The Vienne is a river that flows into the Loire from the area south of Tours, passing through the town of Chinon and the Chinon wine production area. The Vienne valley is very wide and fairly deep. Some of the most prestigious Chinon vineyards are on the up-slope on the north (right) bank of the river, facing south so that the vines benefit from good sun and warmth.
A nice sign on the façade of the Auberge du Val de Vienne
I knew about the Auberge du Val de Vienne but had never had a meal there. Nick and Jean knew it too, from personal experience, and recommended it as our meeting place. The daily lunch menu is priced at 18 euros, or just less than $25 U.S., with an extra charge for pre-lunch drinks, wine, and coffee. The meal for 18 euros includes a starter course, a main course, and dessert, with two choices in each category.
L'Auberge du Val de Vienne in Sazilly, near Chinon
Before the first course was brought out, we were served a tray of little appetizers called amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule — "mouth amusers" and in this case, four crevettes (shrimp, prawns) stuck on little metal fork-stands and bathed in an herby, spicy sauce, along with four little shot glasses filled with chopped fresh tomato topped with a puree of cauliflower.
Most restaurants in the area have this kind of daily special menu, and many price it at 11 or 12 euros. Some even include a glass of wine for that price. The Val de Vienne is definitely more upscale than the little restaurants that cater to a working crowd at lunch all around the Loire Valley area. With our extras, including wine and coffee, we ended up paying 65 euros per couple, or about $85 U.S. That's fairly expensive, but not comparable to prices you might pay in Paris or even in other cities like Tours or Orléans.
We arrived just before 12:30 for lunch, and were the only customers in the dining room for nearly an hour. Between 1:00 and 1:30, several other groups came in, and the place was bustling when we left. There was only one young waiter to take care of all the tables, and he did a good job.
More about the food tomorrow...