Another Happy Day in Metz, France
I drive to Metz fairly often and have posted a few blogs about the fabulous old city, the capital of the province of Lorraine.
Looking at the list of my verbosity, I guess I’ve spent more time there than I thought. Lots of things bring me back, many of which I’ve already written about: The Cathédrale de Étienne, the Marché Couvert (fabulous covered market), and the old stone city in general.
It’s not just the city, but France that draws me like a horse to wine. I do like France, with it’s relaxed formality that insists all proper conversations begin with “Bonjour!” France is more cultured than Spain, more excitingly alive than Germany…but oh, poor France, Italy! is friendlier.
Everyone talks about the food in France, or the food and wine, or the famous art and artists, and who can forget the lyrical language that makes Les Misérables sound infinitely better than The Miserables and Jean so much more sophisticated than John, which in American vernacular can also signify a toilet. How about Guy (Giee) instead of just plain Bill.
Ok, I’ll get to my plan to talk about the food, but first come the French women. A French woman, no matter the age or facial beauty, is so graceful and inherently sexy that if she is married, you feel a sudden urge to drop to your knees and kiss her wedding ring.
The simplest movement shows you how aware she is of her body. I glanced at a seated French woman subtly smoothing her skirt. She must have been eighty, but if my significant other hadn’t been close at hand… (Please, let’s keep this our little secret!)
French women show the casual sexiness that exudes an attitude of, “Of course everyone is staring, but I’m used to it.” Meanwhile her French husband displays the casual arrogance that says, “I’m way too good for her.”
Is it getting hot in here? Anyway, I need to chat about
lust lunch. But, first a stroke of the broad brush. The French can teach anyone how to eat, with
the very possible exception of the Italians.
But, with much of the western world content to simply eat, the French
dine. A glass of wine and some excellent
French bread compliments every meal. (Sorry, Germany, your bread is good, but
the French bread makes you exclaim “Mon
dieu, ce pain est incroyable!) Then why are the French generally slender?
Besides the natural Gallic sangfroid
my guess is: bicycles, walking,
conversation over meals, small portions, contentment and pleasures of taste
that override the American need to eat faster than a thieving monkey, then race
for the seat on the couch. Eye
The French chef is a master or mistress of eye appeal. Even the casual Bistro cook will please the eye as well as the palate, as well as the taste.
In Metz, I normally go to a favorite bistro at 27 Place St. Jacques, just down a windy street from the cathedral and the covered market. Place St. Jacques is a large open square with bistros, ice cream shops, bars and restaurants and a few stores lining all four sides.
My special place is Enfin, which proclaims Bistrot & Cuisine Sympathique! I have only eaten lunch there, wait a sec, many lunches there. I only order one meal: Quiche (after all, I’m in the Province of Lorraine), which comes with the best pomme frites (French fries, although it translates to apple fries), a small salad with vinaigrette and a slice or two of light tan bread that I want the recipe for. This is one of the best meals, not only of the bistro variety, but of any variety. I’ve had Michelin three stars meals that don’t measure up to this simple fare.
Of course, I accompanied the meal with some mineral water and a glass of the house white wine. If you can’t trust a constantly crowded, bustling French bistro to pick out the wine, whom can you trust?
I finished with an espresso, which was so tasty and acid free that it needed no cream or sugar. But, what the hell, I wasn’t driving home, so I added an Armagnac to the bill. Best Armagnac I’ve ever tasted. Smooth as silk and a perfect accompaniment to the espresso. Had Armagnac? Oh, you poor, sober drinker!
Armagnac, the oldest brandy region in France, comes from the south, just a bit southeast of Bordeaux. It’s another area like the Champagne and Cognac regions, and like the others, the name Armagnac is protected and cannot be used for brandy produced elsewhere.
Hunger and thirst satisfied, we move onward. In Metz there are many onwards and even on shaky legs I sally forth.
First we hit the covered market for Mirabella plums and some violet colored French garlic.
Mirabella plums are only grown in a couple of spots in France and if you want a tree, by international agreement, you must import it from Lorraine. So Mirabella plums are almost impossible to find in the U.S. But, in Lorraine, if it’s August, it’s Mirabella time for fresh fruits and cakes and liquor and cookies and jams.
But, the market was not the end of my Metz Day. We wandered the brick paved
streets, stared into many a boulangeries (bakery) and pâtisseries (pastry shop).
Not to mention a liqueur stores, in my quest to buy my new favorite Armagnac,
Duc de Camilhac. Didn’t find it.
Also studied fashions in the boutique windows. I learned quickly that sex is
the product. I can imagine a 75-year-old Frenchman, with the patina of age,
breath that would rust a fender and in the thick fog of Alzheimer’s, thinking,
if I only buy those jeans and that yellow polo, the girl of my dreams will surely...
We stopped for another café at the Bar de la Luna, right across from the covered
market and right by the cathedral. This time it was a cappuccino and no Armagnac.
I started thinking, or daydreaming how easy it is to become such a jaded traveler
that you can walk right past a cathedral and even go inside and still have the first
thought be, "Where can I get a beer?"
But, Catholic or not, pause for a moment to contemplate the extreme detail of
the magnificence of the Catholic vision to bring the glory of God to earth in a form
that the middle age royalty and peasants alike could view and understand. If a
picture is worth a thousand words, how many sermons is a cathedral worth?
Now, how about that beer?
Hell yes, I enjoyed my day in Metz, as I always do, and as an Austrian once
said, “Al be bach!”