Roger Collins invited us to his regular New Year Party on his Barge Silhouette. We joined him, his son William and his friends for dinner. It was our first experience of a French New Year Celebration and what a feast it was!
We arrived at 8.30 pm to be welcomed by Roger and his son William. Chantal was busy getting the dinner ready helped by Roger and Chantal’s husband Christian Lambert. During pre-dinner drinks the other guests arrived, Bernard Touzet and his daughter Marine, and then Guy and Rachel. A total of 10 for dinner.
Silhouette is a 20 meter barge built in 1931. It was converted from an oil tanker into a comfortable live a board home in the 1970’s. Its original name was the “Caltex Garonne” and it carried oil from the Bordeaux Estuary to Séte during the Second World War. Its Captain at the time was called Lucian and he is reputed to have saved many people’s lives by hiding them in the empty oil tanks on the return journey across France (it’s ironic for me having spent so much of my life in the oil business and at one time having worked for Texoil in Dublin [a Texaco Joint Venture Company] that I celebrated my first French New Year on an Caltex oil tanker and one that was owned the forerunner to Texaco!)
Starter was Gougéres, choux pastry with Gruyére cheese (a local delicacy invented in Burgundy after the French Revolution) and cocktail sausages.
Remember we are in Chalon sur Saone in the Burgundy Region. The region is famous for its fine foods and wines. Dishes such as beef bourguigon and roast Bresse chickens, wines from Beaune, Giverny or Nuits St Georges.
Second course was large prawns on a bed of grapefruit, avocados and shrimps in cocktail sauce.
Third course Duck legs cooked in Foie Gras sauce with haricot vert (green beans), roasted chestnuts and dauphinoise potatoes
Forth Course Selection of four cheeses- Goat, Brie de Meaux, Époisses and Morbier. Époisses and Morbier are local cheeses. Époisses is such a strong smelling cheese that it is banned from public transport in France!
Fifth – selection of desert treats with champagne
Bread was served with every course except for the desert!
First two courses were served with a selection of white wines and from the third course onwards red wines. All wines bought by the guests or provided by Rodger. Bernard brought a 1996 bottle of wine, one of a few he has left from a case of wine he bought when his daughter Marine was born. We enjoyed drinking that bottle and toasting Marine’s continued good health.
After ringing in the New Year we were then entertained by Guy on his guitar.Nuala and l were the first to leave the party at around 2. We had a great night and a very different New Year than we thought we were going to have (we had planned to be in Portsmouth, England) So our Gap Year brought us another unexpected twist and another new experience of French food and how French people love sharing meals with others. A big thank you to Roger for inviting us.
Roger also owns and operates the La Delta, based at Chalon sur Saone. It also was a commercial barge. Now completely transformed into a sight-seeing boat offers cruises on the River Saone similar to the famous bateau-mouche on the Seine in Paris. Further details at www.croisieres-saonoises.fr