A triple-header for foodies

Today’s posting features three different topics that I hope will be of interest to foodies (and you know who you are). They are: the opportunity to acquire the best restaurant in Daglan; a couple of beautiful dishes at a much-loved restaurant; and a visit to a new place devoted to wine, cheese and charcuterie. Let us begin.

Opportunity for a chef with ambition. The restaurant Le Petit Paris, in the heart of Daglan, has a fine reputation, and Jan and I have known the owners (and enjoyed the food) since we bought our home here in 2004 — a full 16 years ago. Now the chef and his wife are preparing to retire, and are hoping to sell the restaurant itself and also its attached properties, which include a beautifully restored gîte with a lovely garden. Asking price: 890,000 euros.

Have a look for yourself, by going to immobilier.lefigaro.fr, and searching for properties in Daglan with an asking price of a maximum 900,000 euros. Le Petit Paris should be at the top of the list. And if this isn’t the opportunity for you, perhaps you know a chef with ambition who’d like to take on the challenge of maintaining, or even bettering, the restaurant’s well-deserved reputation. The residents of Daglan will thank you.

Two fine dishes. Last week, Jan and I enjoyed lunch again at the Restaurant O Moulin, a 25-minute drive from Daglan in the village of Carsac. (I last wrote about the restaurant and its creative food on August 20.) And here are two of my dishes that I thought were worthy of being shown off.

First comes the Baluchon d’oeuf poché façon carbonara — that is, a little “bundle” of a poached egg, gently encased in a whipped-cheese casing, and served in a pool of the kind of creamy sauce you would enjoy with spaghetti carbonara, all served warm. To use a technical food term, it was “Yummy.” And here’s my serving:

To begin, a creamy egg concoction.

My main course was a Pavé de saumon au Tandoori, risotto de Frégola sarde, sauce crevette — in other words, a rectangle of salmon with Indian spices, sitting atop a bed of Sardinian frégola (those little balls of Italian pasta made from semolina), with a shrimp sauce. It was particularly luscious, and here it is:

Salmon with a taste of India.

For lovers of cheese and wine. A new discovery for us, located in the village of Belvès (roughly half an hour from Daglan), is a café known as Planches & Plonk. (In case you’re not sure, planche is French for a board, and plonk is the slang term for wine, usually a cheap wine. What the owners mean is that they will serve you a selection of cheese and charcuterie on wooden boards or trays, with a wide selection of wines, that in fact are quite good.) Credit for the discovery must go to our friend Chris in Daglan, who raved about the place.

Planches & Plonk is located on an easy-to-find street that descends from the village’s main square, and is lined with a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants. Jan and I hadn’t been in Belvès for quite a while, and we were impressed to see how “Parisian” the street now looks. Here it is:

A street full of cafés and shops.

Inside, at the back, is a tidy room where the stocks are kept, and where the trays of goodies are assembled. Here it is:

A clean, well-lighted room.

The owners are two English chaps, Graham (on the left)  and Damon (with the beard, at the right),  who really know their way around the hospitality business, and wine and cheese in particular. Here they are:

The justifiably proud owners of Planches & Plonk.

Jan and I sat outside the café with good friends Joanne and Chris, and were were served by a friendly, chatty Graham. Here’s our planche of various breads, all good:

The staff of life, so to speak.

Since there were four of us, we chose the large selection of cheeses and charcuterie, and were all pleased with our serving. Here’s what we were offered:

A great selection of cheeses and meats.

Graham and Damon have a lot to offer — including a place to stay, as well as a variety of culinary tours and courses. This is worth exploring.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Camper madness, and a dish du jour

One of the stranger summer phenomena around the Greater Daglan Area is the sudden appearance of groups of travellers — people who move from place to place, somehow connected to each other, driving camper vans and cars with trailers. They are generally set up for “normal” life, with washing machines, clothes lines, cooking appliances, and often a collection of children and dogs.

We had such a group in Daglan earlier this summer, pretty much covering the parking lot of the village Salle des fêtes or community hall. They stayed a week or two (I wasn’t counting the days), and then moved on. But it was nothing like the camper madness that recently descended on St. Cybranet, the small village about seven kilometres north of Daglan.

I first saw the collection of people and vehicles yesterday, but was later told that the group had moved into position on Sunday — a huge field near the centre of St. Cybranet that is often the venue for events like summer festivals. Are you ready?  Here’s one view of the camper madness:

Looking across a sea of campers.

And here’s another view:

Not much room left!

I’ve been reliably informed that in France, villages are obliged to allow such groups, and even provide campers with electricity and water — with a modest payment to be made when the travellers depart. Beyond that, I’m in the dark: Who organizes them? Who decides on the next lucky village and leads them there? Are they simply on vacation, or migrant workers of some sort? The only thing that’s clear to me is that there sure are a lot of them!

Back to Domaine de Monrecour: Also yesterday, Jan and I joined four friends for a very  relaxing lunch on the terrace of this hotel-resort-restaurant complex, which I first described in “Lovely place, lovely  lunch.” For the full scoop, see Radio Free Daglan for August 27.

We each had a three-course meal yesterday, chosen from a blackboard set near our table. My entrée was a circle of fromage frais, a very soft cheese, into which quite a lot of tiny summer truffle pieces had been mixed; then the serving was decorated with thin wafers of summer truffle. My dessert was the French classic, île flottante. But the main course deserves the title of dish of the day.

The plat was a sautée of lamb, served in a rich brown sauce with small roasted potatoes. It sounded very good, but when it was brought to the table, I thought there had been a mistake — my serving seemed too small to be a main course, especially as the pieces of lamb were smaller than a Brazil nut. Have a look:

Small in size, big in flavour.

However, the lamb was delicious and the sauce was so rich that it certainly made for a full-size plat principal. Nicely done.

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Our newest (and tiniest) neighbour

We have a newcomer in central Daglan,who now lives right next door to our house. This new neighbour is quite cute, quite active, and so tiny that we still don’t know its gender. So I’ll just refer to it as Kitty.

Yes, it’s a kitten, and it seems to have had a somewhat challenging — and certainly early — entry into the world of humans. Kitty’s story begins when a woman in Daglan who lives near the Salle des fêtes or community hall heard a squeaking sound coming from the roof of the nearby tourist office. Upon investigation, the source of the squeaking turned out to be a tiny kitten, stuck on the roof. Kitty was then retrieved by a friendly man with a ladder.

After asking a few villagers if they would adopt Kitty, the woman asked her friend RoseMarie (our next door neighbour) if she would like the kitten, and RoseMarie gladly agreed. But as you can see in the photo below, taken a few weeks ago, Kitty really was a miniature.

On the carpet in its new home.

So, what do you feed a kitten so little and so young? Well, it turns out there is a special milk for very young cats, which can be fed by bottle. The starting point was a plastic bottle of nose spray that I offered, which RoseMarie opened up (by cutting off the bottom) and then washed carefully. Later, she was able to find a tiny bottle for nursing Kitty, and here’s the little one having a drink:

Hitting the bottle.

Now a few weeks have gone by, Kitty is getting bigger (especially its ears!), and although the kitten still likes the bottle, it is also getting used to lapping up the special milk from a bowl, and nibbling on crunchies for kittens. Here’s Kitty as of yesterday, sitting on the lap of my wife Jan, who was visiting:

Just resting, and looking around.

Kitty is an active kitten, racing around RoseMarie’s house, hiding under furniture, wrestling with strings and ribbons, and nipping at the arms of anyone who holds it. Kitty particularly likes a ball of fluff that’s mounted on a spring, so that it flops around when the kitten bats at it — and eventually knocks it over, as shown below:

Kitty loves to play.

Jan is pretty sure that the kitten is a male, but we’re not positive because there is not enough “equipment” in evidence to be sure. Until we know for certain, RoseMarie has decided not to name Kitty. But suggestions from Radio Free Daglan readers would be welcome, with some ideas for a male cat and some ideas for a female. Any thoughts?

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The exodus

No, this is not a Biblical posting. It’s simply a brief tale about the annual exodus of tourists from the Greater Daglan Area, which appears to have begun.

I have no hard evidence, no numbers. But the signs are all there, it seems: fewer vehicles on the roads, fewer people crammed into campsites, fewer cyclists, more spaces in parking lots.

If you’re not familiar with the seasons in the Greater Daglan Area, the summer months are The Season — that is, the tourist season, when local merchants (including campgrounds, gîtes, chambres d’hôtes, restaurants and shops) make most of their money for the year. June tends to be busy, but July and August are simply crammed with tourists.

This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, June was actually a bit slow. But things changed radically when July and August arrived. We had expected things to be quieter than normal — because British tourism was so affected by travel restrictions — but the shortage of Brits seems to have been more than made up by an influx of French residents from other parts of the country. Many from the larger French cities wanted to breathe the fresh (and Covid-19-free) air of the GDA.

A good example of the recent turnaround can be seen in the parking lot at Castelnaud, the village about 10 kilometres north of Daglan. Castelnaud and its imposing château is a magnet for tourists. It also boasts a small plaza with popular shops (including the best bakery in the area), two bicycle rental shops, and a major centre for canoe and kayak rides on the Dordogne River.

Over the past several weeks, the parking lot has been absolutely crammed with cars, vans, campers and trailers — not a single space remaining. But here’s how it looked yesterday:

That’s the château above it all.

And here’s another view of the same lot:

Now there’s room to park.

Now if I were a merchant, I’d be a bit unhappy about the exodus of tourists. But I’m not, and so the quieter roads and less crowded stores are just fine for Jan and me. As well, the weather has turned a bit cooler lately, with nights that are much better for sleeping. So, no complaints.

Posted in Camping in the Dordogne, Holidays in France, Kayaking, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More creativity on a plate

A few days ago, a friend of Jan complained to her about my blog. (What? I know it’s hard to believe.) What she reportedly said was “Why is Loren always writing about trash? Where are the food reviews?”

Ever responsive to reader suggestions, on August 27 I posted a review of our Tuesday lunch at a new spot (new to us anyway), Domaine de Monrecour. And today I’m writing about lunch at a real favourite — La Table du Marché Couvert, in Old Bergerac, about an hour an a half from Daglan.

I’ve been raving about the small restaurant since April 2013 (according to my in-depth research), with a focus on the creativity of the chef. For this most recent lunch, he certainly didn’t let us down.

As a quick bit of background, here’s some of what I wrote in a posting of September 7, 2017:

La Table du Marché is a relatively small restaurant, just across the street from the covered market (hence the marché) in the centre of vieux Bergerac. The style is contemporary, but comfortable. The chef and owner is a Parisian, Stéphane Cuzin, who learned his craft at starred restaurants in France and Belgium — and learned it very well. His food is clever, creative, fresh, and delicious.

The occasion was getting together with an English couple, Ian and Suzanne, who love visiting the Dordogne with their two daughters. When we had all settled into our places at the outdoor table, the four adults ordered a kir (cassis) to begin, and then the food started coming.

First, we were served a number of gougères — those light, somewhat fluffy balls made of choux pastry and grated cheese. Warm, traditional, and delicious. Then came small bowls of a refreshing chilled soup made of cucumber. Inventive, and also delicious.

As our entrée, the four adults all chose the crab salad, served between layers of crispy, savoury tuile. The crab meat was not only fresh, but slightly sweet. The dish didn’t seem big at first, but as with most fine foods, I found it generous and quite wonderful. Jan and I agreed later it was probably our favourite course of the lunch. Here’s my plate:

A double-decker of fresh crab salad.

For my main course, I chose the roast canette, or duckling. As you can see from the plate below, the duck was moist, decorated with mushrooms and a rich sauce. It was excellent, but the real surprise was the accompaniment — a bowl of chilled Asian-style broth, flavoured with all kinds of herbs and spices, from ginger to lemongrass to scallions. An amazing combination, with the soup offsetting the richness of the duck.

Tender roast duckling, with a surprise accompaniment.

My dessert was a marvellous concoction of meringue, sorbet, fresh strawberries, and probably a few ingredients I’ve missed. Here’s my plate:

A dessert that kept on giving.

All in all, a great meal, with very nice friends. The only bit of a negative was the price for the three dishes (entrée, plat principal, dessert), which now stands at 42 euros. Jan and I thought it was still good value (for the quality of the dishes), but it did seem a fair bit higher than previous lunches. And it seemed particularly steep for the two girls.

Here’s a bit of what Suzanne wrote to me later: “Lunch was absolutely superb and such a treat, especially for the girls to have the experience of fine dining which they really enjoyed (they had better not get used to it!)” I understand the sentiment exactly!

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Lovely place, lovely lunch

What started us on our most recent restaurant discovery was a recommendation from friend Rosemary, who had enjoyed lunch with her family at Domaine de Monrecour.  On Tuesday, Jan and I visited the place with friends Roy and Helen, and all four of us agreed that this was truly a lovely place to relax with a lovely lunch.

Funnily enough, Jan and I had visited the grounds of Domaine de Monrecour several years ago, and concluded that the restaurant probably would be a bit too formal, traditional, and even stuffy. But that turns out not to be the case.

To explain, Domaine de Monrecour describes itself as “Château Hôtel Restaurant,” and its 12-hectare property is located in the hamlet of Saint-Vincent-de-Cosse, about 2 kilometres west of Beynac, just off the main road that leads to Bergerac. So it’s easy to find if you know your Greater Daglan Area. While the four of us didn’t explore the hotel, the château website boasts 31 rooms and eight separate cottages. There is a large pool, and well-kept grounds.

And now, on to lunch.

The dining room looks quite spacious and comfortable, but we had chosen to eat on the terrace. The day was sunny and warm, and grew hotter as we ate lunch; however, we were well shaded. Here’s a view of a corner of the main building, from our table:

A view from our table on the terrace.

We found the service to be friendly and prompt, and the servers were all properly masked. Here’s a look at one of the waitresses, near the ardoise or slate that displays the day’s special lunch menu. I realize you can’t read all the descriptions, but the point is that there was lots of choice (two entrées, three main courses and two desserts) and modest prices — 17 euros for two dishes, 21 euros for all three).

Lots of choice on the daily lunch menu.

We generally agreed that all the dishes were good, but that some could have used a tweak or two, and that the plate presentation wasn’t as artful as the servings at Restaurant O Moulin, about which I’ve raved often. Nevertheless, this was a pleasant lunch and a good value.

To begin, Jan and I both chose the terrine — not the smooth paste, but rougher-textured pâté de campagne, which I quite like. And the taste was terrific, although the little scattering of greens on the side didn’t really float my boat. Have a look:

A nice way to begin the meal.

For our main courses, Jan had steak, while Helen, Roy and I all had the medallions of pork, served with a sweetish kumquat sauce that went well with the meat. Again, we all thought the pork was good, although perhaps a touch dry, and again, I wasn’t impressed with the meager serving of vegetables on the side (although the slice of polenta was a nice addition to the plate). Here’s my plate and Roy’s:

The kumquat sauce was a nice, sweet addition.

For dessert, Roy had a small tart of fresh strawberries while Helen and I had the brownie, served with candied nuts and a creamy sauce. Helen and I liked the dessert, although she pointed out that having it served warm would have been an improvement. Roy enjoyed the strawberry tart, and gluten-allergic Jan was offered two scoops of sorbet — and raved about the rosemary sorbet.

The brownie would have been nicer if it were warm.

We’ve already planned our next visit to the restaurant, and will again sit outside if the weather permits. If you’d like to learn more, here’s the website: https://www.monrecour.com/

 

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Fun, fun, fun!

It seems we have gotten our wish: The children’s rides for Daglan’s Fête Foraine de la Saint-Louis, or fun fair, are now located in the large parking lot of the Salle des fêtes, or community hall, and not in the village’s main square.

This means that Jan and I will be spared the noise from the loudspeakers attached to the bumper-car ride, about which I have complained countless times. We still may be able to hear the loud music (which typically goes until 2 in the morning), but the community hall is much farther away and besides, we have double-glazed windows.

It’s not clear to me when the actual fun begins, although Jan thinks that the rides and stalls (offering games and various treats) really start to get going in the late afternoon. We shall see. Meanwhile, here was the not-awfully-exciting scene this morning, at about 20 minutes to noon:

Let the games begin!

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Dishes du jour — 20 August 2020

Today we were back at Restaurant O Moulin in Carsac (about 30 minutes from Daglan), for lunch with first-timers Nancy and Iain. I know what you’re thinking: Gee, you write about this place a lot. Yes I do, and that’s because it’s quite wonderful.

If you need details, just refer to my posting of July 17. Otherwise, plunge ahead for a look at some stand-out dishes.

As always, we were first served a few tasty amuse-bouches, and then enjoyed a delicious cold soup — a gazpacho made with green tomatoes and flavoured with garden herbs. Then all four of us had the same entrée that had me swooning in the July 17 posting. Here’s how I described it last month:

In French, the salad is described on the menu as “Les tomates Bio de Céline CHOQUEL, espuma de burrata et jambon sec Sérrano 24 mois.”  In English, that’s a salad of organic tomatoes with a foam or mousse of burrata cheese, and sprinkled with bits of Serrano ham, aged 24 months.

And here’s a look at it, from the Radio Free Daglan photo  file:

Truly the taste of summer.

Two of us (my wife Jan and I) had just an entrée and a main course — roast breast of duck for  Jan, and filets of Dorade royale, served with a lovely sauce and julienned vegetables, for me. Here’s my plate:

A yummy plate of fish.

Nancy and Iain both had desserts — a tiramisu for Nancy, and a simple dish of sorbets for Iain. And although his dessert was simple, it was nicely decorated, and so I present it here:

A well-decorated dessert.

So, when will you be going there?

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The clean-up (done properly)

This will be a short posting, with one key message: All hail Cirque Cancy! The cirque is the travelling circus that I described briefly in yesterday’s posting. Here’s a reminder, using the photo of the booth where circus-goers could buy their tickets:

The big top is just behind this ticket booth, or caisse.

At the time, a loyal reader (and good friend) speculated that there might be trouble at les poubelles (the garbage and recycling bins), because the circus would be held very close to them. A mess? Vandalism? Who knows? I promised to check.

So this morning I carried out my duties, and went to the site of les poubelles, which is just outside our village of Daglan. And guess what?

Not a hint of trouble. No litter, no broken equipment, nothing left behind. All trucks gone. All animals gone. And believe it or not, even the posters for the circus — which were tacked up just about everywhere, including in neighbouring villages like St. Cybranet — were gone.

Now that is how to clean up after yourselves, folks. Well done, Cirque Cancy!

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At last — publicity for our “fun fair”

I can’t say that this will have the tourists pouring in, but a poster has finally been completed and displayed for Daglan’s Fête Foraine de la Saint-Louis, or fun fair, which begins on Friday (yes, just three days from now) and runs through Sunday. Until now, there has been no promotion, other than some dry information from the Mairie, or Mayor’s office.

Actually, today I saw two of the posters, one taped to the front window of our village’s convenience store, and the other on a post just outside the village. Are you ready for it?

Nice looking but short on details.

Note the lack of specifics — not even the location is shown. What’s being played up is a “sound and light” show of “dancing fountains.” It takes place on Saturday night at 10:30, and perhaps the best news is that it’s free. Of course, the poster does point out that there will be “many attractions,” which should really pull in the crowds at the parking lot behind the Salle des fêtes.

On the other side of the publicity spectrum is the Cirque Cancy, one of the small travelling circuses that tour our area in summer. Posters for tonight’s 6 p.m. show have been plastered all over the place for days, and then this travelling clown-construction has been in our village’s main square all day:

Lots of tourists were taking photos of this guy.

And in case you were wondering what a travelling circus looks like, here’s a photo of the place where you buy your tickets, with the big top just behind it:

An eye-catching display that says “circus” all the way.

By the way, if you’re planning to attend, a face mask is obligatory.

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