I wish all my readers Bonne Année, Bonne santé! – a happy New Year, and good health in which to enjoy it. I also wish them better luck with their online researches than I had today. I typed ‘new year celebrations france’ and came across a site which is full of errors in both French and English (clearly neither English nor French is the compilers’ mother tongue!) and inaccuracies (la galette des rois is associated with Epiphany, 6 January; pancakes do not usually feature in New Year’s Eve dinners; and what, pray, is ‘a cruise ride’?).
Digression: My old English master (Ilkley Grammar School 1953 – 60) said, ‘Use exclamation marks as sparingly as if they cost £100 each’. Well, I have just squandered £100 (see above). Thank God it was hypothetical! There goes another.Other websites, such as FrenchTogether and TheCultureTrip
, are more reliable.
Many New Year’s Eve (Saint-Sylvestre) events are advertised in Le Criquet, our monthly free magazine. Prices start at around 70 euros excluding wine at the Hôtel du Nord at Brassy for a menu featuring foie gras, langoustine, grapefruit sorbet, sanglier (wild boar as enjoyed by Astérix the indomitable Gaul), cheeses and salad and chocolate pear charlotte, followed by coffee and macaroons. Music, dancing, cotillons – formerly petticoats, nowadays party favours.
My prize for splendour goes to Le Relais Fleuri near Avallon. 157 euros tout compris gets you music and dancing and feasting from eight till late. See their website.
They start with champagne and amusettes and go on to an amazing buffet – nine hot and cold delights – before half a lobster and le Baron des fromages en habit de mendiant and a Symphonie de desserts. An overnight stay – very wise at a time when the police will be busy with their breathalysers – is on offer too.
A symphony of desserts I can cope with, but the ‘cheese baron dressed as a beggar’ baffled me. I telephoned the hotel and spoke to Madame Chifflot, the proprietor. Well, I know now. Madame reminded me that mendiant refers to nuts and dried fruits as well as to the beggar who sits outside Atac in Corbigny with his two well-nourished dogs.
To make le Baron des fromages en habit de mendiant you take a brie de Meaux cheese and cut it it across, stuff it with nuts and dried fruits and serve it in slices on a bed of salad.
Champagne or Crémant?
Traditionally the Franch celebrate Christmas and toast the New Year with champagne, the sparkling wine produced in a carefully designated region of France. Here is a website which tells you all you need to know about champagne.
Pause for Nostalgia
The Rabsons are no strangers to Champagne and champagne. Long before we emigrated to Burgundy John and I enjoyed many visits to Champagne, where there are several champagne producers in every village. We first stayed at the Hostellerie du Mont-Aimé at Bergéres lès Vertus almost 30 years ago when it was the village pub. Look at it now!
For many years the Hostellerie offered a package called Détente en Champagne . This included a visit to Launois Père et Fils at Mesnil sur Oger, which began with a tour of their unique museum and ended in a dégustation. I see they are still going strong – see here.
However, there are many excellent wines which are not permitted to be called champagne for geographical reasons. Wines made elsewhere by the same process, méthode champenoise, go by many names, from vin fou in the Jura through Californian Sparkling Wine to crémant in Burgundy, Alsace and the Loire region.
We had never heard of crémant until we visited Burgundy, where crémant de Bourgogne costs half the price of champagne. A good crémant, in our view, tastes better than a poor quality champagne. Read all about it here.
We Hate La Redoute, We Love Aldi and the Jury is out on Weldom
Do you remember We Hate La Redoute in my October piece about the bed with the missing sommier? La Redoute have still not replied to my letter although we received proof of delivery. One of my New Year resolutions is to bring La Redoute to justice. The local reporter was powerless to help, but I live in hopes of finding an investigative journalist with teeth.
Early in December we bought a CD/cassette player at Weldom, our local DIY chain. Sadly it was faulty, so we returned it. In the UK, where the onus is on the retailer, ‘refund or replace’ is the usual option. We do not live in the UK and Weldom insisted on sending the appliance away to be looked at. Today is 30 December – nothing from Weldom. Meanwhile, shortly before Christmas, John spotted a similar model in Aldi, our local supermarket in Corbigny, and bought it for me. I was delighted – until it too proved faulty. Now for the good news. John took the dodgy appliance to Aldi, who took him at his word and refunded the cost in full and in cash.
La Galette des Rois
Traditionally this flaky cake with its almond paste filling is enjoyed on 6 January: Epiphany, when the three wise men visited the holy family. There is a favour – une fève – in each galette.
Digression: My online Harraps translates une fève firstly as a bean and secondly as a lucky charm or token made of porcelain and hidden in a galette des rois.
Whoever gets the slice with the favour is the king or queen and has to wear the cardboard crown which is sold with every galette.
A reliable recipe is here and, interestingly, it calls for a dried fava bean instead of a china favour. French supermarkets sell circles of good all-butter puff pastry which makes concocting a galette easy-peasy.
On Saturday 6 January we shall all gather in the village hall at Cervon for Les Voeux du Maire. No prizes for guessing what will be served.
And on 10 January 2018 the Cheveux Blancs are hosting a games afternoon with crémant and Galette des Rois. We usually take along our Scrabble board, but on a recent trip to Nuits St Georges we bought a French Trivial Pursuit game about wines of the world. Shall we…?