Dish du Jour — July 16, 2021

Yesterday we enjoyed yet another wonderful lunch on the terrace of O Moulin, the fine-dining restaurant in Carsac, less than 30 minutes from Daglan. This time it was with good friends Helen and Roy, who were celebrating a special anniversary.

Since I’ve gone on (and on) so often about O Moulin, I’ll keep this posting to a minimum. (If you ever want to read earlier reviews, just type O Moulin into the Search box at the top right of the page.)

To kick off our celebration, we each had a Kir Royale. Then it was on to the meal, which we accompanied with a couple of bottles of Tavel rosé.

My entrée was an incredibly fresh salad comprising small chunks of varied tomatoes, served with a herb-infused dressing and with a mound of creamy Burrata cheese in the centre. My meal ended with something called at Fraicheur Limoncello, which consisted of a light, lemon-flavoured mousse surrounding a scoop of lemon sorbet. A splash of Limoncello finished the dessert.

But for me, the real star of my lunch was the plat principal, what the menu described as Croustillant de canard confit, légumes de saison et jus aux épices tandoori. Have a look:

Small but surprisingly satisfying.

The confit of duck had been shredded, and was resting on a pastry bed. The vegetables included carrots and mushrooms, as well as the three swaths of puréed carrots you see on the left of the plate. It wasn’t a large serving, but it was surprisingly satisfying — and rich. I loved it!

Chef, you’ve done it again!

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Our big meal in a small French village

At one point during our lunch this past Sunday, Jan looked up from her plate and said to me: “This is a big meal!” No, we weren’t eating a Big Meal at a McDonald’s outlet, but at a rustic spot called Hostellerie de Goujounac. And she meant it was a really BIG meal.

The Hostellerie de Goujounac is a small hotel, with a restaurant and bar. It’s located in the village of (you guessed it!) Goujounac, which lies south of Cazals in the département of the Lot. It takes about 30 minutes to drive there from Daglan.

We had eaten there several years ago, and now there are new owners. What lured us to the restaurant was the promise of enjoying some spit-roasted pork; this special had been highlighted in a promotional email I received from the restaurant. Sounded great, and so off we went.

Despite the weather being quite cool and damp, we sat on the front terrace (wishing we had worn sweaters or jackets), and began our meal with one of our favourite cocktails, the Aperol Spritz (which we thought were just a touch weak). When it came to order, I was surprised that there was quite a full menu, with lots of choices, as well as the pork. The three-course meal was priced at 30 euros, which seemed reasonably fair to us.

Jan’s entrée will give you an idea of why we thought our lunch was so large. It was a plate of seared foie gras, surprisingly thick. And as you can see, on one side of Jan’s plate was a pile of sauteed girolle mushrooms, and on the other were darkened strips of confit de canard:

Foie gras — and then some.

My entrée was also generous: It was a thick slice of pâté en croute, accompanied by a fresh salad and a small dish of chutney. Very good.

My entrée was good — and generous.

For her main course, Jan swerved away from the spit-roast pork and went for slices of magret de canard (duck breast), served with mashed potatoes and a variety of vegetables. Here’s her plate:

Jan’s main course was magret de canard — roast duck breast.

And now we come to my main course — and the only disappointment of the meal. I had been looking forward to a few slices of spit-roast pork, tender and juicy, with a nice crisp crust. Instead, I was served a pile of strips of dried-out pork, sitting on top of a serving of potatoes dauphinois, and several vegetables.

The pork was so dry and unappetizing that I didn’t finish it. And after our meal, I chatted with a man at the next table who had ordered the pork and also found it unacceptably dry. It turned out that the man lives in the village, and said he would be speaking with the chef. Anyway, here’s my plate:

The pork was simply too dry to enjoy.

The dryness of the pork was almost made up for by my dessert, a creamy and light bavarois. Here’s my dish:

My dessert — nice and light.

With the pork fiasco in mind, we probably won’t be rushing back. Still, it’s a pleasant place, and the drive from Daglan takes you through some beautiful forested countryside. So if you’re in the area, it could be worth a try.

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Dish du Jour — June 29, 2021

On Tuesday (June 29), Jan and I met friends Roy, Helen and Sara for a lunch that would introduce them to Delicatessens, where Jan and I had eaten once before. The restaurant is located at the Domaine de Berthiol, just outside Gourdon.

I reviewed the place thoroughly in my posting of May 28, if you’d like to check back for details.

When Jan and I first lunched there, it was a nice, sunny day, and we were able to eat outdoors on the shaded terrace. But the weather this past Tuesday was cool and rainy, and no one was being served on the terrace. That was a shame, but the inside of the restaurant is attractive, and the five of us were seated comfortably and then served promptly and professionally.

In this posting, I’m featuring just one dish — my entrée. The dish was a tarte that featured ingredients that I wouldn’t have thought to combine, but the result was delicious. Sitting on the pastry base was a layer of soft, sweet, slow-cooked onion rings. On top there were small pieces of octopus, plus cherry tomatoes. Have a look:

An unusual combination — and I liked it!
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Doing our bit for another flower

Tuesday was Judgment Day in Daglan — when a group from the Villes et Villages Fleuris program were to visit our village and evaluate it, not just for beauty, but also for quality of life features. Our village council is quite keen to earn a third flower in the program (the maximum is four; Daglan had one flower when Jan and I moved here, and the village has since moved up to two).

There are now attractive Villes et Villages Fleuris signs posted at each of the three main entrances to the village, and the hope is that before too long, they will be replaced by three-flower versions.

As it happens, our house doesn’t have a conventional garden adjacent to it. We are currently having a garden created for us, on a large plot of land about 50 metres away, but the only flowers at our house are either on it or immediately next to it.

Still, we have been doing our best to keep Daglan beautiful. On Tuesday, all of us who live around the Place de la Fontaine were directed to park our cars elsewhere, so the judges could see the Place in all its glory. And Jan and I have been doing our bit to help Daglan rise up in the world of Villes et Villages Fleuris. What follows is a look at some of our own flowers.

Flowers planted in a bed where a wisteria vine has its roots.
A Rose of Sharon shrub grows beside the house.
Two bags of mixed flowers hang on our garage doors.
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The descent of the woolly mowers

Daglan’s commitment to ecological mowing was outlined in my post “Putting our sheep to work,” on April 15. But Jan and I were never able to spot any sheep on the hill beside the village cemetery — until this morning.

We had been reliably informed that, yes, several sheep were indeed in the newly fenced off area, but they chose to spend nearly all of their time avoiding the heat of the day, by sheltering under the trees at the top of the hill, and well out of view. We made several trips to the spot, but never got even a glimpse of the woolly mowers.

And then this morning, we saw them munching away happily on the grass and weeds that had sprouted up. And here they are, in action:

Enjoying an early lunch.
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The uber-clean village and our “civilized” lunch

At times I feel as if we are living in a public-policy experiment to answer one question: Just how clean, pretty and eco-friendly can one village get?

On Monday, for instance, a company of professional cleaners was blasting away at the water fountain at the front edge of the village square, Place de la Liberté. Normally the cleaning jobs here are performed by the village workers, but the fountain had been looking a bit grubby, and I suppose that the Mayor’s office wanted this visible feature to be good and clean — just in case the judges from the Villes et Villages Fleuri program should wander past. Here’s how the fountain looked this morning:

The stone is good and clean.

Today was also volunteer day (as I wrote last week), when the Mayor’s office had asked for residents to pitch in and help weed some of the planted areas around the village. Jan was one of those to volunteer, and she put in several hours of pulling weeds before her legs became too tired and she came home.

Before lunch we then drove over to the cemetery, because Jan had heard that sheep had been brought down to “mow” a grassy area next to the cemetery (another topic I covered previously). Sadly, no sheep were present, and the grass was actually getting a bit out of control. We will investigate further.

Meanwhile, Jan said I should take a photo of the newly mulched flower beds — in another eco-friendly move, the village is using crushed walnut shells as the mulch. (In case you didn’t know it, walnuts are a major crop in the Greater Daglan Area, or GDA.) Here’s what one flower bed looks like:

A neat bed of crushed walnut shells.

Our “civilized” lunch. Last Friday, Jan and I drove to the village of Belvès, parked up in the top market square, and strolled down the pedestrian street (full of shops, real estate agencies, cafés and bars) for lunch at Planches & Plonk, the wine-and-cheese café I’ve described previously.

We ordered a bottle of Chablis, and then made our selection of cheeses and charcuterie for the medium-size platter (at 21 euros). All the cheeses and meats were very good, but the runaway star was a brie with morsels of truffle in the centre.

It was truly outstanding, and we both thought that the cheese had the most truffle flavour of any food we’ve ever had (and we’ve had a lot). In the picture below, the pieces of brie are at the top left, next to a round cheese and just above the bowl of (delicious) chutney:

The brie with truffles was the star of the platter.

In all, we had the bottle of Chablis, two more glasses of white wine (for Jan, because I had ordered two scoops of ice cream from the shop next door), the meat-and-cheese platter, and two espressos. Total bill: 73.80 euros.

At one point, Jan happily exclaimed: “This is so civilized!” And I had to agree — not only was the food and wine good, the service friendly and polished, but it was wonderful to be outside again and saying “Bonjour” to people as they walked by. Just imagine: almost normalcy.

We liked our civilized lunch so much that in fact we are going back for an encore this Friday. For sure the brie with truffles will be ordered again.

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Two showdowns (June 2021)

These are not startling events, but we are now quite close to two showdowns — one political, the other somewhat cultural.

First the political: the regional elections in France, which were to take place in March 2021, but were delayed to this month because of the pandemic. Round one takes place June 20 (this coming Sunday), and round two (to tidy up any really close voting results) will be held on June 27.

What’s at stake? There are seats for 18 regional presidencies up for grabs, and almost 1,760 regional councillors. In previous postings, I have noted the “tidiness” of France’s process for putting up political posters; instead of having posters glued all over the place, candidates have to place their posters on specified boards. Here’s a look at the one in Daglan, just outside our community hall:

The poster board in Daglan.

For several weeks, we’ve been receiving printed material that extols the virtues of the various candidates in our area; however, neither Jan nor I can vote. I’m a Canadian citizen, and Jan is a citizen of both Canada and the U.K. (In case you missed the explosion of news about Brexit, the U.K. is no longer a member of the European Union, and so British citizens can’t vote here.)

Other than the flurry of printed materials, I don’t think there has been an awful lot of fuss about these elections. But just wait until next year — that’s when French President Macron has to go to the electorate. A French political commentator that I follow is predicting a rough-and-ready presidential election. And who am I to disagree?

Seeking Number 3. The other showdown is when Daglan — the community — faces the judgment of the people behind the Villes et Villages Fleuris movement, as our village leaders are hoping to add a third flower to the signs you see as you enter our village. Here’s a look at where we stand now:

If you’re not up to speed on this program, here are some excerpts from a previous posting in the ever-educational Radio Free Daglan:

… the Villes et Villages Fleuris competition is a national program created in 1959. Over the years, the program has evolved. While the name suggests that villages like Daglan should be full of flowers — which is true — it also signifies that the village is generally trying to improve the local environment and encourage a high quality of life for residents. Places for handicapped parking; recreational facilities; general cleanliness, and so on.

Cities and villages which qualify can be awarded from one to four flowers, which are displayed on signs as you enter the community. When Daglan was first recognized, we had one flower on our signs. And now, we have two flowers on each of the signs posted at the three main entrances to the village.

Next Wednesday is your chance to boost our chances for Flower No. 3. The office of the Mayor has called for volunteers to show up at the salle des fêtes or community hall on June 23 at 9 a.m. to help give a final boost to our chances (for “notre 3ème fleur“). What to do? Just bring your gloves and gardening gear, and spend some time tidying up the planters around Daglan, pulling weeds, and trimming plants. My wife Jan will, of course, be there. I, of the bad back, will remain at home, cheering silently.

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Just how happy are we?

My wife Jan asked that question yesterday afternoon, as we drove home under a cloudless sky. And when she answered “We’re very, very happy,” it wasn’t just the weather she was admiring. We were feeling quite good after having enjoyed a wonderful lunch at O Moulin in Carsac, for the first time in many months.

Restaurants in France have been emerging from the restrictions of the Covid pandemic lockdown. First they could offer take-out food; then they could serve customers outdoors, on patios and terraces; and now they can accept customers indoors. But there was special poignancy in O Moulin’s opening, because it had been completely shut down because of a major flood (which I described in “Fine dining: tasty treats, and a sad tale,” posted on April 25).

As it happens, we ate outdoors on the restaurant’s shaded terrace, because the weather was so pleasant. I’m happy to say that the terrace was full of diners, and we saw at least three couples turned away because they showed up without a reservation. (When in France, don’t think you can just pop into a restaurant, especially a very good one, and expect to be served a meal.)

Since we felt like celebrating, we began with a glass of Taittinger Champagne (delicious), and went on to choose our meals. I chose from the 35-euro Menu L’énéa, while Jan made her selection from the 47-euro menu. We were then served several amuse-bouches, including this bowl holding a roll of delicate smoked trout, filled with soft, creamy cheese, and sitting in a pool of an intense asparagus sauce:

For her entrée, Jan chose a dish of tuna tataki (barely cooked tuna), while I had a serving of small ravioli, filled with fresh chèvre cheese, sitting in a pool of creamy sauce scattered with slivers of chorizo sausage.

Jan’s main course was a filet of Limousin beef, served with a mix of young vegetables and girolle mushrooms; she said the beef was perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender. My plat principal was a filet of Borrèze trout, served with new carrots and small pasta shells. Here’s my plate:

Jan’s dessert was listed on the menu simply as “Comme une tarte au fraise,” but her serving was gluten-free (no pastry), with fresh strawberries and a quenelle of ice cream, circled around a swirl of whipped cream. Here’s her plate:

My dessert was described as a “mousse au chocolat Dulcey, creme glacée de riz au lait et confiture de lait,” which as you can see from my plate featured a large oval made of white chocolate, served with a quenelle of ice cream, and pieces of fresh strawberry:

It was a truly memorable meal, in lovely surroundings, and it won’t be long before we head back.

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Our outdoor dining double-play

Loyal and alert readers with good memories (and you know who you are), will recall that on Tuesday, Jan and I had our first meal at a restaurant in a long, long time — not just take-out food from a restaurant, but a lunch enjoyed while sitting on the actual terrace of an actual restaurant. This event was captured in “A scrumptious return to the near-normal” (May 26). And then we went and did it again in the same week.

Having heard lots from friends about a relatively new fine-dining restaurant near Gourdon, we decided to try it for lunch yesterday. It’s at the Domaine de Berthiol, and it has the unlikely name of Delicatessens.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I see the word delicatessen, I think of a small market or shop that specializes in Jewish foods (bagels, smoked salmon), Italian foods (sausages, cheeses) or German foods (sauerbraten, bratwurst). But this Delicatessens (yes, it’s plural) is something quite different — and very enjoyable.

We arrived pretty much on time for our 12:30 reservation, and were surprised to find that the parking lot was full of cars and most of the tables were already occupied. This was something of a surprise, since our traditional lunch starting time of 12:30 is relatively early by French standards. It seems that those who know the restaurant want to be sure to get a place. The company was nice, but it also meant that the servers were a bit rushed — and so it took a while to order our almost mandatory kirs.

We wound up with a nice table for two in the centre of the terrace. I took the following photo as Jan and I were leaving, so many of the customers had already finished. At its busiest, I think every table was occupied. Here’s a look:

The large terrace, with good shade.

The restaurant is in the country, a bit south and east of Gourdon, and the views of surrounding trees and fields are quite pleasant. Here’s one view:

It’s definitely in the countryside.

From the start of our meal, Jan and I both felt that the chef at Delicatessens has the same kind of touch and imaginative flair as the much-beloved chef at O Moulin in Carsac. Here’s Jan’s entrée, which was a terrine made of confit of pork with herbs, and nicely decorated. On top of the terrine was a tiny spoonful of mustard, razor-thin radish slices, and four balls of herbed mousse:

Jan began with this terrine of confit of pork.

I had a small taste of Jan’s terrine, and thought it was quite good. But for visual appeal (and a wonderful taste) I think my entrée was on top. It was an “ingot” made of peas that had been pureed, and topped with a mousse of fresh chèvre and young sprouts, and then decorated with razor-thin slices of radish, and edible flowers. To enhance the texture, the “ingot” contained a number of whole peas, and had been placed on a crunchy biscuit, like a sablé. Here’s my dish:

Beautiful, delicate, and delicious.

For our main course, Jan and I both ordered the tataki of beef (a piece of beef filet or tenderloin that is barely cooked, and then marinated), accompanied by polenta and served on a sweet mousseline of carrots. We both thought the beef tasted fine, but was tough and chewy — an unfortunate characteristic of a lot of French beef. Actually, my favourite parts of the dish were the mousseline and the “ingot” of polenta, which must have been deep-fried, because it had a crunchy coating. Here’s my dish:

Elegant and delicious — but the beef was awfully chewy.

I also loved my dessert, which was a wedge of chestnut crème encased in a crisp coating of dark chocolate with tiny bits of hazelnut, and topped with wedges of small pears. Here it is:

A perfect ending to a splendid meal.

Domaine du Berthiol is now operated by the team of Benoît and Justine Mouly. He is listed on the restaurant’s website as Chef de cuisine, while she looks after special events (the place is a natural for weddings, celebrations, and similar events) and is also listed as the Designer culinaire.

We found the meal to be exceptionally good value, and the service — after a slow start — was friendly, prompt and professional. Our lunch included a kir for each of us, a bottle of Chablis, the three-course meal, and an espresso each. And for all that, the total bill was 95 euros.

Delicatessens is about 21 kilometres from Daglan, so you can drive there in less than half an hour. I’m sure we’ll be heading there again. The telephone number is 05 – 65 – 32 – 70 – 56, and the website is http://www.delicatessens.fr

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A scrumptious return to the near-normal

With the worst of the pandemic seeming to fade, restaurants in France recently were allowed to receive customers — but only on their outdoor terraces; to be seated inside a restaurant, we will have to wait until June 9. But yesterday, Jan and I, with friends Rosemary and Richard, got our first taste of the new near-normal — that is, lunch on a terrace.

The occasion was another trip to Toulouse for my afternoon medical appointment, for a quick check-up. The timing allowed us to have lunch beforehand, and so Jan had reserved a place for the four of us at noon on the sidewalk outside Chez Jeannot — certainly our favourite seafood restaurant.

I first wrote about Chez Jeannot in a posting of June 18, 2020 (when we could still eat indoors), and here’s a quote from that piece: “Jan had eaten at Chez Jeannot several times, but this was a first for me. Right from the start, I knew why she had raved about it: A warm welcome at the door, a clean and sophisticated decor, and professional service.”

And just a bit more from last June: “I wish more restaurants could be like this: Specializing in one type of food and doing it very well. Having well-qualified, friendly and professional staff … And sporting a smart, well-lighted décor.”

And now back to yesterday’s lunch, outdoors. Jan and I were greeted warmly at the door, and given our choice of tables, while we waited for Richard and Rosemary to park the car. From the start, our server was upbeat, friendly and professional. We chose a table, and ordered some pre-lunch drinks. Here’s a view of our table setting, with a look along the sidewalk:

My kir is ready to go!

The weather wasn’t perfect by any means. It was a bit breezy, the temperature was cool, and later on in the lunch there were some sprinkles of rain. But it was great to be outside, sitting at a restaurant, and trying to choose our dishes from the huge array of fresh seafood on offer.

In the end, Richard chose a grilled white fish; Jan and Rosemary had the grilled gambas, or large shrimp; and at Jan’s suggestion, I chose the seafood risotto. Jan had ordered the risotto previously, and said it was delicious — but when my plate arrived, she was as surprised as I was. Jan said it was quite different from the dish she was served; as for me, I had expected a bowl of risotto with pieces of seafood mixed in. Instead, this is what I received:

Yes, there was risotto under the seafood.

What an abundance! Grilled gambas, grilled octopus and squid, mussels, clams and — yes, somewhere below all the seafood — a small but delicious serving of a reasonably authentic risotto. It was quite wonderful, helped along by our bottle of Sancerre.

At the end of our lunch, I was the only one to choose dessert, while Jan and Rosemary opted for an extra glass of white wine. As you can imagine, I loved the dessert, which looked like this:

Sweet! A great finish to a great lunch.

In the centre was a moist chocolate cake with a melted chocolate centre, and around it were a scoop of ice cream, a large portion of whipped cream, and — as one of the day’s five servings of fruit and vegetables — a raspberry.

As I told a friend in Daglan this morning, if the restaurant were an hour’s drive closer, rather than the rather tedious two-hour drive to Toulouse, Jan and I would probably eat at Chez Jeannot once a week.

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