Roast pork? Sweet!

At the start of the month, my wife Jan and I tried the new take-out service from Daglan’s own lovely restaurant, Le Petit Paris.  I described the event in the posting “A restaurant comes to us,” on April 2.

Yesterday we ordered the restaurant’s take-out dish for our Sunday lunch, and even more happiness ensued. While Jan and I had different desserts, we both had the same main course —porc au caramel — and were fairly stunned by how good it was.

First, a few comments on pork, from my posting “A brine too far” (February 13, 2019):

 I’m a sucker for pork. When we lived in Toronto and would go out to dinner, it was a no-brainer for me to choose the daily special, as long as it was something like “A thick-cut maple-glazed pork chop.” Unfortunately, chewing the meat sometimes was like eating “thick-cut maple-glazed cardboard.” That’s because (I think) North American pigs have become leaner and leaner, so that there is not nearly as much flavourful fat marbling through the meat. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here in France, where we find the pork generally very tasty.

Given my love of pork, I was quite looking forward to our lunch from Le Petit Paris, but I  didn’t hold out any particular hope for the au caramel part of the dish; I figured it would just be a normal roast with a glaze on top. And that’s sort of what it looked like, as you’ll see on my plate below  (which also includes a delicious purée of sweet potato from the restaurant, and some white asparagus that Jan cooked):

My serving of pork, before being sliced.

But no! In fact, when I tried cutting into the pork with my steak knife, it virtually fell apart. So in fact what we had was a very slow-cooked dish of pork, smothered in a sweet sauce that I loved; it was like the slow-cooked barbecue you’re served in the U.S. South, but with a caramel sauce instead of barbecue sauce. Have a look:

A light touch with my knife was all that was needed.

For these main courses (pork and sweet potato) we paid 11 euros each, and for the desserts, just 4 euros each. Jan’s gluten-free choice was a lovely dish of panna cotta, topped with fresh strawberries:

Fresh strawberries, tasty panna cotta.

My dessert was the chocolate fondant — a rich chocolate cake with melted chocolate at its heart. Have a look:

Chocolate fondant in a creamy pool.

If there is any one ongoing, nagging criticism about Le Petit Paris, it’s that the menu doesn’t change very much. Based on yesterday’s lunch, I’d suggest one positive change would be to make porc au caramel a regular on the menu.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Notes from our lock-down, April 24

As I’m sure you know, or can guess, life here in the small village of Daglan tends to be pretty quiet — but these days we are setting new records for quiet. Bird song seems louder, and we perk up a bit when we hear a truck rumble through the village, but that’s about it. Still, life goes on during the Covid-19 lock-down, and here are a few notes.

Some good communication. We have been impressed with the communication program of our Mairie de Daglan — the office of the Mayor. Recently we received in our mailbox  a four-page newsletter full of reminders, advice, and news, including directions on making a face mask, and a reminder that the restaurants La Cantine and Le Petit Paris are offering take-out foods. As well, I receive email bulletins from the Mairie; the latest reported that the large déchetterie near Cénac had re-opened. (Daglan has bins for household garbage, glass bottles and jars, and recyclable materials, but the area’s  large déchetteries are staffed, and are able to accept much more waste — including tree branches, lumber, and small appliances.)

Spring has truly sprung. Although it’s hard to get as excited as usual about the arrival of spring — I mean, we can’t go to cafés and sit outdoors to enjoy the sun — but the warmer weather is still welcome, and it’s comforting to see the plants coming to life and the flowers blooming. As an example, here’s a display of glycine — wisteria in English — on  a fence across from the village Mairie:

A pretty good display of wisteria.

And here’s the walnut tree in a neighbour’s garden, across from our house, showing that most of its leaves are already out:

A walnut tree in leaf.

All set for Sunday lunch. As noted above, and in my post of April 2 (“A restaurant comes to us”), Daglan’s lovely restaurant Le Petit Paris is offering take-out dishes. For this coming Sunday, my wife Jan and I have decided to try the porc au caramel with sweet potatoes, as well as desserts: chocolate fondant for me, panna cotta for Jan. Here’s the restaurant’s full menu:

We’ve made our choice — Sunday lunch it is!

And beyond all this excitement? Well, exercising; having breakfast; reading; watching television; drinking Viognier; and communicating with friends via Skype and telephone and email. You know — the usual lock-down range of activities.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Eating out, by eating in

Dining out is one of our favourite activities, as regular readers of Radio Free Daglan know full well. But these days, that’s just not happening. France has been quite clear about closing restaurants, cafes and bars, to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus. This (and many other measures) seem to be having an effect, but I suspect we are still a long way from the all-clear.

Faced with a huge loss of business, some nearby restaurants have turned to offering take-out dishes, in order to earn at least some income during this miserable and challenging time. One example is Daglan’s own Le Petit Paris, whose take-out offering I described in “A restaurant comes to us,” posted April 2. But here are a couple more.

On Saturday, my wife Jan picked up our lunches from Sawadee, the authentic Thai restaurant in Cénac, a 15-minute drive from Daglan. Sawadee’s Pad Thai is excellent, so that’s what we ordered, for 13 euros each. Here’s my generous portion:

Quite a plateful!

Back in Daglan, La Cantine has also been offering take-out food, and so that’s where we ordered our Sunday lunch. For 15 euros, Fabrice le Chef provided this roast chicken, shown here on the cutting board at our home:

Ready to be carved.

With the roast chicken, Fabrice also provided (for 5 euros) a generous serving of gratin dauphinois (baked slices of potato with milk, cream, garlic and nutmeg) which was absolutely delicious. To complete our meal, Jan cooked some green beans, resulting in a lunch that looked like this:

My Sunday lunch plate.

Now we don’t need to (or want to) do the take-out option every day. Today, for instance, we had rabbit legs that Jan cooked in a red-wine-and-tomato sauce, using a favourite recipe from English chef Rick Stein. Fortunately, our food shopping has been going fairly well — no evidence of hoarding, with good supplies of foodstuffs available. Still, it’s nice to know that take-out food is an option, and that it’s an option helping our local restaurants.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Trash Talk 3: Storm clouds ahead

With any luck, waste disposal in the Greater Daglan Area (the disposal of household garbage and recyclables) is not going to become a standing feature of this blog. However, there is now enough evidence to suggest that it’s time for me to add a third  post on the topic, following my posts of February 7 and February 16.

In those first postings, I struck what I thought was a generally positive note. The new bins that were being installed at several locations around Daglan early in the year looked nice and modern. However, there were concerns — mostly about their capacity. Previously, household garbage and packaging to be recycled were placed in very large bins on wheels, with covers. The new bins not only looked smaller, but it seemed that there were fewer of them.

It now turns out that the concerns about the new, modern bins were well founded. Several days ago, I made my first journey to one of the collection points. With a load of household garbage, glass bottles, and cardboard cartons, I drove to the bins now located on the parking lot of Daglan’s salle des fêtes, or community hall.

There are only three bins there — one for garbage, one for packaging to be recycled, and one for glass jars and bottles. And guess what? The bin for packaging was already packed. Impossible to stuff in any more cardboard.

So then I drove over to the bins now sitting beside the parking lot next to the village cemetery. And although I didn’t have a huge amount of cardboard, it seems that I managed to fill one of the bins all by myself. By the way, here’s what the bins look like:

Here are some of the bins near the cemetery.

Then, yesterday, I returned to the same row of bins with yet more waste — including a number of cardboard boxes that we had broken down and flattened. And things were even worse — all of the bins designated for packaging material were already full. I did manage to squeeze a couple of smaller bits of cardboard into one of the bins — but finally had to concede defeat. So I placed the remaining flattened boxes, as neatly as I could, beside one of the bins.

This is not just a problem for me. In fact, we have a number of  friends and acquaintances  who are really incensed about the state of waste disposal here — including the fact that some of the bins have been placed near their homes. And if there are simply not enough bins, then people will (inevitably) put the excess waste on the ground, around the bins. And it won’t just be cardboard — it could include household waste, creating a handy take-out restaurant for vermin.

Photos of the unsightly clumps of garbage around bins that are already overloaded are now appearing on Facebook — and believe me, the language used to describe the problem is pretty angry. So, there are storm clouds ahead, and not very far ahead.

Posted in Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Another tale of two vines

April is the right time for my more-or-less annual report on our glycine — that would be wisteria, to you — that are growing vibrantly across the front of our home in Daglan. My last report on the subject was “A leader and a laggard,” posted on April 2, 2019.

Leading down from our front door is a set of steps, and to either side of the stairs is a wisteria vine that I planted a few years ago.

About the vines themselves, we have no complaints. Okay, we do — first, they grow so quickly that it’s a real chore trimming them back through the spring and summer.  Second, they are not proven producers of flowers, unlike some of the plants we see throughout the Greater Daglan Area.

This April, the real winner is the vine on the right side of our house. The loser, obviously, is the one on the left. In this photo of the left-hand vine, you may be able to spot a rather pathetic attempt at a flower, slowly developing:

Weak, weak, weak.

In sharp contrast, the vine on the right side of the house has been cranking out blooms — long, intricate, lacy things with small light-violet flowers — at a furious pace. Here it is:

Now this is more like it!

If this discrepancy continues for many more years, we may need to take drastic action. I am even thinking of leaving the left-hand vine out of my will. That’ll fix it!

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A restaurant comes to us

Restaurants throughout France, as in so many other countries, are closed these days, as governments try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. And much as my wife Jan and I enjoy restaurants in the Greater Daglan Area, we think the closures make a lot of sense. A necessary evil, if you will.

Some restaurants, however, are offering a special service by providing food to take out. And because of a phone call from our friend Rosemary, my wife Jan learned that Daglan’s own lovely restaurant Le Petit Paris is one of those. In fact, the restaurant is posting its daily dishes on a sign board in front. No entrées; only main courses (one per day); and a couple of desserts. Main dishes only 11 euros.

So on Tuesday evening, Jan and I decided we would try the main dish for Wednesday — lamb curry — and she phoned the restaurant, speaking directly with Madame Guilbot (Martine), the charming hostess (and wife of chef Sylvain), who knows us quite well. When Jan reminded her that the food should not contain any wheat flour (because Jan is allergic to gluten), Martine said that of course the chef knew all about it. Pick-up time was set for 12:30.

At precisely 12:30 on Wednesday, Jan headed out for the short walk to the restaurant — only to find that Madame Guilbot was walking down the street towards our house, carrying our lunch. Such service! I was in the kitchen at the time, and I could hear the two women chatting in the street below, and could tell that Madame Guilbot was apologizing for something, though I couldn’t hear the details. In any case, Jan came into our house in a few minutes, bearing a number of serving containers.

To kick off, here’s a look at my plate of lamb curry with rice, which I thought was well cooked and nicely flavoured, although perhaps not as spicy as the Indian food that Jan makes (quite often, actually):

Not very spicy, but still yummy.

As it turned out, there had been a mistake, and Madame Guilbot was most apologetic. It seems that Chef had forgotten about the no-wheat-flour request, and had indeed used some flour as a thickener in the sauce. So, what to do? Well, the restaurant not only offered Jan her own lunch — a slow-cooked piece of beef in a rich and dark, gluten-free sauce — but provided us with another lamb curry at no charge (which I had for lunch today). Here’s Jan’s beef and rice dish:

No steak knife needed!

When Jan learned that she was  having beef for lunch, instead of curry, she changed cutting implements and brought out one of our steak knives. As it turned out, the normal table knife was just fine, because the meat was so tender it virtually fell apart.

Now, for your interest, here’s a look at Le Petit Paris’s menu for the week, as it’s currently set out:

A week’s worth of dishes.

And if you’re new to Daglan, here’s a look at the front of the restaurant, in a photo I took this morning while out for a walk:

The restaurant, just behind our village’s war memorial.

We’re pretty fortunate to have such a restaurant in our little village. Since 2005, Le Petit Paris has been listed in the red Michelin guide as a bib gourmand eatery, with two fourchettes (forks).

We have no doubt that we’ll be choosing from the restaurant again. In fact, I was pushing for tomorrow or Saturday. But Jan says it will be early next week, and so I’m pretty confident that’s what we will agree upon.

Posted in Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A few Monday brighteners

As the Covid-19 pandemic has cast a pall over much of daily life, I thought it would be worthwhile to write a short post featuring some bright spots — namely some early signs of spring arriving in the Greater Daglan Area.

Strawberry Fields Forever. A couple of our best friends in the U.K. have discovered a company that delivers live plants through the mail. So one Christmas, our friends sent us a small olive tree, since I’d been complaining that it was hard for me to find the right kind of olives for my nightly martini. (Sadly, the little tree passed away after two years, before bearing fruit.)

This past Christmas, our gift was a couple of beautiful little plants — alpine strawberries, also known as fraises des bois. I was nervous about leaving the two plants outdoors all winter, but the plant company assured me that they were hardy to -10 degrees C.

So I planted them — and here’s one of them, in a planter on our front steps, looking hearty and healthy. As the weather warms up, I’ve been assured, the plants will provide lots of fruit through the summer months. Alpine strawberries are quite small, but very sweet, and I’m looking forward to the harvest. You may see a flower in the photo below, a sure sign that there’s fruit on the way.

Can you spot the flower?

Pretty in blue. Yesterday, I walked over to the (now vacant) holiday home of some friends, barely a few meters from our house, in order to ride the stationary bike we had moved to one of their downstairs rooms. On the way back home, I was struck by some lovely blue flowers, which I believe are periwinkles (but please correct me if I’m off base). In any case, here’s one of them:

A slow learner. Quite some months ago, my wife Jan bought a lovely rhododendron plant to place on the steps leading up to our house. Its leaves were glossy, it was covered with buds, and the buds looked like they were ready to burst into bloom. And they still look like that:

Lots of buds, but no flowers — yet.

I guess it’s a slow learner, or else it’s waiting until our weather turns from “not very cold” to “actually hot.” I am keeping a close watch.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments