Wanna run a tea room?

Ever thought about owning and running a tea room? Or something like one? In a beautiful French village? Now’s your chance.

Judith Thomason, who established and now runs the successful tea room Le Thé Vert here in Daglan, has let it be known that she’s putting the place up for sale, and moving with her family back to the U.K. She plans to be here for the season (her café is open for business from May 1 to October 1), but hopes she’ll have a deal by then.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what Le Thé Vert looks like — or at least, how it looked last August, when it was decorated as a service station, to be in keeping with the automobile theme of Daglan’s annual festival parade:

Tea room becomes service station -- for parade day.

Dressed up for parade day in August 2015.

There are a lot of pluses for Le Thé Vert. Its location, just as you enter our village by crossing the bridge over the Céou River, is fine, and seems particularly attractive to the hordes of cyclists who make their way to the Greater Daglan Area each summer. The café includes a front terrace, a back terrace, and an inside room with serving area. Through the summer, Judith and family live upstairs; when the café is closed, her family has the run of the whole house. So the building is both a home and a business.

As for the fare, Judith has been offering a variety of light meals, as well as drinks like teas (surprised?), coffees, sodas, plus beer and wine as long as they are served with meals. Here’s a particularly nice looking lunch — a cheese fondue with charcuterie and trimmings — that my wife Jan and I enjoyed way back in 2010:

Cheese fondue lunch

Aside from her regular business, Judith has done a great job of adding special events, like curry nights and fish-and-chip nights.

It would be a real loss to the village if Le Thé Vert just disappeared. So — what you are waiting for?

 

Posted in Cafés in France, Festivals in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stormy weather

It’s gray and rainy as I write this — quelle surprise! Actually, it’s been pretty much gray and rainy since 2016 began, and all the water is having an impact on the Greater Daglan Area. Yesterday we got it with a vegeance.

Early in the afternoon, just as my wife Jan and I had finished lunch and were loading the dishwasher, a sudden storm blew through our valley, bringing not only torrential rain but also lightning and hail. Our lights flickered, flickered again, flickered again, and then went out completely — for more than six hours.

As I’m sure you know, six hours without electricity these days is a long time. You wind up thinking things like: “Well, I can at least read my Kindle. But what if its battery runs out? I’ll just have to charge it. Oh, right, I can’t.” We couldn’t even make calls on our mobile phones, as the cell phone towers were out cold as well.

Today I surveyed the damage, because the sun finally came out in the late morning, and so I’m offering a quick photographic tour of our area. First, a look at some destruction in the walnut grove alongside Daglan’s rugby field:

I'm not sure if this walnut tree can be saved.

I’m not sure if this walnut tree can be saved.

Last year, through the late summer and then the autumn, our rivers and streams were getting lower and lower. The Céou River, a tributary of the mighty Dordogne River, runs through Daglan on its way to Castelnaud, and was bone dry in places. Not any more.

Fields where we normally see cows grazing are now lakes and ponds, as water spills out of the rivers. Here, for instance, is a view of the Céou, taken from the Pont Neuf, the bridge you cross just before entering our village:

White water rafting, anyone?

White water rafting, anyone?

For a final look at how our rivers have risen lately, I’ll first show the Céou at a small waterfall near the neighbouring hamlet of Bouzic, as the river heads for Daglan. This photo was taken a few years ago, on a sunny spring day:

Lovely little river, lovely day.

Lovely little river, lovely day.

And here’s the same spot on the same river, photographed just after noon today:

Waterfall? What waterfall?

Waterfall? What waterfall?

On the good news front, there’s no snow in sight, and it looks like we’re headed for another very green spring.

Posted in Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Star struck

I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of the Michelin system of rating restaurants. My wife Jan and I have now eaten in a host of starred restaurants in France and England, and with few exceptions, we have found that  those with one, two or three stars (three is the maximum) are wonderful. Which brings me to the point of how Michelin comes up with its ratings.

There are those (including some Michelin people) who say “it’s all about the food.” To which  I reply: “No, it’s not.” At other times, I say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

The fact is that the expert reviewers of Michelin rate restaurants on the same three major points that you and I rate them on: (1) Food, of course; (2) Service, ditto; and (3) Ambiance or surroundings or décor.

Obviously, the food and its cooking need to be of the highest quality but, more than that, the dishes should be inventive or creative or particularly interesting. After all, a really well-made meat loaf is still meat loaf.

Then there is service. Servers should be polite but not obsequious; food should be delivered promptly but not in a rush; explanations and descriptions  should be clear. Allergies should be handled with respect.

Finally, there is the ambiance. Among the characteristics that you probably like (knowing how tasteful you are) are: tables that are well spaced; a noise level that allows for conversation rather than shouting; and at least some degree of elegance.

Which brings me to Le Gindreau, where Jan and I had lunch with our longtime friends from Toronto, Kathy and Keith, on the day before New Year’s Eve, 2015. Here is the view from our table in the corner of the restaurant’s main room — as you’ll see, it’s elegant and calm, with well spaced tables:

Inside Le Gindreau.

Inside Le Gindreau.

I have written about Le Gindreau several times in this blog, so I won’t go into much more detail. If you haven’t tried the “Search” function at the top of Radio Free Daglan, give it a shot; just type “Le Gindreau” into the bar and you’ll be served up all the postings I’ve written about the restaurant.

For now, it’s enough to say that Le Gindreau in Saint-Médard (in the Lot département, about an hour’s drive south of Daglan), is probably our favourite starred restaurant in the Greater Daglan Area, just edging out Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat and Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat.

At our end-of-year lunch, we began with glasses of Champagne, which we sipped (so to speak) with a variety of amuse-bouches, including a variety of flavoured flat breads or crisps, and tiny tarts of raw fish, and circles of squid-ink risotto:

A wonderful selection of amusements.

A wonderful selection of amusements.

As an entrée, both Keith and I chose the raviolis stuffed with foie gras, which looked like this and tasted wonderful:

Tasty pockets of pastry, filled with ... foie gras!

Tasty pockets of pastry, filled with … foie gras!

For our plat principal, both Kathy and I chose the canette — or young duckling. As you’ll see, the portion looks small, but the taste was huge. The sauce was rich, the duck was perfectly cooked, and the accompanying vegetables were delicious; they included roasted cubes of beet that were topped with shredded confit of duck. Here’s my plate:

My main course was, well, just ducky!

My main course was, well, just ducky!

I’ll skip my rave review of dessert, simply because the photo didn’t come out too well, but here is our serving of mignardises — a tray of sweeties to go with the coffee.

These sweet treats didn't last long at our table.

These sweet treats didn’t last long at our table.

All along the way, service was polite and friendly and efficient. Ambiance? Quiet but not stuffy. The young sommelier is excellent, and the wine list is more than adequate.

Bottom line? I think it’s time for Michelin to upgrade Le Gindreau to two stars.

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

Local treats

Before we get too far along into 2016 — and a very Happy New Year to all our readers, by the way — I’m going to write a couple of posts on some of the holiday feasting we enjoyed as 2015 came to a close. First, a look at a couple of local treats.

Daglan lies in the Périgord Noir, one of four areas in the Périgord, which was the former name of the département now known as the Dordogne. Some say it’s called the Black Périgord because of the famed black truffles that grow here; others say the name refers to the dark forests that abound in our area — sort of like the Black Forest of Germany.

Personally, I favour the latter explanation, but there’s no denying that black truffles are truly a local treat.

On the day before New Year’s Eve (December 30), we had a fabulous lunch with longtime Toronto friends Kathy and Keith at one of our favourite Michelin-starred restaurants in the Greater Daglan Area, Le Gindreau, in Saint-Médard.

Tomorrow I’ll write about the wonderful food we ate, but now I just want to show you what an extravagant plate of black truffles looks like. This was on display, under a glass dome, right next to our table, but we asked that it be brought over for a closer look, and here it is:

A fragrant tray of truffles.

A fragrant tray of truffles.

When our hostess brought the tray to our table, I asked what that serving might cost in a market, and guessed that it might be around 1,000 euros. She said that was a pretty good estimate, so you can imagine that black truffles are not an everyday item.

By contrast, another local treat is much, much more reasonable, and quite common. It’s duck, in all kinds of variety — from whole roast duck to duck legs slow-cooked in duck fat and then browned in the oven. But perhaps the tastiest duck dish is foie gras, the liver of a fattened duck that is served many ways, including seared, or stuffed into ravioli, or made into pâté, just to name a few variations.

Our latest favourite treatment of the duck liver is crème brûlée au foie gras, and in fact my wife Jan made several ramekins of it as an entrée for the New Year’s Eve lunch we had with Kathy and Keith at our house.

This was Jan’s third attempt at making the dish, and the result was the best yet — rich tasting, incredibly smooth, and finished off with a covering of burnt sugar. The dish is actually fairly simple — it involves pulverizing raw foie gras in a food processor,  blending it with cream and eggs, and then baking the custard until it’s firm. Then it’s refrigerated for a while, before the sugar topping is sprinkled on and torched.

What Jan learned was that the keys to success include making sure to pulverize the foie thoroughly, and then straining the custard mixture through a fine sieve before baking it.

And here’s what the ramekins looked like, set out on our festive New Year’s Eve table:

Nothing like a crunchy sugar topping on a foie gras custard.

Nothing like a crunchy sugar topping on a foie gras custard.

Tomorrow I’ll provide a look at the meal we enjoyed at Le Gindreau. As you’ll probably guess when you see the food, we are already planning our next trip back there.

 

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Lot | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

At last — a Christmas tree worthy of our village

I am a big believer in CIP — Continuous Improvement Programs. Whether the subject is a company, an organization, or the human race, I think it makes sense for everyone  involved to push for improvement. Same thing applies to municipal Christmas trees

In our beautiful French village, we have had some pretty sad attempts at Christmas tree beauty in recent years, most notably in 2013. But lately, there are signs of improvement. The trees are a bit fuller, a bit straighter. Here’s our tree last year, Christmas 2014, as it stood in Daglan’s main square. Not great, but not bad:

Behold! Daglan's main Christmas tree for 2014.

Behold! Daglan’s main Christmas tree for 2014.

On the other hand, the scrawny tree in 2013 must have set some sort of worldwide all-time municipal record for being just plain awful. Here it is:

Not the most perfect Christmas tree we've ever seen.

Not the most perfect Christmas tree we’ve ever seen.

But this year, the village has stepped up to the plate with a tree that’s even fuller and more lovely than the 2014 version. Here it is:

Three cheers for the 2015 Daglan Christmas tree!

Three cheers for the 2015 Daglan Christmas tree!

And here’s what it looks like at night, albeit much more blurry than in real life:

Amazing special effects! Or, a slow camera.

Amazing special effects! Or, a slow camera.

And with that, all of us at Radio Free Daglan (okay, both of us)  wish all our readers a most Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Posted in Festivals in France, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Our final Thai meal (of 2015)

Yesterday was a touch bittersweet, at least on the culinary front. My wife Jan and I enjoyed another delicious Sunday lunch at Sawadee, the Thai restaurant in Cénac, but we did so knowing that it would be our last Thai meal of the year. As in the past, the restaurant closes for a few months as the owners head back to Thailand for their annual break.

I first wrote about Sawadee in a posting of September 5, 2013, called “Thai for a change.” Since then, and particularly this year, Jan and I  have become regulars at the restaurant. We may not  eat there weekly, but we come close.

Sawadee is located at the northern edge of Cénac, a village about 10 kilometres from Daglan, just before you reach the bridge that crosses the Dordogne River. Its exterior  is nothing fancy, but the place itself is definitely worth trying. Here’s how it looked yesterday (which was warm enough, by the way, that some customers ate on the front patio):

Aw shucks -- a couple hugs in front of the restaurant.

Aw shucks — a couple hugs in front of the restaurant.

The interior is on two levels, and is casual and pleasant enough. Here’s the view from our table yesterday:

Looking out towards the front of the restaurant from our table.

Looking out towards the front of the restaurant from our table.

But it’s the food that counts, of course, and Jan and I have both enjoyed anything we’ve ever ordered there. Chef uses lots of vegetables; seems to find the freshest products available; and cooks with a fine hand — cooked carrots are always the right texture, for instance, neither too soft nor too hard, and the rice is always perfectly steamed.

The portions are quite large as well, so we find there’s no need to order an entrée or dessert (much as I’d love to).

Here’s Jan’s serving of Pad Thai yesterday:

Jan's generous serving of Pad Thai.

Jan’s generous serving of Pad Thai.

My favourite is a dish of finely sliced beef and lots of vegetables, cooked in oyster sauce, with a large serving of steamed rice. (I order it virtually every time we go.) Here’s my serving yesterday, and as you can see, the food is glistening:

This beef dish is my favourite.

This beef dish is my favourite.

I know several people around the Greater Daglan Area who are a bit frightened of Thai cooking, thinking that it will be too hot (in terms of spicing). Personally, I like lots of “spice” in many foods (Thai, Indian, Chinese, and Moroccan, for example), but by that I mean flavourful spices rather than heat.

If you fall into the heat-fearing category, give Sawadee a chance anyway. Chef will cook the food as mild as you’d like, and seems quite happy to “customize” dishes to your liking. For example, we always take a bottle of Jan’s gluten-free soy sauce when we go to Sawadee, and that’s what Chef uses in the dishes Jan orders.

But if you’re now tempted to give it a try, hold your horses. Like us, you’ll have to wait for the restaurant to open again, next March.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our super-value Sunday lunch

I’ve never been much of a “joiner” — when I was a kid in Florida, I think I lasted about a week in the Boy Scouts before bowing out — but sometimes it does pay to belong. Take the Club de l’Amitié Daglanaise for instance. Because of our membership in the Daglan Friendship Club, my wife Jan and I were treated to what I can only call a super-value meal this past Sunday.

The lunch was the club’s last social event of the year, and it attracted about 50 of us who drove to Le Rouffillac, a restaurant in Carlux, about 30 kilometres from Daglan. It’s a traditional Périgourdine restaurant (and small hotel), virtually on the banks of the Dordogne River. Here’s the entrance:

Our restaurant for lunch on Sunday.

Our restaurant for lunch on Sunday.

To explain why I’m calling our lunch a super-value meal, I’ll first show off the prodigious amounts of food our group was served — and will wait until the end of this posting before I reveal the price we paid.

Once we were all seated (a not inconsiderable undertaking), we were served tall glasses of Kir à la pêche, which is white wine with peach syrup added, plus a few trays of nibblies, like walnut halves, for each table.

Then came the food — starting with a large pot of  Velouté de potimarron, a velvety soup made with the flesh of a type of sweet pumpkin. The soup was dark, rich, delicious, and quite filling. One bowl was more than enough, although I was tempted to have more.

Next came what our menu promised was Figue farcie au foie gras sur un lit de salade, et son verre de Montbazillac, but which turned out to be quite a bit more. As you’ll see in the next photo, not only was there a fig stuffed with pâté de foie gras but also a thick slice of foie on a piece of toast, plus several garnishes, and of course the salad, which included strips of smoked duck breast and a piece of a country-style pâté. The promised glass of Montbazillac — the sweet wine from the Bergerac area that is traditionally served with foie in the Greater Daglan Area — was a generous pour. Here’s my plate:

The "entrée" was virtually a meal in itself.

The “entrée” was virtually a meal in itself.

Having finished my bowl of soup and most of the entrée, I was almost full enough to head home. But up next was the plat principal, which was Pintade creme aux girolles, pommes Sarladaise, and julienne de légumes. I found the potatoes Sarladaise too greasy and garlicky (which I usually do) and the vegetables were over-cooked into submission, but the guinea fowl (with the creamy sauce) was tender and tasty. It was also perhaps the largest piece of guinea fowl I’ve ever seen. Here’s my plate:

The main course was, quite simply, a bit much.

The main course was, quite simply, a bit much.

By this point, Jan had decided that enough was enough. But I soldiered on, devouring a nice piece of Cantal from the platter of cheese that was served to our table of six. Here’s the platter, after much of the cheese had already been plucked away:

A French meal without cheese? Impossible!

A French meal without cheese? Impossible!

And then came dessert, featuring fresh slices of apple, an apple compote, and a scoop of strawberry sorbet. Here’s my dish:

My plate of dessert.

My plate of dessert.

And that was that. Well, except for the final cup of coffee. And I don’t think I mentioned that pitchers of red wine were served through the meal.

Of course this wasn’t “fine dining,” so much as hearty, traditional French food. But the overall effect was pleasant, and at just 12 euros per person (for club members) it was quite the bargain. As you can imagine, Jan and I had a very small dinner at home on Sunday night.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Wine | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments