Note on the text: due to an infuriating error, in which I deleted from my iPhone the photos that were to accompany this text before having put them on my computer, the pictorial content of this post is laughably pathetic. I considered not even posting this episode of the Beaujolais Bike Trip, but decided, in the end, to let the text just stand (mostly) alone.
I find myself, on these bike trips, unable to shake the naive faith that at each meal in a village of oenological interest I will discover a treasure trove of local delights and unforetold curiosities, on the plates and in the glasses. That this almost never happens does nothing to prevent me from seeking such an experience everywhere I go. To wit: when my friends J, C, and I stopped for Sunday lunch beneath murky skies in the eponymous village of the esteemed Beaujolais cru Juliénas, we found ourselves hesitating between two restaurants in the main square, debating whether the short wait at one was worth enduring to avoid the higher prices and slightly pretentious-looking menu of the other.
The restaurants' names are Le Coq à Juliénas and Chez La Rose, respectively. We found out later they share ownership, along with an attached grannyish hotel. Our decision to wait for a table at Le Coq turned out to be an ambiguous one, for while the cuisine was honest and decent, the wines were null, and the only server, a contemptuous middle-aged bruiser with a buzz cut and an ex-con demeanor, ensured that the restaurant's name remained uncomfortably apropos regardless of whether chicken was on the menu.
|Not an original photo. Imagine same, but with unused outdoor tables, and no sunshine.|
At the risk of offending an entire village, I wonder whether it was a Juliénas thing. Upon cruising into town we skidded to a halt between a piddly street market and a leery tavern, and were promptly ridiculed for our bike gear by the stonking drunk weirdos on the terrace of the latter.*
Here I once had a photo of J and C in their bike and rain gear. In the background on the left were a crowd of drunks on the terrace of a tavern. One man was dressed as Barbarella, as though it had been his birthday last night and he were still at it.
It was a little before 2pm. We abandoned further exploration as worthless and headed back to Le Coq, but not before witnessing some gentlemen from the market, apparently as potted as the tavern folk, break several jars of artisanal caramel in the street in attempts to relocate that vendor's stand.
It was not an auspicious start to our trip, which had been marked thus far by intermittent storms overhead, intense humidity, and the possible destruction of C's beloved camera due to a leaky water bottle in her bike bag. A good thing then, that after some comically rude interactions with le coq at Le Coq, during which he twice evicted us from the restaurant until he had set our table as his leisure, we were served a really divine pistacchio-studded terrine that reassured everyone.
Here I once had a photo of this heavenly terrine, accompanied by some cornichons.
I've long been aware that the region in general is known for terrines, saucissons, and so on, and can aver that this was the first time I'd experienced a product that matched or outmatched that reputation. It was in the freshness of the pistacchio nuts, the clarity of their flavor, and that of the vivid pink meat. It was all we could do to resist ordering several portions for the road (a decision we later regretted).
Here I once had a photo of the hokey-looking wine list placemat.
The placemats of Le Coq double as wine lists, depicting images of vignerons whose wines are available, along with idiotic purple descriptions of said wines bearing no relation to reality whatsoever. Later, in Vauxrenard with natural vigneron Isabelle Perraud, we confirmed our suspicion that almost nothing but swill is served at Le Coq.
|Not an original photo. Imagine same, only crowded with elderly Luxembourois tourists. And no fire and no sunshine.|
Here ought to have followed several photos of the wine glasses. The glasses were stubby; the wines were almost uniformly suspiciously black. Beaujolais ought not to be black.
Domaine Maison de la Dîme - Juliénas 2010: The most expensive, at 4,5€ / glass, and easily the worst. Ink black and patterned after a hopelessly outdated Merlot style. Chemical-tasting and sad.
Franck Juillard - Juliénas Vielles Vignes 2009: Bright, fruity, and actually agreeable. Something slightly sugar-packety about it, but in a ripe year like 2009 there ought to be no recourse to chaptalisation, right?
Domaine David-Beaupere - Juliènas 2010: Middling and tart. Like the Maison de la Dîme, not especially identifiable as cru Beaujolais, let alone Juliénas. I read from their Facebook site that they're aiming for organic certification in 2014, which is a start, I guess.
There you have it. Some real local treasures. Later J took a glass of acceptable Côte de Brouilly, and I chanced and lost on a glass of corked Chénas. (No way I was going to brooch that conversation with our fearsome server / sommelier that day.) On bike trips, at least, one can console oneself for one's poor glass selections with the idea that it's best not too drink too much at lunch anyway. I guess.
I had better luck with a plat of straight-up sausage and lentils.
Here I had intended to place a photo of this sausage dish. Pretty no-frills, sausage and lentils, use your imagination.
It is hard to screw this dish up, and Le Coq à Juliénas emphatically did not: the sausage was dense and rich, and the lentils delightfully acid-bright with the red wine sauce. (I left this meal with the impression that wine at Le Coq is best consumed after it has passed through the kitchen.)
Then, ensuring my continued idiot hope for these sorts of things, the cheese course was something new-to-me (if not C): a bowl of the horrifyingly-named Lyonnais specialty cervelles de canut.
Here I had intended to provide a photo of this dish. Instead I am reduced to using a photo of a reenactment of same dish that I whipped together the other night. (It came out quite well, though you wouldn't know from the looks of it.)
This translates as "Canut's brains," apparently referring to the Canuts who used to work the city's silk looms, and consists of fromage blanc seasoned with herbs, oils, vinegar, shallots, and, in this case, a splendid, nuanced dash of garlic. Sort of like ranch dressing, only socially acceptable and quite delicious. It was the perfect kick-in-the-palate to get us back on the road - it turned out to be a tough one, and steep - to Vauxrenard.
* It was not friendly yelling. It was creepy yelling. As someone who for work purposes is often prompted to wear skirts in the street, I'm by now well attuned to the difference.
Le Coq à Juliénas
Tel: 04 74 04 41 98
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Beaujolais Communiqué