On our trip, we stay at Le Moulin Brégeon in the Loire Valley. Working there with Chef Guy Izambard is always a riot. Although classes are generally translated into English, he manages to communicate almost entirely through his infectious smile and enthusiasm. We skinned and filleted live eels after preparing Pâté en Croute, Country-Style Duck Rillettes, Boudin Blanc and Plum Tart. After all that, we did cook up a dish of swiss chard from the Mill’s gardens to counterbalance. At the end of the week, we have a market basket cook-off in the Mill’s kitchens. Twice before this has been wild boar, but you never know what will be available.
Every year I poll the course participants for feedback and ideas for the next year. Of course, this means that next year’s trip may be the ideal format for the previous year’s group, but it does yield some very good ideas. Someone suggested a visit to a supermarché (supermarket) to cruise the dairy aisle and pick a variety of butters, crème fraîches, yogurt and, of course, cheeses for a tasting. I’m excited about comparing the different goat, sheep and cow’s milk products. For example, the Brittany style demi-sel (salted) butter with fleur de sel is traditionally served with radishes, and is delicious.
I’m already working on the activities for the next trip in October, 2011. If October has some warm periods after wet spells, it may still be mushroom season in the nearby forest. For any alumni who want to join us, all new activities will include a full day of pig fabrication with guest Chef Guy, a visit to the Renaissance-era kitchens of Château Serrant, and a food history lesson covering the era of the Crusades, the development of the spice trade through to modern EU restrictions. We will also have an extended tour of the Fleur de Sel marshes of Guérande with an actual Paludier and visit the Langlois-Chateau sparkling wine caves in Saumur. Check the ICE website soon for the dates and a full course itinerary.
For a student’s perspective on the class, check out ICE alum Josh Fein’s travel diary. He took lots of photos and recorded some of my favorite moments from the trip.