Sunday, 17 June 2012

First Vin Doux meal

Just to set your minds at rest - last evening's meal was very good. It was elegantly served, well-seasoned, pretty, with some surprises and copious.  
First, the mayor made his second speech in 2 days - he hates making speeches and keeps them very short. 

Jean-Louis orates
First course

 For apéritif I drank a kir royale with crème de pêche - a very elegant drink and I think better than the classic blackcurrant - and it was a discovery for me. We'll be drinking more of that! This sparked a conversation about Champagne and how much our immediate table neighbours like it and me of course, I like it too. And I discovered something else I have to try - soupe de Champagne - which is a red fruit salad with Champagne. The conversation then went on to champagne sauerkraut which surprised me - someone (not me) said what a waste and was roundly defeated - the fresh sauerkraut is cooked in champagne and apparently all is then very well. After that Gilberte mentioned fish sauerkraut and I lost interest in cabbage products and went back to bubbly. Anyway...

First course: iced melon soup with mint, an aromatic grissini with jambon de pays and beetroot sprouts as garnish. Delicious - fresh tasting, nice presentation and surprisingly filling. I really liked the sprouts but they were not universally adored - mostly just ignored.

Second course

Second course: saddle of rabbit with Mediterranean vegetables,  polenta from locally grown organic maize, tapenade (which was delicious with the polenta) and a piece of tomato confit - also excellent. The rabbit was perfectly cooked, which is not necessarily easy with saddle and the medley of vegetables perfectly diced and cooked to an unctuous yet not slimy sauce. My vis à vis had never eaten polenta - she polished it all off, doesn't like olives but ate her tapenade with the polenta and doesn't like peppers but enjoyed the sauce because she couldn't pick out the things she didn't like. Hah! I did see that one old giffer didn't even touch his polenta - his loss I'd say - enormous portions. Oh, and leek sprouts as garnish.

Our just desserts

White chocolate mousse with strawberries and spun sugar. KK says it looked like golden dragonfly wings - truly elegant, beautiful and delicious. Delicate and light as a cloud. Lovely meal - really good food - what more could we ask for???

Pot de l'amitié - Le Vin Doux

Aurélie greeting
Are we happy? Yes, we are. Happy as bubbly, rum punch, wine and tasty nibbles can make a person or 100 odd people, which is quite happy. And noisy. And warm. Lots of happy people came out in the sunny evening to see what was up. They came smiling and stayed quite a while, smiling more and more. 
I was told that the punch was not very alcoholic. I knew better and I was right. The person who made it said it was traitorous and I agree. However, it was delicious with dark and light rum, orange juice, guava 
 juice (yum), cinnamon, vanilla... I did taste it, just to make sure. It really was delicious. Left hand, rum punch, right hand, bubbly. One has to be very sure.

A short speechette by the mayor and a nice welcome speech by Aurélie - Isa disappeared into the kitchen when asked to say anything. The place looks nice, shelves are up in the bar, the footie was on telly for the kids and others. The Illy espresso machine is installed - hello daughter! Basic groceries are available for purchase and local goods will be added. There will be a bar menu for those who want to eat, drink and watch the footie or who are too tired to go home and heat up a frozen pizza. Beer pumps are on and they have gas in the kitchen as from this evening. Isa cooked a lot of the stuff for tonight in her own personal kitchen - hmm. And they still don't have all the cold space they need. 

Me talking to Isa

So, quiche which was universally acclaimed, canapés, pinxos, or toasts - whatever you want to call them with peppers (red and green) topped with mozarella (made for me because I wanted peppers for tomorrow evening and Isa noticed my rude pining behaviour 3 days ago when we chose the menu). Also, she remembered that I am allergic to nutmeg and put no nutmeg in anything - I think I'm in love. Then there were sausage rolls - pretty nice, and my favourite - little choux pastries with smoked salmon, whipped cream, dill and lemon - I know because I asked (only because of the allergies, natch). I had to check they were all right and by the fifth I was pretty sure they were good. The cream went every where - an elderly gent I didn't know wiped his hand on my Gerard Darel silk shirt  (that's what I wore) in a friendly fashion and then explained that it wouldn't show so much on my shirt as on his, because mine is a leopard print. Hmm. Many children, happy older people, happy councillors, happy mayor.

The Bar
Happy punch drinkers

As an aside, at home between the plastering, painting, glueing and etc. we found another hen's nest today with a new egg from a different hen. At some point I may bore you with the entire saga of hens, narcolepsy and escapology. For now, as we wait for the other Cécile to appear demanding a tasty supper snack (there really is another Cécile who does not live here and is not me). It will be mushroom soup, with the leftover chanterelle white wine cream sauce I served with pork chops in the week and pâté and stuff with Gérald the baker's bread and some fresh apricots or cherries. Simple and just as well given the amount of bubbly one consumed...

Happy children

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mea culpa & HUGE NEWS

We’ve been in the other yellow kitchen for 6 weeks and I haven’t written one word of blog. There are many excuses I could make, none of which are interesting, unless you are imminently visiting – i.e. the bathroom is nearly ready and the guest quarters look lovely. Also KK has planted a garden – which is important food news. 50 tomato plants, salading, herbs, a new raised bed and incipient tidiness in other garden zones.

There has been excellent food, naturally. The lovely daughter was already here when we arrived and had been subsisting entirely on canned and bottled products from the cellar. Lucky her. Our first guests arrived four days after we did. The Blacksmith gave us one of his late geese to eat on the 8th of May (VE day) after much post ceremony drinking and eating of the baker’s snacks and petits fours. The Blacksmith’s lady hereinafter known as the Artist, gave us an enormous rabbit which I cooked, as usual in white wine and mustard. More about rabbit some other time – rabbit will feature much in our diet, since the Artist has a gift for rodent rearing. Our nice guests also took us to Chez Poirier (see previous eulogies) where a suitably delicious and gargantuan meal was eaten after perusing the Monday market in Chalais.  There are also photos of food somewhere in a camera which will form part of a blog at some point. 

The main point of this meandering is to tell the world that the bar restaurant in Petit Bersac is opening on Monday. 

I can’t tell you how excited we are! If you thought we were excited about the bakery … well...

Officially, the restaurant opens on Monday 18th June 2012 at noon and I proudly reserved the first table. Yes! But tomorrow – Friday 15th at 5pm the village is invited to aperitifs and nibbles to meet the restaurant ladies. There will be photos, there will be excitement, there has been gossip. Two women with a small red-headed and adorable child; the mother of the chef was an accountant and now looks after the baby. Isabelle (call me Isa, I’m shy and I love food) the chef, and Aurélie (I manage stuff) who will do everything else except build stuff and hew wood – Isa does that. Likeable, competent, enthusiastic, brave and, above all here, in our newly renovated bar, grocery, restaurant. We are excited, proud, and we wish them all the very, very best. Please be successful and please stay. 

Le Vin Doux, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from dawn to late for coffee and drinks and buying a bag of pasta. Local food, produced by local people, fresh – there is no freezer – modern and respectful of tradition. 

And I’ll be there on Saturday too – the council is having first dinner there and significant others are invited (KK is quietly pleased). So there will be news – I know what the menu is because I chose it and I’m not telling, but I'm quietly confident.

So, three days in a row - what shall I wear??!!!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Point Pinos Grill

Point Pinos Grill, Pacific Grove, California: it was an excellent meal. But I forgot my photographic device and took some very mediocre pics with my cell phone and I have no idea how to put them on here. So, not many pics but excellent food and a very pleasant ambiance. 

We went for several reasons: BGK has been here several times for lunch and breakfast; the restaurant is trying to establish a dinner clientèle amid some grumblings from local Pacific Grove residents about possible noise and nuisances. I can only speak for ourselves but we were neither noisy nor a nuisance...I think. The restaurant is housed in the golf club house with a day-time view of golf course and sea. It's a nice space in the evening too - lots of window and stone with restrained furnishings and proper napery, cutlery and glassware. The wait staff were pleasant and discreet, knowledgeable and helpful. One of the two chefs, Dory Ford was chef at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I am told - cooking for people rather than the finny ones I imagine. The little freshly baked biscuits were too good - they demanded to be eaten. The menu is interesting: from amongst the many appetizers we chose to share the Dungeness Crab and Foraged Mushroom Strudel which provided a more than decently sized fully-flavoured bite for each of us. Delicious. We drank a good wine from Navarre in Northern Spain. 

BGK chose to eat Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche for her meal and we chose not to taste it. Her report is that it was very good but not as good we do it - but, you know, that's a hard act to follow. The rest of us decided to split three main courses and share equitably - always a gamble! AK chose Maple Bourbon Pork Belly which came with a bread pudding leek waffle - what a good invention - and pickled chanterelles. The pork was glossy and slow cooked, the waffle surprising and very good in flavour and texture. 

KK opted for Dijon Crusted Arctic Char with braised endive, a triangular spinach risotto cake (a big improvement on risotto balls) and a pomegranate gastrique. I'm a bit iffy about all this gastrique business (see but it was tartly delicious with the tasty, crispy skin of the fish. I had never eaten char and I recommend it, firm-fleshed and slightly pink, it stood up well to being the last of the three dishes I ate and thus slightly cooler than one might prefer. 

I chose the dish pictured below - a simply fabulous Rabbit Fricassee with baby potatoes in red, white and blue, carrot dumplings (not my favourite), cubed, roasted salsify (excellent) and a tasty but misplaced Quince Mostarda (mostarda is defined by Wiki as an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavoured syrup) - for me, the mostarda was too emphatic and sweet but would have been delicious with the Foie Gras, and the carrot dumpling was heavy and tasted a little of baking powder. The rabbit though, was one of the best rabbit dishes I had ever eaten (and I do a very good Rabbit in Mustard, White Wine and Crème Fraîche - yes I do) was perfectly cooked and tender in white wine beurre blanc sauce. We asked for a spoon.

Tasty rabbit 
We ate no dessert but I want to go back for breakfast and lunch but probably not this visit unless I can swing lunch tomorrow...When you read the menu, you think, as often one does - oh, OK, hmmm - really? And then you see and taste the food - how's this for Heuvos rancheros?

I urge you to go on their Facebook page, ogle the photos and dribble a little...