Champagne is almost an essential for my wife and me on those “special” days — Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthdays, and so on. And it’s hard to imagine a day more special than the 25th anniversary of our marriage, which is why we began with a glass of Champagne at breakfast yesterday (May 21).
On those relatively rare occasions when Jan and I do have Champagne with breakfast, we usually mix the bubbly wine with orange juice. But yesterday morning we discovered that our OJ supply was at rock bottom, and so we improvised. I added a few drops of crème de cassis to the bottom of our flutes, and then filled the glasses with G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge — turning a coupe de Champagne into a Kir Royale. This somewhat sweetened Champagne cocktail went very well with our smoked salmon omelette.
But that was just the beginning of the celebrations. Later in the morning we headed off to Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat, less than an hour’s drive west of Daglan. We have eaten at the Michelin-starred Le Vieux Logis several times this year (one of our friends in Daglan suggested that the restaurant should put up a plaque to recognize us), and I’ve also posted reviews several times — first on January 9 of this year, in “Feasting at Le Vieux Logis.” But we had never before stayed at the hotel, which is a Relais & Châteaux property.
Yesterday we arrived in plenty of time to relax in the salon in front of an open fire while our room was prepared, and then had time to unpack. Once all that was done, it was time for lunch. I decided that we would begin with Champagne, and then figured that we might as well drink Champagne for the whole meal, since lunch at Le Vieux Logis is done tapas-style, with lots of small dishes. So I ordered a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut.
And what a lunch — 10 dishes for 46 euros per person. I realize that I’ve shown some of these dishes before, but I think they’re all worth a look.
No. 1. Let’s start with the amuse-bouche — which indeed was quite amusing, because it was set out on a bed of imitation grass, to suggest a picnic on the lawn. (A real picnic was not about to happen, because it was raining. Of course.) So here’s our first taste treat, incorporating a dish of green olives, several slices of duck sausage, and a sort of spring roll made of thin slices of salmon wrapped around greens, with coriander oil:
No. 2. Next came duck foie gras done two ways — a delicious dish of foie gras crème brûlée, and then a mousse of foie gras served with a mango purée. Here it is:
No. 3. The third dish to be served was our only disappointment of the meal. It consisted of a small piece of roast rouget (a Mediterranean fish also called red mullet), sitting atop a bed of saffron gelée — but served cold. As I said to Jan, this one was far better in the execution than in the concept. While it was well prepared, our taste buds rebelled against the fact that the fish was cold, when logic was telling us it should have been a hot dish. So we didn’t really enjoy this one, although it does look good:
No. 4. Then came another cold fish dish, but one that really works. It’s a modern, light version of pickled herring and potato salad, and we’ve had this preparation before at Le Vieux Logis. Once again, we enjoyed the thin slivers of herring and the small bites of potato on a herring-flavoured cream base:
No. 5. Our herring dish was followed by a hot fish course. This featured a sort of sausage made of slices of sturgeon, positioned on a bed of pea purée and fresh peas (petit pois) with tarragon. While I enjoyed the sturgeon, I absolutely loved the peas, and understand why the French are so taken with this vegetable. The properly cooked peas are so far removed from over-cooked or canned peas that they might come from another planet. Here’s the dish:
No. 6. Then came the first of two super-stars of the meal. This was the meat course, with a slice of incredibly tender and juicy roast lamb, served with fava beans and hearts of artichoke and a goat-cheese ravioli. (Champagne confession No. 1: We had a very enjoyable Pomerol, by the glass, with this course, since I didn’t think the bubbly would go well with the lamb.) The lamb was as close to perfect as we’ve eaten:
No. 7. The cheese course followed. My cheese dish was a disc of melted brébis cheese (a brébis is a type of sheep) on a thin pastry crust, served with black cherries. Because of Jan’s gluten-intolerance, she was given a selection of three cheeses, with no pastry crust. Here’s my cheese plate:
No. 8. Now we began to get into the desserts. This next dish was the second super-star of the meal, after the lamb dish. This elaborate concoction had a crispy meringue shell that had been filled with a compote of finely chopped strawberries, and on top of the shell was an incredibly delicious ice cream of strawberries and basil. A few fresh strawberries and a thin line of whipped cream completed the dish. Have a look:
No. 9. My next dessert was a baba (a rich, sweet cake) served with Armagnac and topped with whipped cream. Light, sweet, delicious:
No. 10. Finishing up our amazing anniversary lunch was this dish of chocolate cream with vanilla mousse — smooth and rich:
Okay, you’re thinking: Is that all? Shouldn’t there be more? And the answer is: Of course!
So, after a suitable break, including a rainy drive into the nearby rainy town of Lalinde, some shopping, and a nice cup of Earl Grey tea, it was time for dinner. So in the evening we headed across the street to the down-to-earth restaurant owned by Le Vieux Logis, Le Bistro d’en Face. (I think the bistro is one of the very best “normal” — that is, not fine-dining — restaurants in the GDA.)
There we had a wonderful meal, of course starting with a glass of Champagne. (Champagne confession No. 2: For our main courses, Jan ordered magret of duck while I had a delicious navarin of lamb, which included a great selection of perfectly cooked vegetables, from new potatoes to leeks to white asparagus to fresh peas. So I stopped ordering Champagne, and instead bought a bottle of 2010 Château Les Combes, a tasty Lussac-Saint-Emilion.) And then it was back to Le Vieux Logis for the evening.
Finally, you may be wondering about my gift to Jan for our 25th. Since silver is what the 25th anniversary is all about, I figured that a visit to La Goutte Noire in Daglan would be in order. As you learned from my posting “A real jewel of Daglan,” on May 9, the local artisan Sophie Arnaud makes all the jewelry she sells, using fine silver as well as semi-precious stones. And in fact, Jan had bought a silver bracelet made by Sophie a few years ago.
So to add to Jan’s collection, I bought a silver necklace that would complement her bracelet, and that’s what Jan wore yesterday. Here’s the necklace and the bracelet:
And today? No Champagne, a light lunch at home, and a very light dinner. But there’s always tomorrow. And tomorrow, we’re off to lunch with friends at Daglan’s own Le Petit Paris. After all, we don’t want to give our systems too much of a jolt.