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 , , , , , , | 2 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.

 

 

 

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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

Our days of hoar frost

We are now clearly in the grip of winter (although thankfully there is no snow piling up), with our early-morning temperatures below freezing. (This morning, -8 Celsius was the lowest that my car’s thermometer recorded as I drove along.)

The dominant colour of the Greater Daglan Area (GDA) seems to be grey, as fog and low-lying clouds are features of many mornings and evenings. And frost is evident almost everywhere.

Today I got a nice, long look at the frost as I drove from Daglan to the hamlet of Costeraste, where I take part in aquagym classes three times a week. In the dim recesses of my mind, I thought that the phenomenon was called hoar frost — a build-up of frost on things like fences and tree leaves.

It turns out I was right (based on extensive Internet research, which probably took a good one or two minutes). Why “hoar frost?” Well, according to one  well-placed Internet source (Wikipedia): “The name hoar comes from an Old English adjective that means ‘showing signs of old age’; in this context it refers to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.”

And here’s the view from the parking lot of the spa in Costeraste, which lies about 10 minutes from Gourdon in the Lot:

The tree branches are covered in frost.

The grass, shrubs and tree branches are covered in frost.

My wife Jan and I saw the same phenomenon this afternoon, as we drove over the hill that separates St. Cybranet from Cénac. Down in the valleys and fields along the way, the forests and walnut groves were shimmering white, their branches still covered with the frost.

“It looks like someone spray-painted the trees,” Jan said. And I agreed. Actually, it’s quite lovely.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our (Michelin) starred Christmas

Today the latest issue of Paris Match arrived in our mailbox, with an article on world-famous Chef Alain Ducasse preparing a “Dîner Grand Siècle à Versailles.”

Leafing through the food photos, I said to my wife Jan that I didn’t think the dishes looked as good as what we ate on Christmas Day at the Michelin-starred Le Gindreau, in Saint-Médard, about 45 minutes south of our village of Daglan. And she agreed.

The chef at Le Gindreau, Pascal Bardet, worked with Chef Ducasse for 18 years, including five years as “chef de cuisine à la tête du mythique Louis XV à Monaco.” (Even if you don’t know much French, you’ll probably get the drift of that.)

Actually, we had planned to have Christmas Day lunch chez nous, with our good friends Elisabeth and Gerhard, whose holiday home is mere steps from our house. We had visions of a prime rib roast with all the trimmings.

Then we had visions of all the washing and cleaning up afterwards. So we opted for Le Gindreau. And were very glad we did. (I won’t go on and on about the restaurant, as I’ve reviewed it many times. Just type “Le Gindreau” into the search box at the top right of this column, and you’ll see the references.)

But for a look at our feast, here are a few of the dishes — starting with my entrée, which featured slow-cooked mushrooms in red wine, so dark that they looked like small beets.

A rich mushroom medley.

A rich mushroom medley.

Then, here is Jan’s entrée of pigeon:

A colourful plate of pigeon meat and trimmings.

A colourful plate of pigeon meat and trimmings.

Next, the plat principal of pintade (Guinea fowl), which Jan pronounced the best she had ever eaten:

A perfect dish of Guinea fowl.

A perfect dish of Guinea fowl.

My own main course consisted of small filletsof Saint-Pierre, or John Dory, beautifully cooked and served with a delicious broth. Here it is:

Delicate fish in a delicious broth.

Delicate fish in a delicious broth.

We had started our meal with (of course) glasses of Champagne, and then moved along to white wine from Alsace and red wine from the Côtes du Rhône. When it came to the end of our meal, we decided to forget about dessert wines, and just focus on the food. One choice was this tropical fruit-based dish:

Fresh pineapple and passion fruit sauce -- among other treats.

Fresh pineapple and passion fruit sauce — among other treats.

My personal choice was a chocolate-based dessert that was, frankly, exquisite. Here it is:

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?

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.

Posted in Food, French food, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Lot, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

Our village seems to be making good progress in putting up Christmas trees that we can be proud of. And it’s about time.

There was a period when it seemed like our village council was desperately trying to win the Worst Public Christmas Tree in the Developed World contest.

The culmination — probably the worst Christmas tree in recent memory — was the tree of 2013, as it stood (sort of) in the main village square. Here it is, in all its spindly, threadbare glory:

https://loren24250.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/3-arbre.jpg?w=640

This is what I wrote in Radio Free Daglan at the time:

As I was taking my pictures, I saw one of our friends photographing the Christmas tree, which has become a talking point among les Daglanais. Our friend has a holiday home in the village, and had just driven to Daglan from his house in Germany. As we walked towards each other across the square, we were both grinning — because we knew we had the same thought.

“Photographing the world’s scrawniest Christmas tree?” I asked.

“It looks like the decorations were dropped onto the tree from a helicopter,” he replied, as we both chuckled.

But now we come to the new and improved Daglan offerings for Christmas — first, the main tree, in the village square, Place de la Liberté:

Behold! Our village tree of 2016.

Behold! Our village tree of 2016.

There’s another tree in place — not as tall, but nice and full. It’s in front of the recently renovated office of our Mayor, the Mairie. Here it is:

The 2016 Christmas tree at Daglan's Mairie.

The 2016 Christmas tree at Daglan’s Mairie.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a view of the pollarded tree in front of the restaurant Le Petit Paris, complete with Santa’s sleigh mounted on top:

Santa's sleigh is stuck in Daglan.

Santa’s sleigh is stuck in Daglan.

So, now that we’ve got the choice of Christmas trees sorted out, perhaps the council can budget a bit more for extra tree decorations for next year.

Posted in Festivals in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A few last glimpses of Autumn 2016

As this week’s header photo shows (see above, if you’re unclear about “header photo”), there’s a chill in the air now. Each morning my wife Jan and I need to spend a few minutes scraping frost off the windows of our cars, if we’re heading out. Morning temperatures these days are in the just-under-freezing zone.

So today I’m offering a few glimpses of the last days of this autumn, if only to show how our pre-winter landscape is looking in the Greater Daglan Area (or GDA, as it’s known to Radio Free Daglan insiders).

In spring and summer, the dominant colour of the GDA landscape is green — because of our thick forests, and a vast number of fields where farmers grow corn, cereals, sunflowers, tobacco and vegetables.

Then as autumn begins, the dominant colour becomes yellow, as trees and plants start to lose their leaves. (Unlike the Toronto region, where we lived for years, there is very little red in the forests here, because of the absence of maples.) For proof, I offer a close-up of some leaves on one of the wisteria vines that grow on the front of our house. I took this photo a few days ago, and by now the vine is actually bare:

Even these yellow leaves are gone now.

Even these yellow leaves are gone now.

This row of trees gives you an idea of the extent to which the leaves have fallen already:

A row of trees against our blue sky.

A row of trees against our blue sky.

This next photo shows a field that’s already been tilled (in the background), and more examples of the bare tree branches:

The brown hills of Daglan.

The brown hills of Daglan.

Another sure sign that winter is not far off is the huge amount of pruning that takes place each autumn in the GDA, as trees are pollarded. This is the large tree in front of the restaurant Le Petit Paris, and the village’s war memorial, with all its smaller, longer, leaf-covered branches chopped off, leaving only the nubs at the ends of main branches:

What a pollarded tree looks like.

What a pollarded tree looks like.

Actually, this photo was taken a few days ago. Since then, the village workers have placed Santa Claus and his sleigh high up in the tree. Guess what holiday is approaching fast?

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments