A not-so-impressive first try

We first heard of the place from a variety of friends and acquaintances. Lots of buzz.  It seemed that a young British couple — both trained chefs, both experienced at the Ritz in London — had opened a new restaurant not far from our village.

The reviews were very good, and so this restaurant was obviously a “must” destination. My wife Jan and I knew the place, because it was the site of several previous restaurants, located in the small hamlet of Campagnac-lès-Quercy,  10 kilometres or so from Daglan. We had never had much luck at any of the previous incarnations (and evidently the restaurateurs didn’t either).

In any case, one rainy Saturday we drove there with friends, only to be turned away, because the place was packed — reservations clearly were required. So a few days ago, Jan made a reservation for the two of us for this past Sunday, which happened to be Father’s Day. Off we went.

While it seems that the new  restaurant is to be known as Bistro 24, the new proprietors are keeping the old signage, at least temporarily. Here’s the front of the restaurant as it looked yesterday afternoon:

Entrance to the restaurant.

When Jan and I entered, we were greeted by the young and friendly English hostess, and were brought the kirs we ordered. Then the waiting began. Eventually we were offered a wine list, and we chose a rosé. And waited some more. At last, the entrée arrived — a scoop of chicken liver parfait, served with a few dribbles of fruity sauce and some raspberries. Here’s my serving:

Chicken liver parfait. Oh, and raspberries.

I thought the taste was fine, although the serving seemed a bit inelegant. And Jan had no gluten-free bread or crackers for her serving, although she had previously  informed the restaurant that she needed to be gluten-free. Ah well.

Having the kirs, and then the entrée, took the better part of an hour. For entertainment, we could watch the man who kept popping into the bar from an outside table to order yet more drinks. We also could guzzle more of our own wine. And we could watch the hostess’s young dog wander through the restaurant, snuffling at the legs of various diners. Here he is:

A visual distraction.

When the main courses arrived, they looked quite good. And in fact my serving of bœuf en croûte had a perfectly golden crust, and nicely cooked beef.  It was tender (not as common in France as you might expect) and delicious. The only problem was the portion size — you may not be able to tell from this photograph, but the serving could easily have served two if not three hungry guys. Have a look:

Delicious, but simply too much.

For her gluten-free main course, Jan was given this dish of roast cod with some tomatoes:

Jan’s (very good) cod.

She said the fish was delicious, but wasn’t happy that there was no “starch” with the dish, such as rice or potatoes. So I gave her some of my potatoes.

As it turned out, we had ordered a second bottle of wine , something that can happen when the time between courses seems to drag. But eventually we gagged back the last of the wine, and went on to dessert and coffees. The dessert also was very good — a pavlova with fruit and fruit gelatin, plus cream. Here’s my plate:

Crisp meringue, soft centre.

Near the end of our meal, the bar section of the restaurant (which is only a few feet from the tables) was visited by some young, shirtless lads who had been playing in the courtyard outside the restaurant. I was waiting for our hostess to ask them to either put on their shirts, or enjoy their beers at an outside table. It didn’t happen. You can call me old fashioned, but this isn’t the sight I want with a nice meal:

Shirtless but (at least) wearing shoes.

So, a pretty mixed reaction on our part. Good food, reasonable prices, friendly hostess. But not enough service (our hostess handled everything by herself), so that the waiting between courses simply went on too long. And I do think the bar needs to be separated from the dining area.

I’ll leave it to Jan to offer the last word: “Well, I don’t think we’ll be rushing back.”

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France | 6 Comments

Some sunny summer Sunday joys

We’ve been enjoying wonderful summer weather for the past while, and today’s weather is no exception. It’s hot and sunny, but not too humid. And since Sunday should be a day of enjoyment, here are a few things we’re currently enjoying.

At last, our sign! You may recall that Daglan has been designated a Village Fleuri. For a bit of background, here’s a quote from “The village of art, of flowers — and of bugs,” which was posted on July 23, 2016:

Confirming Daglan’s status as a village that’s full of flowers — and which generally tries to improve the environment and encourage a high quality of life — is this sign showing the village as a winner in the Villes et Villages Fleuris competition, a national program created in 1959:

However, this really isn’t the proper sign, the one we’ve all been waiting for. But now we have one in place, and yesterday (Saturday), my wife Jan and I saw it, on our way back home to Daglan from St. Cybranet. That was a joy. And today’s joy was taking a photo of the sign, namely this one:

Sitting pretty among the flowers.

So far, that’s the only such official sign at an entrance to Daglan, because I checked carefully this morning. No such sign exists on the road in from Saint-Pompon, nor on the road from Bouzic and Cénac. But this one is a great start.

Action in the market. By this point in the season, our Sunday market has grown to almost full size, with lots of different vendors, selling goods and produce that range from strawberries to flowers (natch) to vegetables and cheeses, and more. Here’s a look at some of the action this morning:

Strawberries are in the foreground, at left.

A Thai lunch. One of our favourite restaurants in the immediate area around Daglan is Sawadee, the Thai restaurant in neighbouring Cénac. Jan and I haven’t been there in a while, for some reason, but we have a reservation for 12:30 today. In the interests of being different, I could order something other than the minced beef with mixed vegetables, stir-fried with oyster sauce. But I know I won’t. Oh joy!

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Tourist attractions, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Wreck

Among the most noticeable things about our village of  Daglan, and indeed the whole Greater Daglan Area, are its cleanliness and tidiness. We often find village workers outside our home, sweeping up leaves in the street. Where else does that happen? (Okay, excluding Switzerland.)

American visitors have often commented on this.  Streets that are swept clean. Plants and flowers that are trimmed to perfection. Almost no roadside litter. (This is in marked contrast to my memories of rural Georgia and Alabama, during my family’s road trips from Florida, when yards could be seen laden with rusty refrigerators, worn-out tires, and broken wheelbarrows.)

Still, there are exceptions. Like, for instance, out-of-date-signs, standing near entrances to the village, that point to shops or restaurants that failed some years ago. Why doesn’t the Mayor have someone remove them, once it’s clear that the previous owners have disappeared?

And most intriguing to me, there’s The Wreck.

The story of The Wreck goes back several months, although I can’t be precise, since it wasn’t all that interesting at first, and I didn’t make note of when I encountered it.

In any case, when my wife Jan and I first saw The Wreck, it was just a dark car that had obviously been in an accident, because it was pretty banged up. It was parked near the entrance to a large gravel-covered staging area, often used for roadwork and other public works, located along the winding road that curves between Daglan and the hamlet of Bouzic.

At first sight, we wanted to see if we could help. But there was no one in the car — whatever had happened, and whenever it had happened, the driver was away and gone.

But not the car.

Every now and then, as we drove by, we could see that someone — kids? —  was having some fun. You know, cracking the glass in the windows, denting the car a bit more. Still, the car sat there.

Now I don’t know about you, but I assumed that somewhere along the way, someone would come along and take away the car. The owner? The insurance company? The police? An auto parts company, looking to salvage something? But no.

And then, finally, someone took action. I didn’t see it happen, but I can only guess that one of the operators of earth-moving equipment got fed up and decided to trash the vehicle and push it out of the driveway.

This is how it looked yesterday, in a photo taken across the front of my own car:

Almost hidden in the woods.

And here is a close-up view, showing what I can only call fairly complete destruction:

The Wreck.

I don’t know what you think, but if I were the insurance company, I would file this under “Totalled.”

 

Posted in Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

D-Day: A look back 73 years, and three years

Today’s posting is a remembrance, because June 6, 2017 is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy, getting “boots on the ground” to begin the final defeat of Hitler’s Nazi forces.

Almost three years ago, my wife Jan and I left Daglan for a short vacation in Paris, and we decided that we should finally visit the Normandy beaches. Because we are both Canadian citizens, we chose the beach where the Canadian troops came ashore — code name Juno, near the village of Courseulles-sur-Mer.

I described our train trip to Caen, and our visit to the Juno Beach Centre,  in  “Triumph and tragedy: A visit to Juno Beach,” posted on August 29, 2014. (Easy to find in Radio Free Daglan’s archive.)

When we arrived in Caen, we found the platform lined with photographic posters from the war. This is one of them, showing two Canadian soldiers checking out a train at the Caen station itself. You can see the apprehension in the eyes of the soldier at the left, as his partner enters the train:

Canadian troops and a train.

This next photo shows Jan on the windswept beach near the Juno Beach Centre, with both the French and Canadian flags flapping:

Jan and the two flags.

Of course, losses were horrific on D-Day (known to the military planners as Operation Neptune), and the days that followed. This next photo shows a particularly striking and moving tribute to the Canadians — 359 of them — who were killed on the invasion’s  first day alone:

A marker for each Canadian killed on Day 1.

By the end of that day, June 6, 1944, some 155,000 American, Canadian and British troops had successfully stormed the beaches on Normandy, to begin the long and incredibly difficult sweep across Western Europe and into Germany.

I think it’s worth remembering not only the freedoms that we ultimately gained from the success of D-Day — and of course many other operations and battles — but what it took to achieve the success. Unbelievable bravery, staggering expense, and of course an immense amount of international cooperation and coordination. Seems to me that the West could use a lot more international cooperation about now, and a lot fewer tweets.

 

Posted in History in France, News about France | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dishes of the day — 01/06/2017

At the end of April I wrote about a new, lower-cost lunch menu being served at the Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat, available at lunches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I called that posting “What a deal — and ‘bistronomic’ to boot” (April 28).

It’s just 25 euros for an entrée, main course and dessert, plus a glass of wine and a coffee. But even more is offered — there are amuse-bouches before the meal, various hot rolls and breads during the meal, and mignardises after.

Yesterday my wife Jan and I drove up to Sarlat from Daglan to try the menu again, this time with good friends Joanne and Chris and their two children. And we all thought it was a hit (although, in fairness, the teenagers could have consumed two or three servings of each course).

The starter this time was the same as the entrée we had in late April — a garnished serving of house-made terrine. Then came the main course: slow-cooked chicken with a morel sauce, cooked morels, a purée of  sweet potato and vegetables, and a gratin of potatoes. Here is my plate:

The sauce makes the dish.

The dessert for the menu that day was a sable of chocolate and rosemary, served with a delicious topping of apricots and a scoop of rosemary ice cream. A tasty treat:

Not a big dessert, but a tasty one.

The classic question: Would we go back and do it again? Yes, although I must admit I enjoy the choice of the larger — and admittedly more expensive — menus.

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

Progress, of sorts, on the Beynac bottleneck

I wrote a long piece a while back on the plans to eliminate or at least reduce the traffic bottleneck along the base of the historic village of Beynac, a key tourist attraction in the Greater Daglan Area. (You can find the details in Radio Free Daglan’s archive, “Breaking the Beynac bottleneck,” November 9, 2015.)

This is really a major, two-year project, costing some 2.15 million euros (before tax). So, how are things going? Well, pretty slowly, I’d say.

According to the sign that’s posted with all the details, the second phase of construction was to last from October 2016 “à mai 2017.” Now as I read that, I see the à mai as meaning the start of May. But not on your bippy.

Today (May 28)  I drove up from Daglan and, seeing a long line of cars waiting to progress along the single-lane road, I wisely decided to park in a shopping plaza and walk towards the construction.

Here’s how the line-up of vehicles looked, as I approached the traffic light that was holding them in place, allowing for vehicles to drive from the other direction:

Quite a few drivers were walking around impatiently.

In this next photo, you can see why Beynac is so popular with tourists — that’s Château de Beynac, once owned by Richard the Lionheart, on top of the rocky hill:

The château looms over the road below.

A lot of work has been done, of course. This involved dumping rocks into the Dordogne River, and then building out the road and sidewalks to accommodate more vehicles. This next photo, which was taken from my closest vantage point today, shows how substantial the work is:

The retaining wall for the widened roadway.

So there you have it, so far. When will the work be finally done, and the road opened fully to traffic? I don’t know, but it shouldn’t be too long. I’ll of course keep an eye on things.

Just for the record, here’s an update on another, smaller, construction project, for readers who are familiar with Greater Daglan Area: The expansion/renovation of the supermarket formerly known as Shopi, in the neighbouring village of Cénac:

The substantial new entrance takes shape.

I wrote about the project earlier in the month, as it was getting under way, and I made the point that it was unclear how ambitious  the work would be. (See “The mystery project [yes, another one],” posted on May 6). As you can see, the Carrefour group is certainly putting a new face on its supermarket.

 

Posted in Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Our (Croatian) shore lunch

Early in my career, for a few years I was in charge of public affairs and communications for a major forest products company in Canada, and spent a fair bit of time in Northwestern Ontario — a vast area of lakes, rivers, and forests, north of Lake Superior. There I had my first of what locals call a “shore lunch.”

It consisted of some beautiful pickerel we had caught minutes before, cleaned, breaded and then fried in melted lard in an iron pan. With the fish came white bread (yes!) and baked beans (yes!). And in the cool air and sunshine, sitting on rocks beside the cold water, I found the whole lunch delicious. Perfect.

Now we’ve had a shore lunch of a somewhat different sort, on our recent vacation at a resort in Croatia. (I described our journeys to and from our home base in Daglan in the posting “You [almost] can’t get there from here,” on May 23.)

This lunch was at a seaside location near our resort, the TUI Sensimar Adriatic Beach Resort (south of Split, north of Dubrovnik). Called Gran Mare Grill, it certainly made the most of the scenery. Our host had promised us a table on the shore, and that’s certainly what we got.

Here is the “entrance” to our own area, with my wife Jan and our friend Elisabeth sitting at our table:

Jan and Elisabeth get settled, à table.

Our young host was charming, proud of his Croatian heritage, proud to be serving only local ingredients, and keen to serve us (fair enough —  at the time, we were the only customers). Here he is, standing beside the table with Jan, Elisabeth and me (photo credit: Gerhard):

Our table, and host, beside the Adriatic.

To begin, the appetizers we were offered proved (once again) that “simple is good,” as long as the products are excellent.

We were served a few nice plates (actually, slices of tree trunks), starting with a selection of local sausages and a dish of a peppery condiment. The round slices were a bit like chorizo (one of my personal favourites) and so this appetizer went down well, especially with Gerhard and me:

A savoury serving of sausages.

I do love sausages, but I liked the next plate of appetizers even more — a sheep’s milk cheese served with candied walnuts and various sweet jams and conserves:

Tasty slices of cheese, with candied walnuts.

For the main course, it simply had to be the fresh fish, caught that morning (we were told — we weren’t actually there for the catch) in the Adriatic. Our host brought us a tray with two fish on ice — a grouper and a John Dory (St. Pierre, in France). Here they are, before being prepared for the grill:

Two fresh fish, to be grilled.

And then, unaccountably, we had a really, really long wait until the main course arrived. Not sure why, and we didn’t ask. But it was far longer than it should have taken to grill some fish over a flame.

When the main course did arrive, it was very good — we each had some of the two different fish, plus creamy mashed potatoes, and some grilled vegetables that were surprisingly delightful. (Our host explained that the chef, his wife, “shocks” the vegetables first in icy water, before placing them on the grill.) Here is one of the plates:

Fish, potatoes, veg. Tasty!

Finally, here is a look back at the actual restaurant building. This early in the tourist season, it was not exactly jumping:

This is one quiet restaurant.

We left our seaside table feeling quite well fed, but all four of us thought that the final bill seemed a tad high for what we received (which did include three bottles of Croatian white wine). So after some deliberation, we cancelled our plans to have our final evening meal at the restaurant, and instead stayed for the buffet at our resort.

 

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