Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Comte Coma: Part I

June 28, 2012

This morning we left for Jura on…. the big bus! Hopefully it works out…
We first visited the old salt mines. Compared to the blazing hot day, the cool depths of the salt mines was refreshing. We descended several stairs into the mines, standing on compact coal ash with thin, needle-like stalactites above our heads.

 We made note of what appeared to be architecture of the Sistersian monks in the tall tunnel archways. 

We observed the methods of harvesting brine and even tasted brine straight from the spicket. The mines are no longer mass producing salt, but do continue to pump brine which they use to make salted caramels among a few other things.

We had a light lunch at a nearby café then headed to Pasteur’s home. Before visiting his house though, we pulled over on the side of the road, where we got out to stand in the vineyard where Pasteur’s family had owned plots of vines. But also where Pasteur made several significant deductions about bacteria and yeast metabolism, by observing wine fermentation.

After dropping our things off at our hotel, we walked to La Maison de Louis Pasteur.

We were warmly welcomed and given a tour of the home. Our guide was very funny, and led us through the dining room, living room, bedroom, and laboratory. 

I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen
drawings and textbooks images of this

I was intrigued to see the original swan-necked flasks which disproved spontaneous generation and the microscopes involved in making significant scientific deductions about yeast, bacteria, tartaric acid crystals, vaccinations, and so much more.

The original swan-necked flasks!
Later that evening, we had another 4 course meal planned for us. But first, we had some shopping to do. Seven fifteen came too quickly and we headed to the restaurant for dinner. 

My first course consisted of a salad with lettuce, tomato, walnuts, that delicious Dijon vinaigrette and cubes of Comte cheese. This was my first time trying Comte. It was love. Go buy yourself some Comte right now. It’s available in the states because although it’s a raw milk cheese, it’s aged for several months. Buy summer’s milk Comte. It’s there, you can find it, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Anyway, the meal continued on, and I had an omelette for my next course which was filled with, you guessed it, Comte. Then came the cheese course. Being in Jura, the regional cheeses are Comte and Morbier. So I indulged in just a bit more Comte. Then, dessert. They had this cheese… no, just kidding. There wasn’t cheese in the dessert. What there was, though, was a tasty apple tart (which could have been 12x more tasty if it was warm, and had a scoop of vanilla ice cream…. only in America).
Oh, and I forgot to include mention of the wine’s we had with dinner tonight. Jura does something completely different with some of their wines: when the wine is matured in the barrel, a thick film of yeast is allowed to form over the surface and it sits for a few years. Then, the wine, called vin jaune, is completely transformed. I was surprised it was still a wine, because it seemed something far from wine, and closer to sherry. Upon first smell, I got a whiff of apple cider and acetone. My senses aren’t always spot on… but anyway, it was very interesting. And it does grow on you. Apparently, one bottle will keep forever which might be a good thing—I can’t imagine vin jaune being an everyday drink. But perhaps with some Comte and walnuts…

- Adrianne Speranza

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