Seven people. Seven courses. Seven and a half hours.
That’s a quick summary of the Christmas Day lunch we enjoyed in a large and beautiful stone-walled home that friends are restoring, upgrading and updating on a hillside in the hamlet of La Bégonie, high above our village of Daglan.
Yesterday I posted a photo of the open fireplace that we sat beside during the meal. Today, I’ll show off the whole epic event.
Let’s start with the people. One of the many positive surprises about our new life here has been making so many friends, not only natives of France but people from around the world. At our lunch on Christmas Day, three people were natives of Scotland. Two of us were born in the mid-western U.S. One was born in Australia. And another is a native of South Africa.
We had our meal in two areas of the house. For the formal part of our meal, we sat at a long table in the large open-concept kitchen and dining area. Here’s a look at the table:
To enjoy our appetizers, accompanied by generous pourings of Bollinger Champagne, we sat in the living room. For the appetizers themselves, we had made a selection at the Fabrice Le Chef boutique in Daglan.
And here’s what Fabrice Lemonnier prepared for us: a charcuterie tray, a tray of his salmon gravlax (one made with citrus, and the other with beet juice), a dozen oysters, and small glasses of crème chantilly flavoured with foie gras and slivers of black truffles. First, here are the trays of meats and fish:
And here are the little cups of foie-gras-and-truffle cream:
And finally, here’s our appetizer table with its tray of oysters on the half shell:
I suppose we could have simply stopped at this point, but no — we headed to the dining table and started on the second course. It was my wife Jan’s rich mushroom soup, decorated with sprigs of rosemary and flavoured with a good dollop of tawny Port, and served with two kinds of bread made by our friend Suzanne. Here’s my bowl:
Our third course was a seafood dish. Made by Suzanne’s husband Mark, it consists of three perfectly seared scallops placed on small circles of boudin noir (blood sausage), which in turn rested on a bed of cooked spinach, accompanied by a good spoonful of apple sauce. Really delicious. Here’s my serving:
For the fourth and main course, we had decided on a prime rib roast of beef. As I’ve written previously, French beef is definitely not to our liking; while it can be quite tasty, it’s more often than not a bit tough and chewy. (The usual reason cited for the toughness is that French beef is not aged sufficiently.) However, our roast had been specially flown in from Scotland — joy! oh joy! — and was perfect. Here’s the beef just as it finished resting and was about to be carved:
There was a lot of food to accompany the roast beef, including a rich gravy, Yorkshire puddings, brussels sprouts cooked with lardons and walnuts, and roast parsnips and potatoes roasted in duck fat. Here’s my plate:
Having polished off the roast beef, accompanied by several bottles of good red wines, including a delicious Châteauneuf-du-Pape provided by our friend Janice, it was time for a break — with the cheese course.
Once again, we had done our shopping at the Fabrice le Chef boutique, and bought three selections, including one of my personal favourites, Morbier. We accompanied the cheeses with a selection of fruit and a jar of Suzanne’s homemade fig chutney. Here’s our cheese board:
To end the meal, we decided to have two dessert courses. First came slices of Jan’s Poire William semifreddo, which we drizzled with her caramel-espresso sauce. I was so anxious to dig into my serving that I didn’t stop for a photo until I had already taken several bites. Here it is:
Our seventh course, and second dessert, was all about tradition: a flaming Christmas pudding, also brought in from Scotland. Here it is, flaming nicely, before being served with the traditional brandy butter:
The pudding finished, we headed back to the living room to chat, sing, digest our meals, and drink a bit of single malt.
But don’t worry — we didn’t leave for home until enough time had passed, and enough coffee consumed, that we drove quite safely. And Jan and I still had enough time left to Skype and telephone family in Toronto and Sarasota, Florida, who are six hours behind us.
So, forget the “Bah, humbug!” stuff. For us, it’s been a Merry Christmas.