TASTE OF THE TOUR: Frog thighs and gray wine in Lorraine
It’s a tale of two spa towns in Stage 4 of the Tour de France, which travels from Mondorf-Les-Bains, Luxembourg, to Vittel in the Lorraine region of northeastern France on Tuesday.
Lorraine has shifted back and forth between French and German control over the centuries and there are still areas where the local dialect is closer to German than French.
Vittel — not Evian — has been the official mineral water supplier and sponsor of the Tour for the last decade, handing out one million bottles to spectators over the course of the race.
Here’s a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the day’s route:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: The mostly flat 207.5-kilometer (129-mile) stage should set well for a mass sprint finish, although winds in the second half of the stage could split the peloton and become a factor. Still, Geraint Thomas is expected to keep the yellow jersey.
PLAT DU JOUR: Quiche lorraine. One of France’s most widely exported dishes is a flaky-crusted open pie traditionally made with eggs, cream and lardons (small strips or cubes of pork fat). Perfect for brunch, this savory dish can also be enjoyed at lunch or dinner.
CULTURE: A frog fair is held in Vittel each spring. Visitors can taste “grenouilles” (frog thighs) cooked every which way — grilled with parsely, smothered in snail butter or stuffed inside omelettes are just some of the preferred methods.
VIN DU JOUR: Cotes de Toul vin gris. While the term vin gris (which translates as “gray wine”) can often be a deterrent, that’s not the case with this delicate light-pink rose made in eight villages surrounding Toul, a town located three-quarters of the way into the stage route.
HISTORY: One of the first towns along the route, Schengen in Luxembourg, was where an agreement was signed in 1985 that enabled passport-free travel in mainland Europe.
STAT OF THE DAY: 3. The number of countries that the Tour passed through in Stage 3 on Monday: Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You’ve got to celebrate every victory. But if I drink alone they call me a drunkard. I prefer to drink with my teammates.” — Stage 3 winner Peter Sagan, the world champion.
DESSERT: Bonbons des Vosges. These fruit- and herb-based hard candies are sold throughout France but they are everywhere in the Vosges area where this stage concludes.
DIGESTIF: Mirabelle plum brandy. At up to 45 percent proof, this artisanal liqueur needs to be consumed responsibly.
NEXT ORDER: Stage 5 on Wednesday concludes with the first serious climb of the Tour. The 160.5-kilometer (100-mile) leg begins in Vittel and winds its way to La Planche Des Belles Filles with a short but steep finishing ascent that features a leg-breaking 20-percent gradient in the final meters.