Brive-la-Gaillarde is a large town (by southwest France standards) in the department of Corrèze, which lies to the north and east of the Dordogne. As you know, the department of the Dordogne is the home of Daglan, which in turn is the centre of the Greater Daglan Area, or GDA.
While Gourdon is the most obvious train station for reaching Daglan, we often tell visitors who are travelling from Paris to stop at the Brive station. Then, when we pick them up, they can enjoy the scenic drive back to Daglan. (Just to be crystal clear, I tend to go the long way home — from Brive through Terrasson-la-Villedieu and Montignac, and down through Sarlat. Takes about an hour and a half.)
On Tuesday of this week, we were driving our friends Doug and Irena from Daglan to Brive to catch the train to Paris. (On Wednesday, they were flying home to Toronto.) To make sure they had the right send-off, I checked my Michelin Guide rouge (yes, the new 2011 edition), settled on La Truffe Noire for lunch, and called to make a reservation. (Well done, me. My wife remembered that we had wandered into La Truffe Noire on Mother’s Day a year or two earlier without a reservation, and were turned away.)
La Truffe Noire (The Black Truffle) is actually a hotel, but it has a very good restaurant on the main floor. Since the day was perfect, we chose to eat lunch on the terrace, under a canopy of trees. Once we had ordered our aperitifs (kirs), we were immediately served with delicious amuse bouches — small glasses with cream of foie gras with pistachios, and slivers of toast. Yummy, to say the least, and a nice surprise.
Friends Doug and Irena and my wife Jan chose one of the set menus — three courses, from entrée to plat principal to dessert. But I had my eyes on the blanquette de veau, to be served with black-truffle risotto, which was an a là carte item. So I decided not to have an entrée, while the others began their lunches with soft-boiled eggs inside a rich mushroom cream sauce (which they all loved).
Suddenly, our waiter appeared with a wonderful (and generous) surprise for me: A complimentary entrée so that I wouldn’t be lonely watching the others enjoy their appetizer. My complimentary entrée was a nicely sized array of slivers of smoked salmon, served on a slab of black slate, and drizzled with black-truffle oil. (Side note: Truffle oil is usually to be avoided, I’ve found — since it often tastes like a rubber tire smells. This version, however, was delicious.)
For the main courses, my blanquette was delicious, as was Jan’s cod. Not so good were the onglet steaks ordered by Doug and Irena. (Onglet is the French term for the hanger steak. Hanger steaks aren’t the most tender cuts around, and let’s just say that our friends’ jaws got a good workout.)
Then came my next wonderful surprise. I had chosen a chocolate dessert, not really certain what it would look like. As it happened, I was glad that it looked like this:
Having downed a couple of bottles of nice rosé, plus coffees, we headed off to the train station well satisfied. It was an excellent send-off for two good friends — and equally good for us.