Sunday, 22 July 2012

STAGE 20: RAMBOUILLET - PARIS-CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES

The Tour de France has finished on the Champs-Élysées in Paris every year since 1975. By this point in the race, the overall classifications are usually confirmed, and the stage is more show-case than race, though for the sprinters there is huge kudos in winning on the Champs-Élysées.

The final stage starts with champagne served by the race leader's team, on-the-road photo-opportunities, and plenty of joking around. As the riders approach Paris, the racing heats up as the sprinters and their teams begin the real racing of the day. When the riders reach central Paris, they enter the Champs-Élysées riding up the Rue de Rivoli, on to the Place de la Concorde and then swing right on to the Champs-Élysées itself. The riders ride now a total of 8 laps (up towards the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, round les Tuileries and the Louvre and across the Place de la Concorde back to the Champs-Élysées).

For the final stage of the Gastro Tour de France, rather than post a recipe, I would like to review the last three weeks of my culinary journey around France. When I started out on this randonée, I wasn't sure if I could keep up the momentum (clearly, not an issue for British cyclist Bradley Wiggins!), but, with a few exceptions due to work commitments, I have cooked a regional French recipe every day. Highlights include chicken cooked with chicory, from one of the early stages, Ficelle Picarde, choux pastry, Pate en croute from Lorrain, Tartiflette pizza, and Cassoulet. None of the dishes I have cooked have been particularly complicated, nor use unusual or hard-to-come-by ingredients. Where I couldn't get the exact ingredient (wild mushrooms), I simply improvised - as any good cook would.

In terms of food, Paris is, for me, synonymous with sampling lambs' brains for the first (and last) time in my life (I misread the menu), eating fresh baguette and creamy unsalted butter with a chocolat chaud in a cafe for breakfast, dining at the famous Belle-Epoque Chartier restaurant, buying crisp, freshly-made quiches in a little deli in Montmartre, and wandering the food and flower markets (as I do whenever I visit France).

When I first started these blog posts, a friend said that I couldn't possibly blog about French food without mention Croque Monsieur and Steak Frites. Which I now have.....

Au revoir, mes amis. I'm off to the French Alps (Haute-Savoie region) to enjoy Tartiflette, fondue, and more....

Croque Monsieur

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