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This month La Gourmet Box carries you off to a special corner of the Bas-Rhin or Lower Rhine département. The great Louis XIV called Alsace "the most beautiful garden in France", and after our visit we're not about to gainsay the Sun King. This lovely region is the cradle of splendid wines and amazing produce, and home to some of the finest pastry chefs in the country. Its artisans also know how to make the most of their premium local products: Munster cheese, French sauerkraut or choucroute with a side of mustard (naturellement!), gingerbread and legendary Alsatian Kugelhopfs. Our tour of Alsace was filled with culinary delights, and choosing among so many amazing products was very difficult, but we're convinced that the resulting box is a fantastic introduction to the gourmet pleasures of this remarkable region.
The ALSACE GOURMET BOX, our French food and wine gift box of a fantastic terroir!
Pinot Gris 2016, organic Alsatian white wine (75 cl)
Winery: Domaine Stoeffler.
Deeply committed to environmental conservation, Domaine Stoeffler is a pioneer of organic wine production in Alsace and has been ECOCERT certified since the year 2000: all of its vineyards are cultivated according to the principles of organic agriculture, with no synthetic products or fertilizers. Most Alsatian wines, including our choice, are monovarietal. This French white is a perfect example of the Pinot Gris variety, intensely fruity (with a hint of candied fruit), slightly smoky and full in the mouth with a crisp finish. This grape was once known as the "Tokay of Alsace", and when you try it you'll know why. It's excellent with any course, from the aperitif to the cheese platter, and ideal paired with fish baked in sauce, white meat, exotic spicy dishes or wild fowl. Serve chilled but not too cold (8-10º) to appreciate its full aromatic richness.
Fine horseradish mustard (200 g)
Artisan: Domaine des Terres Rouges.
Horseradish is the common name of a plant in the Brassicaceae family, close to the mustard plant and the radish, cultivated for its long white roots. Domaine des Terres Rouges carefully selects only the finest ingredients, and for this product it chose 100% French, locally grown horseradish roots. The soil nearby is so unique that it lends the horseradish a distinctive flavour. Horseradish roots are harvested, cut and peeled by hand to ensure quality and purity. The roots are then ground to a smooth, fine texture. This delicate time-consuming preparation method preserves their spicy-hot, intensely aromatic flavour. It's a genuine labour of love, and the result can be used to liven up a wide variety of dishes, starting with the legendary Alsatian choucroute.
Organic spelt and sesame seed pretzels (125 g)
Artisan: Le Moulin des Moines.
The Alsatian company Moulin des Moines has been working with organic products for over 40 years. They make their own flour by using traditional milling methods to grind different grains. This particular product is made with flour milled from spelt, a grain with a unique flavour whose popularity has sadly waned in recent years. These light, crunchy, organic spelt pretzels with sesame seeds will remind you how an authentic pretzel should taste. In fact, maybe you'll realize—as we did—that you've never tried a real pretzel before!
Authentic Alsatian choucroute with Riesling and goose breast chunks (350 g)
Artisan: Edouard Artzner.
It's impossible to do a gourmet tour of Alsace without sampling some choucroute, the iconic local version of sauerkraut. After trying several recipes, we knew we had a winner when we tasted the choucroute from Maison Edouard Artzner, a firm with over 200 years of history. Made from a traditional recipe, this choucroute combines the delicious flavour of cabbage stewed in aromatic Riesling white wine with savoury, amazingly tender chunks of goose breast. Every mouthful is a genuine pleasure, even for those who would normally give sauerkraut a pass. An absolute must!
Alsatian ravioli with Munster cheese (390 g)
Artisan: Esprit d’Alsace.
Storing ravioli in a glass jar may seem odd, but the results speak for themselves! Made from local Alsatian ingredients, including eastern France's famous Munster cheese (which has had its own AOC label since 1969), these ravioli literally melt in your mouth. Pour into a saucepan and heat on low for 6-8 minutes or warm up in the oven. Once you catch a whiff of that warm Munster cheese, be prepared to salivate!
Mini-Kugelhopfs with creamy white and milk chocolate filling (120 g)
Artisan: Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie.
It's impossible to talk about Alsatian cuisine without mentioning Kugelhopfs, sweet cakes with distinctive grooves and a hollow centre (made by a special Bundt mould) found in every self-respecting Alsatian bakery. But we decided to offer you a new twist on the classic Kugelhopf. These morsels are shaped like Alsace's famous cakes, but the recipe is different: a crunchy sugar coating yields to a soft filling of creamy chocolate sprinkled with nuts. Served with a small cup of coffee, they're a true epicurean treat.
Back in 1768, a young master baker named Charles Fortwenger opened a shop in Gertwiller, in the heart of Alsace, and began selling his delicious spice cakes. Two centuries later, these famous sweets are still being made the same way, just as their inventor intended: quality ingredients, a pinch of gluttony and a generous measure of savoir-faire. The proof is in the pudding... or, in our case, these delectable nonnettes ("little nuns"). These small, soft spice cakes with cherry filling are sure to delight young and old alike.
Artisanal Alsatian orchard fruit jam (130 g)
Artisan: Les Confitures de Nicole.
For Nicole and her daughter Sophie, working with fruit is a family affair. In their Châtenois workshop, they prepare 100% artisanal jams with the finest fruit purchased directly from local growers. And this medley of Alsace's most typical orchard produce is an explosion of mouth-watering flavours: mirabelle and damson plums dance with cherries, Williams pears and local apples. Savour Alsatian cuisine by the spoonful!