Monday, September 14, 2009

Day five Provence...

Another bready, croissanty and jammy breakfast on the terrace and a late start on the road. Today being Sunday meant that the bakery is closed tomorrow so we had to select enough bread for two days and try to pick which of the many loaves would last the longest. None of the bread contains any preservative so it only lasts about half a day and the croissants seem to begin going stale as soon as they leave the shop.

Sunflowers on the roadside.

Once in the car we turned for Coustellet to see their market. Unlike many of the other towns this particular market arranges all the produce trestles in the one area with the tat and other non-food related things in their own area. This made it a lot easier to see what we have come all this way for. Coustellet is renowned for its gourds and pumpkins which were proudly on display.

Gourds on display.

We selected (as usual) a variety of tomatoes including, this time, the green and yellow tiger-striped variety. We also found a tray of golden fleshed peaches, warmed by the sun, potatoes, dark and shining eggplants and some golden ripe cape gooseberries in their crisp husky skins.

The tomato dance.

Lots of peaches.

Cape gooseberries.

We loaded up the car and headed for Bonnieux where we had a booking for Le Fournil, a little restaurant situated below the hilltop church in the formerly fortified town. We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up the steep lanes to find the terrace where we would be eating.

Le Fournil

The outdoors setting was comprised of bent steel tables and chairs and uneven cobble stones in the shade of two large plane trees. The building itself cut back into a cliff with a brick facade.

We made our decisions on the menu and the food quickly arrived. Elysia started with a pressed terrine of pork with some pickled courgette and Iain with confit cherry tomatoes with crisp greens and goats cheese (he thought he might enjoy some tomatoes for a change). The cheese had large soft pine nut kernels folded through - a great combination. The terrine was scented with orange and made up of meat from the pigs head including the rich and dark coloured cheeks all beautifully soft and bound with their own jelly.

Confit tomatoes.

Pork terrine.

Mains were the fish du jour and lapin. The fish was pan-roasted hake with a melange of green beans, squash courgette and various coloured capsicums. The hake was crispy-skinned and cooked perfectly. The rabbit was served with a coarse eggplant puree and a reduced rabbit sauce. The serving included both the front legs of the animal roasted until tender but not dry.

Hake with beans.

The rabbit with a shard of crisp fried eggplant skin.

Desserts were a creme de chocolate with a chocolate ganache and whipped cream... impossibly rich but very very good. We also ordered a pistachio parfait with fresh raspberry coulis, the coulis, unsweetened, was a fantastic accompaniment to the soft and rich parfait.

Chocolate cream.

Pistachio parfait with raspberry coulis.

We accompanied the meal with a bottle of the local rose from the Louberon Appellation, packed with fruit and well balanced acid.

Le Fournil was quite different to the other restaurant and cafe experiences we have had to date in France. They placed an emphasis on the presentation of the food. None of the garnishes were repeated from dish to dish and the flavours were excellent and true to the season.

After lunch we tackled more of the hill to reach the church perched on the top and made our way back down around a steep cobbled land to the sweltering car and took off to Menerbes another hilltop town just down the road. After climbing to the top we found another wine tasting hub located in the vault of the old chateau. The cellar master was very helpful and spoke a little English helping us to select half a dozen bottles including a bone dry muscat - quite unusual!

Lots of rose at Menerbes.

Back at La Louche and after a couple of Camparis we started with dinner. Tomatoes, a peach and watercress salad, ham, bread and cheese. The day's special green and yellow striped tomatoes being the highlight.

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