Sunday, July 1, 2012

Melle & Le Fin Gourmet de Parthenay

A Roman silver mine was the origin of Melle, which in the 9th century had the only mint in Aquitaine.  Later, its fame derived from the baudet du Poitou, an especially sturdy mule bred in the area.  Now Melle is better known for its churches.

Mosaic goats

The Hotel de Menoc has some interesting features, like 15th century towers and a facade rebuilt in the 19th century in a neo-gothic style.

M's turn to be at the "old watering hole"

Melle has three fine examples of roman-style churches constructed in the 11th - 12th centuries. The finest is St-Hilaire.

Built in a delightful riverside setting, it has an equestrian statue of the Emperor Constantine above the north door.  It is also a World Heritage Site of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.

The pilgrims on the Route to Compostela were not all pious and above reproach.  Many of them were murderers and brigands who were sentenced to take the Route in expiation for their sins.  Melle was a walled city and tried to keep all these pilgrims out, because of their questionable intentions, and also because of disease.  Some of them were lepers and others carried various contagion.

St-Hilaire is an extraordinary example of all the beasts carved in friezes of a church of that period.  The fierce beasts were meant to scare the devil, and as you came closer and closer to the door of the church, you were becoming more purified. 

You can find examples of dragons, basilisks, griffins, sirens (bird & fish), centaurs, chimeras and sphinx. 

Another fine example of stained glass

The interior has been renovated and updated in a stylized setting for the altar and baptistry.

This is the exterior of St-Hilaire.  I have to explain that we were in Melle to attend "Les Nuits Romanes" where there would be fireworks, acrobats, and incredible entertainment set to Vivaldi's Four Seasons, hence the scaffolding and metal set-up .  But given that the program didn't start till 9:30 and that we had not brought enough warm clothes, we decided to leave and go have dinner.  It is a shame since it promised to be a great event.

We drove to Parthenay and found "Le Fin Gourmet", where we had eaten almost 2 years ago to the day, since we had gone there on July first, Canada Day.  We were staying at the Château de Tennessus which is not too far away.

We were definitely not disappointed - it was as delicious as ever!  And the dishes are still red and white, to remind us of our country's flag!

The "mise en bouche" was a creamy fish sauce with a little shrimp at the bottom. Yum!

Our entrée was a puff pastry sliced horizontally, and stuffed with a substantial piece of lobster, asparagus spears, and a chiffonade of zucchini.  The sauce was buttery with a lemon overtone.

Oh, a favourite!  This was a "champagne gratinée" to cleanse the palate: very finely crushed ice soaked in champagne.  Can anything be more refreshing!  I jokingly asked if I could have a couple of these for dessert.

Then came a take on the traditional Coquilles St. Jacques.  This one had the scallops wrapped in a thin crêpe and the mashed potatoes were mashed yams.  All surrounded with broccoli, pea pods and chanterelle mushrooms, baked to perfection.

I had a 2-plate menu whereas Karl had the 3-plate menu.  His next dish was a filet mignon on a bed of mushrooms and small potatoes.

My dessert was a milk chocolate mousse as well as a white chocolate mousse, with raspberries soaked in balsamic vinegar in a little spoon on the side.

Karl's dessert was a heart-shaped clafoutis (cherry cake with raisins), some cherry sorbet in a frilled chocolate bowl.  He said it was amazing!


This incredible dinner ended with Brazil nut chocolate, macaroons, and tuiles.  There was of course coffee and my last sips of fine wine.

Perhaps we will make this our Canada Day tradition!


No comments:

Post a Comment