A well-deserved upgrade

I have been raving about Le Gindreau, the restaurant in Saint-Médard, for quite a while. The food, the service, the atmosphere — they are impressive and have seemed to keep on improving.

As a refresher, the restaurant is less than an hour’s drive south of Daglan, and is located in a former schoolhouse. Since Chef Pascal Bardet and his wife Sandrine bought the place from the previous chef, it’s been renovated and refreshed. And here are just a couple of photographic reminders:

First, here is a fish dish I had when we enjoyed lunch there on Christmas Day, 2016:

Delicate fish in a delicious broth.

Delicate fish in a delicious broth.

And here’s another dish — the chocolate concoction I had for dessert:

What's wrong with chocolate that a bit more chocolate won't cure?

What’s wrong with chocolate that a bit more chocolate won’t cure?

Back in 2016, on January 5, I posted a rave review that also described my thoughts on Michelin ratings. It was called “Star struck.” And at the end of the posting, here is what I wrote about Le Gindreau:

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.

And guess what? The reviewers at Michelin agreed — in the 2017 ratings, Le Gindreau was indeed awarded two stars.

Hurrah!

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

A tree dies in Daglan

Mother Nature can be a powerful force for destruction when she feels like it, and we recently had a good example of that in Daglan — actually, just outside the village, in a walnut grove alongside the rugby pitch.

About a year ago, we endured very heavy winds during a severe winter storm, and many trees in the Greater Daglan Area were damaged. Notable was one of the walnut trees in the grove by our rugby pitch. Here it is, with the photo and caption I posted in “Stormy weather,” published January 12, 2016:

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

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

As you can see, my caption for the photo expressed some doubt about the tree’s future: “I’m not sure if this walnut tree can be saved,” I wrote. As it happened, in fact, it took a very long time for the walnut grove owner to come along and clean up the debris and trim the tree properly. Unfortunately, not enough was done, evidently, to strengthen what remained.

And sure enough, when southwest France was buffeted by some pretty heavy duty storms recently, Daglan had one day of particularly strong winds. And guess what happened to the damaged tree? Have a look:

It would take a pretty good tree surgeon to bring this back to life.

It would take a pretty good tree surgeon to bring this back to life.

I’m no expert, but I think this tree is a goner. In fact, I think it’s worth borrowing from one of the most famous sketches from the Monty Python show to comment on its state of health:

 ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This [tree] is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! … ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!

Well, unless of course, the walnut grove owner can find some really good fertilizer with a growth hormone.

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | 4 Comments

Making butter better

Avid readers — and particularly those with long memories and a food obsession — may remember my posting about our Christmas Day lunch at the wonderful restaurant Le Gindreau, in Saint-Médard, about an hour south of Daglan.

The post was called “Our (Michelin) starred Christmas,” and it appeared on December 29, 2016. In it, you might also remember, I raved about the butter in which tiny pieces of black truffle had been blended. The posting concluded with this:

Interestingly, for all that wonderful food, the one dish that I loved the most was not even a “major” plate — it was the serving of butter that came with the offerings of fresh-baked bread and rolls. Into the butter was incorporated an amazing amount of finely minced black truffles, and I think I could have eaten it until I exploded. Fortunately, I did not.

You can almost guess what happened next: My wife Jan and I got talking about how we might replicate that butter chez nous, if we could just get our hands on a fresh black truffle. And it seems we have succeeded.

There was a bit of luck involved. Yesterday morning, Jan had gone to the weekly market in the neighbouring village of Cénac to buy a few things, including pieces of duck for making soup. It turned out that the Duck Man had some fresh black truffles for sale, so Jan bought a very nice one — a bit larger than a walnut, I’d say — for 25 euros.

The next question was how to mince the truffle, because the pieces incorporated into the butter at Le Gindreau were incredibly small. Jan’s clever solution was to grate the truffle over softened butter, in a large bowl. For the grating tool, she used our Microplane, and it worked beautifully. Once the whole truffle had been grated, Jan simply folded the tiny pieces throughout the butter.

To try it out, we each had a cracker with some of the truffle butter on it. Delicious!

Then Jan realized that the sides of the mixing bowl were coated in a thin layer of truffle butter, so she used the bowl to make us some truffle-flavoured scrambled eggs for dinner.

Then at today’s lunch, she mixed truffle butter into the mashed potatoes we had alongside our veal chops.

As for the rest, it’s been scooped into small portions and frozen.

I suppose the question is: Well, was it worth the 25 euros? And my answer would be: Yes.

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

A step in our spring

We haven’t actually taken a step directly into full-blown spring, but the wintry weather of the past few weeks has finally ended in the Greater Daglan Area (GDA). So now there’s a bit of a spring in our step. Here’s some evidence:

  • In the mornings now, there’s no need to scrape ice off the car windows. Just turn on your windshield wipers, as it will probably be drizzling, if not actually raining.
  • When I drove to the bakery in Castelnaud on Saturday morning, to buy some desserts for lunch and some croissants for the next day, the parking lot seemed awfully full — and the bakery had completely sold out of croissants. The lady behind the counter blamed the canoeists — and sure enough, there were all kinds of canoes and kayaks ready to be put into the Dordogne River.
  • Driving to Bergerac yesterday morning, we passed the Golf de Lolivarie course, and there were players out on the fairways.
  • Driving back from Bergerac later yesterday, there were people sitting outdoors at the little tables on the front terrace of Café de la Fleur, at the south end of the village.
  • Many if not most fields in the GDA are ploughed and tilled and ready for planting.
  • There are no below-freezing forecasts in the foreseeable future, at least according to Méteo France.
  • February is just around the corner, and funnily enough, the weather in February in the GDA is often surprisingly good.

Yay!

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Cafés in France, Flora and fauna, Kayaking, Life in southwest France, Sports in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Comfort food at the new café

Today my wife Jan and I had our first chance to try the food at Daglan’s new café, having previously just had an afternoon coffee there, and here’s my report. You may recall that I wrote about the café on January 6, in “Lose a tea room, gain a café,” the day after it opened. Here’s some of what I wrote then:

The new place is called Café de la Fleur, and it’s the project of Charlotte and Robin Chantal, who have moved here from Denmark — in search of better weather, as Charlotte told me last night.

This is a wonderful development for our village, as the café is located in what was Le Bistroquet, an inn-café-bar that became increasingly run down under some pretty dubious management, and had been on sale for quite a while. It’s at the south end of the village, and across from Le Thé Vert, separated by only a few parking spaces, the road, and a court for playing boules.

That blog posting was notable for lacking any photos, as the few photos I had taken were somehow lost. So here’s a look at the bar and a few of the tables, from where Jan and I were sitting today:

The bar at Café de la Fleur.

The bar at Café de la Fleur.

And here’s another look, showing the basic menu du jour on a slate on the wall — an entrée, a plat principal, a coffee, and a glass of wine or beer or other drink, for 12 euros:

There's a new two-course menu each day.

There’s a new two-course menu each day.

Our very pleasant (and wonderfully tri-lingual) Swedish waitress served us promptly, starting with a kir each:

A glass of kir to begin our lunch.

A glass of kir to begin our lunch.

Then it was on to the food. I ordered the daily special, which began with a large serving of chicken salad — slices of tender chicken breast, with mixed greens and sliced tomato. There were nice touches, such as a light dressing and pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the greens. The portion was so generous that I gave Jan a couple slices of the chicken to munch, while she waited for her main course. Here’s my plate:

A generous serving of chicken salad.

A generous serving of chicken salad.

My plat principal was a dish of roast pork slices — tender and moist, with a rich mushroom gravy — served with creamy mashed potatoes and some sliced raw vegetables. It was good and comforting, but a bit too much, even for me. (As our waitress pointed out, however, “too much” is better than “too little.” And a goodly number of their lunch customers will be workers, who are known for their healthy appetites.)

In the background of the photo below  you can see a huge bowl of very good, crisp French fries that Jan ordered with her hamburger (she ordered off the à la carte menu, which includes several types of burger, and simple items like a croque monsieur). Here’s my pork dish:

Moist and tender pork with very good mashed potatoes.

Moist and tender pork with very good mashed potatoes.

So we came away feeling that we’d eaten well, and received good value. At 12 euros, the daily menu seems well priced to bring back the customers. Jan’s cheeseburger was 8 euros, the fries were 4 euros, and glasses of wine ranged from 3 euros to 5 euros.

So far, so good!

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

The Mayor’s speech (2017 edition)

Last night my wife Jan and I attended la traditionnelle cérémonie des vœux at the village’s Salle des fêtes— and so, it seemed, did virtually every other resident of Daglan.  The parking lot was packed, and every seat was taken. And while the main point of the evening was to listen to our Mayor review the accomplishments of the past year, and outline some plans for the new year, there was a special surprise for us.

First, a quick look at the hall. Up front and at the left is our Mayor, Pascal Dussol, delivering what amounts to his annual “State of the Village” address, and in the centre of the stage is the screen where he showed a long series of photos of village life and activities.

Last night at the village meeting-and-events hall.

Last night at the village meeting-and-events hall.

To our surprise and delight, one of the first series of slides in the Mayor’s illustrated speech consisted of screen captures of this very blog. Yes, Radio Free Daglan was right up on the big screen, and all members of the RFD team (Jan and I) were delighted.

He went on to show some screen captures of another blog, Our French Dream, written by an English woman who moved here with her husband permanently, and now lives in the centre of the village.

I was so surprised to see Radio Free Daglan come up on the Mayor’s screen that I missed most of what he said about it. However, I did recover sufficiently to understand his main point: acknowledging that English-speakers are indeed contributing to life in the village, and making every effort to integrate.  In any case, it was nice to be noticed.

From there, M. Dussol went on to cover a myriad of activities and accomplishments of 2016. (As I’ve written before, he and his team of councillors are a really active bunch, with sharp eyes for keeping the village neat, tidy and even more attractive.)

Many of the highlights have already been covered in Radio Free Daglan, like the renovation of the Mairie and our postal agency. I wrote about it, including the ribbon-cutting ceremony, on December 3, 2016, in “The Mayor’s new office (at last),” and here’s a look back:

Daglan's Mayor cuts the ceremonial ribbon.

Daglan’s Mayor cuts the ceremonial ribbon.

Believe me, there was lots (and lots) more — from the renovations and enlargement of  the village cemetery to upgrading of the village roads that stretch up into the hills around Daglan, to reach the various hamlets; from the painted stripes in the parking areas for Le Thé Vert and the new Café de la Fleur to the school children’s project of decorating the village with large models of insects — like the grasshopper shown here:

A model grasshopper, made by school children in Daglan.

A model grasshopper, made by school children in Daglan.

Several times the crowd offered sustained applause. Once was when the Mayor discussed how Daglan had earned the Village Fleuri designation; another was when he asked the proprietors of the new Café de la Fleur to stand and take a bow.

In case you were wondering how the French mark the New Year, that’s easy. This is the time of year when the phrase you hear most often is “Bonne Année et Bonne Santé — surtout!” That is, “Happy New Year, and Good Health, above all!” Believe me, we heard that, and said that, quite a few times last night. And those same good wishes go out to all our readers.

 

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lose a tea room, gain a café

It’s something like one step backward, and then one step ahead. It seems definite that our village is losing its tea room, Le Thé Vert, as owners Judith and Paul Thomason have decided to sell their place and move back to the U.K. So unless new owners continue the business, the popular tea room will close. However, Daglan now has a new café, and of course my wife Jan and I attended its opening last night.

The new place is called Café de la Fleur, and it’s the project of Charlotte and Robin Chantal, who have moved here from Denmark — in search of better weather, as Charlotte told me last night.

This is a wonderful development for our village, as the café is located in what was Le Bistroquet, an inn-café-bar that became increasingly run down under some pretty dubious management, and had been on sale for quite a while. It’s at the south end of the village, and across from Le Thé Vert, separated by only a few parking spaces, the road, and a court for playing boules.

Charlotte told me they are taking their time in restoring the place, as we’re now in the (very) quiet season. But their plans include offering rooms, and a flower shop (hence the name Café de la Fleur).

For now, the bar is open, and the couple will be offering a plat du jour lunch plus various snacks and treats. At present, they plan to be open every day but Tuesday.

If you’re wondering about the lack of photos with this posting, just blame me and my luck with technology. I took some nice photos last night with my so-called “smart” phone, emailed them to Jan, who was then to forward them on to my regular email. But she never received my emails, and I assume they are currently flitting about in the Internet ether, or whatever it is.

But that’s a minor irritation. More importantly, Daglan has its bar and café again!

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