Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas Day...

Around 12:30 a knock on the door roused me from my coffee and alternate news reading. I opened the door to find a very large Danish man who informed me that I should head to the "main house" around 1:30.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. Camilla and Guillaume invited me to have Christmas dinner with them and their family. You have no idea how excited I was - a real French Christmas! Guillaume's mother (Mdm. Micheal), father (M. Micheal), and brother Matthieu from the coast were coming in along with Camilla's brother and mother from Copenhagen would be there as well.

I walked in through the back door a comfortable five minutes late (as French custom requires or at least as close as I can come) and Guillaume was ready with a glass of Drappier Champagne and began introductions. I was happy to learn that Camilla's mother and brother spoke perfect English, because my Danish is a bit rusty or nonexistent. We all stood around the fire as the children were jumping out of their skin to open presents. Apparently, this was their second Christmas. The Danish tradition is to open presents on Christmas Eve while the French celebrate on Christmas Day. As we all enjoyed our second and third glasses of Champagne, presents were handed all around. I even got some - a beautiful plume pink scarf, Danish chocolates, and a potted flower! I gave the kids those Lifesavers Storybooks from the States.

After the gifts were given, we all continued to chat and enjoy the fire. Guillaume and I discussed the wine selection for the evening - he comes from a classic gastronomic loving family and knows my interest in wine. He even agreed to introduce me to his merchant. I can't wait!

Dinner/Lunch started promptly at 2:43 and, from what Guillaume's father said, it was THE traditional feast that they have been having in Breton for centuries. The first course was fresh oysters... plates and plates and plates of them. French oysters are usually rough shelled and large, everyone was impressed with my skills which started a conversation about Seattle sea food. Along with this they served a local Muscadet wine (light, dry, easy to drink) which is produced by a friend of the family 20 miles outside Nantes. M. Micheal is an avid clam hunter and provided me with a lesson on how to eat live clams. You have to surprise them or they clam-up (too bad the joke doesn't work in French) and slip a thin knife in through their shell. Then you scrape them out and enjoy like an oyster. They taste like the sea - iodine.

Second course was foie gras. No, that doesn't even do it justice - it was the most creamy decadent foie gras I have ever had, even M. and Mdm. Micheal were impressed (and they have eaten foie gras their entire life!). To drink with this, we had a very sweet Cote de Rhone wine whose name I have forgotten. I am not generally a sweet white kind of gal, but with the foie gras I felt as though I was eating/drinking the most decedent thing in the world. So rich, so sweet, so lovely.

Following this we had the main meal - duck with potatoes and red beets. I believe that my dad is laughing to himself - I hate beets. However, if he had made them like this growing up I think I would have had a permanently red-stained mouth. They were cubed and lightly pickled in a sweet vinegar. With the beautiful duck and amazing potatoes they served a Crozes Hermitage Papillon 2005. A bit of a shock after the Cote de Rhone, but it brought out the duck very nicely.

Salad and cheese were a nice way to fill in the gaps after such a rich and exciting meal, although I still don't understand eating the salad after dinner... but oh well.

Desert was a homemade Bouche de Noel, a rolled cake that looks like a log. But the wine, in my opinion stole the spotlight at this point. We has a Loire Valley sparkling wine from DomaineChevrot, Cremant de Bourgogne. A little sweeter than champagne, but still dry - many light fruits and a touch of oak. If I could only take one wine home - it would be this one.

Over coffee we had some Danish marzipan candies, and great discussion. I loved talking to Camilla's mom, but my main accomplishment was the small talk with Mdm. Micheal. She was the only one who didn't speak English and my French is better than Camilla's family's French so, from time to time, I felt bad because we were speaking mostly in English. At one point she came back to the table where the ladies were lingering over coffee and candy. The moment the conversation dropped for a second, I took the opportunity to switch the language. I am not a small talker, but we did have something in common - the sea. Mustering all of my nerves (I still get a bit nervous to have a chat in French), I started by confirming that she lived by the sea. To my great relief, I could see that her face lit up - she liked the sea. We chatted for quite a while, going over all aspects of the ocean, Pacific and Atlantic, and she even invited me to Sunday dinner at her house sometime in the future.

When the party was breaking up, I realized that, next to being with my family, I really enjoyed myself. By the time I returned to my petite maison it was 7:30. In true French style, lunch lasted six hours! Experiences like this are why I decided to spend time here!

Joyeux Noel!


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