Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)
Results tagged Cognac from David Lebovitz
I know, I know. A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. As you can see, it was at the tippy top of my shopping list.
But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits and three didn’t have it. And the fourth, when I showed up, was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nuthin’, so I don’t know. I tried peering through the darkened window to see if they had the bitters but couldn’t tell and didn’t want to use up another precious day of my life since I had already spent three days on the “Peychaud’s Project”, and needed to move on with my life. Plus passers-by were starting to look at me funny as I began hoisting myself up on a fire hydrant and a drainpipe on the building, hoping to get a better look inside the closed shop.
The Middle East is a pretty fascinating place, and on this visit – as well as others – I am constantly surprised by what I experience there. Although we often see snippets of it, our images of the region are usually negative; people are fighting or yelling or demonstrating. Glimpses of people going about everyday life aren’t especially easy to come by outside of these countries. Because situations change seemingly daily, it’s not always possible to go to certain places when you want to travel to them. But fortunately, the time was just right for me to go to Lebanon.
The first thing you notice in Lebanon is that the people are quite friendly and as I started writing this post about my trip, two young boys are playing around me at the airport while my flight home is delayed (for nine hours!), gingerly saddling up beside me, touching my computer screen with curiosity. In western countries, we are afraid of people and we’re told not to talk to strangers. And if someone came over to you in the airport and touched your computer screen, you might have a coronary. Or deck them.
I’m tired. Or as Madeleine Kahn more bluntly put it in Blazing Saddles, “G-ddammit, I’m exhausted.” The last few weeks I’ve been racing around Paris in my dusty clothes, trying to find things like electrical switches, bathroom shelves, and making a decision about kitchen cabinet knobs for much longer than any sane person would consider prudent. And I’ve been averaging about three hours of sleep a night. (I’m actually in bed for eight hours, but five of those hours are spent worrying about things.) Everything of mine is still piled up in boxes, including important tax documents (hello, April 15th..in just two weeks…), prescriptions that need refilling (hello, sanity…), and most importantly, a much-needed change of clothes.
I’d been invited to Monaco for the one hundredth anniversary of Martell’s Cordon Bleu cognac, which I had accepted, then wrote a message declining. But something in me prevented my twitching finger, which normally hovers over the “Delete” key, from hitting the “Send” button. And when I finally got to the point where I had to make an absolutely certain decision (with substantial prodding from Hélène), I hit that all-important delete key and instead confirmed that I would attend.
Everything is a mess, including my computer. I started writing this story, and lost it. (The story, I mean. I don’t mean that “I lost it” – although I fear that’s coming.) I have piles of paperwork stacked up all around my apartment, including on every chairs and the couch. Next to my kitchen counter is a stack of unfinished recipes I’m testing, with notes and corrections for the next trial batches. It’s just heaped up all around my place, with no escape or end in site. In spite of my panic, when I took a deep breath the other day, I realized the year was coming to a close and I should finish up all this unfinished business.
The only problem was that this month got away from me, which I think is pretty common in December, and, well…here I go blaming others, or as we like to say—“C’est pas ma faute.”
(At a cocktail party last night, a French acquaintance that I hadn’t seen in a while remarked how fast I was to reply with a “Non”, saying, “You’ve become really very French, Daveed.”)
For someone who doesn’t drink that much, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf. I guess I should rephrase that. For someone who drinks an a lot of wine, but not a lot of liquor, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf.
The French don’t have anything on us Americans when it comes to drinking cocktails, although that seems to be changing a bit. Fruity, sweet drinks won’t likely catch on around here, which I’m happy about, but minty Mojitos are popular, fueled on by their love of a fascination with anything Cuban. And one of my commenters got a big laugh out of me when I was explaining in another post the lack of ice cubes in Paris, and she said, “The only time you get a lot of ice in Paris is when you order a cocktail.”
How does Cognac get to this…
I didn’t know, but I was determined to taste as many glasses as I could to find out.
The first thing I was asked before heading down into my first Cognac cellar during my recent visit was, “Are you afraid of spiders?”
Earlier this week, I woke up in a small town, smelling of something. It wasn’t anything bad. In fact, it was pretty good: sweet, caramel-like, and roasted, with a vague, but lingering aftermath of alcohol following it. It wasn’t something I was used to, but I’d tasted so many Cognacs this week in the town of Cognac, that it was literally wafting out my pores. And I’m not complaining.
Three days in the region is barely enough time to scratch the surface of this well-known brandy, which honestly, I didn’t know all that much about when I was invited to the annual Cognac auction, where bottles worth thousand of euros are bid on by a few lucky (and loaded) individuals.
But the first thing I learned about Cognac, is that it all starts in the barrels at the tonnellerie, or cooperage, where the barrels are made. As I touched on in my post about fresh shelling beans, and several people left their own thoughts in the comments, we’re often unaware of what actually goes in to producing the food—and beverages, that we feed ourselves.
For example, I had no idea that it takes three years, minimum, just to make each barrel that’s used for aging.