The blog relies heavily on our Senior Correspondents, and perhaps the most faithful are our Senior France correspondents, Barbara Somson and Ross Eisenbrey. Ross surfaced recently across the border in Switzerland in the medieval village of Gruyères, which, of course, is most famous for the cheese. The Gruyerois started making cheese there in the 12th century, and after 1,000 years or so of practice, they’ve pretty well mastered it. The Gruyère AOP Premier Cru has won the Guild of Fine Foods World Cheese Championship four times, more than any other cheese (edging out Camembert with three awards).
Ross stopped in at the Fleur de Lys, a small hotel and restaurant in Gruyères, for dinner, and sent this brief report:
I just had the best venison in my entire 66-year life, at Fleur de Lys in Gruyères, Switzerland. It was called Civet de Chevereuil [venison stew] on the menu and was served with spaetzle in a very rich, dark sauce with mushrooms and pearl onions, red cabbage on the side, and a poached pear. I ddi not know until tonight that venison cloud be cooked to be so tender that one could easily cut it with a fork. I did not lick my plate because there were other diners.
(Filed by Senior France correspondent, Ross Eisenbrey, dining across the border.)
Tip: Ask for more bread so that you can sop up every bit of sauce without actually lifting the plate to your face. That works much better than trying to create a diversion on the other side of the room and licking away as all backs are turned. Trust me.
Here’s a recipe from Jonathan Hirshon, Man of Mystery, for civet de chevereuil. The keys seem to be (1) marinating for 48 hours in red wine, Armagnac or cognac, and aromatic vegetables and herbs; and (2) adding puréed blood sausage toward the end of cooking. Now blood sausages often have an unpleasant iron taste, but I have had very tasty blood sausage at La Joya in San Juan and a really delicious blood sausage on our Viking River Cruise. Either would add a wonderful layer of richness to the sauce without adding any unpleasant iron taste, much as anchovies add richness to Caesar salad dressing without the distinctive anchovy taste.
(You should, by the way, go to San Juan and also, once you are of a certain age, take a Viking River Cruise.)
Gruyères sounds like a good place to visit. There’s a castle with lovely formal gardens, quaint medieval streets, and you can visit La Maison du Gruyère and watch them make cheese, and then drive over to Maison Callier, the chocolate factory. Then get a room at the very Swiss Fleur de Lis, and enjoy a dinner of civet de chevereuil while enjoying the magnificent view.
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