Slipperies on a sunny Sunday

Graciously, the skies did not choose to rain today. Instead, the Greater Daglan Area was bathed in glorious sunshine all day — and in fact the bright blue sky and fluffy clouds remain very much in evidence as I write this, with evening approaching.

Today’s break from this spring’s rainy weather added to the festive atmosphere as we joined up with friends Rosemary and Richard for a lunch of white wine and oysters — or slipperies, as they’re known to our friends in Toronto — at Daglan’s new café, La Cantine.

Based on today’s experience, it looks like Chef Fabrice — Fabrice Lemonnier, more formally — has come up with a winner for Sunday lunches. He is still offering a full lunch menu (more on that later) but has fresh oysters ready and waiting for those who want them.

Here’s what our table looked like, as the lunch began. Aside from the trays of Marennes-Oléron oysters, we had wedges of lemon and tasty slices of bread that were thickly slathered with a rich butter and then sprinkled with salt.

The rich, salty butter was perfect with the fresh oysters.

The rich, salty butter was perfect with the fresh oysters.

For each customer who orders the oysters, a glass of white wine is offered. We accepted graciously, of course, and then went on to order a couple of bottles of Petit Chablis, all in the spirit of having a long and relaxing Sunday lunch.

I lost count of how many slipperies I consumed, along with several slices of bread, but the total must have been impressive, because I then had no appetite for a “normal” lunch. In contrast, Rosemary had a nice entrée sized serving of salmon, done three ways; Richard had rack of lamb; and my wife Jan had grilled steak. They were all quite happy.

At the end of the meal, I had a small plate of cheese (Cantal and Rocamadour), and then Rosemary and I shared a dessert plate. And then it was coffee all around (and I have to say, the coffees at La Cantine are particularly good).

And here we were at our corner table, after all the eating and drinking were done:

We happy four, we band of oyster eaters.

We happy four, we band of oyster eaters.

Of course, we are now facing a dilemma. Will we now have oysters at La Cantine every Sunday? Will we instead have Sunday lunch at Sawadee, the Thai restaurant in Cénac? Or will we alternate between the two? Not an easy choice to make.

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Let The Season begin!

Tomorrow is the 1st of May, and with May comes the real beginning of The Season in Daglan — the start of the annual flood of vacationers that reaches its peak in July and August.

And today, Saturday, was the first day of the 2016 season for Le Thé Vert, the tea room-cum-restaurant operated by Judith Thomason. So to help get things rolling, Jan and I were there for lunch.

Le Thé Vert is a popular spot as the season rolls along, often completely filled with the cyclists who enjoy the gentle hills of the Greater Daglan Area. It’s easy to find, as it’s located at one of the main entries to our village, near the Céou River bridge.

Sadly, the weather did very little to help the occasion. Yesterday the sky had been a piercing blue and everything looked wonderful; today the temperature dropped, the clouds returned, and it either drizzled or poured. So clearly we were not going to be eating lunch on Le Thé Vert’s front terrace or the rear veranda. Ah well. Instead, Judith directed us to a comfortable table inside.

We began with a kir, and then moved straight to the food (along with a bottle of local rosé wine). I chose the three-course menu du jour at 14 euros,  while Jan opted for the chicken curry, a large serving that came with several accompaniments, also at 14 euros.

My entrée was this plate of paté maison, a tasty mixture served with some cornichons and a bit of tomato salad:

Hard to go wrong with a tasty paté.

Hard to go wrong with a tasty paté.

Jan said her curry had a wonderful taste, and she enjoyed it with a crispy poppadom. My plat principal was also tasty — it was a Rougail de saucisse, a stew of pork sausage slices in a spicy tomato sauce, served over a bowl of couscous, with small servings of three different salads on the side. Here it is:

My bowl of spicy sausage stew.

My bowl of spicy sausage stew.

We finished with a creamy individual cheesecake (for me), and coffees for the two of us.  And then it was back out into the rain, and back home.

Crummy weather aside, it’s good to have Le Thé Vert open again — along with the restaurant Le Petit Paris and the recently opened café of Fabrice le Chef, called La Cantine. We’ll be there tomorrow, by the way, for oysters. Yum.

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

Chuffed? C’est nous!

The Anglophones who live full-time or most of the year in Daglan are feeling pretty chuffed today. And well we might. Yesterday’s lunch for the Club de l’Amitié (Friendship Club) was a major success, and it was all planned, prepared and served by those of us whose first language is English. We even cleaned up the Salle des Fêtes afterward.

Initially, the event had its doubters — such as, well, me. As I wrote in my previous posting:

I confess that I had my doubts from the start. I figured that the French members of the club (the majority, of course) would be less than thrilled by the thought of being served English food.  (Eggs and chips? Over-cooked cabbage?) But I stand corrected — apparently, this is going to be quite an event.

As it turned out, everything went swimmingly, the result of several planning meetings, lots of phone calls and visits, careful shopping, lots of preparation, and those familiar Anglophone characteristics, joie de vivre and savoir faire.

On both Saturday and yesterday, lots of work was involved. Some of the cooking was done in the homes of various members, and some was done at the Salles des Fêtes itself. Everyone chipped in, including yours truly, who peeled potatoes and carrots for two hours on Saturday. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the some of the prep and cooking:

Peel, chop, mix, stir -- you get the idea.

Peel, chop, mix, stir — you get the idea.

My wife Jan was one of two club members charged with making a total of 64 individual portions of English trifle, complete with Cointreau-soaked sponge on the bottom. Here’s Jan’s contribution on our kitchen counter on Sunday morning:

Strawberries top the individual servings of trifle.

Strawberries top the individual servings of trifle.

A lot of work went into the set-up of the tables, chairs, place settings and decorations for the dining hall. There was lots of red, white and blue, with bunting hanging from the rafters and various flags — including Canada’s, we’re happy to say — located around the room, like this:

Flags were placed around the hall.

Flags were placed around the hall.

All the tables were decorated in red, white and blue; menus were rolled and wrapped in ribbon, and the menus and small vases of flowers were placed on the tables. It looked impressive:

The tables looked good.

The tables looked good.

And then came the food. We began with bubbly wine with a frozen raspberry in each glass; then came carrot soup; smoked mackerel pâté; beef and carrot stew cooked with Guinness, and served with a square of puff pastry and a heap of mashed potatoes; then the individual portions of trifle;  then a selection of three English cheeses served with English biscuits; and then coffee served with After Eight mints. Oh yes, and lots of red wine from Bordeaux throughout the meal, plus J & B scotch served with the coffee, for those who wanted. (Yes, I did.)

After several hours, the hall began to clear. And as you can tell from the smiling faces, people were leaving happy:

After a long lunch, it's time to head home -- and nap.

After a long lunch, it’s time to head home — and nap.

A full day later, I think we’ve all recovered. And so now, in the late afternoon of Monday, it’s time to drive up to Castelnaud, have a coffee at La Plage, and catch some rays. Yes, the sun is shining on the Greater Daglan Area.

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Daglan goes Anglo (a bit)

Just in case you were starting to dream of lunch in Daglan this Sunday with some Carbonnade avec ses légumes, pâte feuilletée et purée de pommes de terre — I’m sorry. You’re too late.

Believe it or not, the Club de l’Amitié (Friendship Club) is putting on UN REPAS BRITANNIQUE on Sunday in the Salle des Fêtes, and the lunch is already over-subscribed. So you simply cannot attend, unless you’ve already signed up.

What’s unique about this five-course  lunch is, first,  that the menu includes only foods that one associates with Britain, and, second, that the cooking is being done exclusively by the club’s Anglophone members, including my wife Jan (she is one of two English speakers who is responsible for dessert). And no, I’m not goofing off completely. I will be peeling potatoes as required, before the event. I think I’ll even bring one or two of our Canadian flags (like this one) to the lunch.

At least two Canadians -- Jan and I -- will be involved.

At least two Canadians — Jan and I — will be involved.

The idea for this event came from one of the French members, who pointed out that it’s always been French chefs (or amateur cooks) who make the club’s meals. Why not have the Anglos do the work for a change, he reasoned.

I confess that I had my doubts from the start. I figured that the French members of the club (the majority, of course) would be less than thrilled by the thought of being served English food.  (Eggs and chips? Over-cooked cabbage?) But I stand corrected — apparently, this is going to be quite an event.

You will, of course, stay tuned for the in-depth coverage. A review, with photos, will be provided by Radio Free Daglan, once the last tasse of coffee and the last verre of digestif are consumed. The timing of the review will depend, in large measure, on how much of the digestif I consume personally.

 

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Some April activities and antics

It’s not really warm here yet, but neither is it cold. So the number of activities seems to be picking up throughout the Greater Daglan Area, the GDA. Here’s a look at some of them.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the 40th running of the 100-kilometre Belvès in the Périgord Noir ultramarathon. Yes, you read that correctly — 100 kilometres. That’s more than two and a third marathons of 42.2 kilometres each.

Actually, the event includes two runs (although many participants walk). There’s the full-blown 100-kilometre ultramarathon, which starts at 8 a.m., and a regulation marathon that gets moving at 9 a.m. According to the website of the club that organizes all this, the ultra usually attracts between 250 and 500 participants, and the marathon has between 100 and 250 runners.

Yesterday afternoon, my wife Jan (who doubles as Chief Staff Photographer of Radio Free Daglan) drove up near Castlenaud and captured some shots of the runners and walkers — who, at that point, still had something like 30 or more kilometres to go. Here’s a small knot of them, having just crossed one of the small bridges that span the Céou River:

They've been on the road since 8 a.m.

They’ve been on the road since 8 a.m.

And here’s a look at one of the participants, who seems to be having a devil of a time:

Some runners seem to like wearing costumes.

Some runners seem to like wearing costumes.

A somewhat more normal activity, for tourists and residents alike, is canoeing and kayaking on some of the GDA’s many rivers.  (At the height of summer, it almost seems as if you could cross the Dordogne River by stepping from canoe to canoe.) This morning, Jan was out for a walk and found a group of kayakers out on the Céou River (a tributary of the Dordogne). Here’s a look:

Heading down the Céou.

Heading down the Céou.

At one point, one of the kayakers left his craft and jumped into the river to move a log that was blocking the way. You can just see him in the background at the left of this photo:

One of the kayakers gives a helping hand.

One of the kayakers gives a helping hand.

Since the water at this time of year is pretty near ice-cold, I can’t imagine what it felt like to stand in the river. Brave guy!

 

Posted in Exercise and fitness, Kayaking, Life in southwest France, Sports, Sports in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions, Walking in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

That wine from Garopapilles, and other follow-ups

Today’s post will provide a few follow-ups to various bits and bites from the Greater Daglan Area. Let’s start with the restaurant in Bordeaux with the tongue-twisting name of Garopapilles.

My wife Jan and I were in Bordeaux on March 30, and I posted a review of our lunch at the wine-shop-cum-restaurant known as Garopapilles on March 31. In that review, I wrote a fair bit about the wines:

We did rather splash out on this meal — along with the 35-euro menu, plus the 15-euro glass of Champagne, we ordered the sommelier’s recommended wine with each course. Those glasses ranged in price from 6.50 euros each to 8.50 euros each, and all were good choices. The red wine with the plat principal was a Côtes du Rhône that we loved, so much so that we had another glass by itself before the dessert arrived.  So when it was all done, the final tally for lunch was 177 euros.

Of course, that’s not counting what we spent on a case of the Côtes du Rhône, which is to be delivered to us in Daglan tomorrow. Yay!

Right after that appeared, Radio Free Daglan global headquarters received a comment from Florida-based long-time friend and loyal reader Sam, who wrote: “Suggestion: add pictures of the wine labels from time to time…”

Good idea, so here we go. It almost goes without saying that the wine was not delivered to us in the promised couple of days — in fact, Jan had to phone the restaurant after several days to say that nothing had arrived. Oops — they admitted that they had become quite busy and, frankly, forgot about our order.

But eventually the large box arrived with 12 bottles, and today seemed like a good day to open one. And here it is, a 2013 Côtes du Rhône called Mon Coeur (My Heart). It’s made by J.L. Chave in the Ardêche, so this was a well-travelled bottle, being shipped first to Bordeaux, and then on to Daglan.  Here it is, on our table:

Well-travelled bottle: from the Ardêche to Bordeauz and then Daglan.

Well-travelled bottle: from the Ardêche to Bordeauz and then Daglan.

Interestingly, the wine seems to be available — although maybe in minute quantities — at the LCBO outlets in Ontario (the province that includes Toronto, where Jan and I lived for years). The price is shown as $21.95 (Canadian) on the LCBO site, where the following positive review appeared:

Deep ruby. Spicy red and dark berries on the perfumed nose, with hints of licorice and dried flowers adding complexity. Sappy black raspberry and floral pastille flavors spread out and gain sweetness with air. Combines richness and vivacity smoothly, finishing with gentle tannic grip, very good persistence and an echo of fresh flowers. Drink: 2015-2023. Score – 90.

Anyway, Jan and I like it too, and thought it went well with today’s lunch of roast duck breast with raspberry and Armagnac sauce. Here’s my plate:

The wine went well with our roast duck breast.

The wine went well with our roast duck breast.

In case you were wondering, we finished with desserts  which we bought at what we think is the best bakery near Daglan, the Maison Carré at Castelnaud. Here they are — Jan’s gluten-free cake on the left, my seriously-chocolate dessert on the right:

Desserts from our favourite bakery in the area.

Desserts from our favourite bakery in the area.

Another restaurant follow-up: March 25 was opening day for Daglan’s new restaurant, La Cantine by Chef Fabrice Lemonnier, and that same day I posted my favourable review. I went so far as to say that Jan and I might make a habit of having Wednesday lunches there, after our French classes. It turns out that we were away the following Wednesday (March 30), because of our Bordeaux trip, but we returned for lunch this past Wednesday. The verdict? We loved the soup and the risotto with mushrooms, and yes — we’ll be back. Comfortable, with good food and pleasant service, and a reasonable price.

A weather follow-up: On March 16, I posted an article on the the signs of spring that were increasingly evident, and also commented on the rains we had been having:

(This was our sixth winter since moving to France from Canada, and my wife Jan and I agree that it was the grayest, wettest yet. On the plus side, it never got very cold.)

Sadly, the rains haven’t gone away completely. Today was another gray and wet event. So if you happen to meet up with somebody from the Greater Daglan Area anytime soon, that reddish-brown colour isn’t a sun tan. It’s rust.

 

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

Lovely food in the centre of Bordeaux

Yesterday my wife Jan and I had to travel to Bordeaux for an appointment and, as you might expect, we took the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful lunch. (Shocked, are you?) Planning ahead, we had checked out both our latest Michelin guide as well as TripAdvisor, and settled on a place with the tongue-twisting name of Garopapilles.

For us, getting to Bordeaux means first driving 20 or 25 minutes to Sarlat from our village of Daglan. Then we travel by train for almost three hours, criss-crossing the Dordogne River multiple times as we pass through Lalinde, Bergerac and Saint-Émilion, among other towns.

Since we had to roll out of bed at 6:30, we were definitely ready for lunch on arriving in Bordeaux — in what TripAdvisor says is No. 1 of 1,777 restaurants in the city. (I can’t guarantee that someone has eaten in all 1,777 places and rated Garopapilles the best, but that’s what TripAdvisor advised.)

In any case, we truly enjoyed our time in this casual restaurant-cum-wine shop, and found the food lovely and inventive. (Trendiness warning: If you’re tired of foam, you might not be wild about the dishes here.)

First, a look into the small dining area, which has just 18 or 20 seats. Our table was the first one on the right, next to a large picture window with a view of a small terrace:

Minimal decoration is a cool, casual room.

Minimal decoration in a cool, casual room.

As you enter the restaurant, you first pass through an area devoted to wine. Here’s a look at some of the shelves:

A nice selection of wines on offer.

A nice selection of wines on offer.

Chef and his staff work in an open kitchen, with another cooking area beside it. Our waiter would come up to the counter to place orders and pick up dishes, like this:

Chef and his staff work in a small, open kitchen.

Chef and his staff work in a small, open kitchen.

For lunch, there is a “market” menu with three courses (entrée, plat principal, dessert) for 35 euros, which is what we ordered. We also decided to order the wine pairings, as recommended by the sommelier, and sold by the glass. (There is a two-course menu, but … I mean … seriously?) Since we were parched from our travels, we began with a coupe of rosé Champagne (15 euros). As we sipped that, our amuse-bouche arrived.

The amuse-bouche was a small bowl of marinated trout, cut into tiny cubes, topped with a delicious mousse of topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke). It’s hard to describe how good this was, but somehow the trout beneath the smooth mousse was just a bit sweet and spicy, and the whole dish was excellent. Here it is:

Beneath the mousse, delicious morsels of marinated trout.

Beneath the mousse, delicious morsels of marinated trout.

The entrée was a bowl containing small pieces of rouget (red mullet) sitting on top of a bed of finely cut, pencil-thin green asparagus — the first of the season — topped with a delicious foam and decorated with edible flowers. The overall effect was great, but the highlight was munching on the small, tender  bits  (perhaps one centimetre long?) of asparagus. Here’s my dish:

Lurking beneath, a cluster of beautiful fresh asparagus.

Lurking beneath, a cluster of beautiful fresh asparagus.

The next course, the main, was another surprise — a relatively small piece of chicken breast that seemed to have been cooked sous vide, accompanied by a surprising (and delicious) mix that included wafer-thin circles of white radish, artichokes, mushrooms, and onion foam. Here it is:

A great example of having many layers of flavour.

A great example of having many layers of flavour.

Finally we had a wonderful and refreshing dessert, which included mandarin orange segments, other fruits, small puffs of meringue, and a creamy base. Jan and I both engaged in a lot of bowl scraping as we finished dessert. Here it is:

Lots of variety: crunchy, smooth, sweet, tart -- a wonderful dessert.

Lots of variety: crunchy, smooth, sweet, tart — a wonderful dessert.

We did rather splash out on this meal — along with the 35-euro menu, plus the 15-euro glass of Champagne, we ordered the sommelier’s recommended wine with each course. Those glasses ranged in price from 6.50 euros each to 8.50 euros each, and all were good choices. The red wine with the plat principal was a Côtes du Rhône that we loved, so much so that we had another glass by itself before the dessert arrived. (We were in no rush to get to our late-afternoon appointment.) So when it was all done, the final tally for lunch was 177 euros.

Of course, that’s not counting what we spent on a case of the Côtes du Rhône, which is to be delivered to us in Daglan tomorrow. Yay!

Details: Garopapilles is located at 62, rue Abbé de l’Épée in the centre of Bordeaux; the phone number is 09-72-45-55-36. Because it’s so small, making a reservation would be a very smart idea.

 

 

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