Festive France Day 3: Food, Cheese, and Alsatian Wine.
What better way to start a sunny, crisp Alsatian Saturday morning in
Mulhouse than with a little shopping? And shopping it is at the Marché du Canal Couvert de Mulhouse the largest public market in North East France. Clothing, meat, printed textiles, fresh vegetables, and cheese, meat and spices will feed your greedy shopping eyes as you wander the Marché’s bustling stalls. We keep our greedy shopping eyes peeled for ‘un kilo des Quetsches’ to complete a challenge for our group cooking class Monday evening at the Cordon Bleu in Paris.
We meet Marc and David, who primarily run the market along with several committees representing produce, meat, cheese and dry goods, discussing the Market’s storied past and potential future. We stroll and sample various stalls, introduced by Marc and David and soon stop at the Maison Fabro and taste some excellent Italian cheeses, and Salami, Soppressata, Prosciutto. Pierre ‘Made in Italy’ Fabro and his lovely wife Anne-Marie are our congenial hosts. We continue down the bustling aisle row and are welcomed by the Famille Quesnot at La Fromagerie St. Nicolas. Glasses of Pinot and a selection of beautiful french cheeses and bread are offered in their quaint, eight seater restaurant and cheese shop. I am amazed at the breadth of selection available at the Marché de Mulhouse: Beautiful Italian, Swiss, German and local French artisanal cheese, wines and bread, beautiful Morrocan honey cakes, briouts, and baklava. Wonderful spices, choice game, Hallal and other meat. The outside green market boasts produce tagged from around the world: Turkey, Spain, Morrocco, Germany, Switzerland and of course proudly Alsatian. Lunch is, we have been warned, a lot of food and that proves to be true. After all the wine, cheese, meats and bread I have been sampling for the last hour, I am not at all hungry. But eat we must because we are in France. Café Restaurant ‘Aux Halles’ serves the kind of Alsatian food your grandmother served: hearty meat and potatoes, side of shredded carrots, tossed greens and something stringy and white that I don’t remember my grandmother serving me. And of course, we mistakenly order the LARGE side and are gently chided by the owner for not cleaning our plates. And of course, bread. De riguer.
Into the Vineyard
We hop into Clémance’s car for the 20-minute drive into wine country and le petite village of Bergholz for a tour and tasting at the famous Domaine Dirler-Cadé estate. I have never seen so many grapes growing in one place. We have a tour of the facilities with Le Master Jean and his engaging wife Ludivine and their charming four-year-old daughter Mathilde. Ludivine drives us into the Alsatian vineyard, and she casually names all 7 varieties of grapes including Riesling, Gewurz Traminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Sylvaner from which the family runs 18 hectares (43.2 acres) of vines. And not to forget the Crémant d’Alsace, made of the varieties Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Auxerrois! 42% of which are classified Saering, Spiegel, Kessler or Kitterlé Grand Cru. We continue our extensive Saturday afternoon wine education with the clipping, cleaning, and harvesting process the grapes go through as they are pulled from the vines. So much I did not know.
Now to the tastings: we spend almost 2 hours tasting over 15 bottles and we came to pretty much the same agreement: Pinot Gris Kessler and (surprisingly to me and all who know me) the Gewurz Traminer. I am definitely going to reexamine my views of Alsatian wines!
Dinner tonight at Zum Saüwadala was, well, disappointing. I had hoped to sample some traditional charcuterie at this very popular and very busy Alsatian food-focused restaurant but alas, that was not to be. Our food was below average and the service extremely lacking. Let’s just say having to wait 1.5 hours for your main (no starters, no bread) is completely unacceptable. And when asked if we wanted dessert, the menu arrived some twenty minutes later. My research tells me that Zum Saüwadala changed ownership in 2013; obviously not for the better.