Saturday, May 26, 2018

Ribeauville... AGAIN! Part 1... knotty gets snotty over a pile of pork

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Bill if he'd like to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend.  He said "sure", so I went looking for places to stay.  I tried to find a place we hadn't been yet.  In retrospect, there were a few places I forgot to consider, places in Germany I've been wanting to visit and haven't yet.  But, for whatever reason, they didn't cross my mind.  I started thinking of Alsace again and how much we always enjoy our visits to northeastern France.  Plus, I just love France and Alsace is so convenient and so pretty...

I realized our old friend Yannick, who has rented us apartments in Ribeauville three times before, had space available.  Granted, it was one of his "studio" apartments, Muscat, which I knew would be a lot less spacious than "Riesling", the three bedroom apartment we have stayed in twice so far.  The first time we rented that apartment in February 2017, it was because we were planning to bring Bill's mother with us.  She ended up not being able to visit us due to an injury and the sudden need for surgery, so we stayed there on our own.  It was awesome.  Then last November, we came back and stayed in Riesling again because it was available and inexpensive.

The other apartment we've stayed in is "Pinot Noir", which is a "one bedroom" apartment.  Actually, it's more like a big studio with a curtain that divides a back area from the living area.  That was the first apartment we rented from Yannick, back in January 2017.  So, you see, we've been to Ribeauville before and we keep coming back, mainly because Yannick is so easy to deal with and Ribeauville is such a cute town.

Yesterday, we got on the road to wine country and had to stop at a German gas station to pick up some motor oil.  Our 2006 Toyota RAV 4 needs an oil change, but Bill never got around to it.  The engine was about a quart low.  We stopped three times before Bill finally found the oil he needed.  The car still needs an oil change.  Oh well... it handled itself fine crossing the mountains.  I snapped a few pictures of the stunning scenery.  We usually come through this area in the winter, so it's glorious to see it when the weather is nice.  Before are a few blurry shots of the beguiling Black Forest as we passed through it.









Finally, at about 4:30 or so, we entered France.  It seemed we went over a different bridge over the Rhein than we usually do.  It confused Bill, who had some issues getting out of the very congested Strasbourg area.


Bonjour again.

Bill got confused at one point and ended up in a nightmare of a traffic jam heading toward the city.  He started cussing and my bladder started screaming for a rest stop.  We had to get off at an exit near a mall and were immediately accosted by a group of Syrian refugees panhandling on the side of the road.  I actually felt sorry for them, since it was rather hot outside and the women were completely covered in black.  Bill says it's time for Ramadan, though, which is probably why they were out there.  Fortunately, we found a gas station... and, how refreshing, not only did one of the guys there say "Bonjour" to me, but I didn't have to pay 70 euro cents for the privilege of peeing.

Once we finally started heading south, we got caught in another Stau.  We were behind one guy who was checking his phone as he was creeping along.  Bill went into retired Army officer mode and barked, "Get off your phone, Sir!"  That put me in a silly mood and I started asking him ridiculous questions about what he was like when he was still in the military.  One thing about Bill... he almost never yells unless he's in traffic.  He was definitely bitching yesterday, but then I started asking him about how he dealt with guys in the company he commanded, trying to imagine him yelling at some guy in basic training.  That's always good for a laugh.  Bill is probably one of the most mild mannered people I know.

We got to the parking lot near our French gite just before seven o'clock and lucked into a good parking spot.  Thanks to the traffic, it took us an extra hour to get to Ribeauville.  Then, once we got to the outside of the apartment, I had some trouble finding the code to open the lockbox.  We tried calling Yannick, but got a recording.  Later, he sent me a message telling me he was in the hospital with his wife.  I'm not sure, but it sounds like she was having a baby.  He says he'll visit today, so I'm sure we'll get the scoop.  Below are pictures of Muscat.


A big, king sized bed that is pretty comfortable, although my back is used to a feather bed, so this was a little painful.  I don't expect feather beds in rental properties, though, so I don't fault the bed for my back.


And the rest of the tiny apartment.  There's a small bathroom with a shower and a tiny little kitchenette area.  Yannick left us a bottle of sparkling wine, which we put in the dorm sized fridge.  There's a stove and a microwave, coffee makers, and of course, a raclette grill.  The apartment is kind of microscopic, but would be fine for one or two people.  It would also work well for a group renting the Riesling apartment next door and needing a little extra space.  Actually, I think this wine house would be awesome for a family reunion, if you managed to rent the whole thing.


View from our window.  It's a bit noisier in this apartment, because it's right by a busy thoroughfare.  There's a group of very pleasant German ladies staying in the Riesling apartment we've rented twice before.  They were pretty cool with Zane and Arran.

After we settled in, we went searching for food.  Since we've been to Ribeauville a few times now, we've been to a lot of the restaurants on the main drag.  I wanted to try a different place.  When we were here in November, I noticed Hotel du Mouton's restaurant.  They had "cock" on the menu and that always excites me.  But first, we stopped at a restaurant right next to it.  We moved on when I noticed some guy giving me the side eye when I spoke English.

We approached Hotel du Mouton's restaurant, where there were three tables open on the terrace.  A couple of waiters were standing there, looking casual.  They seemed inviting, so I started to a table, which they said was reserved.  Then, they pointed to another table at the end of the terrace.  We headed for that one and they said that one was also reserved.  We finally ended up at the first table, where we were finally invited to sit down.  I must admit, this did not leave me with the best first impression, especially since it seemed like all eyes were on us.  But we sat down... and proceeded to wait for about ten minutes before anyone bothered to speak to us.

I used to wait tables myself, so I tend to be pretty forgiving and patient when it comes to service issues while dining out.  Still, I was hungry, tired, and in need of a drink.  I was also annoyed by the seating rigamarole and watching as the waiters casually walked past us, filling wine glasses and not even inviting us to go screw ourselves.  It was off-putting, and I gave some thought to leaving.  Then I started humming inappropriate songs I learned from Red Peters' song snatch program.  But then, a man wearing a leather apron finally stopped and asked if we were ready to order.


Bill looks at the menu.  It would be a long time before he got to give his orders.  Hmm... wonder if it was like that for him in the Army, too.


Bill ordered the first selection.  I was very tempted by the cock, but asked for an entrecôte...  I got the Choucroute Garnie.

The restaurant had a number of asparagus dishes offered on special.  I might have ordered one, but I couldn't read the sign, since it was mounted on the wall.  Some guy was sitting in front of it and blocking the view of anyone who might be interested.  I decided on an entrecôte, which is a rib eye steak.  It was supposed to come with either pepper sauce or morel sauce.  Bill decided on marinated salmon with potato pancakes, a dish I had been eyeing myself.

The waiter came over and Bill started trying to speak horrible French.  Then he switched to German.  The waiter finally indicated that he spoke English, so Bill switched to that.  He ordered us a bottle of wine, some sparkling water, and the salmon pancakes.  Then I ordered the entrecôte, but was surprised when the waiter simply said "Okay," collected the menus, and quickly left without asking me the temperature or which sauce I preferred.  After he served the wine and the water, we didn't see him again for some time.  

While we were waiting for our food, I noticed the restaurant was offering a special Wagyu beef entrecôte from the United States.  I wondered if maybe that was what I was going to get, since it made no mention of sauces.  It was 42 euros and I figured they'd just bring it out super rare, since a lot of French people seem to like really bloody meat (though I don't).  

I also noticed that they were holding our wine hostage, a practice I really hate.  Everyone's bottles were kept on a table and the waiters were pouring the wines as they had the opportunity.  In some restaurants, this practice is considered good service, and it is if the wait staff is attentive.  When they are weeded, it becomes a real nuisance.

After some time passed, a different waiter showed up with Bill's dish and one that was unrecognizable to me.  It was basically a pile of pork with sauerkraut.  

"I didn't order that." I said when the waiter tried to give it to me.

He looked confused, went to his colleague, and clearly upset the man.  Our original waiter came back and said, "Yes, you did order the choucroute." he said, checking his notes.  "Because if you had ordered the entrecôte, I would have asked you the temperature and which sauce you wanted."  It was as if because he wrote down the wrong thing, in his mind, the matter was settled.  Obviously, he couldn't have mistaken choucroute for entrecôte, right?  And yet he did!  And he was trying to blame me for his error.  Bullshit!

At that point, I was becoming extremely annoyed and was quickly getting over the whole experience.  I snapped, "I ordered the entrecôte.  And you're right that you didn't ask me the temperature or which sauce I wanted.  In fact, I wondered why."  

I can't say for sure, but it's very likely that I had one of my trademark venomous expressions on my face.  I usually do when I get pissed off.  I do know that my voice became quite sharp and I could tell the guy was worried that I was about to lose my shit right there at the table.  I was a bit hangry and really tired of the bumbling service.  I just wanted to eat and get out of there.

The guy scurried away with the food, then came back and offered me the pile of pork again.  He said, "If you don't take this, you'll have to wait for the entrecôte to be cooked."  

I was thinking to myself, Duh... of course I would have to wait for a steak to be cooked to order.  This isn't a McDonald's.  I probably would have preferred McDonald's at that point.  

Then Bill, sweet gentleman that he is, said "I'll take the choucroute.  You can have the salmon and potato pancakes."  That was alright with me, since I'd been thinking about ordering the pancakes anyway.  

The waiter looked relieved as he served me the pork.  He actually smiled as Bill and I switched plates.  It probably appeared that the awkward bullshit was about to end.  

I was sitting there wondering why in the hell that man was arguing with me over what I ordered.  Why would I lie about that?  I don't go out to restaurants, order stuff, and then change my mind after I've ordered.  That doesn't make any sense.  I understand that people make mistakes.  I made a lot of them when I waited tables.  But I felt the waiter was very rude to argue with me about what I ordered.  The correct response is not an argument.  The correct response is, "I apologize.  What can I do to fix the problem?"


So these were the potato pancakes.  They were served with pieces of marinated salmon, which are not too visible in the photo because they are under the pancakes.  One of the endive leaves was filled with a horseradish dip.


And this was the erroneous pile of pork farts the waiter tried to serve me.  Bill says the sauerkraut wasn't all that good.  There was a lot of it, so it's good that I didn't actually eat this.  It would have been very windy in our little apartment if I had.  I don't think Bill was able to eat the wiener.  That was too much protein.


The good news is that after the waiter got a load of my bitchface, he released our wine from custody and put it on the table.  The wine was probably my favorite part of the meal.  It was full of the essence of dark berries and, when I tasted it after eating a couple of peanuts, it tasted a little like a PBJ sandwich.  Better yet, I could keep my glass filled.


Alas, one of the potato pancakes arrived a bit scorched.  Fortunately, the other two were unscathed and I was plenty full.


Instead of having dessert, we decided to have after dinner drinks.  Bill enjoyed a very lovely Japanese whiskey.  Props to the second waiter, who did a very professional presentation, complete with showing us the bottles from which he was pouring.


While I had a snifter of Armagnac from 1973... just a year younger than I am.  The Armagnac was dangerously smooth and at 16 euros, not exactly cheap.  However, it did leave me with a smile on my face.  We noticed the rest of the service was done by a different waiter wearing a leather apron.  He had piercings in his chest and was a lot more professional than the other guy was.

The bill came to 92 euros.  It's probably the only bill we will ever be presented by Hotel du Mouton because I don't think we'll be going back there.  That was probably one of the least comfortable dining experiences I've had in a good long while.  It's a shame, too, because the hotel is in a cute area and gets fairly good reviews on Trip Advisor and Google.  I saw the owners there last night with their adorable little girl.  I would be very surprised if this is the impression they'd want to leave with their guests... and any potential guests who happen to read this review.


Hotel du Mouton... looks inviting enough, but looks can be deceiving.  Oh well.  We'll find a better place today.

Part two

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