on Friday, July 19, 2002 - 10:57 am: |
Wow! I just saw this thread... amazing pictures. did you asked M. Pernot how the colorator work ?
''i was very surprised when wolfgang used the phrase ‘star anis’ to discribe it’s taste''
I`m also very surprized to taste that. It just doesn`t makes sense. Maybe I will have to give it a second more sober try. For sure, the other very knowledgeable "mystery guest" absintheur at the NYC tasting tasted the same thing and was also surprized by this taste given the fact that the louche only reflect a correct and limited usage of green anis.
|Posted on Friday, July 19, 2002 - 10:00 am: |
part 4 you’re livin’ in your own private cusenier
ornans was recently written up by the NYtimes travel section, along with auvers-sur-oise, as one of two cute towns just a short distance from paris…auvers is about 20 minutes from paris by car, ornans is about 4 and half hours…so much for a little day trip or the concept of distance…the article never mentioned absinthe, or the absinthe museum, or the cusenier distillery…not surprising…we are all familiar with van gogh’s connection in auvers, but few people know of any historical connections, artistically, with ornans…in fact, it is the birthplace of gustave corbet, one of the fathers of impressionism, who became (in)famous in 1866 for his work ‘origin of the world’ a tasteful, yet scandalously depicted foufoun of a prostitute…it is a charming little place (ornans, now, not the foufoun, although it is charming, also) and the drive from pontarlier is quite breathtaking…we discussed similarities with the north carolina mountain country, and other woody, cliffy, lush terrain…i wouldn’t want to drive the road in an ice storm and some unfortunate people who had gone over the side of the windy road were commemorated on a plaque erected on a stone fence, supposedly keeping this from happening again, in 1942… 11 went down and 2 made it back …we stopped and took pictures and we could hear the loue river rushing way down below…the loue is popular in the summer for kayaks and canoeing, though it doesn’t seem you can go too far…the whole region is a hiker’s paradise, if only it weren’t for the other hikers…we were very hungry, after our aperitifs at the pernots, and quickly found the restaurant émile had recommended, once arriving in ornans…nothing spectacular, but we could sit outside on the green plastic chairs…mentioning émile’s name was not necessary, since it was not really full at all…the plastic coated menu had a full back cover dedicated to the pierre guy distillery, with an old-timey color drawing of the building with horse-drawn wagons going by…his absinthe and pontarlier-anis was on the menu, but no mention of émile pernot…françois guy has really locked up the local restaurant and liquor store market with his products, it is almost impossible to find émile pernot’s products anywhere in plain site, i wondered why he had chosen this restaurant for us…but, he is making fine liquor, and selling it and it goes somewhere successfully, not the 20,000 bottles (yes i made a mistake, it was 20 and not 30 thousand bottles of absinthe) françois guy has claimed to sell in 5 months, but then again, émile is ‘artisanal’ as he says, compared to françois, who is industrial…hell, françois even sponsors a racing bike team, with custom jerseys, that publicize ‘syranis’, that non-alcoholic anis syrup-quote-l’apéritif de sportif-unquote, that we saw pre-louched, dripping out of one of his stills…
so we had a nice little lunch; ham, cheese, chicken (vegetarians, kosher, forget about eating if you visit the franche-comté), local trout and local wine…we walked back to the sun-baked car and headed to the cusenier distillery, where i had been in october, last year, and wanted to show to eric and ted…since october, where grand plans at the pontarlier absinthiades 2001 that a ‘museum of alcohol’ would be installed in the distillery by a local absinthe collector, a slight change had taken place…cranes had been installed, the front had been covered with scaffolding and green safety nets and men were busy at work…a banner sign was stretched across a small courtyard, in front of the main house…residences cusenier-the interlaced ECO monogram from the doors had been adapted as their logo…the grand distillery was in the process of transformation into condos! we looked around back, the once wildgrass-filled backyard had been flattened and gravelled, the stone wall, broken and recreated into an open gated area for parking…trucks and men moved about, hammering, pouring, reshaping spaces…we peaked into an open doorway in the front, just going as far as we dared with everyone walking about…a small metal publicity sign, forgotten, rusted and turned backwards was stuck in a high spot over the door…we strained to read it, but couldn’t, it was just as well, since if it had been for absinthe, we would have probably pissed someone off, trying to climb the wall to recover it…well, the building certainly could bring in more money as private condos, than a museum in the middle of nowhere…benoît later mentioned he was afraid the the bronze bust of eugéne cusenier, which still stood in the distillery somewhere, would end up stolen …we jumped back into the car and i made a little tour of the town, which was not huge, but a nice size, and far prettier than pontarlier; the old area climbs up a hill and the river is really the center of it…old tourists were steaming about in groups…we stopped by a wine shop that had been run by a nice little old lady in october, who told me the big supermarkets were putting her out of business, and that she would retire by december…the front looked the same, and i hoped she still would be there…no luck…she was gone, and so was all of her old, rare, dusty stock, replaced be a clean, well arranged selection of local wines, all with similar labels…the shop had been bought by a local producer/négociant, to sell directly to the public, with a few things like local beers thrown in…we tasted a couple, and picked up some champagne, local beer, and a bottle of the famous chateau chalon, an aged local white wine in a funny squat bottle that had a taste sort of like sherry…this wine (odd tasting, by itself) is heaven with the local comté cheeses and we had a bunch of cows-full, back at the farm…we pulled over so ted could take some more photos and get some cash, and eric and i critiqued a few local AOC-guaranteed local women who passed by, very white, full, milk-fed; trying to look city-youth fashionable in a little country town...a sporting couple was in the river, battling against the current, trying to get their yellow-plastic canoe upstream... modern times were marching slowing into this town, and i had witnessed some of it myself, in just 9 months, since i had last been there… sort of depressing, really…we headed back to the farm to get ready for our michelin-starred evening…
|Posted on Thursday, July 11, 2002 - 8:02 am: |
It's nice to see the womb my little Emile came from.
|Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2002 - 6:45 pm: |
Very interesting pics and post. Thanks