Château de Chanteloup, Saintes and Cognac School – Day Two

Yesterday, I wrote about Day One of the Martell Pure Gourmet adventure, in Cognac, France. Our bright and breezy second morning began with a visit to a traditional French market, in the nearby town of Saintes.

Jamie, myself, Brad and Helene at Saintes

The trip was really to enable us to appreciate just how rich and diverse the local produce is and by all accounts, this was a small market compared to other days. Even before we reached the main part of the market, we could see the lady at her magazine stall selling a few cèpes that she’d probably found on her way to the market herself. Oh, how I wish we could find these at my local market!

We also stopped at the Fromagerie Moreau, where the market stall owner was pleased to answer any questions we had about the vast array of local cheeses on offer and some from further afield. I did notice that many of them were marked AOC or AOP, the certification granted to certain agricultural products, including wines, cognac, of course, cheese and even butters within designated geographical areas.  The French are particularly proud of provenance, which, for me, was a wonderful thing to see and to appreciate, as we see it more and more in Britain.

I can also never quite believe how small our world really is. I had ‘tweeted’ my whereabouts and my friend and fellow blogger Karen from Lavender and Lovage exclaimed that Saintes was in fact her local market town. This was so strange as I had only met Karen a couple of weeks earlier when she had popped over to visit me in my local market town whilst on a visit to England. I had mentioned how lovely it would be to one day visit Karen’s part of the world! What are the chances of ending up in a tiny, rural part of South West France and being that close to someone you know? Anyway, I was very grateful that I was able to leave the rest of group for a short time to meet Karen and her husband for a quick French café au lait, whilst the others went to visit another local producer of fruit and vegetables. 

Karen, Lavender and Lovage

I just about made it back (after a particularly interesting taxi ride where my A-Level French failed me) for a spectacularly fresh seafood lunch at the Château. There really was a remarkable display of local seafood on offer, fresh oysters, which we had seen earlier on at the market, salmon, langoustines, fresh crab, all accompanied with, yes, you guessed it, Martell cognac. Of all the individual pairings so far, I absolutely loved cognac with seafood. If you think about it, a very simple Marie Rose cocktail sauce at home can be elevated to something else with a splash of cognac, so it really would be a beautiful idea to serve a small glass of cognac with any seafood starter over the festive period.

Seafood lunch – photograph Anne-Laure Jacquart

After lunch, we were divided into two smaller groups. We started with a welcome into the kitchens of Château de Chanteloup, where the hard work of the Pure Gourmet adventure really happens. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the House of Martell have a resident team of chefs, led by Eric Danger and Christophe Pienkowski, who work together to create some remarkable dishes and cognac pairings for Martell guests from all over the world. We were shown how to make a dessert of crêpes with lemon, fresh berries and an orange suzette sauce, paired with VSOP cognac. The second team made madeleines with honey which were paired with Martell XO. I’ll be trying the recipes at home and will hopefully be able to share them with you soon.

 Crêpes with Menton Lemon, Orange Butter Sauce and Red Berries

We also went back to the Martell Distillery for a ‘vertical’ tasting session with Jeremy Oakes, or Cognac School, as I preferred to call it. We began with a younger Martell cognac, Noblige, which was created by Martell in reference to the saying “Noblesse Oblige”, referring to the responsibilities carried by the aristocracy.  This was a very special cognac, myself and Jamie both took a bottle home with us, although it is rarely available on mainland Europe. If you do see it, try it, you won’t be disappointed. Next, Martell’s signature Cordon Bleu, which had tried earlier on with the seafood lunch. This is the cognac of choice when it comes to important matters, for example, it was enjoyed at the signing of the Armastice, it was also offered by Air France on Concorde and on the Orient Express as well as being featured in films. There is a light mocha coffee flavour, which is why it matched particularly well with the “grand cru” coffee bean sauce during the Pure Gourmet meal. The third cognac was an XO or Extra Old which was more earthy, with hints of candied peel, hazelnuts and walnuts. It has a superb after-taste and really lingers. This is under the Christmas tree for my husband! We moved onto a second tasting of the very exclusive Chanteloup Perspective that we had tasted the evening before at the Château on the night of its launch in Asia. Next, we tasted the very special Martell Creation Grand and as we did so, we were almost at the very top of the range. This definitely had a stronger fruitiness, with maybe even hints of marmalade or dark berries and spicy notes. Quite frankly, the fact that I remember any of this detail is remarkable!

Vertical tasting of the Martell range – a very studious Fabulicious Food! 

- both photographs by Anne-Laure Jacquart

The really special treat was waiting for us right at the end. We were taken into the Paradise, or Jean Martell’s Cellar to taste L’Or de Jean Martell, which is a blend of several hundred eaux-de-vie, some of which have been hidden in the Martell cellars for over a century.  Martell have some of the oldest stock of cognac in the business, the oldest dating back to 1802. They describe L’Or de Jean Martell as “the culmination of Martell’s 300 year quest for perfection.” So, if you should ever win the lottery, you will know what to buy youself.

After a much needed rest back at the Château, we prepared ourselves for dinner which was a premier of Asian-inspired recipes. Highlights included a Shellfish Stock with a Celery and Royal Crab Ravioli. We discovered that adding a tablespoon of cognac into the soup once served really complimented this dish.  We also had homard, or Lobster with a Mango Vinaigrette and Young Salad Leaves followed by Beef Tenderloin with Exotic Peppers, Eggplant and Tempura. Dessert was the ultimate supreme moment and it was, for me, the very best cognac match of all, a Velouté au Chocolat (Fleur de Cao), with a Yuzu Ganache and Crystallized Oranges. This was a silky, smooth chocolate dessert, with a layer of yuzu. Yuzu being a very aromatic Asian citrus fruit, which as I discovered, goes very well with chocolate and cognac.

We spent the rest of the evening chatting in the lounge (with perhaps a spot of singing) along with a couple of glasses of champagne. How was I still standing?!  To finish off our stay, we were presented with our very own engraved bottle of Chanteloup Perspective as well as a madeleine tin and group photograph. Christmas really had arrived early!

Helene admiring her own bottle of Martell Chanteloup Perspective – photograoh by Anne-Laure Jacquart

As I sat on the train back to Paris and then onto London very early the next morning, I felt as though I had left my parallel universe and my Château life far behind, but what an adventure it had been. There had been so much to take in and to enjoy, to discover, to learn, to taste.

Part of me is hopeful that Château de Chanteloup will open its doors to more people one day, to enable them to experience this Pure Gourmet adventure for themselves. You can visit the Martell distilleries, as we did, which is really worth a trip in  itself, though a stay at the Château remains by the invitation of Martell. 

I very much look forward to continuing to watch Martell interacting with their consumers, the ultimate keepers of their fate, without letting go of the very unique elements of tradition, prestige and luxury that Martell, as the oldest cognac house in the world, so firmly holds. Profile raising within this new age of social media is challenging, but I think that Martell have made an excellent start so far. As we were the first group of bloggers ever to be invited to Château de Chanteloup, it was a great privilege for me, as a British food blogger, to be part of this chapter of Martell’s history.

With thanks to Katja Graisse and the team from Balistik*Art in Paris for the invitation, the House of Martell and the Martell team, including  Tiffany and Bérengère, for their hospitality. Return travel, food and accommodation were covered by Martell, along with a madeleine tin and gift bottle of Chanteloup Perspective as a memento. We were also joined by photographer Anne-Laure Jacquart. Credit is given to Anne-Laure underneath any of her photographs used in this post. All other photography my own. The decision to write about the adventure was my own.

 

      The House of Martell, Château de Chanteloup, Cognac – photograph Anne-Laure Jacquart

You can find links to many of the Pure Gourmet recipes through Martell’s facebook page too.

 

Comments

  1. says

    What a lovely trip!
    It’s a beautiful part of the world… we meandered through a few years back, we’d been to Bordeaux and took a couple of weeks to slowly make our way back to Calais and home.
    This area is one I remember fondly…

    • Ren says

      It really is Kavey, there are so many lovely parts of France, but this area is particularly interesting with all the cognac houses dotted around. Have a lovely Christmas x

  2. says

    Wow. I thought Day 1 was amazing – but that sounds even better. I love the French markets (one of our daughters lives in France). Why can’t we do the same here??? I’d be in trouble with Martell though – I don’t eat any seafood or fish!

    • Ren says

      Hi Mark, yes the second day was just as fun-filled! We do live in a marekt towm, but for some reason here it’s not quite the same. You don’t quite get the same level of interaction, but farmers’ markets are happening more and more now and they have the same sort fo feel.

      I don’t think any of our group were vegetarian, or were not seafood lovers but it would have been interesting so see how they would have accomodated. I didn’t brave an oyster, it’s still on my list of things to do in life, I probably should have done. You would have enjoyed the Charentes cream and cepe risotto, I think.

  3. says

    Just beautiful! It is funny to open up your posts and see my own face here but it was so wonderful meeting you and getting to spend so much time with you! What a marvelous experience… not only the incredible learning experience around cognac, the incredible food experience and getting to know a beautiful region of France – my husband’s favorite! – but the time spent with such an amazing group of people what worth its weight in gold (or cognac!). We became such great friends so quickly, even before so many glasses of cognac could be said to have had an effect! I raise my glass of cognac in a toast to my new friends and to our next adventure together!

    • Ren says

      Dear Jamie, yes I completely agree. It was an adventure, a new experience for Martell too as well as for us. It was kind of nice to be the first group of bloggers there, we were privileged! I really enjoyed meeting you and I would love to meet you again soon, maybe in the UK during Plate to Page. I have really enjoyed reading your posts too and re-living everything that we took in and took away! Best wishes and Happy Holidays! xxx

  4. says

    Wow this sounds like the ultimate gourmet trip. Love the photos of the market and the food sounds delicious. So good that you got to meet Karen! Such a small world :) I’ll have to make a trip over too as you make it sound so irresistible!
    Wishing you and your family and very happy Christmas!

    • Ren says

      Thank you so much. There were so many photos I could have used, this was just a tiny selection but I’m glad you like them and I’m pleased they brought the post to life too. It was a wonderful adventure and I was so pleased to be able to find Karen in her local market town too! Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas also, x

  5. says

    wow, what a great opportunity! loved rieadng about it all. You always choose just the right words to paint a scene, to take us through a trip, to smell the scents that you had first hand. This recipe seems fabulous. Love chesnut..just terrified of baking macarons. never tried. yours always look beautiful.

  6. Ren says

    Ah it was so lovely to see you too, and to see your patch and where you shop! I only wish I could have stayed longer and come to visit your house too. Next year perhaps I will come back again to see you. I’d love to explore more.

    Yes, the whole region is beautiful. I would love to see it in the summer too, I’m sure it is even lovlier although we were blessed with blue skies and fine weather.

    Have a lovely Christmas and thanks for stopping by. x

    PS I want to go back and buy those cepes!

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