It’s been a long time since I was last near my computer and able to blog. Sorry! I really should get a more portable laptop–or a stronger back! The reward for patient readers is: cheese.
Bordeaux is packed with “caves.” Every time we walk past a sign that reads “Le Cave” I point and repeat “LE CAVE (!),” like I’m some sort of two year old and just learned to read a new favorite word. I can’t help my excitement. I imagine wide, bowl-like glasses of meaty red wine served on fading, round French tasting tables that are flung out from the wall as you walk in and set under sloping ceilings framing heavy chandelier-stalactites. Margot made a futile attempt to ruin my fantasy, pointing out that “cave” signs just mean a certain product is stored on the premise—they exist for cigars, beer, wine, and, yes, for cheese. Let that be a hint.
Margot and I successfully booked a wine tasting trip for our second afternoon, thinking that would be our foray into some serious caving in Bordeaux. To kill time until dinner we accomplished some chocolate related wandering…
The chunks of chocolate and some very bright perfumed macaroons were an excellent appetizer and we decided immediately upon reading the description, “a wine and cheese lover’s paradise,” to eat dinner at Baud et Millet (19 Rue Hugerie). It wasn’t titled “cave,” but I was wiling to compromise for cheese.
We were the first people to walk into the tiny restaurant, indeed, I’m not sure it was actually open when we arrived. The lounging chef and waiter looked up and took pity on our hunger at such an uncivilized early hour, (7pm) so they buzzed us into a walkway lined by cases of wine. This was looking good… or maybe bad, I thought, as I remembered that we hadn’t actually tasted wine yet; how would we pick one of these local bottles to order? The waiter spoke shy English when he handed us menus and explained that we should pick any bottle of wine from any case and he would come back for our food order. We thought it would be sensible to pick food first. Suddenly we were faced with another divine sort of problem, like too many choices of wine, there were too many choices of cheese. The entire menu, all eight choices on the tiny card, is comprised of different ways to cook with French cheese. At the very top of the menu was a little boxed option, “cheese buffet.” We looked around, where was the buffet? Our American understanding of “buffet” was certainly not evident in the tiny space of the restaurant, so when the waiter came back we asked about what we assumed was a miss-translation. Could we please share a “cheese buffet?” (We really only wanted to spend half it’s 24 euro price tag). He looked at us, understandably, like we couldn’t read our own language but then backed up politely and said he would ask. The chef walked over, all ten steps from the back of the restaurant to the front table before the wine crates, she said, “it is a buffet.” But, she said, it would be possible for us to go to the “buffet”—wherever it was—and select what we wanted. Then, she would inspect our choice plate and just make up a price. We thought that sounded great. How much stuff could there really be on the invisible buffet? We proceeded with the process of picking a bottle of wine.
The waiter came back to the table, clearly still thinking we were a little nuts, and began to open the bottle while gesturing to a set of stairs diagonal from our table. Oh yes, this must be the way to the buffet…down the cool dark staircase… very sketchy. What lurked at the bottom of the staircase was jaw dropping. A CAVE OF CHEESE! Open sesame and hello riches of dairy. Margot and I looked at each other, looked at the treasure, and went back of the stairs we she smiled to the chef and said, “Sorry, actually we’ll each do the buffet.” She raised her eyes, looked us up and down with new approval. That would be fine, she said.
Slowly more people rang the doorbell and shuffled through the wall of wine and into the tiny restaurant. We finished our first basket of bread, asked for another, made two more trips to the cave, and finally made our way to the last sips of our wine, deliciously tinged with a touch of stubborn earthy sediments. I have no idea which types of cheese I ate, I just ate them all. I don’t think I left a single one untried. That seems like an impressive feat, or a lie, considering that there was a variety of something close to 30 types spread around the refrigerated shelves of the cave, but trust me, it’s just impossible to resist. We both exclaimed that this was the first thing we had done in all of France that was worth a special trip just for repetition. Seriously, let me know if you are headed to Bordeaux. That staircase is actually sketchy and shouldn’t be attempted alone—really, it’s not trouble, I’ll just come along.
Baud et Millet, 19 Rue Hugerie, Bordeaux FRANCE