The Mayor’s new office (at last)

In writing this post, I realize I am automatically disqualifying myself from the contest for “Best Blogger for Fast Coverage of Breaking News.” That’s because I’m writing about a project that dragged on for much of the year, culminating in a ceremony on October 15. (Well, I’ve been busy.)

In any case, Daglan’s Project of the Year was the 137,000-euro renovation of the Mairie, including the creation of a postal agency within the building. (The building that housed our former postal agency, across the street from the Mairie, is now for sale.) Here’s a look, with all photos provided by Chief Staff Photographer for Radio Free Daglan, my wife Jan.

The Mairie hasn’t moved — it’s just much spiffier, starting with an attractive glass door that slides open automatically as you approach. (How modern is that?) Here’s the entrance:

"Welcome" says the door (in French, of course).

“Welcome” says the door (in French, of course).

Our Mayor has an office in the back of the Mairie, but sometimes you can find him out front at the reception desk, on the telephone, as he is here:

This is what you see as you enter the building.

This is what you see as you enter the building.

And this is the new-look service desk for our postal agency:

Want to buy stamps? Here's the place.

Want to buy stamps? Here’s the place.

There’s also a nice big meeting room, where the village council members hold their get-togethers:

If only the walls could talk...

If only the walls could talk…

As for the grand opening, it was, actually, fairly grand. Because of the special guests who attended (such as Germinal Peiro, le Député de la Dordogne, who represents our département in the National Assembly), several members of the Gendarmerie were on the scene, alert to potential trouble. Here’s a look at the crowd:

 

Our Mayor is surrounded by well-wishers.

Our Mayor is surrounded by well-wishers.

And here is the ribbon cutting itself, with the scissors being capably handled by Mayor Pascal Dussol. To the right of the Mayor is M. Peiro himself, looking pretty serious about the whole affair.

Daglan's Mayor cuts the ceremonial ribbon.

Daglan’s Mayor cuts the ceremonial ribbon.

As for the future, I shall try to be a bit more prompt in covering events in the village (although it’s sometimes hard to overcome the attraction of the afternoon siesta).

Posted in French government and politics, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

As “French country” as they come

It’s sometimes amazing how much food you can get for so little money in a French restaurant — provided it’s a restaurant that’s out in the country, serving set meals (such as a menu ouvrier, or worker’s menu). A case in point is La Poule au Pot, located somewhere near the village of Goujounac in the département of the Lot, south of Daglan.

We were there for lunch a few weeks ago at the suggestion of friends, and I had the good fortune of being able to follow the car driven by a friend who had been there before. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have found the place. In any case, we all made it.

From the start, you know full well that you’re in the country, partly because of the fields and farms that surround La Poule au Pot, and partly because of the rather tangy barnyard aromas in the immediate area. As you’ll see, “posh” this is not:

Across a courtyard of crushed stone, to the front steps.

Across a courtyard of crushed stone, to the front steps.

Similarly, the interior of the restaurant is plain and simple and utilitarian — but, on the plus side, clean and spacious. Have a look:

Inside La Poule au Pot.

Inside La Poule au Pot.

Once we got settled, and each of us had enjoyed a kir as an apéritif, the five-course lunch began in earnest. In general, we found the food well prepared in a traditional French-country way — not quite as flavourful and interesting as the meals at Le Diabolo-Fraise (a restaurant I’ve praised several times), but still good.

First came a huge bowl of soup for the six of us to share. I didn’t bother taking a photograph, since  a bowl of soup with chunks of country bread floating in it isn’t all that attractive or interesting, but it was fine.

More interesting, and tastier, was a large single omelet loaded with cèpes, which our friend Tish proceeded to slice into chunks and serve to us. Nicely made, with meaty mushrooms, this was a particularly good course. Here it is:

Lots of omelet to go around.

Lots of omelet to go around.

Next came the plat principal — a fairly hefty piece of salty, garlicky, grilled lamb, served with crispy slices of potato that I figured had been cooked in duck fat. Here’s my plate:

If you like potatoes, this is the place for you.

If you like potatoes, this is the place for you.

A sampling of cheese followed along, and while we were all nearly stuffed to the gills, we made a decent job of attacking the plate. Here it is:

A nice selection of cheeses.

A nice selection of cheeses.

For dessert, we received generous servings of a whipped-cream-and-strawberry concoction. Because I’m a sweet-tooth kind of guy, I had eaten half of mine before I remembered to take a photograph. In any case, here it is:

Creamy and sweet. What more could you want?

Creamy and sweet. What more could you want?

Along the way, we were served as much red wine as we could reasonably want, plus all the bread we could consume, and even received an extra serving of crispy potatoes, just to make sure we wouldn’t die of starvation on the way home. Because we were there on a holiday, the regular menu ouvrier wasn’t available, so we had the 25-euro lunch. Even better, our friend Bob picked up the tab for the whole table. No complaints there!

 

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Lot | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More surprises in Spain

We are back home in Daglan after a very short foray into northwestern Spain, as part of a vacation in Biarritz, on France’s southern Atlantic coast. (Okay, okay — we’ve been home for quite a while. Our vacation was actually in September. Since then, I’ve been taking a blog-writing break.) In any case, my wife Jan and I had another enjoyable Spanish surprise.

Our first foray into Spain was in September 2015, when we stayed in a beautiful villa on the Costa Brava (that’s on Spain’s eastern coast, on the Med) with several friends from Toronto. On that trip, our first Spanish surprise was how much we loved Barcelona — a very smart, modern city built on tradition.

We found it clean, attractive, full of art, and with lots of friendly people. Almost everything, from sidewalks to tourist attractions, was wheelchair-accessible, and menus were printed in at least three if not four languages. (I raved about the city in a posting on September 29, 2015.)

This time, our surprise was the town of San Sebastian, which had come highly recommended, and which I had assumed would be a charming and modest little seaside resort. In fact, it turns out to be a rather large and bustling town, although it does have charming old sections near the waterfront.

We were there on a day trip from Biarritz, and the only unfortunate thing was the rather drab and occasionally rainy weather. If you can ignore the general gloominess of the sky, you’ll see from the following photos that San Sebastian has some reasonably substantial buildings. Here’s a first look:

A look at the buildings of San Sebastian, under grey skies.

A look at the buildings of San Sebastian, under grey skies.

And here’s another view, taken as we walked across a bridge from one side of the town to the other:

Another view of the town, taken from the bridge.

Another view of the town, taken from the bridge.

As for modern, how about this — a series of containers so that passers-by can sort their garbage and recyclable materials as they walk along:

Sorting? We'll give you sorting!

You want sorting? We’ll give you sorting!

In the older sections of town, of course, there are charming and historic buildings, like the church at the end of this street:

A beautiful church in the heart of the town's old quarter.

A beautiful church in the heart of the town’s old quarter.

A major attraction for us, of course, was the opportunity to wander from café to café, sampling the local version — that is, the Basque version — of tapas, known as pintxos. (The “tx” is pronounced as if it were “ch,” by the way.)

Our last stop of the day was at a bar that apparently is known for its expertise in gin drinks. However, the bartender was stumped when I ordered a Hendricks martini; he had the Hendricks gin all right, but didn’t seem aware of the need for dry vermouth and a stick of cucumber. After a lot of theatrical lemon-rubbing and ice-shaking on his part, I wound up with a pleasant cold drink that tasted more like a tonic-free G & T than a martini. Still, it was good, and so were the pintxos we sampled. Here’s the bar itself:

The bar is loaded with plates of pintxos at this gin joint.

The bar is loaded with plates of pintxos at this gin joint.

At the first pintxos bar we visited, we were served some really tasty plates, like this dish:

Seafood figures prominently in pintxos offerings.

Seafood figures prominently in pintxos offerings.

This was another serving, with octopus pieces in the dish on the left, and delicious ham slices in some sort of creamy cheese in the right-hand dish. Have a look:

Octopus on the left, ham on the right.

Octopus on the left, ham on the right.

Despite the weather, it was an enjoyable day. However, on the bus ride back into France, we did have an anxious few moments as French national police came on board to check passengers for their passports.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have ours with us. Fortunately, the police were happy with our French driving licences. Phew.

Posted in Tourist attractions, Travels in and out of France | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The last rays of summer (2016 edition)

Yesterday morning my wife Jan walked back into our house, after a short shopping excursion, and said: “Well, it looks like winter is killing the market already.”

Okay, it’s not actually winter, but Jan was right — now that the Tourist Season is over, and the Greater Daglan Area glides into the Quiet Season, activity in our weekly market is down. Way down.

In fact, the only vendors there yesterday were selling vegetables, flowers, and honey. Here’s how the market look as I went past, just before noon:

It's definitely not the market in summer.

It’s definitely not the market in summer.

The weather has definitely turned — mornings can be quite cold (I’ve seen it as low as 2 degrees so far), although the afternoons remain pleasant. Still you can see real change, even in the air. Here’s a view from Le Belvédère, the café perched at the edge of the village of Domme, looking down and outward at the Dordogne River Valley. Jan and I were there for coffees on a recent afternoon, and you can see the air becoming hazy in the distance:

Looking down into the Dordogne River Valley.

Looking down into the Dordogne River Valley.

In the fields around Daglan, crops like corn and sunflowers have already been harvested, and nearly all the sunflowers that haven’t actually been cut down have withered into dull shades of brown and black.

But as always, there’s the exception that proves the rule. This hardy stand of sunflowers is growing beside a small hill near Daglan’s Stade Municipal, or local rugby pitch, and still is dazzling:

A brave stand of sunflowers indeed.

A brave stand of sunflowers indeed.

Coming soon, the annual harvest of walnuts. That’s big business in the GDA.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beauty (and taste) on the plate in Sarlat

Having written several times about the Michelin-starred restaurant in Sarlat, Le Grand Bleu, I’ll be brief in this posting. But since my wife Jan and I had a lovely lunch there yesterday with our friend Joanne, and since all three of us were delighted with the beauty as well as the taste of the dishes, I simply had to show off the goodies created by Chef Maxime Lebrun.

(If you want to see previous reviews and more details, just type the name of the restaurant into the search box at the top right-hand side of this blog.)

After enjoying a selection of delicious amuse-bouches with our glasses  of Champagne, we started on the main meal. We had each chosen the Menu Découverte at 54 euros, which includes the mise en bouche, an entrée, either a fish or meat dish as the plat principal, and a dessert. To start, we had a bottle of Sancerre blanc, and later a Chinon rouge.

For my entrée, I had the pieds de cochon caramélisés. The meat from the pig’s feet had been finely chopped and spiced, and mixed with shards of crispy skin. Then the meat mixture was shaped into a square, and served with a  coulis of yellow pepper and rocket (arugula), a brunoise of red and yellow peppers, and an arugula sorbet. It was rich and delicious, and here it is:

An incredible combination, based on the meat from pig's trotters.

An incredible combination, based on the meat from pig’s trotters.

Both Joanne and Jan started with the lightly cooked langoustines, served with a déclinaison of carrots (carrots cooked in different ways), along with carrot sorbet. Here’s the dish:

Barely cooked langoustines, and a variety of carrot-based ingredients.

Barely cooked langoustines, and a variety of carrot-based ingredients.

The main course for Joanne and Jan was tenderloin of Aubrac beef, served with cauliflower and hazelnuts, with a coffee sauce and a tobacco (!) foam. Jan absolutely raved about the taste and tenderness of the meat. And here it is:

Jan said it was the best beef dish she's had in France.

Jan said it was the best beef dish she’s had in France.

As for me, I stayed with my old favourite at Le Grand Bleu — veal sweetbreads. They are always beautifully caramelized, and then served in unique ways. This time the sweetbreads had been caramelized in beet juice, and then served in a bowl with a deep layer of potato and nettle foam, which was both unusual and delicious. Here’s my serving:

My favourite -- sweetbreads -- done in an entirely new way.

My favourite — sweetbreads — done in an entirely new way.

Joanne’s dessert was, apparently, the only slight disappointment of the meal. It looked terrific — a macaron made of black olives, and served with local strawberries, an asparagus and basil cream, and black olive ice cream — but Joanne said she found it a bit low in flavour and a touch too dry. Here’s her plate:

Joanne's brilliant dessert.

Joanne’s brilliant (looking) dessert.

And here is Jan’s dessert — a plate of three apricots poached with rosemary, and served with a ganache and a compote of kumquat, plus a cocoa sorbet:

Jan's rich dessert , based on roasted apricots.

Jan’s rich dessert, based on roasted apricots.

My choice was this peach and cherry soufflé, served with crumble and a quenelle of
Madagascar vanilla ice cream:

My dessert was a wonderful soufflé.

My dessert was this wonderful soufflé.

After our coffees, it was time for another culinary adventure before heading back to Daglan. We headed off to Sarlat’s largest supermarket to buy three (live) Canadian lobsters, which we poached last evening and then enjoyed in a risotto for lunch today. Jan and I will, of course, be dining pretty lightly tonight.

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

La Cantine’s fast, sure start

It’s a pleasure to recognize a hit, and it looks like Chef Fabrice Lemonnier’s new restaurant in Daglan, La Cantine, started fast, picked up speed, and now is approaching the village’s quiet season as a full-blown success. My wife Jan and I keep hearing good reports on it, from locals as well as tourists, and we’ve enjoyed many good meals there — including lunch yesterday with friends Tish and Bob.

Here’s a reminder, from my first posting on La Cantine as it opened this year (“Fabrice le Chef, reimagined,” March 25):

La Cantine is a reworked version of the shop where Chef previously sold meats, cheeses and his own creations, and which evolved into a casual place during the tourist season with meals served on the terrace outside the shop. It’s across the street from the post office, and next to Daglan’s primary school and the mayor’s office.

Now all the food shelves are gone; new tile has been put down; the kitchen equipment has been beefed up; and La Cantine is a cozy and comfortable bistro, with seats for 18 inside. (There are tables on the terrace already, but the weather will need to warm up a bit before it gets much use.)

At today’s inaugural lunch, there were just six of us — and that includes Jan and me. But we think that the quality of food, the price, and the location will bring in lots of diners, especially in the warmer seasons. Here’s a look at a table for four, in one corner of the restaurant:

One corner of the cosy restaurant.

One corner of the cozy restaurant.

During the summer, virtually every table on the terrace outside the restaurant was full during lunch. Sunday lunches were especially popular, as Chef added fresh oysters to the other entrées available. And many of our friends who’ve eaten at La Cantine for dinner report that they had excellent meals.

Speaking of which, my plat principal yesterday (after splitting a half-dozen oysters with Jan) was a nice piece of pork belly that had been roasted in Marsala, and then perched on mixed vegetables. The fat was nicely browned and crispy, the meat tender and sweet. Here it is:

The pork was moist and delicious.

The pork was moist and delicious.

Dessert was equally delicious. It was a poached pear (cooked in Monbazillac wine to a nice, soft texture, but not mushy) served with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce, and sprinkled with roasted almonds. Here it is:

A lovely combination -- soft, poached pear and chocolate ice cream.

A lovely combination — soft, poached pear and chocolate ice cream.

Prices and variety are right, I think. The lunch for Jan and me, with a generous amount of white wine, came to just under 70 euros. Each day, there is a choice of three entrées, three main courses, and three desserts.

The good news: I checked in with Chef today, and he confirmed that he plans to continue the same schedule for meals even in the non-tourist season (with occasional closings for vacation time and holidays). So that means lunch every day except Tuesdays, plus dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. For reservations, the phone number is 05-53-30-34-54.

The bad news: Over at Daglan’s popular tea room and restaurant, proprietor Judith Thomason confirms that the fish-and-chips night on Friday, September 30, will be Le Thé Vert’s final closing date — not just for this season, but forever — until the business is sold to a new owner. The village (and the countless cyclists who arrive each summer) will miss it.

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

Dishes du jour — 08 – 09 – 2016

Today’s posting simply picks up where yesterday’s posting finished. We’re still at a Sunday lunch in Bergerac, a drive of about an hour and a quarter from Daglan, at a very good restaurant called L’Imparfait. To remind you, here’s an entrance to the restaurant, with tables set out in the laneway for summertime dining:

In the heart of Old Bergerac.

In the heart of Old Bergerac.

Today I’m simply highlighting two of the main-course dishes ordered by our group of four — my wife Jan, friends Elisabeth and Gerhard, and me. First comes a roast duck breast dish that  Jan and  Gerhard ordered. They both said it was excellent, although quite filling (after Jan’s entrée of foie gras and Gerhard’s fish and chips entrée, that I featured yesterday). Here’s Jan’s plate:

Well, it's just ducky!

Well, it’s just ducky!

As for the plat principal chosen by Elisabeth and me, it was particularly noteworthy because of all the perfectly cooked vegetables that came with the cod (dos de cabillaud). For some reason, vegetables don’t always appear very prominently on restaurant plates in France, but this was an exception. Have a look:

For a French dish, this includes a lot of vegetables.

For a French dish, this includes a lot of vegetables.

All four of us came away from the meal feeling that we’d been well treated and well fed, as we were also served an amuse bouche of excellent gazpacho, and some wonderful desserts — including an incredibly rich chocolate dish that I ordered and (believe it or not) couldn’t finish. Very little was eaten chez nous that evening.

 

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment