Azay le Rideau Castle and l’Auberge du 12éme Siecle, Loire Valley

Welcome to a weekend away in the land of fairytale castles, vineyards, and gastronomic pleasures. Antoine whisked me away for 2 guilt-free days: no children to worry about, no cooking, laundry, shopping, homework, and above all – no computer. Ouf! We all need a wee breather now and again, don’t we?  Thanks, Mum and Dad, for making this possible!

It was only 3 hours’ drive from Paris – albeit that the back was playing up again and so I had to lie completely flat out in the car.  I discovered every inch of our car’s interior details but it was worth being patient.  Look what greeted us on arrival in Azay le Rideau…

Azay le Rideau Castle, Loire

I picked my bedroom out: that one with the pretty tower, please.  I’ll let down my short, dishwasher blond hair and Antoine can serenade me below, with a kareoke version of Lady in Red from his Blackberry.

Azay le rideau tower

 Not so sure if I liked the kitchen, though.  Imagine cooking with that “oven”?  Pretty hot work, n’est-ce pas?

Castle oven

Fancy this for your kitchen oven?

On the other hand, the drawing room was rather civilised.  Draw in your chair for a game of cards in front of the fireplace with the salamander symbol of François 1st, sip tea from a royal porcelain cup, and nibble on a macaron, peut-être?

Anyone for tea and a macaron?

The beds were always so small.  Did they really sleep upright?  Jings.  That couldn’t have been comfortable. The concrete mattress was possibly the same original that we had in our B&B up the road: back-breaking!

On the way out, a lovely large bottle of the local Bourgeuil red was just sitting saying bonjour.  The red wines here are served chilled. Each time I’ve had the Loire reds, though, I’ve not been as keen as the whites; something I have to work on…

 The wee town of Azay le Rideau is picture postcard material.  Walking over the bridge, there were a few people fishing in amongst the lily pads.

Just a 10 minute drive out of of Azay-le-Rideau, however, there is a gastronomic restaurant in the village of Saché: L’Auberge du XIIème Siècle.  Balzac lived in Saché (now a castle museum), and just up the road in Monts is where the abdicated Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson at the Château de Candé in 1937.

L’Auberge du XIIème siècle

Antoine and I couldn’t help ourselves.  We ate there two nights in a row.  Put a gourmet Frenchman and a Scot together to pick a restaurant and the best value for money element comes into play. 😉 We went for the normal dinner menu at €35.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll show you the highlights as one meal, as we both tried absolutely everything, just for you

 The sommelier suggested a local sauvignon blanc for an apéritif.  This is perfect to get the appetite going, especially to accompany the five little amuse-bouches.  I’m apologising now, as I’m difficult in restaurants like this; I dare say that the cheese straw clashed with the langoustine mousse and the carrot-chive sorbet was a bit too sweet for my liking before a meal.  Now if they’d put spices in the carrot to react with the sugary sorbet, that would be totally dynamite…

The apéritif continues…

The rabbit confit (tasted just like roasted chicken bits) in the shot glass was tasty but so dry, accompanied by a little pancake with no sauce.  Wetting it with the sauvignon was the thing to do, I think.  The other pastry with snails was better. Time to go to our table indoors for the main meal…

Another amuse-bouche arrived.  This time a warm port caramel was sitting on a crème brûlée of foie gras.  I honestly would have preferred this for dessert.  It was far too sweet and the wine hadn’t arrived yet.  Why do I get so irritated when the sommelier has all the wine bottles in the centre of the room and you have to beg to be served?  Or am I just a wine artist?

 Now you’re talking.  A beautiful starter of sautéed giant prawns with asparagus, crispy potatoes on a lemon thyme jus arrived – enfin with a Chenin blanc, produced locally by an organic winegrower.

The crispy potatoes were revealed under the prawns – but they’d lost their crispiness.  Lovely idea, though; cut finely with a mandoline and in clean-cut, even rounds.

Filet de canette au jus d’ollives, confits d’été et sa tapenade – for one?

The main course of small duck (canette) arrived.  This was perfectly pink inside, the confit tomatoes and red peppers a perfect match, as was the tapenade – once I’d found it underneath the pile of chervil.  You can see from the lighting that service was slow but after seeing the cheese trolley (extra 12€ supplement), it was worth the wait.  I’ve never eaten so much chèvre (goat) cheese in my life!  The best over the weekend was goats’ cheese that was more mature and dry.  The flavour was powerful and was perfectly matched with the fig jam.

Apologies for the images, as the light disappeared…

Still room for some Loire cheeses…

I couldn’t help putting the strongest chèvre under this lady’s nose on the plate.  On the palate, I preferred sticking to the Chenin blanc.  Antoine’s red chilled Chinon just didn’t have the same reaction.  It certainly went with the cheese ok (go for something outside the region and the cheese tastes like washing powder and no – I haven’t tried eating it, if you ask) but the Chenin brought out floral honey notes.

Superpostition de nougat glacé, soup aux fruits rouges

Oops.  Photos, Jill?  Wine and photos don’t go together, as I’ve shown my knack of camera shake like this before, remember? 😉  Da-dada-da-da-da: dessert!  Hm.  Lovely.  It was a bit disappointing, though. Antoine’s puff pastry flute to accompany the strawberries and green mint sorbet was the same they used for the apéritif, I’m sure.  I don’t like overly sweet desserts, but this seriously lacked sugar.

And, since we obviously looked like we were still hungry at this point, a verbena infusion (verveine: see blog post for verveine macarons) arrived with some mignardises: an orange fruit jelly, a mini crème brulée (see what I mean about the port caramel? That would have been fantastic at that point to finish up, although perhaps not with the foie gras!), an almond financier (excellent), and a beautiful raspberry mousse.

still room for mignardises?

I took one spoonful, but then the spoon wouldn’t fit into the glass to fetch out the rest.  Ah well, I think we really did well by that point.  Time to order a crane to lift us out of the restaurant, Monsieur?

All in all, I would give it 14 out of 20.  Where were the macarons? It was funny seeing clients order from the other menus – they had more or less the same things from the main menu, dressed up with bigger or smaller tasting portions. Antoine gets 20 out of 20 for taking me out – let’s face it, we don’t go out that much but when we do, I love getting ideas and inspiration for entertaining when my light fades in ze kitchen.

Or should I say he gets “vin sur vin”?   Speaking of wine, the chenin blancs were so good that we popped in to the cellars to find out more and stock up.  The winemakers were so passionate about their babies as they explained the much longer process of making wines organically.

Visiting the local organic wine cellars

First stop was at Château de la Roche en Loire.  Our favourite was the one in the restaurant: the 2009 Cuvée Céline. It’s so intensely fruity and “oily” that it can easily cope with partnering a meal from start to finish.  A real blockbuster that could even take on the toughest of highly flavoured dishes, was La Noblesse d’Aziaum 2006, from Pascal Pibaleau’s cellar.  Like all organic wines, you’ll see a lot of deposit at the bottom: c’est normal.

I’ll finally finish off with an image of one of my favourite trees, full of perfumed scents.  It greeted us on arrival at the B&B and we had breakfast underneath it.  Such inspiration for macarons, my friends!  I’ll show you next week. Any guesses?

Discover France Feature Article

Discover this super website, Discover France, for all of you who are mad about Paris and everything French.  If you have a moment, please read my first feature article for them.  

I’m so proud to be listed amongst their featured authors. They also include an excerpt from the book:

Discover the Decadent Fashionable Pâtisserie: The Parisian Macaron

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored in any way – I just decided to post our personal experience of our visit and we paid for all items mentioned in this post.


53 replies
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      Thanks Christina. Yes, I could do with another trip to the Loire – so much to see and do there. You’d love it!

  1. Kim - Liv Life
    Kim - Liv Life says:

    Ping is on to something…. that cheese looked heavenly! What a wonderful respite for the two of you! I’m so happy you had the time together, and what wonderful place to visit!!

  2. myrna
    myrna says:

    I’m as green as the guacamole I’m snacking on at the moment! How enviable! Nesting in a turret and dining on a meal you claim you needed a crane to help you out of your chair…absolutely wonderful!!!!! Please tell me more Wine Artist *le sigh*

  3. spcookiequeen
    spcookiequeen says:

    Certainly they didn’t know they had a wine artist in their midst. Everything is so beautiful, ouch for that mattress, I would have needed the wine too. I’m going to let you tour me around when I make it over there.

  4. Gerry Speirs
    Gerry Speirs says:

    Jill, this was an amazing trip along the menu you gave us. I am so jealous but proud of you for not forgeting your frugal roots. I too am a Scot living in California now but originally from Kilmarnock and I would have done the same thing. I cant wait for the macaron post!
    Thanks for sharing..

  5. Alina--Explora Cuisine
    Alina--Explora Cuisine says:

    Such beautiful places that just delight your heart, places that you can only see in Europe, how I miss the history behind each building (you won’t see that in Toronto unfortunately)…great destination for people who live in Paris like my brother, I will definitely tell him about this post 🙂 Have a great weekend!!!

  6. Liz
    Liz says:

    Oh, Jill, what a lovely holiday!!! Every bit of your weekend looks divine…your gorgeous accommodations, the wineries, and the fabulous food!!! I’m sorry your back is still giving you trouble…how nice of Antoine to ply you with wine to help those aching spots relax 🙂

  7. hopeeternal
    hopeeternal says:

    Azay le Rideau has to be my favourite Loire chateau. I visited it as a child and took my family back two or three years ago and it hadn’t changed a bit. I have a picture of that huge fireplace just like yours!
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    Jill this trip sounds fabulous! So jealous ;)! Looks like you got to try lots of delicious food and wine! I love all of your photos :)!

  9. Nami @ Just One Cookbook
    Nami @ Just One Cookbook says:

    Hi Jill! Wow what a beautiful place! I really wish to visit Europe…so different from the US! The duck looks delicious! I mean everything does. I need to save up money for our family vacation in Paris (and beyond)! Thanks for sharing your lovely weekend with us. 🙂

  10. visda
    visda says:

    Glad you had a great weekend. It’s really necessary to have some time away from home and just enjoy some great food and wine and especially being away from computers and all other electronic devices.:-) Your pictures are amazing and it seems you had some good and some wonderful experiences. Hope your back gets better soon and hope you have a magnificent beginning of summer.

  11. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Jill, this looks like a fairy tale! I found myself tearing up as I read your post! (I’m such a sap!)… And those amuse-bouches! OMG! I am so glad that you got some time away in such a picturesque setting!

  12. Anne
    Anne says:

    Jill..what a wonderful getaway you had! And that meal…how many courses was that? I lost count as I was scrolling down the page for dessert! Thank you for taking us along on this excursion. I love looking at the travel photos you share! It sounds as though you had a lovely time. And I hope your back is on the mend! : )

  13. The Harried Cook
    The Harried Cook says:

    I am so glad you got that getaway! 🙂 Sounds like an amazing place (in spite of having to travel on your back!)… The food looks yummy, but those cheeses – oh those cheeses! I would be in cheese heaven! That duck looks pretty yummy too! And I think the mint sorbet is so pretty! Cannot wait to your new macaron flavor! Goats’ cheese or wine flavored, perhaps? 🙂

  14. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    Oooooo, I am wild with jealousy. What a fabulous place, really. I need a two day vacay from kids, but I’d be happy to be in a shack in the woods for it 😉

  15. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    As a fellow Scot, also married to a Frenchman, thanks for bringing back lovely memories of a visit to the Loire Valley. I just love the fact that France has such a wide and rich selection of cheese and they are anything but bland! Great post Jill 😉

  16. Lisa McDonnell
    Lisa McDonnell says:

    What an amazing get away! I felt like I was there with you! (although I’m sure you and Antoine were glad I wasn’t) I haven’t been to the Loire yet but hope to soon… your post confirmed this. I LOVED the article! Way to go Jill!

  17. Sue
    Sue says:

    Glad you had a good weekend, and so lovely to have time without the children. The food sounds really interesting. I really enjoyed my weekend in Paris back in April, the first break without children in a long time. Do hope your back improves soon, it’s miserable being uncomfortable all the while. Could the tree be a lime tree?

      • Jill
        Jill says:

        Sue, I’m an idiot and owe you an apology. In French, this is known as a “Tilleul”. I have always had it in my mind that it’s linden blossom, which is correct – but today just discovered yet another translation, which is a lime blossom tree. So, there are 2 ways of saying it. You were totally right and I’ve learned something. Thank you!

        • Sue
          Sue says:

          Well I would never have got the French name right, but our house is in an Avenue of Lime Trees. They look really lovely at the moment but I have to say that the cars all end up covered in rather sticky tiny droplets of something that comes from the trees. You have to wash the screens every time you get in the car at this time of year. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with them as I definitely have access to a huge supply!

  18. Choclette
    Choclette says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time. It all looks fabulous. A great picture you have sketched for us. I’m not entirely convinced you thought the Auberge was quite up to scratch though 😉

  19. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says:

    This sounds like an amazing weekend! So jealous of your weekend away, not only the amazing food (those prawns look delicious), and beautiful scenery – but the time!! It has been over a years since my husband and I have spent a night away from our son. Hopefully in August we will get a weekend to ourselves.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Erin, here’s to your time away in August. Even if it’s just a weekend, it’s so important. It’s amazing how quickly we can get taken up with routine, problems, work, kids and just a couple of days together, it’s great to talk about other things and act like kids ourselves!

  20. Janice
    Janice says:

    Your meal looks interesting, shame some of the courses didn’t live up to your standards – you should have reined in your inner Scot lol! Is that a mimosa tree by any chance?

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Hehee, Carol. It was my dream to stay in a château and we did, just up the road within walking distance. I’m still recovering from the antique bed yet! I like being a wine “artist”, though. Spitoon wasn’t so elegant. I used it only for the red wines which is a bugger when trying to miss the white trousers 😉

  21. Three-Cookies
    Three-Cookies says:

    Looks amazing. Surprised that red wine was served chilled. I tried chilled red wine once and noticed sediments. Maybe this does not happen if its chilled for a short time instead of days? Travelling lying flat – you can think of it as travelling first class:)

  22. Parsley Sage
    Parsley Sage says:

    First off, congrats on your first featured piece with Discover France! I’m heading over there straight after commenting to check you out 🙂

    Your weekend looks loverly! The castle is very cool. The restaurant is neat too but it seems as tho there were some hit and misses. Fun times regardless, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing and go see a chiropractor! Buzzed

  23. June Stobie
    June Stobie says:

    See, it was worth tagging along with us 22 years ago to Tours University. Wish we had been tagging along with you. You’ve come a long way since we dished up gammon and pineapple. Loved the blog – want to go there now!!

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Aha. Don’t remind me of the gammon-pineapple, argh! Glad you liked the post but honestly, you would have found it hard to find some space in that car, with me sprawled out going, “ooh, ahh, ouch”. That’s why Antoine took me to some wineries, I think! 😉

  24. Manu
    Manu says:

    NO WAY I cannot believe this! My parents were in Cholet for my dad’s exhibition on the weekend!!! You were soooo close! Ohhh all of you make me miss France so much! My parents sent me photos of the little chateau they slept in… what beautiful area of France really! Great post Jill and congrats on being a featured author for Discover France! <3

  25. Hester Casey - Alchemy
    Hester Casey - Alchemy says:

    Oh your poor back, and French B&Bs are not renowned for their comfortable beds! Sounds like the food made up for the discomfort though. Great photos, Jill. I’m usually halfway through my food before I remember to take a shot of the (now messy) plate.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Hester, Antoine never even saw me take the photos. I felt terrible taking them and did it so fast since it’s the first time I’ve done it in a restaurant! As for the bed, I was probably better sleeping in the car, but then that defeats a romantic weekend, n’est-ce pas? 😉

  26. purabi naha
    purabi naha says:

    The lobster dish looks amazing! The bed of crispy potatoe, the asparagus, the unique sauce and the majestic lobsters…mmmm….you must have had the ultimate gastronomical experience!

  27. ping
    ping says:

    Sounds heavenly! Even checking out the roof of the car for 3 whole hours was worth it 😀 and then 3 hours back? I’d probably just skip everything and just have the cheeses … mmm.



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