We have now glided through most of Boxing Day (translation for American readers: the day after Christmas), and so it’s time to review some of the treats we’ve enjoyed (so far) over the holidays, including the reasons why.
Heavenly dessert. This past summer, we got one of those “looks” that you get from friends when you admit that you don’t know something that everybody knows (“What? You don’t know Justin Bieber’s first No. 1 hit?”). In this case, we had admitted to friends who own a B & B near Daglan that we hadn’t heard about Lucco — and didn’t realize that Lucco is probably the finest bakery and pâtisserie in the Greater Daglan Area. Turns out that we’d driven past it many times, without actually seeing it. So this past Sunday, after visiting the weekly market in St. Cyprien, we drove carefully back towards Beynac, looking for Les Gourmandises de Lucco. And sure enough, there it was, near the little hamlet of Bézenac, between St. Cyprien and Beynac. And oh my — what a yummy place. Here’s the chocolate-and-raspberry dessert that I bought to have at the end of our lunch on Sunday:
I also bought some croissants, and they were terrific. But this dessert was the kind of sweet that you’d like to have on tap, or perhaps in a swimming pool that you could dive into. In any case, one of these days, I’ll return to Lucco, and write a full-blown blog posting on the place. But there is much else to review. Like, for instance, our traditional Christmas Eve meal, which is bouillabaisse.
Seafood aplenty. When we lived in Toronto, my wife Jan would make this fish stew using bottled clam juice as part of the base stock; since we can’t find clam juice here, we’ve taken the easy way out, using store-bought soupe de poissons as the base. To the soup, Jan adds a wide variety of seafood, from clams and mussels to fish, calamari and gambas (large shrimp). Here’s a platter with some of the seafood, ready to be added to the soup:
And here’s a plate of the actual seafood stew, with an interesting looking blob sitting on top, at the front centre:
Foie gras what? So, what is that little blob? Well, it’s actually a small scoop of foie gras ice cream — made by Daglan’s own Chef Fabrice Lemonnier. Because the taste of the ice cream is somewhere between sweet and savoury, I thought it would go well with the seafood stew, and it really did. (Needless to say, we had a bottle of Champagne with our Christmas Eve feast.)
Super salmon. Now we come to our Christmas Day meal, which featured roast capon. To begin, our entrée was a small plate of gravlax (cold-cured salmon), also made by Chef Lemonnier, which we had bought on Sunday at the St. Cyprien market. (Chef has a prime spot in the market, right on the village’s main street, where he sells many of his products — including vacuum-sealed trays of the gravlax.) The salmon really was superb, tender and very mild, with the nice additional flavour of dill. Here’s my plate:
Crispy capon. And now for the roast capon itself, which I have to say looked quite good, with a nice crispy skin. Here’s the bird before being carved:
A traditional plate. To accompany the capon, we had stuffing (pork sausage, gluten-free bread croutons, onion, celery and dried cranberries, along with a variety of seasonings), sweet-and-sour red cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy. Frankly, we were a bit disappointed with the capon; while it was nice and moist, the flavour wasn’t particularly outstanding, and it didn’t have as much meat as we had expected. Still, it made for a nice and traditional-looking Christmas plate, like this:
Brilliant breakfast. In the spirit of waste-not, want-not, we then put the leftovers to good use. This morning (Boxing Day), Jan cleverly removed all the croutons from the pork-sausage stuffing and fried the sausage mixture as a kind of hash. She then used the leftover mashed potatoes to make a delicious tattie scone — a traditional Scottish dish — and served it all with a fried egg, sunny-side-up. (Not the world’s lightest breakfast, but hey — it’s Christmas!)
Capon and spice, and everything nice. Next came our Boxing Day lunch, which used up the remainder of the capon — in a spicy tomato curry, like this:
Candy is dandy. Then came another real Christmas treat, which was delivered to us this very morning. It was box of goodies from Fauchon in Paris, sent to us by daughter Anne and son Michael, and their partners James and Vanessa. Inside some very fancy packaging was a container of sea-salt caramels, and a box of Fauchon’s brilliant chocolates, which I’ve raved about previously. Determined to take our time with these treats, we ended our Boxing Day lunch with a caramel each (I know, such restraint!). Here’s how the array of sweets looked:
What? There’s more? I can almost hear you asking: So is that the end of the treats? Of course not. Tomorrow we are off to Le Grand Bleu, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Sarlat, with friends Suzanne and Mark, who have not yet had the pleasure. And then there is New Year’s Eve on the horizon.