Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day thirteen Provence... Unlucky for some...

.... But not for us. The sun was out and the lunch we went for was great! We woke again to the shouts of the boules competition. The sun was shining already baking the streets and roofs of Caromb.

We headed to L'Isle sur la Sorgue, a little town beside a crystal clear and fast flowing canal. The water contained by high, man-made walls, giving the impression that when it's raining the water level increases markedly. The sun was beating down on our heads as we wandered along the canal looking for a place to eat lunch.

The view up the canal from where we parked.

A submerged canoe.

The place we decided on was located right over the water with a leafy looking courtyard: Restaurant Cafe Floret. The table we were seated at was just inside the building, out of the sun but still in the cooling breeze. We ordered a bottle of a Cotes de Luberon white, that was reminiscent of an Italian pinot gris. Nicely balanced acid and fantastic with food.

Restaurant Cafe Floret.

The wine at lunch.

Elysia started with a baked goats cheese wrapped in filo pastry. Iain had a tomato tart. The goats cheese was a white mould type cheese set into filo and baked until the cheese was melted and soft. The tomato tart comprised several roasted and peeled cherry tomatoes, perfectly ripe, sitting on top of a flaky sour cream pastry. Both dishes were accompanied by a pile of dressed mesclun that was spoiled by a couple of brown bits and not nearly as good quality as yesterday's. The salad was not necessary, the tarts would have been fantastic by themselves.

Tomato tart.

Goat cheese tart.

For mains we had a duck breast with quinoa (a Spanish grain originally from South America) that was cooked beautifully (medium) and thinly-sliced. The other main was a large thinly-sliced piece of tuna with a beautiful braised vegetable broth. The tuna was overcooked for our palates but the broth was subtle and sweet. Fennel, carrots, celery and onions were simply braised and served with their braising liquid and a little finely minced basil.

Roast duck.

Tuna and braised vegetables.

Desserts: Elysia had a thin wedge of flourless chocolate tart with a thick and glossy chocolate sauce. Iain had an apple strudel. The tart was soft and chocolaty and so was the sauce. Both dishes were accompanied by whipped cream. Not sweetened, vanilla cream like you see everywhere in France, but just plain whipped cream that worked perfectly with the heavily spiced apple strudel. Bursting with cloves, cinnamon and vanilla, the softened stewed apples and moist white sultanas were wrapped on a flaky crisp layered pastry.

Chocolate tart with chocolate sauce.

Apple strudel.

The service was great, not too fast and not too slow. They spoke a little English and we spoke a little French which worked well. We left the restaurant and wandered further down the canal.

We walked past a huge waterwheel swathed with algae, the water raining down from the blades as they cycled up into the air. As we neared the centre of the town there was a set of steps leading down to a terraced area level with the canal. We sat in the sun and dangled our feet in the water, watching ducks struggle against the current back upstream.

The water wheel.

We wandered into the town away from the water into the tangle of lanes and narrow streets. Monday is the first day of the working week in France, but it is also a day when most shops galleries and wine merchants are closed. We walked past closed doors, lowered roller-shutters and dark lifeless shops. So it was back to the car to try to find something for dinner.

Everything closed.

We headed for Carpentras (it's almost inevitable as all roads seem to go through there in our part of Provence). We selected a large rolled pork loin from the butcher, trussed and ready to roast. We also grabbed a bottle of champagne and some pig skin for crackling.

The bubbles!

We started dinner plans with a creme caramel with creme fraiche instead of cream and put them into the oven, retiring to the terrace for a game of cards and a glass or two of champagne. The cremes came out of the oven making space for the pork that we rolled in chopped parsley and lemon zest. We paired the pork with a celeriac and radish remoulade, glazed turnips, beans, some left over pommes boulangere and red currant sauce. The pork and crackling was great, the creme caramels however were still a little soft due to not quite enough time in the oven and not enough cooling time in the fridge.

Roast pork.

Glazed turnips and beans.

We raced the dwindling light to finish eating outside, a little bat performing aerobatics in the still-cloudless sky.

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