Monday, November 03, 2008

Vin Chaud.

After a long walk through the park in a cold, driving rain, our first thought was of finding something to warm our insides up a bit. Versailles being what it is, at one of the back gates, we managed to find a couple of brasseries (old style cafe-bars that used to specialize in beer) that weren't devoted solely to the tourist trade.

Small, spotless, and very welcoming looking, this sort of outfit is becoming rarer and rarer in the Parisian area due to rising costs and the new politic of buying premade 'meals to go' that the cooks just reheat. I was particularly charmed by the old sandwich menu which was exactly the same as the one the cafe/bar in the mountainside village I lived in as a student. Even had the same sandwiches: jambon beurre (ham and butter), pate au canard (duck pate), croque monsieur (kind of like a monte cristo, but without the jam). The special of the day was a choucroute garnie - sauerkraut with all sorts of goodies within. The next day was pot-au-feu. Was sorry to not have been there for dinner. Maybe next time.

Teas and hot cocoa aren't always the best bet in these places, as the cocoa tends to be the powdered stuff like it is here and the tea's often the cheapest available. My default is usually vin chaud: a lovely drink of diluted, sweetened red wine heated up by the cappucino machine's milk frother, served with a slice of lemon and the house bottle of cinnamon.

Warms up the hands, calms a scratchy throat, takes the edge off a chilly night, soothes the soul.

Though it tastes better sitting in a cafe watching the folks running between the raindrops outdoors and having your conversation partner making fun of your Buffalo accent (not thick, but noticeable), vin chaud isn't at all bad at home in front of a roaring fire, or in the kitchen with a few friends as a sort of pre-aperitif warmer. Here's my version for two:

1 1/2 c. red table wine
1/2 c. water
sugar to taste (I don't like stuff too sweet, so 1 tsp for two people's enough for me)
two slices of lemon (or orange)
cinnamon to taste

Heat the water, wine and sugar in a small, heavy-bodied saucepan. When steaming, but not boiling, pour into two heavy glasses or mugs. Float a fruit slice on each serving and sprinkle as much cinnamon as you'd like on top. Enjoy.

The Frenchie being French.

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