Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Birthday Cadillac

We thought of driving to Sarlat for my birthday but decided to find a destination even closer to Bordeaux. Paul did some research and came up with a very good plan. Less than ten minutes from leaving home, we were driving through vineyards interrupted by pleasant villages and imposing chateaux. There were even occasional spots where Paul could pull over to let more hurried drivers past. Theoretically, at these spots, we could even have consulted the map together (a luxury rarely afforded elsewhere in our travels, so that I had to make all navigation decisions on my own and on the fly).

Better still, when we got to our destination there was a huge parking spot, and, gentle readers, it was gratuit. Free! No need to find coins or try to figure out instructions for using our card. Just park. And walk away. We could do that . . .

First, as above, a café crème across from an imposing building -- I suspect a weekly marché must take place on its covered rez-de-chausée plaza -- we saw something similar last year in Metz.
Just down the road were more indications of an historic past.
We were looking for the Office du Tourisme which our Michelin Guide indicated would provide maps for some local walking/hiking routes, some randonnées, but sadly, they were exceptionnellement fermé, closed 'til the next day because of a special tour they had to guide.
No worries. We could walk around on our own exploring, and that's what we did, checking out cathedral, clock tower/town gate, medieval chateau with its dungeons. And signs that rendered the ville's name in charming font that seemed a long way from its medieval heritage . . .
Yes, that's my birthday Cadillac -- not a car, but the source of the car's name, the original Cadillac, right here in the heart of wine country -- what a combo!
The obligatory What I Wore photo -- if it weren't for these, there'd be no visual evidence I visited France. Paul leaves all the photography to me, but he's beginning to remember, on his own, that he should take a photo of me for the blog. That skirt is linen, by Sandwich, a bit artsy-sloppy but so comfortable to wear when it's warm, especially since no one knows how un-tanned my legs are. Or whether I shaved them recently. . . The blue cashmere cardi (last year's purchase at Eric Bompard in Paris) is getting worn and worn and worn. I was so dismayed to discover a huge patch of melted chocolate on the back hem a few days ago, but I washed the sweater (used my Aveda shampoo, nice and gentle) and laid it out on the drying rack -- it dried overnight! The striped Tee underneath: Gap. That M0851 bag might look a bit much in the photo, but empty, it's very light, and being able to carry it cross-body is such a boon. And the silver Gizeh Birks, again.
Walking out of the town centre, looking for the signs marking the randonnées, we saw a different sign, one bearing a name I recognized from our guidebook as that of a recommended restaurant. L'Entrée Jardin
First, a few views from our patio seats. . . .
then on to the meal . . .

the complimentary rillettes offered as we waited. . . . that roll you see in the background was made and baked in house, and was fabulous -- crunchy crust but with a soft yet chewy bread inside -- wonderful crumb. . .
Also complimentary, a delectable soup (room temp) creamy, foie gras flavoured with the most incredibly thin toasts, buttered just enough with a hint-of-truffle butter. . .

Next up, our foie gras which came with a mango preserve (not too sweet, though) that brought out its richness but without overwhelming. As for the foie gras itself, not only the thoughtfulness of the portion size but also its preparation somehow rendered it lighter than what I usually find. Generally, much as I love it, I find this a dangerous starter to order, but we felt pleasantly ready for the next course after this. (again, note the ultra thin toasts, lower right, somehow stuck together where they overlapped. The cifeuille (I enquired about this leaf because it tastes like fennel or anise but doesn't look like it) made another lovely counterpoint,  by the way, to the foie's richness, as did those red currants.

And our blanc moelleux du Cadillac -- a nicely sweet white wine, perfect with foie gras, also matched our other courses nicely. Because Paul was driving, and because it was lunch with a birthday dinner yet ahead, we stuck with one glass, and found that enough and very enjoyable. No one tried to push another glass -- I have to say I can't remember this ever happening at home where waiters subtly maintain pressure toward the next glass or bottle.
Paul's main plate was this pretty little bundle enfolding poulet fermier together with foie gras. It must have been as delicious as it looked because he didn't share . . . The foam on the right takes its colour from the purple potato, such as you see below that asparagus spear on the left. The granita on the left was citrus-flavoured. Each vegetable perfectly cooked. . .

My cabillaud was succulent, skin and all, but I was equally pleased with the vegetables and their presentation. That wee cherry tomato was stuffed with a squash mixture, and the small slice of zucchini (well, courgette) under the asparagus  and the purple potato was filled with a slightly breaded dressing. Every mouthful deserved a thoughtful appreciation and rewarded with sensory pleasure.

And the visual delights were abundant. Here is the cheeseboard Paul ordered, three beautifully complementary cheeses, an ample dollop of jam, a few walnuts, and a lightly-dressed bit of salad
The cheese-paring flower was especially delightful -- not only a visual joy, but that very thin slicing was the best way to appreciate the full flavour and the tight texture.
But the meal's pièce de resistance had to be this marvellous desert. Paul had opted for something fraises, and while we knew by now that the chef wouldn't resort to a simple Chantilly, we couldn't have anticipated this beautiful presentation -- that's spun sugar forming that tunnel topping the whole.
Inside, equally splendid although we were initially reluctant to break into it -- chunks of a jelly of some liqueur together several red fruits contributed, as Paul described it, 4 or 5 different kinds of sweetness mixed with enough tart (red currants, rhubarb) to keep it interesting rather than cloying.
And so pretty!

My own dessert offered surprises as well. I wasn't sure what Nems might be, but guessed at a kind of cake . . . turned out they enfolded custard in a light batter that had been deep-fried . . . served with fruit, and a pot of dipping chocolate, seasoned with Grand Marnier. But doing a bit of research later, I realized that Nem is the French term for Vietnamese springrolls . . . a lovely way to borrow other influences to enliven French cuisine.
The melange of fruits is also lively . . . aren't they pretty?

And as if that wasn't enough, our espressos arrived with a tray of mignardaises -- a tiny serving each of ice-cream Prunes-Armagnac, my new favourite! a canelle each (they're a Bordeaux specialty, done to perfection here, again in-house!) and theses cookies of nut-crackle enrobed by white chocolate. . . .
We had just commented on how thoughtfully proportioned and carefully timed all these courses were, so that we felt comfortably satiated but not groaningly full . . . these last irresistible offerings threatened that state.
Nothing that couldn't be remedied by a pleasant walk along the Garonne back to our (free!) parking. . . .
That's it, then. Perhaps the only Cadillac birthday I'll ever have . . .
What do you think? Would you, like me, enjoy the day in Cadillac as much as driving its vehicular namesake?

23 comments:

  1. What a lovely meal! What a perfect birthday.

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  2. What a wonderful birthday trip and meal - who cares about a car when you have a splendid countryside, a fascinating town, and a restaurant where they really know how to provide enjoyment without pushiness! (I too would love to go to a restaurant in the states and not inevitably have to refuse a second glass of wine - which is offered just as I have finished my first, and still not yet seen a hint of my meal!)

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    1. We've really noticed a big difference over our years visiting here between France/Europe and N. America in terms of pushing the alcohol. . .

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  3. I would definitely plump for the day in Cadillac - I loathe driving!! Your birthday looks like perfection!

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  4. So wonderful. The food, the calm, the greenery, the Birkenstocks. Seriously. Wonderful. And that final stroll looked like heaven to me. So lost to the civilization in which I now live.

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    1. It really was the crowning touch, being able to walk off the meal in such verdant surroundings.

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  5. Happy Birthday! The food looks delicious and beautiful.
    The scenery and your lovely outfit look good together...
    you don't really look at all like a tourist, more like a french woman!

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  6. What an amazing way to spend any day, regardless of whether it's your birthday or not!

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  7. Looks like a wonderful way to spend a Cadillac of a birthday! Such amazing food. Drooling here.

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  8. The meal sounds divine! an amazing birthday lunch.

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    1. It was fabulous! And very reasonable as well, price-wise.

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  9. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATER!
    How achingly delicious does that meal look, really I am most jealous. You do seem to have a better balance of food versus room costs than we do. Emin spends gazillions on the hotel and then is mostly parsimonious when it comes to eating. Most strange, I tend to be the other way around. I did love that rust and grey combo you featured in an earlier post, and I am in awe at your prolific posting whilst touring. I really do empathise with Paul and parking in France to the point where I did explode a few times, sooo stressful and as for those bloody tolls, for what? Our duel carriageways are better than what they pay for.
    Anyway keep posting I love revisiting that part of France and have a chilled glass on me!!

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    1. Thanks! You'd laugh if you saw our digs at the moment -- I'll have to post about this later. We do tend to spend more on eating out than on sleeping in . .

      We couldn't believe how often we had to stop to pay tolls, but we did find the roads very good, except for les travaux

      We'll toast you with a rose sometime tomorrow afternoon -- keep your antennae alert for it ;-)

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  10. A blissful day full of beauty and every possible pleasure ;)

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    1. It was blissful (all except an hour of car-return hell, which we've tried to expunge from memory . . .)

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  11. I loved every word, every bit, every view. What could be better than a wonderful meal on a warm afternoon in France?....knowing that you look perfectly wonderful yourself!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It's really doubling the pleasure of my trip, quite honestly, to have my blogging friends along.

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  12. Belated Happy Birthday!

    I like Paul's bag too ;).

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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