Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 4, 2016
Ten pounds in 10 days
Our fourth trip to the Lorraine region of France was with friends Brent and Charlotte. We were eager to show them around and have them experience some of the sights, sounds and tastes we’ve enjoyed there over the years.
Part of the fun of travel is trying new foods. We rented a home in Metz and alternated between preparing our own meals, eating out and dining in friends’ homes. At home, husband Art and I usually don’t take time to fix breakfast except on weekends. But for some reason, when we were in France, we put out a big spread for that first meal of the day. Sometimes it was a full “English breakfast” of bacon, toast, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, fried bread and fried mushrooms, fruit and coffee. Other times, we set out cold cuts, cheese, fruit and croissants. Art prefers the ones with chocolate filling.
But lunch and supper were usually eaten out. On the day we visited the cathedral and the covered market in the heart of Metz, we passed several pastry shops. Tempting though they were, we refrained from buying anything because we were on our way to Angeluzzo’s - a restaurant that has become a favorite for our family. Each of us had a pasta dish, some of us with a side of French fries. We topped the meal off with desserts of ice cream or tiramisu - the latter being a lovely layered Italian dessert flavored with coffee and cocoa.
Another day, we made an excursion to nearby Trier, Germany to see the Roman sites, government palace and cathedral. A late lunch at Café Basilika meant large pizzas for the men while Charlotte and I ate cream of asparagus soup and two kinds of bruschetta.
And so it went, trying new foods each day. Lunch for me at La Table de Rose in nearby Fèves, France began with an appetizer of eggplant with bread crumbs and Parmesan followed by a fish dish for the main course. Art also had the fish, but opted to get the dessert - a lemon custard - instead of the appetizer.
That night at a reception in Fèves, we stuffed ourselves with the savory and sweet hors d’oeuvres. I pigged out on the chocolate cream puffs while Art’s favorites were the small cakes soaked in rum.
A day trip to Bastogne, Belgium found Charlotte and I eating creamy lasagne with a lot of mushrooms.
On our second Friday, we met friends in Saint Privat la Montagne to eat at Restaurant de la Tour. In my Oct. 7 column “Friends who can't say ‘au revoir,’" I described much of that meal. Let’s just say we could barely waddle out of the restaurant by the time midnight arrived.
Saturday night, we were guests of farm couple Brigitte and Michel. We had visited their place a few days before so that Brent could compare French and Kansas agriculture. They invited us back to partake of quiche Lorraine, prime rib with rosemary sprigs, roasted potatoes, vegetables, salad, cheese and an apple tarte. There were also various alcoholic drinks. Unlike a meal in the U.S., where the average time for lunch is 20 minutes and for dinner is a mere hour or so, a meal in France is an event and continues for the whole evening. Like the evening in Saint Privat, our farmhouse meal lasted until a little after midnight.
Our final meal was at the home of friends Gèrard and Solange. Francis and Christiane, Solange’s sister, also joined us. We first had pretzels and other snacks with champagne and then went to the table, where Gèrard served his famous “Lorraine couscous.” Couscous is originally from North Africa and is a staple in the Middle East and Sicily as well, but is also quite popular in France. Gèrard has adopted it as one of his favorite meals to serve guests, with his version featuring a rich sauce over lamb, beef, chicken and other meats.
After we had our fill, we ate grapes, followed by cheese and bread. Then Solange served her beautiful delicious mirabelle tarte. The mirabelle - a small yellow plum grown primarily in the Lorraine region of France - is also made into jams, candies, ice cream and pastries. It is also the basis for a 90-proof liquor, which we sampled along with wines and other drinks after the meal.
The only sour spot in all the delicious food occurred when we stopped at a restaurant in Pont-à-Mousson. Brent and I were not pleased by our choice - andouille sausage - a specialty of the house. As soon as my knife went through the casing, I knew it was not like any sausage I was accustomed to eating. Various pieces of grayish-colored rubbery meats came spilling out. I ate a bit and then asked Art if he’d like to try it. He tasted one bite and said, “No thanks, I liked my hamburger just fine.” I learned later it was tripe, mixed with seasonings and perhaps some wine - with way too much of the former and far too little of the latter.
But with rare exception, everything we ate was tasty as well as beautiful to look at. But with quiche, croissants, cream puffs, couscous, pizza, pasta, tartes and all the rest, it’s no wonder I felt like we gained 10 pounds in 10 days!
Left: Brent, Charlotte and Art check out the sweets in a Metz store; left-center: Brent with his pizza in a Trier sidewalk restaurant; right-center: Gèrard brings the couscous to the table while Solange watches; right-top: Solange's mirabelle tarte; right-bottom: Francis chats with others at the table while Gèrard brings the dish of various meats that accompany the couscous.