From beauty spot to barren plot

Several weeks ago, a pretty fierce storm blew through the Greater Daglan Area, knocking down several trees. (Walnut trees seem to be the most frequent victims of high winds here, as their root systems are surprisingly shallow.)

Unfortunately, some of the trees that were brought down were in a shady glen that for years has been one of my favourite “beauty spots” near Daglan. Then, things got worse.

Here’s that “beauty spot” as it used to be. It’s a stretch of the Céou River near the hamlet of Bouzic, where the river (a tributary of the Dordogne) is not much bigger than a babbling brook, and where there is nice little waterfall. Behold:

Lovely, isn’t it?

Then the Cutting Crew arrived, and beyond sawing and chopping and picking up the pieces of the fallen trees, and also chopping down many standing trees. This is one of the results — a huge pile of logs beside the road:

Lots of lumber, indeed.

And this is what that shady glen was reduced to, after all the sawing had been completed:

Ah, wilderness!

As for that little waterfall — so lovely that I have used a picture of it several times as the header photo for this blog — it’s now something of a trickle, like this:

You can barely make out the “waterfall” now.

Will the forest ever come back? I expect it will, given the healthy combination of rainfall and sunshine that our area receives. But I also expect that it will take several years.

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

A chef who keeps on growing

Ever since he gave us a cooking lesson in 2011, Fabrice Lemonnier (Fabrice le Chef) has been reinventing himself. Following experience in pub-restaurants in England and Malta, he moved to Daglan and began growing, and growing, his business.

Initially he catered, gave cooking lessons, and worked in various area restaurants. Then he took over Daglan’s old butcher shop and expanded it to include a variety of products, including cheeses and a number of dishes he prepared (which I covered in “Fabrice le Chef: Open for business,” March 29, 2013).

Later he turned his shop into La Cantine, a small restaurant/café facing Daglan’s main street at Place de la Mairie (which I covered in “Fabrice le Chef, reimagined,” March 25, 2016).

And now he has completed a major expansion, growing into the adjoining house and dramatically re-fashioning it as a restaurant, while also adding a pleasant terrace behind the restaurant. He’s kept the name La Cantine, but otherwise the place is certainly new and improved.

One of his specialities is serving fresh oysters on Sunday afternoons, and that’s why my wife Jan and I visited his expanded restaurant recently. Here’s a look at the oyster table, on the front terrace:

Something of a Sunday tradition.

To convert the adjoining house, Fabrice had construction workers knock out large spaces in the old stone walls and insert windows. Here’s a look:

Two large openings were made in the stone wall.

This is the terrace at the front, right between the expanded restaurant and Daglan’s main street, Rue de la République:

Tables out in front, with a street view.

And this is the new terrace, behind the restaurant, where Jan and I enjoyed our plate of fresh oysters, served with some chilled white wine:

The pleasant rear terrace.

Finally, here is the interior of the expanded restaurant space:

A tastefully decorated room.

Friends were there for dinner just the other night, and said that every table was taken. So the newly expanded La Cantine appears to be off to a good start. Well done!

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

Dish du jour — 10-09-2018

Another birthday, another wonderful lunch at Le Gindreau in Saint-Médard.

Yes, this past Friday (September 7) was my wife Jan’s birthday, and to celebrate we drove down to Saint-Médard (less than an hour from Daglan) with friends Joan and Steve from Toronto.

I’ve written often about this restaurant, which was awarded its second Michelin star last year (see “A well-deserved upgrade,” posted February 12, 2017). Its talented chef, Pascal Bardet, continually impresses us with his creativity.

For today’s “Dish du jour,” I’m highlighting just one of several wonderful dishes from last Friday’s birthday lunch. It’s a plate of écrevisses (crayfish) slow-cooked with saddle of rabbit and a small “cake” of light-coloured liver, and served with a savoury sauce, tender green shoots, and tomatoes flavoured with the juice of wild thyme.

And here it is:

A delicious combination.

All four of us left the restaurant after our leisurely lunch feeling well satisfied, and needed only a short rest before continuing Jan’s birthday celebration with neighbours in Daglan.

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

Tobacco road

Having been a city guy most of my adult life (Chicago, Montreal, Toronto), I find it constantly interesting to be exposed to rural/agricultural life here in the Greater Daglan Area.

Most interesting of all are the amazing machines that have been designed and built to perform very farm-specific tasks. Among many others, there are machines that pick crops, tractors that shake walnut trees to get the walnuts to fall to the ground, and machines that then move along below the trees to pick up the fallen walnuts. Of course there are lots more, some of which are absolutely huge.

Another step in my learning has been discovering what happens to tobacco after it’s reached maturity and is harvested. So, simply to show you that next step, here’s a photo I took this afternoon at a farm about five kilometres from our village:

Hanging around in the sunshine.

I guess because the weather has been dry, there’s been no need to rush the leaves into tobacco-drying sheds. I can’t say I approve of the end product — I haven’t smoked in well more than 30 years — but the tobacco must give some sort of boost to the farmer’s revenues. And it does look kind of neat.

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

How dry we are …

Rain obviously plays a critical role in the Greater Daglan Area, not only watering our many forests and fields of corn, sunflowers, tobacco and walnut trees, but also feeding our creeks and rivers. But it’s not exactly Mr. Dependable.

This spring, for instance, was incredibly wet. We had so much rain  that once, when I was driving friends to Bergerac, I could see that the mighty Dordogne River was running a rusty red colour as we approached Lalinde. The cause? All the reddish mud being carried into the river from streams, creeks and tributaries along the way.

It’s always a bit surprising how quickly our rivers fill up — to the point that the Dordogne usually overflows its banks at least a few times a year.

Just north of Daglan there’s a small bridge over our little Céou River, itself a tributary of the Dordogne, and I typically cross the bridge to get to the bicycle path and walnut groves where I regularly walk. Just a few weeks ago, I could look down from the bridge and see trout swimming. But not now.

Along with a very long spell of ferocious heat, we’ve had virtually no rain for several weeks. And here’s how that little bridge over the Céou looked on Sunday morning:

Once a small river, now a pond.

All that remains of the Céou in this area are a series of small ponds, and large stretches of rocks, logs and branches. Here’s another photo of the bridge, a bit closer up:

No water, but lots of rocks, branches, and logs.

That may look like fast-moving white water in front of the bridge, but I’m afraid it’s just a bed of limestone. However, we are supposed to get at least some rain, later in the week. Phew.

Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Walking in the Dordogne, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lessons from Canada (for French wineries!)

Do you think that French wine makers would be interested in learning anything from Canadian wineries? Sure, as soon as the Donald gives up his Twitter account, and pigs learn to fly.

But it’s worth a try, so here’s a report on a recent visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, which lies to the west and south of Toronto, and is simply loaded with wineries, large and small.

The area’s wine makers have done their homework on how to market (and label) their products and, significantly, have taken some big hints from the California wine country playbook.

As a result, the area offers kilometre after kilometre of wineries you can not only visit, but where you can taste the wine in comfortable surroundings, shop, and — get this — eat some wonderful food.

On our recent trip to Toronto, we took a day trip to visit friends who recently moved to the lovely town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and had lunch at the Trius Winery. Here’s our friends (with my wife Jan in the middle, in red) just outside the winery:

Friends outside the winery.

Before we get to the food, first check out the interior of the winery’s store (and this photo shows only some of the offerings). Not only is it bright and comfortable, and stocked with all the winery’s products, it also offers a huge range of accessories (wine buckets, wine openers, glasses, dishes, local food products, and much more).

By contrast, the last winery in France that we visited (near Bergerac) was more like a beat-up barn, with a battered old office. Here’s a look at the Trius shop:

What a wine store should look like.

And now to the food, which we enjoyed outdoors under large patio umbrellas (although there is a rather formal and attractive dining room).

My starter (entrée in France) was described as Atlantic Lobster, and was served with Ontario mozzarella, heirloom tomato, Chioggia beets, organic watercress, muskmelon, cucumber and quail’s egg,  all served on a circle of pressed watermelon. Here’s my cool, refreshing and delicious plate:

My refreshing entrée.

My main course consisted of Lake Erie white fish, served with (among other things) a beef short-rib-and-ricotta cannelloni, bok choy, Ontario corn (oh how we miss good Ontario sweet corn, here in France!), and a Trius Chardonnay vinaigrette. Here’s my plate:

Clever combinations in my main course.

As for dessert, it was impossible to resist ordering this — Peach Clafoutis, paired with “ice wine roasted peach ice cream, praline sponge toffee, and salted caramel.” It was as good as it sounds:

What a dessert!

And guess what? The wine region has become a magnet for tourists, seeking not only wine but also excellent food, in pleasant surroundings.

When Jan and I lived in Toronto, we would often travel there with friends  and ride our bikes from winery to winery; sometimes we would spend the night in the area, at one of the many resorts and bed-and-breakfast places.

So, if you happen to know any French winery owners, perhaps you could suggest they make a trip to Ontario. They just might get some worthwhile ideas.


Posted in Food, French food, Travels in and out of France, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Back to the Blogosphere (via Paris, no less)

We have now welcomed the dissipation of our troublesome canicule (Translation: the heat wave is over), and so I return to the Blogosphere with a new offering of Radio Free Daglan. But I begin with observations on some recent travels.

You may know that one of the disadvantages of living in a rural community like Daglan is that foreign travel typically takes a full day longer than you’d expect. On the plus side, this often means spending a night in our favourite city, Paris.

And so it was, a few weeks ago, that we took the train up to Paris before flying the next afternoon to the Canadian city where my wife Jan and I spent most of our working lives. Here’s a quick peek at our Paris hotel, located in our favourite arrondissement, the 7th:

Our hotel in the 7th.

It’s a great area, with wide open spaces, lively cafés, and at least a few popular attractions, like, well, this well known structure — as seen from the balcony of our hotel room:

A pretty nice view, yes?

Aside from its great location, one of the attractive features of our hotel is that there is a comfortable café on the ground floor, which features a nice full breakfast — like this one:

Fried eggs, fresh fruit, and of course croissants.

Well nourished, Jan and I took a taxi out to De Gaulle on a Friday morning and had a smooth and very comfortable flight to Toronto, starting in the early afternoon (Paris time) and arriving in the late afternoon (Toronto time).

Then we spent the night at an airport hotel, and took a taxi to son Michael’s house on Saturday morning to begin several days of fun with our lovely family (our two children, their partners, and now four grandchildren) and terrific friends. It was a wonderful break. And the recent break in the weather is wonderful too.

Posted in Cafés in France, French food, Holidays in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments