I had a lovely birthday yesterday – flowers from my father and sisters, cards, Facebook greetings, emails from buddies, a phone call from my daughter with the news that my present is in the mail. For his part, my husband has volunteered to take me to the local swanky greenhouse for a spending spree on some annuals to fill in the midsummer blanks in my garden, and he turned out a swell Bun Thit Bo Xao for dinner – aka a Rice Noodle Bowl with Beef.
But the fizz in the evening came with bubbles, as it often does, via the bathtub, blown through a plastic gizmo, or my favorite bubble delivery system: a cold bottle of something. Last night it was an inexpensive (but French) blanc de blancs, tinted a mysterious hue by a tiny splash of crème de cassis: a Kir Royale.
Fizz and black currants:two of my favorite things. My fondness for the bubbly shouldn’t need explanation — if it does I mourn for you. Black currants aren’t the fruit fave of the U.S.A. , but they can kick the ass of all those supermarket staples: navel oranges, strawberries, kiwis, Red Delicious apples — the usual sickly suspects. Black currants and their deeply delicious byproducts — sirops, creme de cassis, fruit jellies and jam — aren’t exotic or unusual in Europe or even Canada. We need a Black Currant Council here in the States!
That “deeply” I used before “delicious” wasn’t lame alliteration, though I have a soft spot for lame alliteration. Black currants are all about deep: the color, the flavor, the scent. I suspect they’re bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C, but if they had the food value of Cheetos I’d still love them. ( Yum —Cheetos! )
Creme de cassis is almost black, sweet, intense and 44 proof. I used up the last of the best cassis I’ve ever tasted last night, cassis I bought from the man who made it, two years ago on my birthday.
Oh, that I could buy a bottle here. I tasted a sample straight from the hands of its maker, a charming French Canadian farmer in the village of St. Pierre on L’Ile D’Orleans, a locovore and gastronomic wonderland about fifteen minutes north of Quebec City. We were there because my fairy godfather, who’s my real father, gave us two nights in the Chateau Frontenac Hotel for my birthday and Quebec City’s 400th anniversaire. Quebec City may be the most beautiful city in North America, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Back to the farmer in St. Pierre, one of L’Ile D’Orlean’s six enchanted villages.
I could see his black currant bushes where his farm started to slide into the mighty St. Lawrence River. He also did a nice line of his own raspberry and strawberry liqueurs and sirops. Down the road we found the pate lady, the confit duck man, (with actual ducks running to meet our car)the cheese maker, the boulangere, (Who said “Quel bon Papa!” when I told her of Daddy’s gift) and farmstand after farmstand of berries that looked plucked from a medieval tapestry.
I bought a new bottle of creme de cassis today because I think I’m going to hook up again with my old boyfriend Kir this summer — he slipped away from my life when I was in my early twenties. But I know for a fact that it’s not going to be as good as it was two years ago with that gentilhomme in St. Pierre.