Day 28: The Alsatian Food and Wine Experience

When we woke up in the morning the rain had let up and I was able to get a clear view out into the valley below.
I missed getting a picture of this yesterday, so here is the sign for the farm where we stayed.  For those of you that missed my post yesterday, I am traveling in France with Special K and some of her friends.
First thing in the morning we headed down to the barn to watch the cows being milked.  We had hoped to milk some ourselves, but of course, nowadays, it's all done by machine.

Here I am with K, bright and early to watch the cows being milked.  It was kind of neat to see how technology has evolved and how this task is now completed on a day to day basis on farms.
Then we took a look at the baby cows.  They were really cute.

As we headed back up the mountain to the lodge area we got caught behind the cows heading back to their pasture.  I couldn't resist the picture because it brought back all my memories of living in the Azores.
Here is the main area containing the kitchen with the dorm area behind it.  I believe the family lives here too.
You can see now that there are some beautiful views from up here.  While I would really miss being near things, the French countryside is quite beautiful.  I loved driving along the roads and seeing large green areas dotted with the red roofs of the little villages.
Here are the cows after they were moved to this field.

Now that we had watched the cows being milked, it was time to join everyone for breakfast.  We were served some orange juice to start.
Jams and butter
Plus, we still had a strawberry tart from the day before.
Our last stop before leaving the farm was to where they make their cheese.  Here we were given a tour and explanation of the process for making their cheese.  It was explained to us in French, and so one of the ladies with us spoke some French was able to to translate for us, at least for the most part.  It was really helpful to have her there.  Otherwise, I would have been lost.

Their specialty here is munster, but they also make tomme, which is a type of cheese.  These are the molds that they use for the cheese.  They fill the milk mixture into these molds and then press it.
The result is something that becomes this size, instead of as deep as the molds shown above.
Here is the lady that makes the cheese giving us a description of the process and showing us how she stirs the milk as it is heated.
The next room we entered is where the cheese is stored at just the right temperature.  All of the cheese is labelled with the month and year that is was made.

Here is some newer cheese and this one contains peppers.
Sitting on one of the tables was this finished product ready to be shipped off to a grocer.
This was the last area we where shown.  Here the cheese is completing the process of aging, but hasn't yet been taken to the room where it will stay for months.
One last picture of the farm information.
As we headed back to Strasbourg, we followed along the Alsace wine route.  Our first stop was in the quaint village of Riquewihr.  If you are looking for a cute town in Alsace, this is definitely it.  I am so glad K picked this for a stop on the way back to the "big" city.  Here you can see the rows and rows of grapes for the many vineyards here.  Here in Alsace you will find many excellent white wines.  They are even traditionally served in a glass with a green stem.
As we strolled the streets I took in the atmosphere and snapped away with my camera, knowing that there was no way my camera would ever capture the true beauty and spirit of the the town.

As we first entered there was a little market.  Here I tried some of these sweet breads.  I had one with fig and also chocolate.
After that we just walked up the main road and made our way down the narrow side streets.

Everything about the town was so charming and makes you want to just escape reality for a bit and enjoy something much more simpler.
This is known as kugelhoph, which sadly, I never got a chance to try.  I was so busy eating so many other things that by the time I would pass a place selling these, I wasn't hungry.  This is a traditional cake for this region and I did see them sold in many places.  They even sold the pans all over the place, and the stores would give the recipe in English if you bought the pan.  I also didn't get the chance to buy one.  It would have been too difficult to carry around and travel with since I still had more places to go to.

I loved looking at this clock, which was right up at the end of the main road cutting through town.

After leaving Riquewihr, we stopped off in Mittelbergheim, which is another city along the Alsace wine route.  Here we were going to meet up with two other of K's friends, and they would accompany us for the next couple of days.  Here we had about an hour to wander before they were meeting us, so we decided to look at some wineries and taste some local wines.

The first place we stopped in to try was at Domaine Gilg. 
You can see we were given some very generous samples here.

I don't know much about the wines from this region, so it was nice to get a little education in this.

We still had some time, so we just walked down some of the streets in this town.  Here is their little church.  It was really quiet in this town, and this is probably because there are only just over 600 residents.  It is very tiny, but surprisingly has 19 wineries.  As far as I can tell, most of them have been handed down from generation to generation.
One of those little family run wineries, we got lucky and stumbled upon a great one.  Although the winemaker himself was not there, his brother happened to be outside and upon us asking him about the wine, he invited us in for a tour and a tasting.  This is Mappus, which is family run and on the 5th generation winemaker.  The brother who gave us a tour, Marc, was still very knowledgable about the wine and the process, even though he is not in the business.  Instead, he is a high school science teacher.
He gave us a great tour and explained the various wines to us, then showed us where the bottles are stored.  They all looked so neat without the labels on them yet.  Just to give you an idea of how much they produce, I will let you know it is only 20,000 bottles annually.  It is a rather small winery, but I really liked that all of these small wineries in this town (and probably the whole region) were family run and passed down for many generations.  It is a completely different way of life than I am used to.

After tasting some wine, and of course buying some wine, we met up with the ladies picking us up and continued on to Epfig where we had a scheduled tasting at Domaine Ostertag.
Here I am tasting some wine.  Perhaps I should say I am tasting some more wine, since I seemed to have been tasting it all day.
The wine makers wife is an artist and it is her paintings that are used on all of the labels.  Ok, this is what I think I understood from the conversation because I actually walked in a few minutes late.
Tasting wine at this place was fun because there were many to try out and the gentlemen tasting with us happened to be winemakers from Italy (or at least studying to be).  I have never met so many winemakers in my life.  I wonder if I can start my own winery in Japan!

Sure enough, we bought some bottles here too.  My guess is that if you want more details about all the wine tasting, and a beautifully written description of the trip, check out K's blog.  I know she will remember many more things than I will because she knows a lot more about the wine.
After all the wine tasting and checking out the Alsace wine route, we made our way to our hotel, Relais de la Poste.  This place is just outside of Strasbourg in La Wantznau, and the hotel restaurant has recently been awarded it's first Michelin Star (in 2011).
Very cute building, like so many we have seen in this area.
For some reason I ended up with a room away from the other ladies, and was up on the very top floor of the house.  I had a very nice and spacious room, with a great sitting area for getting my work done while I could enjoy the open window with the fresh French air blowing through.
I was happy with the pink color.
The bathroom was a nice size too, but I am still not entirely used to European showers, so that was an interesting challenge for me.
Like I mentioned, the hotel restaurant is a 1 Michelin starred restaurant, and it was one of the ladies birthdays the day before, not to mention we all all fans of fine food, so we had made reservations to eat here.
Awaiting what I expect to be a tasty meal.
Everyone (except me) started off with foie gras.
My favorite part of the start of the meal was the olive roll.
After they finished their foie gras, we were served an amuse-bouche, which is something small served before the meal, and I guess is meant to get the palate ready for the meal.  We were served some sort of fish salad with a nice sized caper, and then something along the lines of lobster bisque. 

For dinner, I splurged on the lobster, which seems to be the thing I do when it comes to fancy restaurants.  It was really good.  Yum!
It came with a side of rice, but the lobster itself was enough.
I also took a picture of Betty's dish since she was sitting next to me and her's looked very nice as well.
With absolutely no room left for dessert, we some how managed to squeeze in the crepe suzette.  I don't know how we did this, but it was too good to pass up.
He was very skilled, and thankfully no one was set on fire.
The meal ended with some fresh vanilla ice cream.
For me, it was a delicious meal and I was glad to have the chance to eat at a real French restaurant of this caliber.  It was an interesting experience, and I say a "real" French restaurant because the menu was French only and the staff was limited in their English.  Therefore, we had more of an authentic dining experience rather than eating somewhere that frequently hosts tourists/visitors.

Whew!  That was a one exciting day packed with all kinds of Alsatian foods and wines.  I am so lucky to have been able to have this experience.  Next time, I would love to get to travel there with my husband.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever made cheese?  Have you ever visited a winery and taken a tour?  Have you ever eaten at a restaurant with a Michelin star?

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