Food & Wine Reign Supreme in the Rhone
Post by Chuck Hayward | March 16th, 2011
Visiting wineries is hard work. You might be rolling your eyes, as my non-industry friends tend to do when I say that, but trust me. Now, that’s not to say a little fun can’t be mixed in, too! Our recent trip to the Rhone Valley for Decouvertes provided the perfect opportunity to dabble in both. After marathon tasting sessions during the day, at night we were beneficiaries of some pretty spectacular meals.
When looking for restaurant recommendations, folks in the wine business are usually spot on. Winemakers and sales reps spend a considerable amount of time wining and dining to promote their products, so they are usually a great source of information for anything from a good cup of coffee to a three star dining experience. Keep that in mind the next time you visit a wine region and need a suggestion for dinner.
Consequently, the first night on our stop in the Northern Rhone we were steered towards a small restaurant in spitting distance from our hotel, thanks to the export manager at one of the wineries on our schedule. The sleepy village of Tain L’Ermitage provided the setting for what would prove to be the best meal on our whole trip. Called Le Mangevins, this small, intimate bistro was just what we wanted. With only one evening seating (8pm, with lunch service at 12), diners quickly filled the tables in the small, warm room, and the menu was comprised of a chalkboard with a handful of dishes posted daily. The owner Vincent Dollat guided us to choose intensely flavored dishes, prepared simply by his wife Keiko to highlight fresh, local ingredients. A small loin of pork with just a kiss of seasoning rested atop mushrooms cooked to perfection and made me swoon, as did a soup of scallops. We left the restaurant full and happy. (Le Mangevins, 6 Avenue Dr. Paul Durand, 26600 Tain-l’Hermitage, 04 75 07 73 85)
Wineries also love to host parties during wine tasting festivals, and as great wine and great food go hand-in-hand, these can be ground zero for some pretty stunning cuisine. The next night found us at just such a fête, and it must be said there are few people who can throw a party like Michel Chapoutier. Clearing out warehouse space next to his offices and just down the street from Le Mangevins, some 400 customers, importers, and press members settled into a food-and-wine coma. The dégustation dînatoire (culinary voyeurs will want to check out the menu below) featured no less than thirteen bite-sized dishes elegantly presented in a continuous wave of decadence, many of which employed Chapoutier’s wines in their preparation. Following that procession, plates of meat and game were heaped onto tables, along with a mountain of local cheeses. We were speechless at the bounty, but it didn’t really matter because our mouths were full anyway. (more…)