Tag Archives: coq au vin

Easy Morning into Ardèche

No rushing about today. All activities on shore take place in the latter half of the afternoon. We breakfast at 9:30, seated at a lively table of Americans. After breakfast there are French lessons and then a chocolate tasting (Valrhona) in the lounge. So during this slow period, drifting along the picturesque Rhone River, enjoying the swans and little towns,  I will note some observations about Viking and River cruising for those considering it.

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This is a very pricey trip. There are a few ways to make it way more affordable. Book your own air travel. Viking is first class all the way and will take care of it for you. They don’t price shop and you will fly first class, the most expensive way to get to Europe. Roughly half the cost of this trip was for airfare. We are also staying in the second most expensive cabins on board. They are spacious. Other passengers have told us that their rooms are quite small. You can view dimensions online. Our cabin features a sitting room (about 8×12) with a chair, couch, desk, fridge and tv. The bedroom (about 8×10) features a second tv, closet and space to stow two suitcases out of the way. The narrow bathroom (about 10x 3) is attractive and well designed. We also have a lovely and private balcony off of our stateroom. No complaints here about space.  First class cabin all the way.

But… do you want to pay for it, when the very comfortable bar and lounge, quiet library and sun deck are merely steps away? It’s not a huge boat. I takes 30 to 45 seconds to walk to the lounge, sun deck or dining area. I would guess that the the cabins furthest away might take 2 minutes to get anywhere. There are always seats and tables available in these areas, unlike on the massive oceanliners where you have to stake a deck chair out in the morning and actual fights over said chairs erupt between passengers..

Alcohol though not complimentary in the lounge, flows freely at lunch and dinner (wine) and you have a bottle of sparkling wine waiting in your cabin when you arrive (may only be in first class). You can also purchase a premium drinks package. Depends on how much you drink. I’m fine with paying for the occasional beer or cocktail but you can bring your own as well, especially since we are in the heart of French wine country and you are in town frequently.

If you are a photographer, take the leisurely walking tours offered as opposed to the regular tour. All of the infirm or very old passengers will be in the group and you have plenty of time to duck down alleyways and explore and return to the group without missing a beat.

The only other advice I have heard and can pass on is beware of booking in the spring. Rivers run high with rain and  waters pouring down from the Alps and are unpredictable. The cruise last week remained in port at Avignon for the entire week. It did not move. Some passengers went home and received a partial discount and the people who stayed, were bussed from town to town for their excursions and then returned to port in Avignon. Very disappointing I’m sure for those imagining themselves floating serenely down the Rhone. As a result of these high waters, our ship, the Hermod did not make it to Avignon to receive us this week. Her sister ship, the Buri was sent instead. In regards to that, tomorrow morning we are meeting up with our original ship, the Hermod, in Vivviene and transferring over. Other than packing our bags and leaving them outside our stateroom by 8 am tomorrow, we are not required to do much else. Minor inconvenience.

Today our afternoon excursion took us by motor coach to the countryside of Ardèche for a steam train ride through the valley. The trip is an hour long on an open car train and the ride is quite dirty from the coal used to power the train.

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At the half way mark the engine is manually turned on a turntable and we head back. The valley is beautiful and features many ancient stone bridges over the River Doux.  Acacia trees bow with their lightly scented waterfall pannicles, and daisies, pink soapwort, white yarrow and mauve meadow rue fill out the colour palette which has considerably reduced now that spring has given way to the summer heat in Provence. Lavender is about to bloom.

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Perched high on the stony cliffs are neat rows of vineyards with a look down at nude bathers taking advantage of the cool, clear waters at the bottom of the valley.  Soon  we are returned to the station where a lovely snack of croissant and apple cider await.

The coach departs the train station and deposits us back at our ship docked at the small town of Tournon. I decide to grab my camera and take my own tour of the little village whose pastel face looks towards the steep vineyards of Tain l’Hermitage across the Rhone.

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Dinner, served a little later this evening, consists once again of many choices but the Chef recommends her coq au vin we we choose. The chicken, stewed in a rich wine sauce over two days with bacon and mushrooms does not disappoint especially accompanied by a local merlot. I however find the French onion soup appetizer thick and unappealing. Our waiter steers us clear of the orange dessert souffle, saying it is too dry, and we instead choose the mascarpone and cherries, pretty to look at but very sweet.

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Back to our room to pack for tomorrow’s transfer at Vivienne in the morning and then onto Lyon.

Coq Au Reisling

This rustic yet elegant chicken, a meal in a bowl, satisfies in cold weather but is light enough for a spring meal. I usually serve this dish with parsleyed new potatoes which I prepare separately. Just boil and toss with a little butter and parsley, then add to the serving bowls. You can add any other vegetables that you like or have on hand such as carrots or small squashes. Serve with a crusty, rustic bread to soak up the broth, which is very flavourful and really the star of the show.

Coq au Reisling (Adapted from Jaime Oliver)
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
750 ml  Canadian Reisling
1 bouquet garni celery, bay leaf, sprig parsley, sprig thyme, tied with kitchen string
olive oil
4 ounces pancetta
8 ounces button mushrooms
12 small pickling or chipolini onions
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
parsleyed potatoes

1. Marinate the chicken in the wine with the bouquet garni in the fridge overnight, in a ziplock bag. Place it in a bowl  in case it leaks. (It will leak)
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Heat oil in a dutch oven. Remove chicken from marinade (save it and garni) and season liberally with salt and pepper, add to pot and brown on both sides. Remove from pot and set aside. Add another glug of oil and add bacon to pot. Saute 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and onions and saute 5 more minutes.
4.  Add flour to pot and stir. Return chicken to the pot, place on medium heat. Add wine and garni, bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and transfer to oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

Tonight, also inspired by Jaime Oliver, I am roasting some stone fruits (plums and nectarines), but any fruit will do. Toss with a little sugar (about 1/4 cup, adjust to how sour the fruit is), zest some orange peel (just the coloured part, the white pith is bitter), juice the orange, sprinkle in some vanilla extract, break two cinnamon sticks in half, toss in  and add a good splash of bourbon, cognac, port, whatever you like and have on hand. I’m using Cavaldos. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Serve over ice cream or Greek yogurt and top with honey if desired.