Time to dine

To follow up last week’s post about customs in French restaurants, I thought it would be appropriate to whet your appetite with some food pictures!!  WARNING – if you are feeling hungry, do not read any further – have something to eat first!! 🙂

The first meal in this post was at Auberge de l’Ecole in Saint-Jean-de-Minervois.  The kitchen at Auberge de l’Ecole is run by Brigitte – her style of food is down-to-earth regional cooking, and her cassoulet is very good and highly recommended!  Here are three starters:

Salad with goats cheese, smoked duck breast and pears

Beef carpaccio

Marinated sardines

Main courses:

Brigitte’s famous cassoulet

Braised lamb shank – very tender!

Grilled squid with Persillade (parsley and garlic)

L’Ecailler Gourmet in Narbonne is a restaurant which serves fish – and only fish – there’s no meat on the menu!  What they serve depends on the catch, and so the fish is always very fresh, and always expertly cooked!  A nice touch in this restaurant is the fact that they bring the fish to the table before it is cooked, so you can drool over what you’ll get while you wait 🙂

Fresh fish for three!

Gratinated oysters

Salmon mousse duo – smoked and fresh salmon

The main courses were beautifully presented and the fish oh-so-good!!

Swordfish steaks

Mixed grill – salmon, cod and prawn

Grilled sea bream fillets

Desserts are always important to me – I adore them!  The desserts in the pictures below tasted every bit as good as they looked!!

Variation on banoffee pie

Peach and strawberry soup

Fresh strawberries with strawberry sauce

The Guinguette du Chichoulet restaurant is right by the water, on the marina at Port Chichoulet, near Vendres Plage.

The food was simple, and service was very friendly!

Marinated sardines

A selection of deep fried food – squid rings, prawns and potoatoes

The mussels were plump and juicy, and the prawns cooked just so.

Moules mariniere

Grilled prawns

The bar/restaurant Le Vernazobre in Saint-Chinian was taken over by Murielle and Jeremy in autumn last year.  For the moment, food is served only at lunchtime, but during the summer months they will be serving food in the evenings too.  I’ve been a number of times recently, and have enjoyed my meal each time.  The choice of dishes on the menu is small, and the food is simple and well prepared.

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Salad with tuna fish and hard boiled eggs

Goat’s cheese parcel

I was assured that the steak was tender – and it was very good indeed!

Grilled steak

Pork chop with creamy sauce

Seafood pie

Have you tried any of these restaurants yourself or any others in this area that you especially liked??  Do you have any tips to share??

Restaurants in France

I came across this post on francetaste, and I hope that you find it as interesting as I did!

Taste of France

place carnotFrom what I’ve read, for some people even an IRS audit would be less stressful than ordering a meal from a French waiter.

Yet one of the Top Things to Do While Traveling in France is eating. It doesn’t have to be stressful. Here’s how.

menu chinese russian 2First of all, get the restaurant right. If you go to the big place right on the waterfront or whatever the main tourist draw of your destination is, then you can almost be sure that it isn’t going to be good, and the waiters aren’t going to care. This is true worldwide.

trilingualBut if you’re in France, it’s doubly a crime, because France is a place where you can have absolutely heavenly food, from the finest of haute cuisine to humble yet delicious dives. Bad food is practically criminal here.

The French diner uses the power of the purse to punish restaurants for bad cooking…

View original post 1,629 more words

A feast of taste

It’s high time I wrote another food related post!  Luckily, I discovered a new restaurant last weekend, with the help of Charlotte and Phil from Languedoc Living!  I met Charlotte and Phil last fall, through mutual friends.  We immediately got to talking about food and restaurants, and agreed to go together to L’Ortensia in Saint-Gervais-sur-Marer!  Charlotte booked a table for last Saturday lunchtime, and so I drove to Saint-Gervais-sur-Mare on a grey and rainy day, along the beautiful Orb valley and over a mountain, to reach the village where L’Ortensia is located.

The restaurant is in a late 19th century mansion (set in a park), which had been bought by the local council some time ago.  The mansion sits high above the village, and it’s park was once a hydrangea nursery.  In 2013, after years of complete renovation, the property opened its doors to the public once more.  The kitchen is run by Eric Balan, who has worked with Alain Ducasse and Marc Veyrat.  His partner, Patricia Rochette, looks after the front of house.

The first impression was one of stark modernity.  A modern glass and metal conservatory extension to the main building serves as the entrance from the car park.  Stairs and a lift go down to the restaurant, which is two floors below.  However, Patricia’s warm welcome immediately broke the ice, and we were soon seated at a round table near the fireplace, where a lovely fire warmed us all.

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Once we’d had a chance to catch up with Charlotte and Phil, we turned to the menus and decided to go for the Menu Plaisir – and a pleasure it definitely was!

The meal started with a Prelude Gourmand, something to get us in the mood for what was to come!   First, we were served a tray of wonderful little morsels, to accompany our aperitif:  Roquefort macarons, crisp linseed “sails”, prunes wrapped in bacon, chorizo madeleines, and in the beaker four straws made with air-dried ham and filo pastry.  All incredibly delicious!!

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Then came an amuse bouche, a small bowl of mussel soup, very delicate, with tiny mussels and a sprinkling of pungent spring onions.

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The starter was pan-fried foie gras, served with quince puree and cranberries.  The foie gras was perfectly cooked and the flavour combination worked really well.  The red cabbage sprouts added an earthy note, which paired very well with the foie gras and the quince.

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After a little interlude, our fish course arrived.  Seared scallops were served on a bed of salsify puree, and garnished with pink grapefruit and bergamot lemon zest.  The citrus fruit in combination with the scallops was very delicious!  And the pretty looking baby leaves were of course edible too!

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Pigeon breast in a gingerbread crust was the main course, accompanied by different members of the brassica tribe: romanesco, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cress, and thin slices of radish.  Someone in the kitchen was having fun, and we enjoyed eating it!! 🙂

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Our dessert had a very sculpted look – two curved biscuits were holding a delicious “blond” chocolate cream, topped with pears poached in red wine, cubes of pear jelly, and citrus sorbet.  It was a sublime combination of flavours, and a dessert which had been very carefully constructed.  The “blond” chocolate used for the cream was Valrhona’s Orelys; the poached pear was a poire martin sec, an old (and mostly forgotten)  French variety of pear which is perfect cooked in red wine; the citrus sorbet was made with calamondines, a hybrid between a kumquat and a mandarin orange.  The sorbet was sharp with an incredible citrus flavour, a perfect foil for the sweetness of the chocolate cream.

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After dessert came coffee, and with it Les Mignardises – a beautiful selection of treats to round off this wonderful meal.  The beaker held a coffee foam;  the chocolate lollipop was flavoured with pear, and the madeleine with rhubarb.

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What a fantastic meal – wonderful food AND great company!

On the way back I stopped at Colombieres sur Orb to take a picture of the rather spectacular waterfall.

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Just by the waterfall is the starting point for a marked walk, up the Gorges de Colombieres – it looks like a really interesting hike, and I’ve earmarked it for the spring!

Changing places

Earlier this year, I wrote about a visit to Restaurant O’Bontemps in Magalas, and reported the sad fact that the restaurant was to close its doors.  Since then I’ve been keeping an eye out for where and when Olivier and Emmanuelle Bontemps might be opening their new venue.  I recently found on social media that they had taken a lease on a space next to the main library in Beziers, the Mediatheque, and that they had just recently opened their new restaurant O Petits Bontemps for business!!  I was planning a visit to a number of places in Beziers for the European Heritage Weekend, which took place on September 17th and 18th this year.  Florence Nash, who was staying at Acanthus, wanted to treat us, so after a quick phone call I had a reservation for lunch on the Saturday, and a whole lot of interesting places to visit – a perfect day out in the making!  The write-ups of the restaurant had been very good, so I was very much looking forward to it!

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The mediatheque opened in 2008 as part of the new university campus in Beziers, on what was once the site of army barracks.  Today, modern buildings with a fair bit of glass surround a large and empty space.

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The restaurant is at one end of the library, and its terrace overlooks the square.  The weather was unfortunately  a little too windy on the day we went for lunch, so we sat inside.

The restaurant interior has been given a complete makeover by BOH Décoration et Lifestyle, an interior design company from Bordeaux.

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The dominant colours are pink and grey, with a little nod to Alice in Wonderland here and there! 🙂

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The lunch menu changes on a regular basis.  These were the choices on the day we went:

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Here is the starter:

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An egg, which has been poached at low temperature, so that it is barely cooked, sits atop an interpretation of tabouleh: grains, croutons and razor clams in a most wonderful broth, the whole sprinkled with flower petals and the egg crowned with deep-fried crispy noodles.  A great start to the meal!!

The three of us chose two of the main courses on offer – before you ask, we had one main course each, but two of us had the same, the neck of lamb, which was prepared like a tagine:

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The curried mackerel was the other main course that we chose.  The fish was cooked just perfectly and only very lightly spiced.

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For dessert, all three of us opted for the chocolate and caramel dome.  The presentation was fabulous, and it tasted every bit as good as it looked!!

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The three course lunch is priced at €22.00, and the restaurant is open from 10am to 6pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.  On Friday the restaurant is open for lunch AND dinner.  Reservations are essential – telephone 04 67 36 20 82 to book.

Thank you for the treat, Florence!

Fou de Sud

A little while ago, my “garden neighbours” told me about a new restaurant Fou de Sud on the outskirts of Montpellier.  Their son is a consultant for catering businesses, and he had recommended this place to his parents, who had promptly tried it and were smitten.  Word of mouth is always the best advertising, and the least costly!!  🙂

I made a note of the name of the restaurant and looked up where it was, and the next time I was in Montpellier I went to eat there.  Fou de Sud loosely translates as “Crazy for the South”, and the place is more of a concept than a restaurant. The name may be a bilingual double-entendre = “Food de Sud” — because that’s what it’s all about, much more so than the straight French meaning (thank you Annie!).  The restaurant is part of a “market hall”, which was started by seven associates, each an expert in his field, with the aim of showcasing the best food products the South of France has to offer.  Appropriately, the establishment is in the building of the Sud de France marketing consortium, which promotes products from the South of France all over France and worldwide.

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The building appears to be brand-spanking-new, and it is very striking!  Unfortunately, the access to the car park is a little tricky; blink and you miss it, or in this case, I missed it! 🙂  But I got there in the end!!

The market hall is large and very well stocked, both with groceries and fresh produce.  The meat and fish counters were very inviting and tempting!  One of the ideas behind the concept is to sell from producer direct to consumer, bypassing the traditional distribution methods and reducing the carbon impact of food and shopping.  80% of the items for sale are produced in the South of France, and there are around 2000 different types of product from over 50 producers.

After I’d had a good look at what was on offer, and made a mental note of all the wonderful foods I wanted to buy later, I went into the restaurant.  There’s a long counter, behind which you can see the chefs prepare the food!  And you can also have a look at some of the wonderful desserts!! 🙂

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Since the weather was beautiful, I decided to have lunch outside.  The restaurant has a terrace which is surrounded by glass, and which can be covered with sails for shade.  As you can see, it was pretty busy!

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The food was delicious too!!

octopus salad

Octopus salad

Steak Tartare with wonderful home-made fries

Steak Tartare with wonderful home-made fries and salad

Strawberry mousse

Strawberry mousse

chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

Before you ask –  no, I did not eat all this by myself – there were two of us!! 🙂  I’m not normally a fan of raw meat, but, having seen the meat counter, I knew that it would be perfectly fresh, and it was incredibly good!!  The fries were very good too!  And can you tell which dessert I had??  Of course the chocolate one – and it was pretty spectacular!

All in all a very good meal and a great place to stop at, if you are in the vicinity!

Fou de Sud is located at 3840 Avenue Georges Freche, 34470 Perols (a suburb of Montpellier).

 

Food, glorious food

Of late I have neglected writing about restaurants.  It’s true that I’ve not been getting out all that much recently, but nonetheless I have a few meals to share with you, from restaurants that I have visited over the past few months, and whose delicious food is worth writing about!

First on is Les Cuisiniers Cavistes in Narbonne. If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you may remember the gourmet walk in Saint-Jean-de-Minervois last year.  Les Cuisiniers Cavistes provided the excellent food for that event.  The restaurant sits on a little square, just across the road from the Musee Lapidaire, where all the bits of Roman carved stone are exhibited (something for another blog post).  I visited on a beautifully sunny day last October.

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The lunchtime prix fixe menu was not extensive but offered a good choice.  Since it was autumn, I opted for the pumpkin soup with wild porcini mushrooms and foie gras.

P1000631 My dining companion chose an autumnal salad (Meli Melo), which contained celeriac, brussels sprouts, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions and Spanish ham.P1000629

There were two dishes to choose from for the main course – easy – we had one of each!! 🙂

Here is the filet of cod, served with haricot bean puree and whole haricot beans, veal gravy, and thin strips of cured lard:

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I went for the carnivore option and had the duck breast, on a bed of roasted vegetables:

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There were two desserts to choose from.  I opted for profiteroles, which were filled with vanilla ice cream:

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My dining companion chose the chestnut tiramisu, which was served with chocolate sorbet and gingerbread crumbs.

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The entire meal was very delicious, and as you can see, the portions were not on the small side.  On top of that, the autumn weather was glorious, so it was a pretty perfect lunch!

Another memorable meal happened more or less by coincidence, on the way back from visiting an art exhibition in Serignan (see post here).  It was getting late, and we were getting hungry.  I remembered that friends had mentioned a place by the marina at Port Chichoulet in Vendres, and since we were close by, we thought we’d have a look.

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There’s really not very much going on at Port Chichoulet, unless you have a sailing boat in the marina, or want to go birdwatching in the nearby marshland.  There is a large building at the end of the quay, and three buildings, which, for want of a better word, I will call shacks.  The shacks all serve food, and our friends had recommended that we try the one in the middle, which is called L’Etal du bateau Joel et Valerie III.

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Since it was a little chilly outside we opted for eating inside.  The restaurant was very charmingly decorated with all kinds of things maritime.

But we’d come for the food – the fish!!  Joel Rodriguez, the owner of the restaurant, also has a fishing boat, which is called Joel et Valerie III.  I am assuming that Valerie is his wife? All of the fish served at the restaurant is his catch.

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The razor clams looked very tempting, but I’ll have to try them another time…

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On the menu there is fish and only fish!  The way it works is that the diners select the fish they want at the counter, and then it’s freshly cooked for them on a plancha, a cast iron grill plate.

We opted to share a portion of grilled squid to start with, which came to the table perfectly cooked:

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With the food there were no accompaniments, no vegetables, no french fries!!  But there is plenty of good crusty bread, and some aioli and garlic and parsley dressing.

For our main course we ordered a duo of dorade – dorade grise (black bream) and dorade royale (regular bream).  Our waitress recommended that we start with the black bream. Again, the fish was absolutely perfectly cooked.  I got a little carried away and almost forgot to take a picture!! 🙂

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To compensate, I took some shots of the food for some of the other tables, just before it was taken to the tables:

So if you enjoy good fish, think about visiting Port Chichoulet in Vendres – it might be an idea to telephone ahead (+33 628 350 590), to make sure that Joel et Valerie will be open.